Retired Professionals Speak


Why can’t I do everthing

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.)

  1. retired

    A Retired Professional

    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.)

  2.  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.).
  3.  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.
  4. 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.
  5. unity

    Unity without Conditions

    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.

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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6 Responses to Retired Professionals Speak

  1. Myron S. Augsburger says:

    Martin, I want to welcome persons of the military into the church but ask them to desist the practice and identification. Is this not a valid expression of love? Is there not a place for integrity in discipleship? Myron

    • Martin says:

      Yes, I feel your wish is a valid expression of love toward those who have freely chosen a military practice and identification. Entering military service is usually a matter of choice. It may not be a loving response to gays or lesbians who have not chosen their sexual orientation. Persons with a bisexual orientation do appear to have a choice. My wish is that the church end its effort to control from the top down with the majority deciding what is right and wrong for everyone, and allow minorities to find their own ways to righteousness and peace.

  2. D. Lowell N issley says:

    What would happen if the Mennonite Church gave a serious look at the Quakers and their practice of consensus? It would take longer but how long is the present system taking and with what results? What is Christian about the voting system with winners and losers? Is there any illustration of voting in the NT? Why not just “Agree to disagree” and move on with Christ as the center?

    • Martin says:

      I’m not enamored by the use of consensus, especially when the voice of a minority is discounted. I prefer an attempt to teach majorities how to protect and care for minorities. A protected variant minority can be a nurturing gift to the majority.

  3. Sam Troyer says:

    I pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ and to the kingdom of God for which he died. One Spirit led people with love and justice for all. I like this new pledge, under it we are all accountable to one another and to Christ. Who are we to judge? When I was baptized I don’t remember being asked about my sexual orientation.

    • Martin says:

      You probably do remember being asked to promise to give and receive counsel to the church. These are mutual obligations of all church members. We all should speak up with assurance that our counsel will be received as a word to be heard, considered, and pondered in love.

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