Introduction

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Booklet #6 continues the invitation to dialogue concerning issues pertaining to church membership. That invitation from the Welcome Committee was begun in booklet #3 of this series.

Ted Grimsrud in booklet #4 in this series highlighted the significance of table fellowship in the lifetime of Jesus and also for Anabaptists/ Mennonites throughout our history. Jesus, he noted, “chose an extraordinarily evocative and concrete way to make clear the openness, inclusiveness, and unconditionality of God’s realm” by sharing mealtimes publicly with all sorts of outsiders at great cost to his reputation (and his life).

In a short ‘slice of life’ Jacob T. Friesen, cites a table fellowship experience that sent him on a new trajectory of spiritual transformation. He reflects on the pain experienced when the pattern of the “family quilt” is broken. However, he also notes unexpected gifts that emerge and concludes with the suggestion that, unless we do nothing with our theology except repeat it to ourselves, we accept an “invitation to dinner.”

Melvin D. Schmidt’s pastorate has included ministry to lesbian and gay people as well as to those who are not. His article does not attempt to counter the Mennonite Church’s current teachings on the sanctity of marriage and strong, wholesome family life. He reflects about the role of the church and the ways she has and does deal with diversity of belief and practice in a variety of areas. In his essay, as in his pastoral work, Schmidt explores ways whereby a life-affirming ministry can be extended to each within the church.

Based on his biblical study and on his ministry, Vernon Keith Rempel joyfully and hopefully visions the future of the church. From the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, Rempel borrows the concept that the Spirit of Christ (Aslan in the Narnia books) is not “tame.” He highlights biblical stories that highlight the “untameness” of that Spirit and challenges us to once again fall in love “with a Spirit of Christ who is not tame.” He encourages us to continue as careful readers of the Bible and to read with discernment. He challenges us to be aware of the choices that we make as we read and respond to the text.

The “Guidelines for Establishing and Maintaining Respect and ‘Fair Play…’ were written following a meeting of the BMC (Brethren Mennonite Council) Board of Directors with two church leaders. At the end of that meeting one of the leaders wondered aloud what a “level playing field” would look like. A member of the board responded by writing the article; the six guidelines now serve as a statement for the group.

Concluding this booklet are excerpts from two writings by Melanie May. May was credentialed by the Church of the Brethren and served as a pastor in that denomination as had her mother before her. May’s writings, poetic and prose, reveal her deep love for God, for the church and for scripture. The selections here focus on her struggle to love herself and to break through the wall of silence and hostility created by the church as well as within herself.

Examine any teachings tht could contribute to interpersonal violence. If teachings aren’t good news for the weakest and most vulnerable, they don’t reflect our Lord’s message and should be rejected. - Carolyn Holderread Heggen (as reported by Emily Wade Will in June 14, 2001 Mennonite Weekly Review

 

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