Where do we go from here?

Photo: Javier Allegue Barros, Unsplash.

In May I traveled to Kansas City, Mo., as a delegate for Mennonite Church USA’s special delegate assembly (AW, June 17). I enjoy trips like this because they’re a chance to reconnect with old friends and meet new people.

This time around, we had some important resolutions to vote on. My congregation and I prepared by having a Sunday school series where we looked at every resolution and talked through each one.

I knew the weekend was going to be filled with difficult conversations. There were also life-giving moments as we talked about what the resolutions mean for us as a denomination.

When I returned home, people asked me what the resolutions mean for the future of MC USA. I do not have the answers. I do not know how area conferences and congregations will respond. But I do have hope for the denomination. Here are three of my hopes for MC USA.

I hope the marginalized can ­participate freely.

A common thread in two of the resolutions was the desire of marginalized people to fully participate in MC USA. The LGBTQ community has been on the fringes of the church. The Repentance and Transformation resolution calls the denomination to embody a spirit of confession and inclusion. I hope we will take this call seriously and that the LGBTQ community can feel heard, affirmed and celebrated.

Another resolution commits MC USA to being more inclusive of people with disabilities. This was the only resolution that passed unanimously.

Both resolutions ask for the removal of barriers and for all to be treated as children of God. I hope MC USA continues to widen the circle for those who have been marginalized.

I hope for unity.

I think everyone is tired of hearing sermons about unity. I know that I am. And yet, I am writing this column partly about unity because unity — and concern about disunity — was a central theme throughout the delegate session.

During one of our facilitated discussions about the Repentance and Transformation resolution, delegates expressed fear that people will leave the denomination.

I understand this fear. And while I try to be compassionate about this concern, I believe we cannot let this fear stop us from moving forward on an inclusive path. If we feel led by the Spirit, we need to move as we hear the Spirit calling us.

I mourn with my siblings in the potential of losing more congregations or conferences. I hope that, through all of this, members of MC USA can remember the call for unity.

I hope and pray that we will continue to keep Christ central in our words and actions. I hope that as a denomination we can continue to move forward together as siblings in Christ, with much more in common than reasons to divide.

I do not blame anyone for the denomination’s losses, in the past or the future. Individuals, churches and area conferences need to make the decisions that seem right to them, following their consciences and sense of God’s leading.

I hope we can stick together, but I also know there are some situations where unity is not possible. I pray for unity — not that we will all agree but that we can run the race together despite our differences.

I hope that God continues to move in our midst.

The special delegate session weekend was long and exhausting. We had a lot of hard conversations — and we realized that we still have a long way to go.

The good news is that God is with us as we do the hard work. I do not merely hope that God is in our midst. I believe that God is walking alongside us as we figure out how to be the church.

While people are focusing mostly on the resolutions, it is important to point out how the delegates experienced unity in other ways.

We sang together. We prayed together. We ate together. We heard prophetic sermons. We heard and held sacred stories.

God was in all of these things as we gathered in Kansas City and as we carried our hopes home.

Jerrell Williams

Jerrell Williams is pastor of Shalom Mennonite Church in Newton, Kan. A 2015 graduate of Bethel College, he has a Read More

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