Can Divisions be Avoided?

In an earlier post I noted an observation that church divisions carry with them the seeds of divisions to follow.  Perhaps an outsider should be asked to research the nature of this trait.

To this 89 year old there appears  to be a human need to set boundaries. make laws and require that anyone who breaks the law must be criminalized.

This may be the demon that troubles the church.  I once heard the phenomena described like this: after a decision to move ahead had been made by the group, a brother rose from his seat, took his black hat off the hook on the wall and walked out the door, never to return. This disorderly trait can be traced back to the Amish and Mennonite division.

In the beginning, Anabaptist believers formed a covenant community with requirements and a boundary. They disagreed on how to deal with one who varied from a requirement. There is an Amish way and a Mennonite way.  Much can be learned from  Cindy Woodsmall,   an outsider that blogs about the divisions among us.


Is this the seed of the next division in our DNA?

Today, some good people leave the Mennonite Church USA because  it requires too much, and other good people leave MCUSA because it requires too little.  This poses a dilemma for leadership. How can leaders lead without losing members?

Ted Grimsrud is an insider who has labored long over the probable end of the MCUSA as an institution. As I understand him, Grimsrud urges MCUSA to allow those who disagree with it to “self select” to be outsiders and set boundaries and requirements of their own. This will allow MCUSA to pursue single mindedly the mission of Jesus in the world.

GrimsrudThe Evangelical Anabaptist Network EVANA is trying not to be divisive though it identifies two groups of anabaptists – traditionalists and progressives.  EVANA promises to allow member congregations to belong to both EVANA (traditionalists) and MCUSA (progressives).  In the mind of the Old Fool,  EVANA likely carries with it the same divisive seed that is disturbing its relationship with MCUSA.

The Lancaster Conference is struggling to maintain an identity that is both traditional and progressive.  Fifty two leaders in that conference have proposed a radical center in a courageous attempt to hold the conference together.

EVANA, MCUSA and the radical center within Lancaster Conference assert their loyalty to the 1965 Confession of Faith from a Mennonite Perspective. Yet I fear that each carries with it the damaging seed that assures division. Each seems to be like the church described in I Corinthians 3:1-3

It is the Old Fool’s opinion that division is not as unavoidable as death. Division is an illness that can be healed by repenting from ungraceful, unmerciful and unpeaceful behaviors.  Is not repentance within our human capabilities?    And can we not adopt the simple A B C behaviors of faith, such as grace, mercy and peace?

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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5 Responses to Can Divisions be Avoided?

  1. Freda Zehr says:

    I agree with you Martin. It reminds me of how Vernon and I were asked to leave the conservative conference when we had our little city church in Wilmington because we could not get the people to dress plain. Lancaster conference accepted us with open arms, I can still see Chester Wenger, a man after Gods own heart in my mind, sitting around our kitchen table with Vernon as we discussed the matter. He has always had a special place in my heart as a result of that. Now, these fifty some years later, the conservative conference is very liberal in its dress and hair code—we would have fit right in. I cannot help but think that is how it will be in years to come with some of these other issues. God bless you Martin.
    PS, martin I am in the proscess of moving to Harrisonburg va, looking through my old home movies, still haven’t come across that one with you and your wife and daughter and grandchildren at the Kennels at the Mennolink reunions. I know I will find it and make a copy for you.

  2. Nate Lehman says:

    I can’t help but ask, what would Jesus do, before he became a christian of course?

  3. harold Bauman says:

    Martin, if we say we follow Jesus, why don’t we follow his deepest prayer, aside from his deliverance from his cross, the night he was betrayed? He prayed that the disciples would have unity as he and the father had unity. What if our highest priority were Jesus’ highest priority? Would there be any divisions? See my letter to the editor in the June 8 issue of the Mennonite World Review and you can respond to it.

  4. Raymond Martin says:

    I just want to ask Nate when it was that Jesus became a Christian.

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