The need to repent is an urgent biblical message. John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter and the apostles called for repentance. Major components of repentance are regrets for the past and a change of old for new and better ways.
Judas soon regretted his betrayal of Jesus. After an attempt to return the 30 pieces of silver, Judas threw the coins on the temple floor and left them there. Filled with remorse, he went out and hanged himself. Remorse is not repentance.
A better example: After Peter swore that he did not know Jesus, he realized the enormity of his lie, and he went out and wept bitterly. That didn’t end it for Peter. He was with the disciples when they regrouped after the crucifixion.
Jesus restored Peter. He preached the sermon on the Day of Pentecost and entered the house of Cornelius, a Roman centurian, to acknowledge the first gentiles into the Jesus way. Repentance is marked by a beginning and may extend into an indefinite future.
Paul is another example. From being a persecutor of the followers of Jesus Paul abruptly repented and changed course to become a follower of Jesus. Yet, Paul understood his personal transformation to be an unfinished process. He lost every asset to follow Christ and become like him. Paul admitted that he had not achieved his goal, so he “pressed on” as in an unfinished race.
In their day, the Anabaptists repented of the union of church and state under the emperor and the Pope. They repented of the baptism of innocent infants making them citizens and christians. They repented being part of a church that fought wars and killed enemies on behalf of the emperor and the church. They refused to allow the empire to shape them. We are deeply indebted to their repentances.
In more recent years, Mennonites have benefited from numerous repentings. Mennonites repented of the neglect of their youth, and began Sunday Schools, protracted meetings, Bible Schools and institutes. Mennonites repented from excommunicating those who owned a radio or television. Mennonites repented of the practice of four part singing only in worship. Mennonites repented of not accepting divorced and remarried persons, and women with cut hair or who wore jewelry, even wedding bands. Now Ervin Stutzman writes:
“I weep as I think about our church—our aspiration to become “communities of grace, joy and peace, so that God’s healing and hope flow through us to the world.” In our best moments, when the Spirit breaks through in our lives, we reflect that hope. But I grieve that too often we contribute to the marginalization of the LGBTQ community through attitudes, teaching and behaviors which do not reflect the way of Jesus Christ. And God weeps.
“I want to mourn deeply enough, to pause long enough, to listen intently enough, that I can hear the voice of God and my brothers and sisters.
“But for now, I can say that God welcomes the stranger, the foreigner, and queer folks with open arms, and I want to do that too. As a leader in our denomination, I pledge to work with the Executive Board to find specific ways for our church to extend that welcome as well, especially as we prepare to gather in Orlando for our convention next summer.”
These words by the Executive Secretary signal more than remorse. I call on the Executive Board with others to form a protective unanimous circle around the Exeutive Secretary as he leads by weeping and breaks ranks with the unrepentent and leads the church in welcoming LGBTQ’s as members of the body of Christ having all the privileges of belonging. This is a time for repentance.
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