Clarence’s Clarion Call – Avoid, Pursue, Tend
by Clarence Rempel, WDC Conference Minister
Some Christians strongly believe that people in covenanted same sex relationships must be included in congregational life. They hold this view out of deep conviction that what they believe is rooted in faith in Jesus. Some Christians strongly believe that covenanted same sex relationship is a violation of God’s will. They hold this view out of equally deep conviction about God’s will revealed in Scripture. And these Christians both live in the fellowship of Western District Conference. That was clear from the results of the Discernment Task Force Survey conducted in August. Among the 1,700 respondents, half agreed with the Confession of Faith assertion, “We believe that God intends marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman for life.” And nearly half disagreed with many calling for a statement that would make room for same sex covenants. Full results will be reported at Reference Council on Saturday, November 15, at Eden Mennonite Church. What do we do in the midst of profound ethical disagreements?
Let me offer three responses from an essay on Romans 14-15 by Glenn Brubacher shared at Constituency Leaders Council, in Chicago, October 6-8.
- One thing to avoid – Don’t despise or judge those with whom you disagree. Don’t despise conservatives or judge liberals. Don’t quarrel over disputable matters (14:1). Quoting Brubacher, “Obviously, when differences of faith emerge they must be talked about. But Paul tells us that these interchanges may not elevate into quarrels, alienating disputes. Some attitudes and their associated activities inflame quarrels/disputes: despising, that is looking down on others, considering them unfaithful or insignificant; and judging, dismissing them as unworthy of fellowship (14:3). Neither despising nor judging is acceptable because the Lord welcomes and blesses (14:6).” Leave the judging to God. “We will all give an account of ourselves to God” (14:12).
- One thing to pursue – Welcome others who do not share your views (14:1). “The word ‘welcome’ best expresses the spirit of the whole text. Unity is not only willingness to sit in the same room but even more to practice the comfortable and relaxed fellowship created by God….God welcomes people who exercise a variety of ways of thinking and so must members of the community of Christ (14:1,7-9; 15:7),” according to Brubacher. “‘Welcome’ suggests a spirited invitation, an energetic embrace, a joyous encounter of people who know they belong together.”
- One thing to tend – Tend your own convictions; focus less on the convictions of others. “Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds” (14:5). A self-differentiated Paul clearly shared his own convictions regarding eating meat – no problem (14:14). “In 14:22b, 23 Paul wrote, ‘Blessed are those who have no reason to condemn themselves because of what they approve. But those who have doubts are condemned if they eat, because they do not act from faith (conviction in the footnote); for whatever does not come from faith (conviction) is sin.’”
My prayer for the Western District Conference and for the anticipated Reference Council comes from Romans 15:5-7 TNIV. “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. [May we] accept one another, then just as Christ accepted [us]” (adapted).