This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Palestine, racial justice statements pass; relatives of LGBT people lament exclusion

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Words of lament by relatives of LGBT people and resolutions supporting Middle East peacemakers and condemning the fatal shooting of nine people at a South Carolina church highlighted the Mennonite Church USA convention’s final delegate session.

Three days earlier, delegates had tabled a resolution that included a call to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. On July 4 they passed a much shorter resolution committing to further study of Israel-Palestine justice issues.

The resolution commits MC USA members, over the next two years, to:

  • Understand the social, economic and political context of Israel-Palestine more fully;
  • Reflect on their own theological and political understand­ings of Israel-Palestine; and
  • Discern ways to see a more just future for all peoples of Israel and Palestine.

After the resolution passed overwhelmingly, Alex Awad, a prominent evangelical Palestinian leader, spoke to the delegates. He thanked Mennonites for giving material aid to Palestinians — aid he received as a child.

“I appreciate everything you have done for my people,” he said. “You taught us the principles of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount — how to love all people, to love our enemies, to be peacemakers.”

He urged study of the Kairos Palestine document, a 2009 call by Palestinian Christians to oppose the Israeli occupation. The tabled resolution also had called for this.

Delegates gave Awad a standing ovation.

Racial violence reaction

A second resolution, “Expressions of Lament and Hope,” came from the African American Mennonite Association.

It responded to the fatal shooting of nine people during a Bible study at Emanuel Af­rican Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 17 and to “the resurgence of burning down houses of worship.”

The resolution calls on MC USA to identify both subtle and overt acts of violence and hatred toward people of color.

It acknowledges “persistent and pernicious prejudice” that stereotypes people of color. It confesses that when MC USA members are silent, they become complicit in negative perceptions.

The denomination “will continue to build awareness and direct resources and energy to continued antiracism education in our constituencies and to stand in solidarity with the African-American community as destroyed properties are rebuilt and ministry occurs to broken bodies and souls.”

The resolution passed unanimously.

Relatives’ lament

Family members of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were given time to speak but were cut off when they exceeded their allotted five minutes.

Valerie Klaassen of Whitewater, Kan., the first to speak, lamented that her daughter is not able to be considered as a pastoral candidate through denominational channels.

“I did not expect to feel such depth of sorrow and pain this week, but we do,” she said.

More than a dozen people spoke, decrying the exclusion of their children, siblings or parents from the church and the silencing of their voices.

One said her son is not an issue but “a human being who has a name. I don’t want to be reduced to a mother with an issue.”

More people were still waiting at the microphone when moderator Elizabeth Soto Albrecht said the time was up. Some on the delegate floor shouted that more should be allowed to speak.

“We have listened from our hearts,” Soto Albrecht said. “We have listened to different voices in our church.”

Moderator-elect Patricia Shelly later told the delegates that she understood it was painful to cut the family members off.

Hispanic discernment

Madeline Maldonado reported on behalf of Iglesia Menonita Hispana (Hispanic Mennonite Church) that IMH will hold a meeting before the end of the year to discern its future relationship to MC USA.

“We ask for your prayers as we continue to discern the future of the Hispanic Mennonite Church,” she said.

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