The Welcome Book

The Welcome Book project has been expanded into a series of booklets also available on this site. Many of the chapters and new materials will be included in the booklet series.

  1. 'Homosexuality' and Church Membership: A Model of Power for Unity and Renewal, John Stoner
  2. Mennonites and the Homosexual Issue: A Recent History, Lin Garber (~80k)
  3. Is there a Biological Basis for Sexual Orientation?, Carl S. Keener and Douglas Swartzendruber (~100k)
  4. Authority: 'Bread' or Grace Enough for All, Dorothy Yoder Nyce (~50k)
  5. The Story of the Listening Committee, Melanie Zuercher
  6. What Did Jesus Do?, Ted Grimsrud
  7. Envisioning the Future, Vernon Keith Rempel
  8. Why Does the Bible Divide Us?, Don Blosser
  9. Conversations with the Undecided, Kathleen Kern
  10. Other chapters under development....

Affirmation of Commitment and Intimacy in the Lives of God's Lesbian and Gay Children
by Titus Bender

It is sometimes helpful in explaining the purpose of a book to make clear what the book is not. This book is not intended as the final word regarding the experience of intimacy in the lives of lesbian and gay persons. If this were the case we would no longer be praying for wisdom or asking God for forgiveness in our daily walk of faith. We simply bear witness to what we have come to believe.

We do not see ourselves as more intelligent or less intelligent, or as more spiritual or less spiritual than those who disagree with us. Just as others, we are on a faith journey on this issue. We have been privileged to walk alongside lesbian and gay sisters and brothers. We have a sense of empathy for the experience of Peter when he met Cornelius and knew this was a man whose faith was authentic and whose experience had the potential of enriching the lives of those who saw him as unclean. He did what he had to do. He bore witness to truth as he understood it. The Purdue statement called us to dialogue, even while it made clear the Mennonite Church was not then willing to condone intimacy for those who are gay or lesbian. We have come to believe that authentic dialogue cannot take place if we hide our convictions. This book is a witness from us.

This book is not an effort to lower the standard for intimacy between married partners. We believe it will underscore the central responsibilities which make a family authentic. We know lesbian and gay families who have taught us much about authenticity in the family:

  • tenderness instead of callousness,
  • fidelity instead of "cheating" on one another,
  • sincere caring instead of selfishness,
  • sharing power rather than "lording it over" the other,
  • reverence for God and each other,
  • practicing forgiveness instead of judgemental attitudes toward the other,
  • thoughtfulness instead of taking the other for granted, and
  • sexualiy as gift instead of fear of sex.

We believe these characteristics are essential if partnerships are to succeed, whether they be heterosexual, lesbian or gay.

Some who read this book will be glad we are being honest. Perhaps others will see us as unfaithful. The reason we make ourselves vulnerable is not simply because we believe in the right of free speech. When Rev. Eugene Carson Blake joined Dr. King during the Birmingham crusade in 1963 it represented a new level of involvement in the freedom movement by white religious leadership. "We come late, " he confessed, "but we come." We bear witness, not because it is enjoyable or because we have that right, but because, for us to do otherwise, given our journeys, would be to hide. Many of us confess that we have been hiding. In the movement for justice for gay and lesbian people we have to say what Blake had to say about the freedom movement: "We come late, but we come." To paraphrase Bob Dylan, "How many times can we turn our heads pretending we just didn't see?"

Why this book? More than two years ago about thirty of us met informally. All of us had close friends and/or family members who were lesbian or gay and whose faith was clear to us. Many of them were living in committed relationships. We affirm them. We are also part of the Mennonite Church. In the Church's "official positions" during the past decade, there is an implication that as a church we do not recognize God as blessing lesbian and gay committed relationships. This leaves us with implicit affirmation for the "break up" of these relationships. How can we remain comfortable with this? It is difficult enough for two people to maintain a vibrant, committed relationship when the church gives affirmation and support. When the Church, by its "official stance," implicitly gives a collective sigh of relief when committed lesbian and gay couples break up, we are troubled. Some of us in the Mennonite Church can not stand by and pretend we have not noticed this profound obstacle to human friendship and intimacy.

We recognize the anguish of some "official" church leaders who fear that some might walk away from the denomination in frustration or anger because we call lesbian or gay committed partners "sister" and "brother." A significant number of "official" church leaders have made clear to us that they love the church and must proceed cautiously. Beside this we place another reality. Our group believes that if we love the church it means accepting our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers because they are also an integral part of the Church.

When, as I mentioned above, about thirty of us met more than two years ago, we felt constrained to share a witness with the larger Church. We asked a few persons among us to coordinate the writing of a book that would give witness to some core beliefs which we share. Each article is written by a specific author, in consultation with a larger group. Obviously there may be some details on which some disagree, but the central concerns and convictions represented here are shared. We also began a process of formulating what we called a "Welcoming Letter" to submit to members of our Mennonite tradition as a witness. This "Welcoming Letter" makes a plea for opening our doors ( and arms) to lesbian and gay sisters and brothers as the dialogue continues. We affirmed a recognition of the experience of authentic intimacy by people of faith that exists beyond heterosexual persons. It was published, along with more than 650 signatures of individuals who wished to make the same public witness.. There was no organized attempt to lengthen the list. Those who signed discovered the letter by word of mouth. The widespread response of affirmation surprised us.

It is not our intention to pressure any who read the book to take the position we take. By giving witness to what we believe, in this book, we are not doubting the seriousness of the journey of faith of you who disagree. We hope you will extend to us the grace of recognizing us as fellow travelers on the journey of faith. We extend that same grace to you. We pray you will hear it for what it is--our witness, coming from our journey with God and with fellow travelers of faith.


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Last update:Wednesday, 27-Jan-10 22:03 EST