Bluffton Safe Space: Reflections on Love Across the Spectrum conference part 1

The keynote speakers were amazing: Justin Lee is the founder of The Gay Christian Network and shared his story and ways to best talk to people who disagree with our perspective about LGBT issues. Jennifer Knapp is an AMAZING musician who sang and talked about her experience with the Christian music industry and then being kicked out when she “came out”. Pádraig Ó Tuama is a poet, theologian, and peace worker from Ireland who works the Irish Peace Center’s project that led to “LGBT experiences of faith and church I’m Northern Ireland. I talked to him for a bit afterwards and found out that he knows my cousin, Jenna Liechty and her husband Peter because they lived in Ireland for the past few years and worked along with him. Amy DeLong is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church who led our worship service and gave a great sermon about being progressive in our outreach towards LGBT persons and our restorative justice to those who disagree.

There were so many workshops to choose from, but two of them I enjoyed were a panel of the Boltz family when their Christian musician father came out and their amazing journey of full acceptance, and then a workshop called LGBTs and the bible. Heather Rittenhouse spoke of the scripture verses and translations that are often used to condemn homosexuality as well as those that are used to SUPPORT the full acceptance of LGBT persons and their relationships. Read more ›

Bethel Symposium Presentation by Audrey Roth Kraybill

~Text by Audrey Roth Kraybill from her presentation at Bethel University

I stood in line, my heart pounding, waiting my turn to do something I hadn’t done in a long time: act up in church.

I was participating in a silent protest at a national delegate session of Mennonite Church USA.  I stood with a group called Pink Menno waiting to quietly and respectfully show that I totally disagree with church policy regarding   homosexuality.

One by one we entered the room, each of us carrying a photo of someone alienated by the church polity. Then it was my turn. I asked to carry a photo of a young man. I wanted to represent my 25 year-old gay son. I walked through the door and held my photo up high, holding back my tears.

Pink Menno is a movement that supports inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender members in the Mennonite church. It started in 2008 when a brother and sister imagined a church where all are welcome. They wear pink to demonstrate their support for LGBT members of the church, and to work toward changing its exclusionary polity toward them.

How did I, an average grey haired, bifocal wearing Mennonite Mother who prefers being gently draped in figure-disguising clothes find myself willingly crammed into a tight Pink tee shirt that accented every bulge? How did I, a Mennonite Mother studying for masters of divinity at a Mennonite seminary find myself doing ecclesiastical disobedience in the very denomination I want to serve? Read more ›

A Call to Action: Help Pink Menno support an lgbtq student group

Pink Menno is excited to continue the momentum around lgbtq inclusion in the Mennonite Church, in between bi-annual conventions. In the coming year, we are focusing on building organizing capacity on our Mennonite college campuses. One powerful, effective way we can do this right now is to rally financial support from the Pink Menno network for the Bluffton University Safe Spaces.

This fall, student leaders want to attend Love Across the Spectrum, from Nov. 8th and 9th. $475 will get 10 student leaders to this conference. Bluffton Safe Spaces does not have equal access to funding. Because Safe Spaces is a campus initiative that reports directly to President Jim Harder, a move President Harder made three years ago in order to allow the group to continue to function at Bluffton after having been denied in its application for student organization status, the annual budget for the group is set at $750.00.  However, Safe Spaces programming has exceeded that budget cap for every year of its existence, and has had to draw on additional sources of financial support to carry off its programming.  Among those past sources, the Women’s Studies Committee at Bluffton, the BMC for LGBTQ Concerns, and private donations from faculty, staff, and alumni have been instrumental in supporting Safe Spaces programming.  This year, Bluffton Safe Spaces has reached out to Pink Menno for help. Read more ›

Pink Menno’s Pauline Rhetoric of Reconciliation

by Gerald J. Mast

The Messiah has already arrived, the messianic event has already happened, but its presence contains within itself another time, which stretches its parousia, not in order to defer it, but, on the contrary, to make it graspable.

—Giorgio Agamben, 71

Fifteen years ago, I published an essay in the Mennonite Quarterly Review that described the conflict over “homosexuality” in the Mennonite Church during the eighties and nineties in terms of the struggle to maintain or reduce complexity in the church’s public discourse (April 1998).  Complexity-maintaining arguments seek to include opposing viewpoints and experiences as part of the social group with which the audience is identified (i.e. the Mennonite Church). Complexity-reducing arguments seek to exclude opponents from the social group with which the audience is identified.

Both sides of the argument over homosexuality used complexity-reducing arguments, according to my analysis. Those arguing for inclusion judged their opponents as homophobic and therefore hateful while those arguing against inclusion claimed that homosexuality was sinful and therefore immoral. At the same time, people on both sides of the debate also offered complexity-maintaining arguments, acknowledging that genuine Christians had honest differences of opinion about the matter and seeking to maintain discussion among differing perspectives. Read more ›

Reflection by Abby Graber

The night before the [Friday morning] peaceful protest, we went to a meeting to plan it. At this meeting, there was a guy from Christian Peacemaker Teams (Tim Nafziger). He said a lot of things, but one of the things that stood out to me was when he said something about doing this not out of hate, but out of love for the people who had different beliefs than us. That kind of resonated with me because I hadn’t really considered that angle of it. So, when we were standing in the delegate meeting, holding our signs, I for a minute felt myself getting annoyed because it seemed as if not only were people not getting upset, but a lot of people appeared to be simply ignoring us. Usually, I would want people who think differently from me, or people who I don’t agree with, to get angry. Because honestly, as someone who can be a bit confrontational at times, it can feel good to see someone that you strongly don’t agree with get angry or upset. But, after remembering what Tim had said, this experience made me start to realize that that is not the point of an action such as this. The point is not to make people angry or upset, it is to make them realize that what is going on is unjust and that everyone, even they, should be treated equally and fairly. Just as they should learn to love and accept everyone, we need to remember to love and accept everyone, even people who don’t agree with us. Even people who may say or do hurtful things are still people, and if we want them to be inclusive towards everyone, I realized that we also need to be inclusive towards them.

~Abby Graber,

First Mennonite Church of San Francisco

Home of the brave

by Annabeth Roeschley

Annabeth in front of the U.S. Supreme Court

Annabeth in front of the U.S. Supreme Court

On the morning of Wednesday june 26,2013 I stood down at the Supreme Court of the United States, listening to the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC gathering to raise voice in song. It was their first performance following the Supreme Court’s decision to declare (parts of) DOMA unconstitutional. It was jubilant. It was a chorus of all stripes, full of pride; relief, albeit weathered, in their eyes, bodies, song.

After an emotive rendition of “Let them Hear You,” the chorus closed with the Star Spangled Banner. I consider myself a fairly unpatriotic person, so I found myself surprisingly moved upon hearing our National Anthem; their recital gave me chills. On that day, hearing that familiar text sung for its first time post-DOMA, that anthem resounded anew. “O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave…”

I biked back on that steamy June morning, pondering bravery. The bravery of plaintiffs who fight the United States for their equal rights. The bravery of those still fighting for their right to vote in this democracy. The bravery of Pink Mennos. The bravery of survivors who leave abusive partners. The bravery of nonviolence. The bravery of those who transcend borderlines, the bravery to go days without water or rest to immigrate. The bravery it takes when you’re seven, and kids tease you because you’re a boy who prefers to dance.

The bravery we maintain simply to be ourselves. In this day and age, it shouldn’t require courage, but it does.

I have deep qualms about the institution of marriage. I have qualms about nationalism at the expense of other nations. I have qualms about the Supreme Court. But this week I am reminded, that on this long arc towards justice, we get nowhere without courage. The practice of courage, the bidding of bravery, is, in itself, an act of resistance! For what else so succinctly exposes the myth of our systems of power?

Land of the free and home of the brave, I believe we have a long way to go until we are (all) free.

But we, most certainly, are brave.

Strangers No More statement for Phoenix 2013

This is the statement we are sharing with the delegate assembly of Mennonite Church USA on July 5, 2103 in Phoenix, Arizona.

We come to you as Mennonites who are burdened by our church’s practices of exclusion, silence, and violence towards gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people. We carry with us not only the faces of lgbt sisters and brothers, but also their hopes and dreams of a church whose language of welcome and justice matches its actual practices.

It is right that as a church we carefully and prayerfully examine the meaning and disparities of race and citizenship as it is practiced in our country and in our church. We seek to understand the ways that our prejudices and privilege have hardened our hearts to the suffering of immigrant people. We repent of the ways that we have contributed to the diminishment of others by our votes, indifference or blatant support of injustice. Lives matter to God, and the cries of the marginalized do not go unnoticed.

In this same spirit, we call upon the Mennonite Church to repent for its harsh and unwelcoming treatment of the sisters and brothers, parents, teachers, leaders, friends and family among us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. As Pink Mennos, we refuse to allow our leaders to pit marginalized groups and people against one another in the name of unity or convenience. We reject the premise that our church is incapable of understanding the insidious connections of oppression and privilege as they are played out on the bodies of immigrants, women, children, people of color, lgbt people and the many who are excluded from full participation in our church and society. We bear witness to the pain and loss that accompanies the violence of rejection, exclusion, silencing, condemnation and complacency. We affirm MLK, Jr.’s jailhouse words that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Today we bring before you our faces, our yearnings, our bodies, our dreams, our faith, and declare that we refuse to be strangers to one another. As followers of Jesus, we cannot, and will not rest until the Mennonite Church abandons its exclusionary impulses and embraces the width and breadth of God’s welcome, so that all may participate fully and God’s kin-dom is made whole.

Video of statement

Jump to 28:00 to watch Katie read the statement in the convention live stream archive:

Pink Menno surprise action on Friday morning

Pink Mennos: It’s time to make our cause more visible at Mennonite Church USA Convention. We’re planning a surprise action for Friday morning (July 5). Come to the hospitality space (here: 10pm tonight to join.

Please share widely and like to get the message out!

Phoenix T-shirts

It’s only a few days until we gather for convention and I know you have all been anxiously waiting to see what the t-shirts look like this year.  Well I’m happy to say that Pink Mennos will once again be some of the best dressed at convention!  Check out the designs below and get ready to purchase your tee in Phoenix!

PO3066866-frontPO3066866-back PO3066866-frontlPO3066866-backl


Phoenix is the fifth Mennonite convention I’ve attended. Why am I going?

Back at the 2005 Charlotte Convention, it was there that the Holy Spirit moved me to “come out” to my family. Fittingly, the convention theme was “Can’t Keep Quiet!”. Several years prior to the convention, I began to draw close to God as I was coming to terms with my sexuality. It was during that time I first felt God call me to the ministry. I increasingly shared with others that I felt this calling, but God was the only one who knew that I was gay. This was soon to change.  At the 2005 convention, I felt a call to greater authenticity, which included “coming out” to family. A week later, I came out to my family at the dinner table. They took the news well, and continue to be supportive!

When I look back at that time, it would have been great to have visible people at the convention to process this calling to “come out.” Being “in the closet” already was stressful, but with this new urgency to tell my family was added even more stress. I was excited and scared and didn’t know with whom I could share this news. Also, in my head at the time, was an awareness of the exclusion of lgbtq people in the church. I felt a calling to go into the ministry, but I knew Mennonite Church USA policies and practices didn’t (and still don’t) allow openly gay people to be pastors.

There have always been lgbtq people and their allies in the church present at conventions. Brethren Mennonite Council has had representatives present at conferences for the last 37 years and there have been other welcoming people and groups too, but they have not been as visible as the Pink Menno Campaign.

I’m going to convention to continue being a gay ally! I’m there to advocate for the removal of exclusionary policies and practices toward the lgbtq community. I’m also there to be a visible and supportive presence for those that need to talk with somebody. Whether you need to talk with someone about “coming out”, how to be an ally to a lgbtq friend, or anything else, several people will always be available in the Pink Menno hospitality room!

~Reuben Sancken