Loving the tradition from the margins: What Malcolm Gladwell is missing about power in his Mennonites podcast

Illustration of Malcolm Gladwell by Surian Soosay

Contributed by Luke L Miller

Chester Wenger’s “An open letter to my beloved church” in 2014 was a beautiful, poignant reflection by a man who dedicated his life to the Mennonite Church on why he had chosen to perform the marriage ceremony for his gay son Phil. He documented the way he had come to believe the church must bless LGBTQ people’s marriages, made a powerful argument for his position, and explained that now at age 96 he was finally ready to “let this light shine.” He demonstrated humility, grace, and peace in his words: peace with his decision and peace with the consequences that it caused when his ordination was taken away by Lancaster Mennonite Conference.

I haven’t read any of Malcolm Gladwell’s books, but I’ve now listened to every released episode of his podcast “Revisionist History,” and his methodology is clear. He uses a concept in social psychology (often a recently published one) to provide a lens for reflecting on the way something about the world works. The conceit of the podcast is that he will use these concepts (ideas like “moral licensing” and “strong link/weak link”) to re-examine incidents from the past and draw surprising or compelling conclusions. Read more ›

Posted in Education, MCUSA, Power

Compassion, Justice, and Kim Davis: Some Queer Reflections

Contributed by Justin Yoder

“Yes, Kim Davis is a bigot, and yes, her four marriages are relevant. But we need to be able to . . . discuss her hypocrisy without engaging in bigotry ourselves. [. . .] Should we call people out for bigoted beliefs? Absolutely. Should we make fun of the way they talk or mock them for where they’re from? No.” – from “We Need to Be Able to Call Out Kim Davis’ Bigotry Without Slut-Shaming or Hillbilly-Shaming”

(Ty Wright/Getty Images)

(Ty Wright/Getty Images)

I found Patheos.com contributor Libby Anne’s blog post helpful in parsing out some of the issues that are at play in the aftermath of Rowan County (KY) clerk Kim Davis’ refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Kim Davis is a beloved child of God, as is each one of us. That simple fact should be enough to keep us from responding to her actions with hateful classist insults and sexist personal attacks; sadly, this has not been the case. The author does a great job identifying some of the inappropriate and unhelpful tactics that have been employed in responding to Kim Davis. I want to hold myself accountable to her call to refrain from sexism or classism in critiquing Davis.

I must admit that I’ve bristled to some of the calls from progressive and moderate voices for “compassion,” “respect,” and “empathy” towards Davis — not because I don’t believe in compassion, respect, or empathy, but because some of those calls have promoted a false equivalence between the systemic and sustained oppression, violence, humiliation, and injustice that LGBTQ people have historically experienced (and continue to experience even in post-Obergefell America) and Kim Davis’ experience in the wake of her actions. The Myth of Christian Persecution in the United States is alive and well, and some of the responses I’ve read have come very close to propagating it.

Read more ›

Posted in Pink Perspective Tagged with: ,

Lament for the institutionalized church: Trauma, rage, and hope from Kansas City

[Reposted from Our Stories Untold. Read Rae Halder’s original post here.]

Rae wrote a version of this piece, originally posted on Facebook, late on Friday, July 3, after attending the Mennonite Church USA’s “Service of Lament and Hope” for survivors of sexual abuse. The service came a day after MCUSA delegates passed two seemingly contradictory resolutions related to LGBTQ bodies. One, the “Resolution on Forbearance in the Midst of Difference,” submitted by a politically diverse coalition of pastors, asked Mennonite congregations to “forbear” with one another amidst their conflicts over “same-sex covenanted unions.”

The other, the “Resolution on the Status of the Membership Guidelines,” was submitted by the MCUSA Executive Board, and put forth its own interpretation of “forbearance,” stating, “In order to exercise forbearance on matters that divide us and to focus attention on the missional vision that unites us, the delegate assembly will not entertain changes to the Membership Guidelines for the next four years.” The Membership Guidelines of MCUSA condemn “homosexuality” and require MCUSA area conferences to “review” the ministerial credentials of any pastor performs a covenant or marriage ceremony for two people of the same gender.

On Thursday afternoon, after the Membership Guidelines resolution was passed, dozens of Pink Menno supporters stood silently in the hallway of the convention hall for nearly an hour, facing the outgoing foot traffic from the delegate hall. In order to past through the hallway, delegates had to navigate a maze of pink-clad bodies. Many stood in tears; some, including Rae, wore pink duct tape over their mouths to symbolize the ongoing silencing of queer voices.

On Friday morning, the delegate body passed another resolution, a “Churchwide Statement on Sexual Abuse.”

— Stephanie Krehbiel


The evening of July 3rd I walked into MCUSA’s “Service of Lament and Hope” hoping to find a space for healing that I could come to with my wounds. I left that space with deep pain and extreme rage—a rage I rarely, if ever, feel. I was pissed off. No, that’s an understatement: I was furious.

On July 2nd our church passed “A Churchwide Statement on Sexual Abuse.” Elizabeth Soto Albrect, moderator of Mennonite Church USA, asked the delegates to be mindful when speaking about the subject matter with fellow delegates, as many among them could be sexual abuse survivors. “Certain things may trigger painful memories,” she stated.

A few Pink Menno’s performed a gorilla theater piece during the Forbearance Resolution voting delegate session.

Well, that service more than triggered painful memories—it triggered my rage. I was triggered by having that above statement spat right back out at my face. I was triggered by Mennonite Church USA’s lack of mindfulness when speaking to their constituents. My pain from Thursday, of being told through the passage of the Forbearance and Membership Guidelines Resolutions that I am not a legitimate member of the church, and that this fact won’t be debated again for four years, was triggered. The memory that not a single LGBTQ person was invited to speak in the delegate hall, and that when they “forcefully” exerted themselves through guerrilla theater because they are done with not being invited they were met with extreme anger and a demand to have the doors locked to keep the queer folk out, was triggered. The memory of being declared not worthy of respect was triggered. The violence of not having my body and personhood recognized was triggered. The painful memories of standing in silent protest while delegates walked by making condescending statements such as “Don’t worry, things will get better!” or not even looking me in the eye was triggered. Being reminded of the sin I continue to see and experience against me was triggering.

Read more ›

Posted in Kansas City '15, MCUSA, Pink Perspective Tagged with: ,

Pink Menno Press release on July 2, 2015 Action at Mennonite Church USA convention

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, 7/2/2015, PINK MENNO, CONTACT: MATT DEAN (717) 802-2070

IN SEPARATE ACTIONS, PINK MENNO DE-PINKS DELEGATE SESSION; TAKES STAGE AS MCUSA DELEGATES PREPARE TO VOTE

Mennonite Church USA Convention staff member Sue Conrad tries unsuccessfully to take microphone from Pink Menno actors performing theater piece.

Mennonite Church USA Convention staff member Sue Conrad tries unsuccessfully to take microphone from Pink Menno actors performing satirical theater piece.

Members affiliated with Pink Menno held two actions on Thursday morning, July 2, 2015 at the Mennonite Church USA (MCUSA) delegate session in Kansas City, MO. These actions highlighted the lack of representation in Mennonite church processes by those most impacted by today’s resolutions: lesbians, gay folks, bisexuals, trans folks, and queer folks (LGBTQ people).

Both actions pointed to the injustice of church processes that for decades have excluded and marginalized the LGBTQ community and our allies. While each resolution will be discussed by delegates today on its own merits, our message is that the entire process is flawed and does not represent LGBTQ Mennonites because it has not included LGBTQ Mennonites from the beginning. We will not be complicit in our own oppression. The advocacy work of the movement for inclusion of LGBTQ people will continue whether these resolutions pass or fail.

Invitation to De-pink

At the conclusion of the Pink Menno hymn sing, Pink Menno asked our supporters who were wearing Pink in the delegate assembly to wear garbage bags as a way of de-pinking the delegate assembly, a visual representation of the silencing LGBTQ folks. Below is the statement supporters received along with garbage bag.

“The very documents upon which MCUSA was founded mandated the exclusion and diminishment of LGBTQ lives. Shoring up, or making minor adjustments, will not fix the cracks that are inherent in a foundation built upon unjust structures. The unity the church seeks will not be realized by continuing to scapegoat LGBTQ lives. As Pink Menno, we cannot give consent to what is at heart an illegitimate undertaking.

Today we de-pink the delegate session to symbolize our rejection of a flawed and violent process.”

Members of the Mennonite USA wear garbage bags during the hymn sing outside the delegate assembly, symbolizing the de-pinking of the delegate assembly, a visual representation of the silencing LGBTQ community.

Members of the Mennonite USA and Pink Menno supporters wear garbage bags during the hymn sing outside the delegate assembly, symbolizing the de-pinking of the delegate assembly, a visual representation of the silencing LGBTQ community.

Satirical Theater Piece

Individuals affiliated with Pink Menno took the stage on Thursday to hold a theatrical mock vote satirizing MC USA’s historic pattern of voting, to block LGBTQ people from participation in the church. Indicating their unanimous “No” vote with a dance of the Hokey Pokey, they voted down a resolution barring individuals “struggling with opposite-sex attraction at variance with the Mennonite Confession of Faith,” stating “we trust our beloved community members to make ethical and faithful sexual choices.” During their three minute performance, there were shouts from the delegate floor, and an MC USA staff member attempted to wrest the mic from a performer’s hand.

“For the past 30 years, MC USA has been kicking the can down the road – the can being queer people. As we prepared for today’s resolution, we knew we had to point to the absurdity of our Mennonite community, gathered in the liberating love of Christ and committed to peacemaking, continuously insisting on voting on the worth of our bodies,” said Jennifer Yoder, who performed the role of convener.

“This may have been the first time a resolution explicitly addressing straight sexual behavior was brought to the delegate floor,” added Yoder.

Full text of the mock “resolution”:

“Because we as Mennonites believe in clear boundaries and tall fences to keep out any abominations in the eyes of God:

We heretofore resolve that those struggling with opposite-sex attractions at variance with the mennonite confession of faith will not be recognized for their membership or ministry in the life of the church.

All those in favor will be asked to say “Aye”!

Those opposed, please do the Hokey Pokey and turn yourself about. “

Posted in Kansas City '15, MCUSA

How can I keep from singing? (Part III)

How can I keep from singing?

This series of posts shares interviews conducted by Bobby Switzer for a thesis project at Goshen College. The questions below are Bobby’s, with responses from Wilma Harder, Stephanie Krehbiel, Patrick Ressler and Carol Wise. For more information about the Mennonite LGBTQ+ justice movement, see the appendix at the bottom of the page:
“A History Lesson with Dr. Krehbiel”.

Bobby Switzer: What songs have sustained you? Sustained the movement?

Wilma Harder: The “new” hymnal was published in 1992, amid a lot of all of this. This brought new songs into the works as well, and a new excitement of others who spoke of inclusion of all believers. Much of the songs that came back over and over at the above mentioned events were new songs filled with hope. “Here in this place” was one such song. “Will you let me be your servant” was sung so much that it became almost irrelevant. The same with “Come to the Water”.

Songs like “Unity” had been in the public domain during the 70s and brought poignantly out at opportune times over and over and over. The same with “We Shall Overcome”, of course, used so much in the 60s during the civil rights movement, and we sang it as well. I remember trying to sing that song at a BMC convention in Philadelphia, stopping part way through and thinking “you know what? I really don’t see a time when we shall overcome”. I don’t think I’ve been able to sing it through since. I think that was in 1990.

The same with “How can I keep from singing”, another song of hope and strength. In 1995 I was no longer able to sing those words, as I felt so beaten down and utterly discouraged. I could no longer sing hymns at all. I had quit attending church and had revoked my membership at Assembly.  At the time I was actively performing locally with my partner and we were asked to perform at Mennofolk, and if we did so, we were to perform our version of that particular song. Well, I said, I have not been able to sing that song for a few years, and if I do so I’ll need to write some additional verses. I framed my two verses with two other verses I found in Rise Up Singing, not the hymnal.

Here are my verses:

My life goes on in endless song
my peers and loved ones question
They argue whether I belong
within the church , their bastion.
The storms that shake my inmost calm
have quenched my hope, I’m clinging
to those who love without regret.
I rarely feel like singing

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear that music ringing.
But when I try to join right in
I feel the tears, a-stinging.
The well of sorrow deep inside
grows ever, ever deeper.
When my church to me was denied
it nearly stopped my singing.

Not the best writing, but it said then what I needed to say. I somehow got through it, and there was not a dry eye in the room.

“I somehow got through it, and there was not a dry eye in the room.” – WH

Read more ›

Posted in Kansas City '15, Music, Pink Perspective

Anabaptist-Mennonites Form a Chapter of SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests)

Microsoft Word - SNAPnetwork logo for publicity

PRESS RELEASE  June 23, 2015

Statement by Barbra Graber of Harrisonburg, VA, SNAP-Menno Leader

Press Contact: Stephanie Krehbiel, SNAP-Menno Chapter member, [email protected]

Anabaptist-Mennonites form their own SNAP chapter    www.snapnetwork.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Twelve Mennonite-related survivors of sexual abuse and their advocates have joined other faith groups to create an Anabaptist-Mennonite Chapter of SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. Now in its 26th year, SNAP is an inclusive and independent advocacy group for victims of sexual abuse, created by survivor-activist Barbara Blaine and then joined by David Clohessy and Barbara Dorris to expose the sexual violations of clergy in the U.S. Catholic Church. Their influence has since expanded around the world to serve survivors of predators and pedophiles from within a variety of faith communities. SNAP’s mission: “protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded, expose the truth.”

Convened by long time victim-advocate Dr. Ruth E. Krall with SNAP-trained survivor-advocates Cameron Altaras, Barbra Graber and advocate Jeff Altaras, SNAP-Menno provides a safe place, entirely independent of institutional structures, for Mennonite-related survivors to seek healing alongside other Anabaptist Mennonites. Other founding chapter members are Rachel Halder (survivor-advocate), Stephanie Krehbiel (advocate), Keith Morris (survivor-advocate), Tim Nafziger (advocate), Hilary Scarsella (survivor-advocate), Lisa Schirch (advocate), Sylvia Shirk (survivor-advocate), and Jennifer Yoder (survivor-advocate).

SNAP’s helpline (1-877-SNAP HEALS) offers a confidential listening ear to anyone who has seen, suspected or suffered sexual abuse within a faith community. SNAP’s Survivor Support Groups, facilitated by SNAP-trained leaders and with a time-tested format created by SNAP survivors, provide a place where victims and their loved ones come to receive anonymous aid from other survivors. Many of these self-help groups are available across the continent for survivors and their loved ones. SNAP-Menno and OurStoriesUntold.com will co-sponsor such meetings during Mennonite Church USA’s biennial convention in Kansas City, from 1-2pm on July 2, 3, and 4 in the Citiscape Room of the Aladdin Holiday Inn Hotel in KC.  Contact Barbra Graber for more information.

The 2015 Annual SNAP Conference will take place in Alexandria, VA, July 31-August 2. Concerned Mennonites are welcome and encouraged to attend. Register for a day pass or the full schedule: http://www.snapnetwork.org/2015_snap_conference

CONTACT SNAP-Menno Leaders: E-mail: [email protected]

Cameron Altaras (Washington State): 206-930-7067, Jeff Altaras (Washington State): 206-930-7065

Barbra Graber (Virginia): 540-214-8874

Read more ›

Posted in General

Pink Menno presents “On the Way: Dis-Covering Diversity” in Kansas City

At the Mennonite Church USA (MCUSA) bi-annual convention (in Kansas City, MO), Pink Menno will convene a symposium focused on intersectionality. “On the Way: Dis-Covering Diversity” will be held in Pink Menno’s hospitality space in Room 2504B of the convention center, right around the corner from the Grand Ballroom on Level 2.

The symposium will be built on four pillars: queer liberation, trauma healing and resilience,  structural power within MCUSA, and resistance to white supremacy. Each pillar will have its own day focused on providing education for participants. These pillars are designed as a starting point to enable participants to continue learning in their everyday lives.

The symposium includes a number of sessions that were rejected as seminar proposals by MCUSA for the official program. “In response to a church that continues to miss the mark in providing spaces to engage in complex and justice-oriented conversations, Pink Menno has the gift of standing in the void,” says organizer Christian Parks, “We know full well that our symposium will just graze the very tip of the iceberg of issues within our changing church, yet we are fully committed to creating accountable space where all are welcome to be full selves empowered by love and genuine curiosity.”

The symposium flows out of collaborative work with Inclusive Pastors, the Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests (BMC) and Our Stories Untold (OSU).

Read more ›

Posted in Kansas City '15

How can I keep from singing? (Part II)

How can I keep from singing?
This series of posts shares interviews conducted by Bobby Switzer for a thesis project at Goshen College. The questions below are Bobby’s, with responses from Wilma Harder, Stephanie Krehbiel, Patrick Ressler and Carol Wise. For more information about the Mennonite LGBTQ+ justice movement, see the appendix at the bottom of the page:
“A History Lesson with Dr. Krehbiel”.


Bobby Switzer: Has hymn singing been used strategically in the inclusion movement? If so, how?

Carol Wise: In the 90’s, there was a series of conferences sponsored by BMC referred to as the “Dancing Conferences.” Titles included Dancing at the Wall, Dancing at the Table, Dancing at the Water’s Edge, Dancing in the Southwinds, and one called Leading the Dance. These conferences were held at various places in the US and were important in bringing together lgbtq people and allies. Worship and music were important components of these conferences. Jane Ramseyer Miller (who has directed “One Voice Mixed Chorus” here in Minneapolis for 20 years) even wrote “Dancing at the Wall” for one of these conferences. I’ve attached a scanned copy of it. Within the Church of the Brethren, songwriter Lee Kranbuhl wrote a very catchy piece called “We are Not Going Away” that energized many people and was often sung.

It was Pink Menno who brought hymn sings into the inclusion movement with more passion. I think part of the ability of PM to do this was not only because of the giftedness of young musicians, but also because hymns could increasingly be sung and claimed with more power now that the church is at a different place because of the work that has been done over the decades. The power rather than simply the pain of the hymns and all that they represent in terms of community and faith can now be claimed more easily. I see this as a positive sign of genuine change. Music that once brought harm is now able to heal, at least to some extent. Sadly, the hymnology of the church remains problematic for many.

“Music that once brought harm is now able to heal, at least to some extent.” – CW

Patrick Ressler: Hymn singing has been used both as a strategic and celebratory action for the LGBTQ+ justice movement in the Mennonite Church. LGBTQ+ leaders and those who operate in solidarity with them sing hymns (a “traditional” Mennonite practice) in denominational spaces as a subversive way of reframing common misconceptions of queer people as a “new, divisive problem” in the Church. Hymn singing is a celebratory way for queer people to empower themselves through song.

Read more ›

Posted in Kansas City '15, Music, Pink Perspective

How can I keep from singing? (Part I)

How can I keep from singing?

This series of posts shares interviews conducted by Bobby Switzer for a thesis project at Goshen College. The questions below are Bobby’s, with responses from Wilma Harder, Stephanie Krehbiel, Patrick Ressler and Carol Wise. For more information about the Mennonite LGBTQ+ justice movement, see the appendix at the bottom of the page:
“A History Lesson with Dr. Krehbiel”.


Bobby Switzer: Why is hymn singing important to Mennonites?

Stephanie Krehbiel: That’s a mother of a question, isn’t it? I don’t have a particularly original answer. Mennonites have built a lot of their worship practices around getting rid of things: sacraments, aesthetic pleasures in worship, liturgy, ritual. Those eliminations have always had theological justifications. I think that’s part of how music has come to be so important. Of course, music is not separate from any of the sociocultural/political battles that have shaped the rest of Mennonite worship—all you have to do is look at the centuries-long conflicts over instruments in worship within Anabaptist groups to see that. Music is definitely a political arena. But it’s also the one place where a lot of Mennonites consistently seek spiritual nourishment and refuge, and that intensifies the desire to remove it from the realm of conflict and politics and make it into something “pure.”

“Music is definitely a political arena.” – SK

Carol Wise: Of course, music is essential to Mennonites. It has always been an important part of BMC conferences—often small groups offered various sacred pieces as part of the “entertainment” or for fundraising purposes. I recall many touching moments breaking into BMC events because of music. Music had an uncanny ability to remind people of the depth of their religious connections, even in exile from the church.

“Music had an uncanny ability to remind people of the depth of their religious connections, even in exile from the church.” – CW

Read more ›

Posted in Kansas City '15, Music, Pink Perspective

Longing for Home: A Daughter Reflects

Contributed by Katerina Friesen

When I was a sophomore in college, my mother saw a picture posted online of my friend Claire planting a kiss on my forehead. I forget what solicited that soon-to-be incriminating kiss, except that Claire comes from a family that is perhaps more inclined to physical affection than mine. My mom confronted me with the picture when I returned home on break. Her face was troubled as she asked, “I need to know: are you a lesbian?”

My mother’s deep-seated fear of the possibility that I could be lesbian shocked me. Since then, I’ve periodically faced her “homo-filia-phobia” (my term for fear of an LGBT or Q daughter), especially as I enter my late 20’s without a significant male other in my life. It’s painful to experience part of your identity questioned by a parent, someone who you think knows you inside and out. Yet in some ways, I am grateful for my mom’s questions. Beginning with that picture, she unintentionally “outed” me to myself as straight, casting a spotlight on my previously unexamined heterosexuality.

My mom and I have had a turbulent relationship over the years as we figure out how to love one another despite great theological differences. In the midst of the tensions, we share a love of debating the scriptures and our phone conversations often become a kind of midrash as we go back and forth on different interpretations of Biblical passages. I’m someone who tends to see all sides to issues and can end up mired in ambiguity, so my mom’s sense of clarity often pushes me to take more of a stance, albeit one that does not always align with her beliefs. Talks about hell, truth outside of Christianity, and my choices of friends have often ended in frustration. Yet our love for one another and our mutual desire to journey further into relationship with God continue pulling us back into conversation.

Last week, however, she emailed me out of the blue and asked me not to come home for her birthday, saying that she did not want to see me for a long, long time. She wrote, “I do still love you, but as your mother, am in deep emotional distress over your life choices at this time.” She went on to describe the most recent choices: I decided to do a seminary internship at the First Mennonite Church of San Francisco, a church that openly affirms LGBTQ relationships, with a pastor as my mentor who has officiated marriages of gay and lesbian couples. No matter that my internship is focused on climate change, my life choices have brought me into worship with sinful people who “teach the degradation of God’s good creation of sex between man and woman,” in her words.

At the end of her letter, my mom urged me toward repentance with images from the story of the prodigal son: “When you repent from the lies you have chosen, I will accept you back as the daughter I love – with open arms – but you do need to leave the ‘pig trough’ you have been feeding from.”

Honestly, part of me wanted to laugh in disbelief after reading this last line. “Pig trough?!” Really? If only she could witness the profound faith I’ve encountered in people at First Mennonite of San Francisco, gay or straight. I wish she could hear the prayers shared during our time for “joys and concerns,” and listen to the refreshing openness and trust as the community shares one another’s burdens and gives thanks together. I long for her to see how this congregation channels God’s healing love for those who were rejected as whole persons in other churches.

Read more ›

Posted in Pink

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