Tolerance, Compassion and Homosexuality


Krista Tippett

This morning before breakfast I listened to an archived speech by Krista Tippett,  given to a small gathering at the United Nations headquarters on “Reconnecting with Compassion.”  She spoke of the evolution from mere tolerance to compassion and examples of   compassion.    Tippett failed to include Jesus who was filled and moved with compassion.


New York City’s Skyline

In the decade of the sixties many changes took place in society that were reflected in the church. Homosexuality was one change that could not be tolerated. When I was a member of the church’s “listening Committee”  I heard the stories of young men and women who could not be tolerated  by their families, churches and rural communities because of their same sex orientation. Big cities welcomed them and offered a refuge among others of their kind.  Tragically some lost faith, but others kept the faith and longed to be a functioning member of an Anabaptist  congregation that  welcomed them .

welcome home

Hope is a child of grace

A growing number of Anabaptist congregations and conferences in this century are filled with a Jesus-like compassion and welcome those who were not tolerated by the church in previous decades.

This morning I talked to My Joy by phone.  It’s snowing, she told me, and asked what do you think of that?   The snow is doomed, I said.  It will melt just as surely as the sun shines and the days grow longer and warmer. Now I add that cold intolerance will melt away as surely as God’s grace is greater than any law written two thousand years ago, as surely as the gentle spirit Wind transforms us, and as surely as the warm light of the compassionate Jesus shines in our hearts. That is the Old Fool’s confession of faith.

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About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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10 Responses to Tolerance, Compassion and Homosexuality

  1. Myron S. Augsburger says:

    Martin, why don’t you write about accepting gay people into a community of love and emotional intimacy in small groups without accepting gay practice. Jesus spoke of what appears to be accepting eunuchs or celibate persons in Matthew 19, and we’ve done so with singles in the church for years, but without idolizing sex. While we are not on the same page, I read you with interest as a brother. The church needs a third way rather than legalism on one side or socio/political liberalism on the other, just was we seek on many other issues. Myron

    • Merle: The elders of our church at Marion, PA prepared me to answer questions about why I rejected induction into military service by explaining that “I can’t kill.” That is my answer to Myron’s question of I why I don’t write of his proposed third way: “I can’t write that.” I can’t write because I don’t understand why some verses in Leviticus are made binding today when all other rules and regulations embedded in Leviticus are ignored. I can’t write because I don’t understand why some of Paul’s writings are understood within the culture of his times and do not bind us today, yet others of his writings are taken literally and cause us to stumble. Specifically, I remember the testimony of a gay believer who turned to Romans 1:18-32 and said “This is not my spiritual pilgrimage, this is not me.” My father came home from revival meetings, in Ohio I think, and told us that he had learned that God hears the prayers of mothers who pray with unveiled heads. I have many good memories of the Marion Church. If I were God, I think I would be able to see some sinful practices condoned among its membership. But I am not God, so I cannot see and ought not judge, as God does not. I was taught to receive others as God through Jesus has received me

    • mary shea says:

      Myron, I agree whole heartedly. Why not accept the individual as a fellow human being loved by God and us, but not the practice, which He clearly deplores

  2. Ray Vandersall says:

    Myron, there is no “third way.” People are people. Your idea of an inclusive yet condescending community is absolutely ridiculous.

  3. Merle Cordell says:

    I agree with Myron’s comment. Our congregation at Marion has always welcomed all, but we don’t condone anyone’s sinful practices.

  4. Milton P Lehman says:

    For me, tho I am generally not very verbal, I feel the need to say that my journey in life has moved me from a rigid and bound understanding of life to a freed up openness in many areas of human behavior. Especially now I want to say with every cell and fiber of my being that I welcome members of the LGBT community into my faith community as fully participating co-believers and Christ disciples. I would add that I deeply believe That inclusion stances and welcomings are on the right side of history. Thanks be to God.

  5. Freda Zehr says:

    Martin, once again your words of wisdom on this subject, and kindness and the love of Christ which you expressed, shone through it all. I do not know who all reads your “old fool” writings, but I have come to the place where after years of being afraid to state my opinion on this matter(of acceptance of gays) I have, at the ripe old age of 78, decided that I would rather be hated for speaking the truth of my feelings then to be loved for aquiesing to feelings I do not share.
    It all started with a young man whom I dearly loved, a nephew, and whom my husband and I both sensed his difference,from a fairly young child to his pain as an adult. Then I did a term paper in 1999, while going back to school after my children were in school. The term paper I did was entitled,
    “Homosexuality—born or learned?” To do this paper, I interviewed five or six gay people. I also looked up all the literature on both sides. Most important of all to me were the interviews, the pain, the agony, the feelings of rejection, which poured out of the people. several of whom expressed their wish to commit suicide because they had been taught that what they felt and was sin and how they had prayed, studied, begged God for years, to change their feelings. I recall when I finally had my eyes opened—the young man with whom I was speaking responded to my question, “—- have you NEVER felt any sexual attraction for a female?” His answer, looking right into my eyes, the eyes of this heteosexual happily married woman, was, “Aunt Freda, have YOU ever felt sexually attracted to a female”?
    My response was written on my face I know, because the thought of that was indeed repulsive to me, He smiled then and said, “that is exactly I feel toward women, that is what no one understands”. Suddenly I understood, I took him in my arms and we cried together.
    One response which I have gotten on several occasions when I dared to speak my mind was, “God don’t make any mistakes”. Yet, having worked in a newborn pediatric ward of a hospital, for many years, I have seen at least three babies born with what was called, Ambigious Gentalia. In fact one surgeon which I often spoke with told me that they used to just call them male or female depending on what most appeared to be, but they discovered that they often made mistakes when say a child looking most like a male in that area, would grow up and then they discovered had female parts, so now they do exrays, –for instance child whom they had called a boy, had female internal organs unseen from just looking. I am certainly am not saying that gays are like that, but, how can one say that God makes no mistakes, when these things happen. Sorry, I got carried away here, but I so weary of being silent on this subject when I learned so very much about the pain and inability of these dear people that I had to say my feelings.

    • Thanks, Freda, for your heartfelt comments. I don’t know either who it is that reads the writings on this website, but it now records a few below or above 1,000 visits daily. I’m surprised also by the quality of those who tell me that they read it.

  6. Jackie Hamlett says:

    Each time I come across this site I receive a little more hope and encouragement about the church as an institution, a harbinger of love, mercy, grace, and truth. My husband and I met, dated, and married at Eastern Mennonit College between 1969 and 1973. He is African American and I am Caucasion. During that time we experienced the worst and the best of churches. We were told to leave and not come back, some welcomed us, others tolerated us. I was a new Christian at the time, and I remember thinking that if a pastor or church kicked us out, then I was sure that God was doing the same thing. We were fortunate to become acquainted with many different people from various backgrounds, yet most we’re Christians who truly reached out to us, loved us, mentored us, and made a difference in our lives that to this day, almost 41 years ago those moments of connection truly marked our lives and hearts with God’s redeeming love. What has remained is the love, mercy, and grace of God portrayed by those whose hearts were connected to Him, Who is love, Mercy, Grace, and Truth. I can,t share that those who told us to leave their church are distant memories, because the hurt behind these words was at the time so confusing and so void of hope. But we can share that the voices and actions of those who demonstrated the love of Christ have stayed with us, many times being beacons of Hope and love in a shattered world of hatered and separation. We are so grateful for those who loved us and saw us as persons, not as colors or races. Many of these folks wre students and professors at EMU. Thank you Jesus for meeting us where we were, and for walking with us through the years.

    • Thanks for writing, Jackie. I don’t know who all reads this blog, but this morning I met a man from overseas who recognized my name as having a website. I pray that it may be a source of encouragement and strength. Thank God for filling us with grace, mercy, and peace to share toward others.

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