Andrea’s Report on MCUSA in Kansas City 2015

Andrea’s report on MC USA in Kansas City 2015

Highlights:

  • The energy of worship with the youth on Tuesday (opening) night
  • Seeing and reconnecting with good, old friends
  • Seeing my nieces’ smiling faces throughout the week
  • Getting to know new people, including the eight people at my table and Ben Chappell’s sister Wendy
  • Hearing some fine music and singing a cappella with Pink Menno and at the hymn sing Saturday night
  • Hearing Hal Shrader, Cesar Garcia, Shane Claiborne, Cyneatha Millsaps, and Michelle Armster speak truth to people who need to hear it (links to speaker videos below)
  • Seeing and experiencing the ethnic diversity among people at the podium
  • Seeing my fellow PMCers throughout the week, taking it all in
  • Learning two new songs, which maybe we can sing at PMC someday (but only if we can find a bluegrass band to back them!)

Other observations:

  • Didn’t enjoy worship as much as in Phoenix. Didn’t come away inspired. Maybe because of the heaviness of heart I felt most of the week?
  • Disjunction between spirit of worship and failure to move toward more inclusion in delegate sessions
  • Felt manipulated by worship leader during delegate sessions (hard to explain). Also, we did not have sessions where we focused on Scripture passages as we had had in Phoenix. That left the delegate deliberations feeling a bit sterile to me.
  • Disjunction between good communication and spirit-filled work in tables and combative nature of open mic time and voting
  • Despair the morning of Pink Menno’s action that people were shouting at them and trying to drown them out by singing “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.”
  • Seeing the pain and anger on the faces of Pink Menno as they stood in the hallway after we voted yes on the Membership Guidelines after having voted yes on Forbearance. We walked through them, forced to brush against them and meet their gaze if we had the courage. (I looked as many people in the eye and said “I’m sorry” as I could, then cried all the way back to my hotel.)
  • The best singing for me was in the Pink Menno circles before delegate sessions. The tone after Thursday’s vote was never as joyful as it had been, for understandable reasons. In fact, I thought the group would have been justified if they’d chosen to sit in silence on Friday morning instead of singing, but the songs of lament they sang were gut-wrenching and touched many people deeply, including me. On Saturday afternoon many delegates made a deliberate move to join with Pink Menno in singing before the final session, as a way to be in solidarity and apologize to those whose bodies we’d voted to keep excluding. Some estimated the presence of as many as 500 people in the lobby of the delegate area, joining hands and singing.
  • Being a table leader was good for me. I had the chance to get to know eight really interesting people from all over the country, and they affirmed the way I led the discussions throughout the week.

My takeaway:

The MC USA mission statement is: “God calls us to be followers of Jesus Christ, and by the power of the holy spirit to grow in communities of grace, joy, and peace, so that God’s healing and hope flow through us to the world.” How can we reach out to heal the wounds of the world when we are ignoring the gaping wound in our own body? Maybe this is why I couldn’t join in worship with my whole heart. It felt hollow. Until we all are part of the body of Christ, how can we rejoice together in public? Does God really want to accept our offerings of praise if we cannot accept all who come to us?

Yes, there were signs of progress, such as Pink Menno having its own space in the convention center and BMC having a booth in the exhibit hall. But we have so very far to go, and our leaders don’t seem to grasp the degree to which we do violence to our brothers and sisters every time we talk about them without talking WITH them and take official actions that keep the door just ever so slightly ajar instead of flung wide open.

Links to resolution voting results, summaries, and commentaries:

Link to all official documents, including texts of resolutions (I don’t believe the amended text of “Endless War” is in this collection, but it should be there eventually):

http://mennoniteusa.org/resource/delegate-resources/

Report of the final vote counts on all resolutions: https://themennonite.org/daily-news/delegate-vote-tallies-final-report/

News and commentary during and after convention:

http://mennoworld.org/2015/07/20/editorial/oppressive-or-permissive/

http://mennoworld.org/2015/07/06/news/two-resolutions-pass-relatives-lament-lgbt-exclusion/

https://themennonite.org/opinion/community-lament/

https://themennonite.org/opinion/notes-from-table-80-at-kansas-city/

https://themennonite.org/opinion/the-children-are-listening/

https://themennonite.org/opinion/a-church-known-for-grace-love-forbearance/

http://mennoworld.org/2015/07/07/news/sharing-pain-seeing-jesus/

http://mennoworld.org/2015/07/06/news/claiborne-tells-mc-usa-community-is-possible/

http://convention.mennoniteusa.org/on-forbearance/ [written by Richard Gehrig, the moderator of Western District Conference]

Link to all available conference videos: http://convention.mennoniteusa.org/summary-and-speaker-videos/ [password: StellaRocks]

Lists of all music shared during worship (youth and adult): http://convention.mennoniteusa.org/convention-song-lists/

Prayer for MC USA (adapted from Joanna’s prayer for the Executive Board meeting in 2014):

Eternal God,

May each member of MC USA, from the leaders to the congregations, know the powerful presence of your Holy Spirit. May the Spirit dwell in each breath, each word, each silence.

Lift the heaviness that weighs on our leaders’ hearts and replace it with the easy yoke, the light burden of Jesus.

Let them discern the false wisdom of the world from the true wisdom of God, which we know in the foolishness of the cross.

Lead them not into temptations of people-pleasing and conflict avoidance, but hold their feet on the path of Christ.

Do not let the obligations they may feel to rules and institutions get in the way of their faithfulness to the Gospel.

Burn away their fear and let them be inflamed with courage.

May each word that is spoken come from love and be heard with love.

May those who are present speak for those who are not at the table, so that even absent voices may be heard and held.

Remind these leaders, and us, O God, that our church is not our church; it is your church.

And because it is your church, we pray that your life-giving, death-defying, justice-making power will be at work in MCUSA. We cling to the promise you give–that your power is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or even imagine. Amen.

Prayer for Mennonite World Conference July 21–26:

Our God, walking with you and giving you our attention throughout each day empties us and creates space for love.  No matter where we are or what we are doing, we are known and loved by you. Because of your love, we find the will to forget ourselves and live in communion with you, others, and creation.  On life’s journey, as we lose ourselves, we create “heart space” so that you can fill and refill us again and again.

We thank you for the many times on our faith journey that we discover the spirit of Christ alive within us.  We are grateful, too, that walking in your presence runs contrary to simply getting through the day.

Life is often like our journey with you, God.  When we step out in trust, we commit to traveling through life with you — even when we do not know where we may go.  Forgive us when we center reality on our own desires, forgetting that our lives are grounded in you. 

You have been planning our itinerary from the beginning of time.  We wait on you to see where you will take us.  We pack our bags of faith and set out into the journey, which feels risky, uncertain, turbulent, and challenging, knowing that it may take us to familiar places or foreign territory.  We acknowledge you as our God and all-knowing Guide. 

We trust you for the journey, God.  Amen