Note from Pink Menno Press- This article is republished in its entirety, with comments, with permission from The Mennonite, where it was originally published in the July 7, 2009 issue.
Pink Menno Campaign at Columbus
One hundred people wearing pink gather for witness.
by Anna Groff
Approximately 100 Mennonites wearing pink gathered outside the convention center on July 2 for the “Pink Menno Campaign” witness and press conference to advocate for inclusion of lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender people in Mennonite Church USA.
After a time of singing and confession, three individuals from the campaign told their stories.
Cynthia Lapp, pastor at Hyattsville (Md.) Mennonite Church, shared about the gifts of LGBT individuals in her congregation. Katie Hochstedler, who described herself as “young queer Mennonite” called for the church it “be its best self.” Luke Yoder of Denver, Colo., spoke of his dream for the inclusion of his gay friends and queer sister.
Anna Beth Roeschley (left) reads a confession at the witness on July 2. Cynthia Lapp stands at right. Photo by Anna Groff.
The witness was only one aspect of the Pink Menno Campaign at the Mennonite Church USA Convention 2009. Other components included seminars and film viewings in the campaign’s “hospitality room” and hymn sings in the convention center.
In an interview, Yoder said he appreciated the “overwhelming number of people wearing pink” and the many people interested in dialogue.
Yoder said a small group of people in opposition to the campaign became confrontational. While that group did not surprise him, “It was really disappointing to see that that happened and not much of a response from church leaders,” he said.
Yoder also said the campaign recognizes the issue’s sensitive for certain groups within Mennonite Church USA, such as underrepresented Racial/Ethnic members. He acknowledged this issue does not carry the same significance for all parts of the church, but added, “Where can we find areas that we share the same passions?” and named immigration as one such issue.
A support network for LGBT individuals is one outgrowth of the campaign, said Yoder.
“What happened in Columbus is a starting point for further conversation and discernment,” he said, adding the campaign will have a presence at Convention 2011 in Pittsburgh.
Regarding the resolution on conflict, Yoder said, “We’re very hopeful that Mennonite Church USA will be able to provide those resources … so that the dialogue can be positive and more forward in meaningful way.”
In an interview, Hochstedler said, “We are trying to model what we want the church to be.”
Editor’s note: The inverted pink triangle, originally intended as a badge of shame by the Nazis, has become an international symbol of the gay rights movement, from Wikipedia.
(as posted originally on this article on the web site of The Mennonite).
I’m so happy that Pink Menno is promoting many loving, caring homosexual Mennonites to practice their faith without condemnation. I think a progressive, inclusive church that loves all equally is the BEST! Great job guys, and keep up the good work.
I mourn what Pink Menno did to the church in this past convention. It has created for itself three significant challenges that prevent it from engaging in real dialogue.
I mourn the repudiation of the voice of those who represent the vital, non-white, missional churches who have become a part of us. Pink Menno is almost exclusively a white, North American movement that has almost no connection with the views of Racial/Ethnic people and the global church. Racial/Ethnic churches and the global church are speaking with a clear voice asking the North American church not to embrace gay marriage. Pink Menno is a repudiation of that voice and another example in a long list of white, rich, North American expressions of arrogance.
I mourn the lack of intellectual honesty from the Pink Menno Campaign. It is not upfront and truthful about its goals. Pink Menno says it is about inclusion and diversity, but it is clear from the website that a central point is to call the church to bless gay marriage and ordain those in such marriages. Inclusion and diversity could mean embracing diverse views about gay marriage OR it could mean the entire church needs to embrace gay marriage for it to really be inclusive and welcoming to gay people. Pink Menno seems to ascribe double meanings to the word inclusion and diversity and flips back and forth between meanings when it seems expedient. Many who wore pink at the convention thought they were not advocating gay marriage and were only calling for a more compassionate pastoral response.
I mourn the way Pink Menno preys on children and youth to accomplish its goals. The pink campaign was done in such a way that children and youth were thrust into the midst of this issue. The joint hymn sing was the “culmination” of the campaign and it was an event that was intended for all ages at the convention. Pink advocacy was evident all week in the children and youth conventions. Pink Menno is not about respectful, loving dialogue in adult delegate sessions. It is about the disruption of events for children and youth, about forcing its way into those settings with the full knowledge that it deeply undermines the teachings of local churches and parents who are entrusting their youth and children to Mennonite Church USA.
I have deep compassion for those who struggle with sexual and gender identity questions and would want the church to be a place of healing and hope for all individuals. The Pink Menno way is not the Anabaptist answer to help people find that healing and hope.
As a member and leader of Pink Menno, I’d like to respond to some of what John Troyer said above.
1.) While I wouldn’t presume to speak for a group that I am not a part of, I can say that there are many non-white members of Pink Menno – and, of course, there are many LGBTQ people among racial/ethnic Mennonites.
2.) The goals of Pink Menno are clearly laid out and include gay membership, marriage, and ordination in the Mennonite church. But we also call for greater openness in the church to reach true dialogue so we can acknowledge and work with/live with our differences. I understand why you might be confused about the tension between these two ideas, but I can assure you there is no “dishonesty” present. The first are “ultimate” goals – that is, our vison of where we believe the Spirit is leading the church in an ultimate sense – but a place that can only be reached by everyone working together in the Spirit, not by any one side “forcing” its view on the other (as if we could ever possibly have the power to do that.) We know that it will take the church a long time to reach this place, and there will be many intermediate steps, and that along the way there will continue to be a great amount of diversity and disagreement. It’s the tension between being prophetic on one hand, and pastoral on the other.
3.) I can’t understand the use of the word “prey upon” in reference to the quite overwhelming engagement and participation Pink Menno by youth – it’s a very unfair characterization. All youth who became part of us – many with their entire youth groups – did so because they had strong beliefs of LGBTQ inclusion in the church. Younger generations are much more aware of LGBTQ people’s lives and existence because LGBTQ kids don’t remain in the closet during high school anymore, so all kids in high school now have the chance to have LGBTQ friends. In general, Pink Menno is a movement organized and led by young people (mid to late 20’s) – we consider this an issue of vital importance for the future of our church, the church we want to continue being a part of.
Also in response to johntroyer-
1. The status quo position of the church “excludes” LGBTQ people. The Pink Menno position does NOT exclude heterosexual people nor does it exclude people with opposite views on gay marriage. Pink Menno’s “inclusivity” is greater than that of the status quo.
2. Since when has anyone been asked to forsake deeply held convictions for the sake of racial diversity? It’s unfair to accuse Pink Menno of hurting the Church’s efforts to be racially diverse when it clearly does NOT exclude racial/ethnic Mennonites. Pink Menno is not a repudiation of the “racial/ethnic” voice it is a repudiation of the “status quo” voice (which includes people from all categories). The arrogance here is the assumption that any racial group speaks with one unified voice.
3. I was a youth sponsor at Convention and witnessed no examples of youth being “preyed upon.” As I sideline supporter/observer of the campaign, I feel like that was a gross and offensive mischaracterization of Pink Menno. Roughly half of my youth participated in Pink Menno in some way. They all knew their position on gay marriage in the church long before coming to Convention. Pink Mennos are not about “undermining local churches” they are a part of local churches and their presence probably helps keep many of today’s youth in the church as they grow up with friends who are LGBTQ or as they discover themselves to have a sexual orientation that is not condoned by their beloved church. I saw no coercion on the part of Pink Menno.
I wish to respond to a few of the points that you’ve made.
First, I hear you wishing that Pink Menno would have been silent (visually silent, I suppose), for the sake of “real dialogue”. I think that this is inconsistent with the current reality in the Mennonite Church. It is the lgbt community that has not received the real dialogue that it has been promised, and the church (through its delegates) just confessed this at Columbus: “We confess that we as a church (congregations, conferences, denomination) have rarely found a way to create a healthy, safe environment in which to have this dialogue, one that builds up the Body of Christ, and is respectful and honest about our differences.” (from a “Resolution on Following Christ and Growing Together as Communities Even in Conflict”).
Second, I hear you suggesting that the proper place for dialogue is within the adult delegate sessions, but I disagree with you. The lgbt community is not well represented within those sessions, so again, dialogue wouldn’t really happen there. Also, this is a dialogue that needs to include everyone, not just delegates.
Along those lines, you state that “the pink campaign was done in such a way that children and youth were thrust into the midst of this issue.” I cannot speak to the youth convention. However, I do have three young children. I do not feel that they were thrust into this. The younger ones didn’t even notice. The older one has noticed tension before, and when she asks questions, we are comfortable answering her in age-appropriate ways.
At Columbus, I heard (or saw) people saying in respectful, non-confrontational ways that our denomination is no longer of one mind. Since we are a people that value discernment in community, I am thankful for God’s grace which allows us to remain in community despite our disagreements.
As one of the adult worship leaders at convention I appreciated the spirit in which Pink Menno went about being present throughout the week. Many of these young people have found the church to not be a healthy place for them to be and they are understandably frustrated with the church as it is. Although they had the power to be unhelpfuly disruptive, I felt they conducted themselves with grace and respect, even adding to the worship that was occuring throughout the week through singing hymns as people entered worship.
I am 17 years old and I was a part of the youth convention, as well as a part of the pink menno campaign. I AM a pink menno youth. Nobody “preyed” on me at all and I didn’t prey on my peers. My multi-racial/multi-ethnic youth group was one of my strongest supports throughout the week of convention. My home church is incredibly supportive of me as a person, regardless of my orientation.
I was there the entire week and never witnessed or heard anyone, including other youth say that any pink menno had been aggressive towards them, while i saw opposers being aggressive, and even was the target of their aggression at times.
Pink menno made me feel like it was ok to be a christian, and more specifically a mennonite….and for that I will be ever grateful.
with much love,
K. Esra Heisey
I am personally very sad at what is happening in the Mennonite church. The church that I grew up in would have never accepted this. I feel that we should love everyone, but that doesn’t mean that we have to accept their sinful life choices. There is no where in the bible where the gay life style choices are accepted. It very clearly states to sustain from all sexual sins (homosexuality included) at that we as christian should separate ourselves from this. Some may take this as that I hate homosexuals which is not true I have had some friends that were, but they also knew where I stood on the matter and that I could not accept their life style choices.
Thanks for all your responses here. I need to clear up a few misunderstandings. I am not writing this out of fear of the Pink Menno campaign. Sadness is a better descriptor of how I feel. Second, I am not interested in forcing other people to live or parent in a particular way. What I am saying is that I would hope for a church where people are respectful of those who don’t want their children and youth to be subjected to advocacy of same-sex marriage at a denominational youth convention. This is simply a choice that I think could be afforded to parents who are supportive of the denomination’s stance. I have heard the deeply held the beliefs of those who are part of the Pink Menno campaign, and I understand why many of you would think it is an important justice issue to have access to youth. I would think you could also understand (while disagreeing) why parents may prefer a nuanced, supportive, and loving conversation with youth which reaffirms the denominational understanding. Perhaps you could also see why pushing literature in people’s faces (and, yes, I have had reports from youth who characterized it this way) might feel exploitive to parents. I am also sad that those who are opposed to Pink Menno were not more gracious in their responses at the convention.
John, I understand that parents might be upset by their youth being exposed to advocacy, but with all due respect, I think it’s an unreasonable expectation even at a church convention. Youth are exposed to “advocacy” for many things at convention. Anyone entering the exhibit hall at Columbus was exposed to advocacy and/or advertising for many things. Let’s be honest about this. Parents are not concerned about advocacy — they don’t want their youth exposed to advocacy they don’t endorse.
Furthermore, most of our churches baptize high-school aged youth. If we honor a 15-year-old’s ability to make an informed and honest decision to follow Christ and become a member of the church, shouldn’t we also honor a 15-year-old’s decision to support or not support LGBTQ inclusion in their church? To be part of the conversation?
Why is it that I RARELY ever find a connection between liberal postmodern theology, and support for the cause of the “pink mennos”. Despite popular belief many in even the Mennonite church are not personally grossed out, or have an intrinsic dislike of homosexuals. I personally have been friends with, and have no dislike of “hanging out” with anyone with a different sexual orientation. When it comes to conversations of biblical truth and the present conversation occurring in Mennonite churches nation wide, I ask again WHY is the link between liberal postmodernism and its basic stance of neo-orthodoxy and new-age pluralism largely absent? To further explain my frustration I believe that the pink mennos are the product of a slippery slope of exegetical and hermeneutic error. This has resulted in the blurring of the objective unalterable moral standards of the bible, into a subjective situational ethic. Amazingly, one the grandfathers of the liberal church, Dietrich Bonhoffer, is constantly touted as a stalwart of the faith to many Mennonites, and is often referenced to support agendas like that of the pink mennos. The punch line is this. I believe that the Pink Mennos are blurring clear biblical moral standards through a process of isolating certain favorable traits of God, and Christ such as Love and Peace, and are downplaying other attributes of God that may go against there set of beliefs such as Holiness, Justice and Judgment for sin. Also, they grossly under appreciate the Old Testament’s description of the messiah as the one who would usher in the “Day of the Lord”. Which is a DAY OF JUDGEMENT AND USHERING IN OF GOD”S WRATH UPON THE WORLD FOR ITS SIN (for reference read any part of the Old Testament, but focus on the prophets). As Christians we cannot let a “peace above all” and “one love” mindset cripple us from standing up against clearly heretical teachings. We do not have to compromise belief that the homosexual lifestyle, not the person, is wrong. Claims that those of us who are anti-homosexuality are not practicing true biblical love and peace, are themselves failing to understand that the love of Christ has a large measure of correction and discipline. Just think for a moment, was Jesus ever afraid to confront someone’s sinful acts, whether friend or foe, with God’s word and truth. GET BEHIND ME SATAN sound familiar to anyone?? God’s true shalom is broken by sin, thus God’s true love is exemplified by correcting those in error with the hope of, through discipline, causing them see the error of their ways, repent, and return to right fellowship with both God and the church. This is the heart and purpose of biblical discipline. Any parent who has had to correct and discipline the children that are his/her pride and joy in life can relate to what I’m saying. I have strong feelings about this subject, but I hope that dialogue with continue for the unity of the church.
runninman, love is not a ‘favourable attribute’ of God. God does not ‘have’ love, God *is* love, as the Bible states absolutely clearly. So if an action of a Christian is unloving, you can be pretty sure it isn’t a Christian action. I see from my limited view of the debate (I’m a Mennonite in the UK) that Pink Mennos perceive the actions of the church they belong to as unloving. I think the very least the church can do is to ask themselves whether that perception might have some truth in it.
And another thing. John Troyer accuses Pink Mennos of ignoring the views of non-white churches which he characterises as ‘racial/ethnic’ (actually we are all, including us white people, ‘racial/ethnic’ in that we belong to a racial/ethnic group – there are no human beings who don’t.) I presume he is speaking mainly of African churches. I wonder if he is aware that in the countries where some of these churches live and worship, the law has been proposing death sentences for practising homosexuals and that practising homosexuals or advocates have been murdered with no condemnation of the murders by the churches? Yes, we have to listen to the voices of the world church, but when they clearly contradict the love of God, not to mention the Anabaptist commitment to non-violence, we have to respectfully disagree with them.