Mennonites Thinking about Sexual Minorities

Dorothy Yoder Nyce

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A later booklet in this series will present several historic pictures. One article traces views toward and developments in understanding some people’s preference for emotional intimacy with friends of the same sex. Another tells the story of a Listening Committee assigned to hear diverse perspectives on this reality within the Mennonite church. The present piece highlights a random sampling of writings by Mennonites on related themes. Not all of these documents have been published; most of them offer support or raise concerns. A helpful resource not reported on is “Dialogue,” a quarterly publication of the Brethren and Mennonite Council for Lesbian and Gay Concerns.

No topic titled “homosexuality” appears in the four-volume Mennonite Encyclopedia, published in 1959. In volume V, published in 1990, physician Willard S. Krabill refers to it within the broader topic of sexuality. Between those dates, late in the seventies, Mennonites began to address dimensions of homosexuality in conferences and articles. In June 1978 theologian John W. Miller faulted homosexuality as a problem and abnormality due to homes in which “parental relations were so askew.” [The Mennonite] A grad student Loretta Lehman reported in forum about a meeting in Washington, D.C. in January 1978. She had experienced openness and caring among the gathered representatives of Mennonites and Mennonite Brethren. Recurring themes expressed by gays included the need for mutual listening and understanding and their diminished self-acceptance (fear, loneliness, and alienation) due to societal and church members’ failure to accept them. Church people’s lack of understanding human sexuality in general and resistance to deal first with their own sexual fears often combine with a double message: a loving Christ and hate for gays. One gay requested: “Let us know God the way we were taught to know God.” That teaching no doubt refers to good family and church experience.

Papers from a 1978 “Symposium on Human Sexuality,” sponsored by Mennonite Medical Association and held in Harrisonburg, Virginia, include nurse Ruth Krall’s discussion of how homosexuality is misunderstood. One might ask why her nine common misconceptions linger, two decades later. A paper by theologian John Howard Yoderis titled: “Is Homosexuality Sin? How Not to Work at a Question.” Yet again, decades later, opponents of healthy, Christian gay and lesbian people recite the charge of “sin.”

Yoder’s objective writing focuses on process, on logic and language. Faulty expectations continue to get in the way of process. His point is not to be pro or con, to accept or advocate one ‘side’ of the homosexuality debate, but to correct wrong assumptions. For example, to imply that homosexuality is one reality for which there is one answer is faulty. To clarify the multiple variables within homosexuality requires multiple responses. Similarly, there are multiple definitions for what being Christian means. One group cannot judge that others who practice faith in Jesus in ways different from its own pattern are therefore not Christian. So, Brethren or Mennonite homosexual people who grew up amidst solid family patterns and with “the vision of the church as an accepting community” will be different from mainstream homosexual people who were perhaps more often surrounded by individualism or destructive attitudes.

Yoder explains that asking whether a given deed is sin (intent to assess the status of the person doing the deed) is a very unbiblical reflex. Since biblical morality begins by asking about the shape of community, questions to ask are different. What kind of spiritual and biological family shapes the person? What healthy sexual relationships characterize the people of God? How does each member-heterosexual or homosexual-contribute to knitting together and nurturing God’s people? Mutual caring emerges when erotic relations and bodily expressions do not dominate over other kinds of affection. Therefore, heterosexual marriage does not downgrade singleness and sexuality is not centered on coitus or orgasm.

To ask (or declare) about homosexuality as sin overlooks important sub-questions, according to Yoder. Is the discussion about disposition or an action? Because various kinds of heterosexual or homosexual behaviors are hurtful to God, a victim, or the self cannot mean that all homosexuality or heterosexuality is sin. In addition to overt sinful acts, there are possibly 1) sinful acts of the will; 2) a troubling but not necessarily sinful predisposition of mind, body, or personality; and 3) a general fallen nature. Shortcomings emerge when people concentrate on the negative or assume either that every action has only one dimension or that actions can be looked at separate from context. An act is “sinful” not because it is on a list but because of wider social patterns, personality patterns, and consistent value assumptions. To identify specific actions as sinful while overlooking other harmful deeds is a “dysfunctional way to communicate the good news of forgiveness and renewal through Jesus,” says Yoder.

Yoder also comments on biblical texts. The incidents of gang rape in Genesis 19 and Judges 19 reveal Bedouin tribal rules of honor and hospitality. The violent intent of the offenders (all the men) was to socially insult a minority household that received a foreign guest without getting clearance from the majority. If all the men raped the same woman, does that condemn heterosexual nature? A standard Jewish polemic against idolatry, Romans 1 sees choosing idolatry over monotheism as grounds for twenty vices. People inclined and active as heterosexuals were punished, “delivered over” by God, into vices including homosexual actions that hurt people. The text “deals not at all with the notion of a deep psychic orientation fixed during early childhood.” Yoder sees that the question, “Is it sin?” undermines “flexibility in distinguishing between large and small offenses.” It requires consistent response to all wrongs and fosters intolerance toward diversity.

During several days of mid-March, 1982, the community of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries [AMBS] engaged in a study series on “Homosexuality and the Church.” Faculty members addressed themes; guests revealed personal stories; workshops and worship settings enabled discussion and connection with God; a bibliography and list of library holdings on the theme enriched information shared. New Testament professor Howard Charles dealt with texts; he asked hearers to test, add to, and perhaps correct his insight. While Charles said that Genesis 19 and Judges 19 reveal episodes in which homosexuality represented general wickedness in Sodom, he suggested that Leviticus texts denounce actions in order for Israel to separate itself from pagan neighbors. He emphasized an underlying “theology of orders,” suggesting that homosexual behavior is criticized because it is “contrary to created order.” He wonders if Paul would have qualified his statements, had he had today’s knowledge of varieties of homosexuality and its presence among children.

Professor David Augsburger cited responses from a survey of fifty persons among Church of the Brethren and Mennonite pastors, therapists, and gay or lesbian persons.

The survey included sixteen items meant to secure information:

For example,

“What experience of inclusion of homosexuals has occurred within your Mennonite community or congregation?”

Then eight situational items appear, like:

It becomes known in your congregation that two single young men (29 and 34) living in adjoining apartments have made a permanent homosexual “marital pledge” of fidelity. What is your estimate of the congregation’s response?”

Five options appear, from Strongly agree to Strongly disagree. Then follow six Personal questions for gays only, including:

“Does knowing that you are homosexual ‘weigh on your mind’ (make you feel guilty, depressed, anxious or ashamed)?”

Ten Attitudinal questions for pastors and therapists only conclude the survey, like:

“The ‘homosexual problem’ is equally a ‘heterosexual problem’ of exaggerated fears of homosexuality which shape straight people’s views.”

One dilemma with surveys involves how to assess data: With what ‘apples’ are ‘oranges’ compared? Would pastors in 1982 have had a reliable view of members’ experience with and attitudes toward homosexuality? A church member profile taken by Leo Driedger and J. Howard Kauffman (Herald Press, 1991) of five Mennonite denominations reveals an increase from 86 percent in 1972 to 92 percent in 1989 for the percent of Mennonites who judge homosexual acts to be “always wrong.” Might that increase reveal changed views or express a view for the first time because never before had threats to personal identity been so directly raised? How does the judgment “always wrong” ‘square’ with the fact that only 5 percent of pastors (in the 1982 survey) chose option # 5 in responding to item # 14?

I believe the unique ministry of ‘the peace-churches’ to both gay and straightcommunities who are alienated and mistrusting each other should be:

Option 5: Uphold the high demands of discipleship by excluding all practicing homosexuals.

Over half of the pastors surveyed called peace church members to “Befriend active gays to increase understanding between alienated gays and straights in the community.” Are Mennonites who easily call for befriending and increased understanding of victims inconsistent if they then predominantly charge that homosexual acts are “always wrong”?

A decade after the seminary study noted, the faculty denied admission into the Master of Divinity program to a homosexual male who, while in Elkhart, had begun a relationship with a gay male. [Mennonite Reporter, June 15, 1992] The faculty deemed the relationship to be counter to the denominational statements approved in 1986-87. They explain their proviso-permission for the student to register as a non-degree student another semester on conditions of conversation about his life style with a seminary representative and support from his home congregation to study-as “covenanting to remain in dialogue.” Board and faculty actions also revised admissions policies for students whose “faith, value commitments and/or personal lifestyle” differ significantly from the seminaries and their churches.

In 1985 a working document for study and dialogue titled Human Sexuality in the Christian Life became available, prepared by a task force for the General Conference and Mennonite Church groups. The topic of Homosexuality appears on pages 104-120. While the committee did not find full agreement (representative, therefore, of the broader church), themes included: fears, biblical texts, and steps to take. Several quotes express perspective:

Homosexual persons can lead lives as productive and worthy as do heterosexuals even though they are often rejected by their families and communities or victimized by myths and misinformation about their way of feeling and being. (105)

The passages reviewed above focus rather narrowly on specific homosexual acts and by themselves do not help us to move toward redemptive actions. Putting these verses in the context of the central themes in the Bible that deal with covenant and the people of God is helpful. (113)

If the church should err, let it be on the side of caring for and loving a group of people who are much persecuted in our society. (118)

For several decades Willard Krabill was a physician and teacher of a popular course- “Human Sexuality”-at Goshen College. In December 1985, he addressed a forum on homosexuality for Western District Conference [Hutchinson, KS]. In light of the theme’s uncertainties and complex dimensions and the extensive pain generated, he commits himself “to sensitivity, to humility, and to compassion.” He addressed inherited attitudes that unduly stereotype, the basic human need for intimacy, and facts regarding sexual crimes and sexual seductions: the majority of which are committed by heterosexuals. He concluded that Jesus’ prime concern was “the proclamation of the kingdom and the call to forgiveness, to reconciliation, to the ethic of love.” If that basic teaching were genuinely followed, “sexual practice would take care of itself.” [Excerpts from pp. 12-15 of “Some Christian Perspectives on Homosexuality”; also see In Search, June/July/August 1986.]

Krabill’s paper titled “Homosexuality” appears in the Resource Packet for Congregational Discernment available through Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries, July 1995 [See Sexuality God’s Gift, Anne Krabill Hershberger, ed]. He notes fourteen areas of general consensus and three major points of disagreement (among Mennonites and within society): causes of homosexuality, whether the orientation is changeable, and biblical interpretation. Any congregation must examine attitudes as seriously as position, he concludes.

Between the General Conference Mennonite meeting in Saskatoon and the Mennonite Church Assembly that met in Purdue, where discussion was “intense and divided” around homosexuality, the *Mennonite Reporter*engaged two articles for the debate [June 22, 1987]. One article was by theologian Jim Reimer of Waterloo and the other by a teacher of psychiatry and pastor in Pennsylvania, Enos B. Martin. [Martin’s article “Developmental and Ethical Issues in Homosexuality: Pastoral Implications” appeared in Pastoral Psychology and Christian Education in 1981.]

Reimer called for “priestly-pastoral” and “prophetic-ethical” tasks. Due to the meager related biblical texts, and varied interpretations of them, he stresses the “need to read the Bible as a whole” in order to find themes related to the present situation. His Christological approach to ethics asks, “not what we are or how we were born, but what we can and ought by God’s grace to become.” No sexual orientation is yet perfect; “redemption of human sexuality is on the way.” It is expressed through mutuality and self-giving love within a monogamous relationship. Reimer offers Mennonites three choices regarding homosexual activity: that it is intrinsically evil (traditional stance), intrinsically imperfect, or morally neutral. He defines sin as “the exercise of power and domination over others” and applies it equally to any sexual activity. The third option appeals to him because of how it weights sin as domination and values mutuality.

Martin notes the shifts in psychiatric diagnostic manuals with homosexual orientation now being seen as “an immutable variant of normal.” In contrast to Catholic theologian John J. McNeal, who views homosexual orientation as a “gift from God to be accepted and lived out with gratitude,” Martin focuses on orientation change. For that, he expects a slow process that depends on social and cultural realities. He rationalizes, for example, Colin Cook’s recurring shifts between homosexual and heterosexual arousal and fulfillment as indicative of the long process. Martin recommends that the church: affirm God’s ideal of genital sexual activity within heterosexual marriage only, celebrate God’s resources for change within an atmosphere of grace, and encourage open and mutually accountable relationships.

At least eight informal response letters followed the Reimer and Martin articles. The majority wished to counter some segment of Reimer’s biblical work. A few responses also followed Wilma Derksen’s sensitive feature story of Mennonite Greg Klassen’s “coming out of the closet.” [Mennonite Reporter, September 12, 1988].

A Mennonite who for some time has written about his experience, John Linscheid wrote “Our Story in God’s Story.” [The Other Side, 1990] “More than any other weapon, the Bible has been used to beat us down. Yet many of us grew up loving the Bible and found it gave life meaning.” Trained at AMBS, he later learned to read the Bible through gay eyes.

In the process, Linscheid learned several lessons: 1) Interpretation is a matter of political power. 2) The dynamics of sexual minority life find profound expression in the Bible. 3) Because of our status as an invisible minority, we understand the Bible’s language in a special way. 4) The choice of questions critically affects scriptural interpretation. 5) We who are sexual minorities see in Christ’s passion the divine paradigm that we must follow. 6) To make all interpretation open-ended gives God the final say.

Linscheid’s insights multiply throughout the article. He understands dominant society’s term “authority of the Bible” to mean society’s own authority as interpreter. He learned to be less absolute about male and female being mutually exclusive opposites. Sexual minorities understand that “dancing on the boundaries of identity and careful use of language” also relate to power, and that God’s self-revelation-the cross-is “nothing less than God coming out of the closet.” Therefore, for sexual minorities, the profound parallel between sexual minority experience and the gospel becomes key to interpreting scripture. [A more recent article by Linscheid reflects on Genesis 1-2 content-“Creating Companionship,” The Other Side, Sept-Oct 1995.]

Six writers [one woman] contributed to a forum on homosexuality in The Mennonite[Feb 12, 1991]. Over twenty-five people sent reply “Letters” to the forum. This reviewer values the fact that the editors were vulnerable enough to provide readers with more supportive articles, knowing that more respondents would denigrate homosexual partnerships. Also including broader themes, Pastor Ryan Algrim reviews biblical content. He reveals typical, patriarchal understandings of creation texts. He calls faithful readers of the Bible to “always ask whether the cultural assumptions made by the biblical writers are consistent with the intrinsic message proclaimed throughout the Bible.” Convinced that “theologically a homosexual orientation cannot be a sin,” Algrim calls the church to look much more carefully “at the possibility that committed, monogamous homosexual partnerships are morally sound.”

A librarian at North Park College and Theological Seminary, Chicago, Norma S. Goertzen’s contribution to the forum invites readers to understand that “Jesus’ life and teachings call us to accept the outcast.” As with Mennonites who accept gay and lesbian Mennonites, she denounces promiscuity from anyone, regardless of sexual orientation. And characteristic of homosexual Mennonites that she knows [and those most of us know], “they live mature, responsible lives” and are a gift of God. To reject them can lead to their not being free to believe in God’s grace, Goertzen observes. Noting that some biblical scholars judge all homosexual genital activity to be sinful, other scholars, using the same scriptures that address inhospitality and sexual violence, fail to discern “loving and ongoing homosexual relationship.”

Nearly a decade ago [July 1991] Eastern Mennonite College professor Edward Stoltzfus agreed to lead a seminar at the Mennonite Church General Assembly in Oregon. His eighteen-page paper, “Biblical Perspectives on Contemporary Issues of Homosexuality,” met a need that few Mennonite leaders in the field of interpretation would risk. After introductory sections on interpreting the Bible, definitions of terms, and causes of homosexuality, Stoltzfus examines nine specific texts in detail. He asks: “Is the homosexual judged in the Bible simply because he or she is homosexually oriented or because of homosexual friendships and social relationships or because of sexual acts performed in vicious and abusive ways or because of specific sexual practices performed in the context of idolatrous worship?”

A few comments reveal features of given texts. The context for Israel’s holiness law code (Lev. 18:22; 20:13) is to instruct them to be ritually clean and ready for worship. God’s people were to refuse to either divinize or trivialize sexual acts. On looking at the Romans 1 text, Stoltzfus asks:

If a person is ‘by nature’ homosexual, that is, biologically and congenitally homosexual, and that person is a believer in Jesus and does not engage in pagan sexual worship, how shall that nature be respected? Paul does not speak to this question, because he is thinking of heterosexuals practicing promiscuous homosexual sexual acts for religious reasons.

The ‘sin’ of which Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 is “uncontrolled, libertine behavior, whether related to idolatrous worship or not. Such behaviors violate relationships with others and God, as well as abuse one’s own body.”

Stoltzfus places the specific theme within the central theme of the Bible-the redemption of all things. He notes the tension that always exists between the universal and the particular. He names three options for the question, “What can be said about homosexuals as Christians and as members of the church today?” Any form of homosexuality is sin; the orientation and same-sex attraction is God’s good gift of self-identity for homosexuals; the orientation, relationships, and covenanted/faithful same-sex sexual relations are not sin. He concludes with extended summary statements from the Bible, for its original context and life today.

From 1981 to 1996, I, Dorothy Yoder Nyce, was an adjunct teacher at Goshen College, working with course content under the title “Bible and Sexuality.” Principles of interpreting scripture, details of feminist vision of sexuality, and themes of human creation, marriage, and God-concept always preceded discussion of homosexuality. We examined patriarchal influences on self-understanding and identified causes of controversy, but never were all class members ‘ready’ to face their fears related to sexual minorities.

Responses varied. While some students praised the gay or lesbian guest(s) who spoke from experience, others lashed out with judgmental charges against the same. While some students expressed resistance by refusing to read assignments for the topic, students who were gay or lesbian moved toward deeper self-insight. One semester a congregation in the conference ‘planted’ an auditor for the course; his report back to his elders made multiple false charges about content and method. I wondered why some church members resort to desperate actions over differing views.

The core of my twenty-minute lecture on the theme (also offered to a congregation for its study in 1994) asks hearers/readers to look at personal attitudes as seriously as biblical texts. Those who wish first of all to charge others with sin often resent such self-discipline. Those who depend on a few scriptures to condemn sexual minorities often hold to a more literal view of texts or expect an “authority figure” to determine textual meaning for them. Those who decide that others who love people of the same sex are unworthy to be loved by God may fail to comprehend God’s compassion. That some men choose to mutually submit to each other threatens all people who believe that women are prescribed by scripture or society to submit sexually, and otherwise, to men. Sexual minorities often ‘interfere’ with traditional, comfortable connections of sex with power. Homophobic Christians resent such observations as they do Jesus’ ‘hard sayings’: “Let the dead bury their own dead” or “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in God’s kingdom.”

Class members look at texts, drawing on various writers. “New understandings of our world produce changed interpretations of the biblical material. That has been part of the process for twenty centuries.” (Joseph Kotva) If we are going to refer responsibly to texts like 1 Corinthians 6:9, Romans 1:26-27, and 1 Timothy 1:10, we must be duly informed of “the Greco-Roman cultural situation (the social setting of early Christianity)…and the literary design of each passage.” (Abraham Smith) What we now bring to texts is new awareness that a portion of humanity (in many cultures) is born with “primary erotic energy generated in relation to the same sex.” (Carter Heyward) “…Gay people are victims, not of the bible, not of religion, not of the church, but of the people who use these things to deny and deform those whom they neither ignore nor convert.” (Peter Gomes) Student papers then offered further exchange.

In 1994, retired church leader Ivan J. Kauffmann prepared a working draft of a treatise: “How Should the Church Respond to Christians Who are Homosexual?” The title affirms that some Christians are homosexual. “Should” in the title suggests an expectation, a pattern often practiced by the church toward its members. Kauffmann’s personal testimony extends to readers the right to disagree, but he also suggests a method for church members to use in sorting through issues. His optimism that in due time God’s Spirit will direct the controversial question “for God’s glory” fails to address who is accountable, in the mean time, for those who leave the church because they are not welcome.

Kauffmann poses thirteen themes within the topic of homosexuality. Each page begins with scripture texts (broader than the traditional few) and ends with questions. The following points are examples:

  • The word “grace” occurs 170 times in the Bible, including Acts 15:1-21; Romans 3; Ephesians 2:1-10, and Galatians 2:15-21. Questions include: “Does God’s grace exclude the sincere seeker who may happen to be homosexual? How does the Church represent God’s grace in its attitudes and actions toward such persons?”

  • Kauffmann declares that the church’s mission is reconciliation, not judgment.

  • He asks regarding the denomination: “With its emphasis on discipleship and service, what can the Mennonite Church learn from the way Jesus treated all classes of people?” Might Jesus’ reply to the question of cause related to a blind man ‘fit’ with homosexuality: “he was born blind (homosexual) so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”

  • Reflecting on a Christian’s central focus: “Should the church evaluate homosexuals by what seems to be their lot in life, or by their love forGod as demonstrated by love and acts of good will and peace toward the neighbor?”

  • Regarding the Romans 1 text, he asks: “Is salvation not for everyone who has faith?” and via the Corinthian listing of lifestyle practices, he ponders: “Does the Church sometimes use these passages as an excuse to criticize, exercise prejudice, act cruelly, and feel justified in doing so?”

  • Practical churchman, Kauffmann wonders: Since homosexuality prompts diverse opinions, should congregations within conferences deal with it in varied ways, in order to discover the most redemptive outcomes?

Report No. 139 of Women’s Concerns Report (MCC, July-August 1998) is titled “Lesbians in the church: experience and response.” While the title misleads because all articles do not focus on lesbian experience, it does succeed in presenting a spectrum of views toward some realities of sexual minorities. Within fourteen pages, eight writers speak from experience: Lois Kenagy, Martha L. Pepper, Sharon Heath, Marlene and Stan Smucker, Jewel Showalter, Ardelle Brown, and Donella Clemens. They address: being the mother of a lesbian, counseling toward change in sexual orientation, a journey of sexual self-understanding, being pastors of an inclusive congregation, caution that dialogue may destroy rather than keep historic church “gates,” claiming the inner interplay of sexual and spiritual experience, and facing the burden of leadership through conference decision-making.

Qualities stand out in this forum. Integrity of personal experience overrides an attempt to persuade. Biblical verses rarely appear but biblical principles exude the writing. Honesty recurs, whether in claiming truth, expressing fears, revealing mistakes, or finding joy. A reader can imagine the seven people getting together, along with the compiler Lynette Youndt Meck, to authentically dialogue, for they have “set the stage” of respect for difference.

Reviewer’s concluding comments:

While writing his treatise was no doubt valuable for Ivan Kauffmann, gay and lesbian Mennonites might wish that he had taken the risks of that ‘work’ while he was in a position of church power. Varied matters of integrity have not yet been publicly faced by Mennonites. Truth’s encounter with church power structures appears when people are not ‘free’ to live their conscience. Three examples raise questions of honor, of the folly made of “being one in the body of Christ”: 1) A congregation takes a stance of not welcoming sexual minorities who are Christians in committed relationships, in order, in part, for other members to avoid ‘flack’ as employees of church institutions. 2) Some individuals were advised not to sign the Welcome Letter because of their church ‘position.’ 3) The listing of Letter signatures is examined to ‘disqualify’ individuals who otherwise might be invited to lead church-wide youth meetings. Does a form of fascism appear in these expressions of control? When does “calling a spade a spade” apply to Mennonites who exclude other believers? How do heterosexual Mennonites justify excluding Christian sexual minorities while overlooking their own sexual fears, their distortions of faithful living, their presuming to be God in God’s stead (the meaning of idolatry)?

After recently teaching an adult Sunday school class on the Luke 15 texts where Jesus answers the question posed by the Pharisees and Scribes about his authority, I found new insight into the elder son’s response to his brother’s return. The self-righteous, loveless elder brother could not rejoice because he failed to comprehend God’s character, God’s character that is equally depicted in the shepherd, the woman, and the father, in the chapter’s trio of parables. Whereas Jesus expects his followers to welcome (like God) those who are shunted to the margins of society, the elder brother’s criteria kept him from bringing a solution to the story. Might Mennonites who judge sexual minority Christian believers as sinners, who judge them to be the younger son, reflect on their current day expression of the unforgiving elder brother and be more concerned that he remained separated from God?

My honest hunch is that if the ratio (MCC Report cited above) of seven women and one man were to be the informed spokespeople for several generations on all dimensions of sexuality, living together gracefully within diversity would become more realistic than it is today. Lessons of listening would lead to greater patience. Authority and responsibility for each person-whether to interpret scripture, create history, or define the self-could decrease unhealthy dependence. Accountable church membership, dependent on Divine wisdom, would both confess inconsistencies and expect rich diversity. Then, perhaps, future generations will glance back sadly on the turn of the millenium, and move more redemptively toward authentic mutuality among women and men of minority and majority orientations.

“…I began to see that this presence to our selves and one another and God-this relavatory presence-is a way of being that prepares us to be persons of authority…genuine authority is not the authority invested by place or position…authority derives from presence…authority of presence: being alive in a way that makes others alive.” -Melanie A. May

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