Norman Shenk’s recent comment and an e-mail from Paul Martin’s daughter reminded me of the many unfulfilled wishes during our visit to Pennsylvania. Time and energy are limited. So is life, unless by grace of the God of Mysteries life becomes eternal.
Life on earth hurried on in Goshen in our absence. A group I associate with on Tuesday mornings had begun to draft a letter before I left Goshen. The letter was finished and mailed to multiple recipients . On my return several of us who were not present for the signing added our names. I summarize and paraphrase the letter here. (Comments in parentheses are my own.)
We introduced ourselves as retired professionals who had served the church in various leadership roles. Those experiences enable us to empathize with those who lead under pressure of tension in the church as it is today. (I feel that even though we believe God is on our side we should relax a bit and let the leaders of the church exert informed leadership.)
- We told of meeting with Carl Shelly, pastor of the Assembly Mennonite Church, whose credentials are under review by two conferences because he united two persons with same sex attraction in marriage, an act at variance with Mennonite Church guidelines. Shelly was gentle, soft-spoken, and gave a presentation that was understandable. (See Shelly on youtube by clicking here. Be sure turn up your volume.).
- We wrote that we felt the church should learn from its history. Past transitions from traditional, Bible based practices such as prayer head coverings, divorce and remarriage, instrumental music in worship, etc. were made with little stress when individual conscience and congregational discernment were permitted, exercised and respected.
- All who receive the letter were asked to do what is possible and necessary to protect Karl Shelly’s ministry and honor the integrity of Assembly Mennonite Church.
A final note was added to the letter to say that not all signers agreed with Carl Shelly. (This is an important caveat. Unity of the church will not be achieved if total agreement is a condition. Peace abides and abounds if grace and love make transparency safe.)
The letter was signed by 30-35 retired men of the church. Retirement freed them to be open without fear of reprisal. Constituencies of the Mennonite Church US and Canada will gain if they will allow young and old to speak and be heard with respect.
Elderly professionals are no better than others. Everyone can learn, change his mind, and take a new direction. This time calls for renewed minds.