Institutions can be helpful. They're like buses, cars, ships and planes. When people hear God asking them to move together in some effort, it makes sense to get organized. But the church is never the mode of transport, it is the people inside. When our allegiance shifts, we shame each other into doing what we want. We lie and hedge the truth for our ends. We shame into silence with an attack others' character if they speak up. We work as silent allies so that we can rescue those within who we believe are victims of bad theology or ethical understanding. We want the bus to be full even if the people on board don't like the destination. So we make it hard for them to exit or we leave them stranded alone, isolated from others they might join.
Some are saying that the answer for Mennonite Church USA is to shift to a congregational polity. This sentiment is supposedly rooted in the idea of giving each other the freedom to follow Christ in whatever way it makes sense for each congregation. If that were truly the motive, then this sentiment would not be coupled with a fierce emphasis on loyalty and unity as a denomination. A true polity of congregationalism would do its best to help those with differing points of view join together and go their separate way. It would help them exit gracefully at the next bus stop and help them find a new ride. Congregations will bless same-sex marriages and ordain pastors in same-sex relationships. But when they do, and when they begin to determine the direction of our institutional bus, it's time for many of us to get off that bus. The attempts by those with the unity perspective to shame leaders for leaving is a sinful and diabolical attempt at manipulation and control. It is inconsistent with the congregational polity they claim to hold. It needs to stop and should be named and exposed for the abusive and ungodly use of power that it is. It is the spirit of Constantine, not the Holy Spirit.
I love Mennonite Church USA. But I love the people in it even more. It's time to help us separate well.
-John M Troyer
This blog is updated each weekday. Liking the Facebook page will not automatically update your news feed with new posts. If you would like receive regular notifications of new posts, join the Facebook group at this link. If you would like to subscribe by email, you can do so at the top of this page.