The Men’s Fellowship at College Mennonite Church meets weekly except in the summer. We gather for lunch at 11:30 a.m. and a presentation at noon. Last Wednesday the Old Fool ate at a table with six or seven elderly gentleman much like himself.
Two of the men were left handed. The conversation drifted to their common recollections of teachers in young years who insisted that their left-handed students convert to right-handedness.
Then the conversation turned to grandparents who were left-handed, and of grandchildren who were left-handed. It was apparent that being right or left handed was not a choice. So the Old Fool interrupted the conversation by saying that this seemed to be the right time to ask a question.
He asked, if parents give birth to a child with a compelling attraction to individuals of the same sex, is the child’s sexuality a matter of choice or a genetically determined inclination? The table quickly agreed that sexuality is not a matter of choice, but is a result of genes inherited from a past generation.
Sheila Yoder, coordinator of deaf ministries at College Mennonite Church, was the speaker for that meeting of the men’s’ fellowship. She told us of the events that exposed her to the American Sign Language and to doing ministry among hearing impaired persons. Her presentation was filled with data and anecdotes. The Old Fool learned of cousins who live successfully with hearing impairment.
Sheila told us of a Christmas event that was postponed because of snow. She thought the postponement would have a negative effect on attendance. But when it was held 80 persons came from Conservative, Amish, and Mennonite congregations. One hearing Amish couple brought their 4 hearing impaired children. This diverse group had at least one thing in common, hearing impaired children.
Again, the Old Fool felt a need for the roving mike. This time he said, I want to make a statement. Inside the statement is embedded a question, a question that should not be answered here today. There will be another time for that. (CMC has scheduled an intensive study of sexuality.) In his statement the Old Fool observed that there seems to be a genetic factor that often determines deafness. The embedded question was about the similarity between deafness and homosexuality? He was greeted by the silence he desired.
Now is the time for much dialogue. In the Old Fool’s Fantasy Sermon he urges old people to tell their memories of changes in the church, young people to tell their visions for the future, and middle aged decision-makers to listen to their elders and to their children. A Mennonite Church scholar and evangelist who was a generation older than the Old Fool had a grandson who was gay. The grandfather waited until he was near death to talk to his grandson.
The Grandfather and his gay grandson agreed to keep their conversation confidential. But the grandfather remarked to family members that “We should have talked a long time ago.” (The conversation and the remark were confirmed to me by a trusted family member.)
If we tried to fit the right puzzle pieces together we would likely have peace in the church and society. Let’s give it a try. Peace demands it.
If you want more details in the story about the Grandfather and his gay grandson you may find them in the introduction to “On Being Human” by C. Norman Kraus.