Winter cold is suspended and the warmth of spring has finally fully arrived in Goshen, and with it is a bumper crop of strawberries. My Joyce bought a flat, and I bought two boxes. I put some bran flakes in a bowl and topped it with strawberries. To my dismay, I discovered that I was out of milk. So what to do? I depended on a friend and took the bowl with dry flakes and berries to Joyce who gave me milk, and I helped her cap her flat of berries in return.
My Joyce and I are both concerned for the welfare of the Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship and its pastor Isaac Villegas. She is concerned because when she visited her sister in Durum she met Villegas personally. I am concerned because of who I am. I am an Old Fool who persists in walking on what I believe to be the Jesus way.
In 1982 I unexpectedly began a career of listening to Gay and Lesbian concerns. A Listening Committee was appointed by the denomination and I was a member of that committee for several terms. The committee listened without judging, without attempting to change or to convert.
I’ve read media releases from the Executive Board, Virginia Conference, Villegas and the Chapel Hill Congregation. It seems to me that MC USA is plagued by two issues: sexuality and competing sources of authority. Leadership of the Virginia Conference believes that it speaks for a conference majority with authority, and the Chapel Hill Church knows that it is a minority, yet believes it should be respected as it shepherds its pastor.
The conference speaks of a three-year discernment process for Chapel Hill which did include “communication from” Virginia Mennonite Conference. Do the words “communication from” betray a weak process? Communication from is not the same as communication with.
The Chapel Hill congregation complained that their wishes were ignored The Faith and Life Commission chose to summon Isaac alone to a meeting that consisted of a large group of people questioning decisions he had made with congregation’s blessing. The congregation’s delegate to conference and the deacons of the congregation were barred from this meeting.
There is hope in these words from the conference: Our intention is to remain in conversation with Isaac Villegas and the Chapel Hill congregation as a member congregation of Virginia Mennonite Conference.
There is hope in the meaning of suspension. Suspension is always defined as being temporary. The Virginia Conference called it a suspension which is defined as a temporary status. Might the conference leadership begin to hear Villegas when he says, I would be denying God’s call in my life if I were to reject our discernment of the Spirit’s leading.
Each year, a temporary winter suspends its cold and spring comes temporarily, till it suspended and a temporary harvest time takes over. Harvest time is suspended by the arrival of the chill of fall and the cold of winter, which in turn are suspended to allow the return of another spring’s warmth.
Nature’s cycle of suspension is filled with hope for the future. Let forbearance reign in God’s kingdom.