MCUSA Convention Day 5
Posted on July 5th, 2015
This day’s session started with an acknowledgment from the moderator for the pain and sadness in the LGBTQ community.
We then heard from the Mennonite Education Agency and had hymns.
The moderator shared another moving moment, displaying that she was holding name badges from people on both ends of day 3’s debates, explaining that they had been given to her by people who said they no longer wanted to be part of MCUSA.
Many of us expected that addressing topics of sexuality and inclusion would mean that we will lose members and congregations from MCUSA. This is evidence that the route we have taken means we are losing from both ends.
We then moved on to a much-shortened and revised Statement on our support of Palestinian and Israeli partners in peacemaking. After the past resolution had been deferred, there were incorrect statements that Mennonites didn’t want to divest, that Mennonites were Zionist, and that Mennonites are ignorant. While we may certainly have some ignorance on the matter, the first two reasons do not match the facts, as you can see see from my discussion of the critiques in my day 2 delegate notes. It was noted, also, that our tabling could be interpreted in many ways. So, in the meantime, this resolution was put forward to show our commitment to following the issues.
Comments around the table were in strong support, but with a warning that this cannot be just talk, and that we must really commit to doing these things. We also discussed that since Everence supported the earlier resolution, they can be continuing to divest (and help others divest) from profiting from the situation. At the microphones, it was asked that agencies make sure to provide resources during this period to help us learn about the situation. MennoPIN resources were mentioned.
Tables were unanimously ready to vote, so we did a standing vote. There were 2 abstaining delegates, and the rest stood in affirmation of the proposal.
Following the vote, we heard a response form Palestinian Christian Alex Awad. He started by sharing that “I thought I would be coming to be scolding….but after I saw what just happened, I want to say thank you." He shared movingly about how, as a boy, people were very poor in Palestine, and one Christmas, the only gifts anyone received were the kids in school with him. The gifts were supplies and a toy wrapped in a towel, and it was a great joy. Later, he became responsible for portions of various ministries, and became coordinator for distributing these packages. That is when he found out it was the Mennonites who had been sending them. He said that the Kairos document and the Mennonite way are the alternatives, providing nonviolent responses. In their absence, there would be more Hezbollah, more ISIS, more Hamas.
Next, we considered the Expressions of Lament and Hope resolution. Like the prior, this had been introduced during the week and moved to the “unfinished" business section of the final delegate session.
This resolution had great support. There were requests to make sure Emanuel AME got a copy, that Mennonite Disaster Services help in the rebuilding process for churches, and for a collection to be taken from the delegate body.
There was also an expression of lament that this document had to come from the African American Mennonite Association, and that no other resolution had made it through, prior. There was also a request that MCUSA offer a statement of commendation to those churches that had been welcoming, martyrological, and forgiving.
This resolution passed with 0 in opposition or abstention. For the first time in the convention, because there was no dissenting voice, we were all able to clap. There was a roar of applause.
We then heard from a Mennonite World Conference, who spoke about the upcoming conference and also shared his vision for the dramatic approach to scripture, reading the Bible more like theater.
Next, the moderator had set aside 5 minutes for a representative from two parties who had asked to have time: Pink Menno and Iglesia Menonita Hispana.
The representative from Pink Menno was asked to go first. Someone else from the group approached the mic and asked all who had a friend or family member who had been (or would be) hurt by events this week to stand. Over half of us stood, perhaps as many as 2/3rds of the assembly. A line of folks gathered at the mic, and took turns vulnerably sharing about their stories and pain. After eight people shared, the moderator asked for just one more to share. They replied that they had three more. There were calls for “point of order." The next person shared, again, movingly. At this point, the moderator asked to move on. Some in the audience booed when the sharing tried to continue. Someone from Pink Menno continued to yell “point of order", but was not recognized. Someone else was yelling and calling the cutting off “bullcrap." The last two moments of sharing were never heard.
As the other mic was picked up, a number of people in the assembly continued to stand. Some of them even stood until the end of the session.
From the other microphone, we heard from the representative from Hispanic Mennonite churches. She asked for our prayers as they survey their pastors and go through a time of discernment.
The moderator again prayed and asked for peace, grace, and mercy.
When we returned from break, we heard an update that MDS was indeed pursuing involvement in the rebuilding of burned churches. We also heard a confession and explanation from the moderator-elect about the sharing time. They lamented the short time, but argued that when they had set it up, they had agreed on 5 minutes of sharing. Many of us were not satisfied, since only two more speakers could have not taken much longer, and our break was 28 minutes.
Next, we had a presentation from MCC, a mention of extra informational fliers regarding Endless War, and then reports from the Listening Committee and Anti-Racism team.
I will not share the full reports, here, but here are some items of note:
- We never got to hear the stories or experience of those “at variance" to understand what that is like
- There were concerns of structure and control by the executive leadership, and how power is handled
- We need to make sure we solicit and share commentary on dissenting opinions
- We need more diverse voices in the delegation, including more young people
- The steps taken to make worship and workshops diversified need to make it to the delegate times, too
(Note: If reports are published, I will post a link.)
Finally, the Moderator said her goodbyes, the new Moderator was installed officially, and the Moderator-elect was introduced. We concluded with prayer.
This is the end of the direct delegate notes. I will continue to use this tag (accessible at http://todd.grotenhuis.info/tag/mcusa) if I write about issues related to the MCUSA. I have tried to link to each resource as it is discussed, but if you missed any, you can find the whole batch here.