Accept One Another
by Clarence Rempel, WDC Conference Minister
One hundred thirty people boldly signed up for the Western District Conference Reference Council with the theme of “The Church and Homosexuality” held on October 26 at Faith Mennonite Church, Newton, KS. The audaciously hopeful subtitle was “A conversation that can hold us together.” Worship for the day began and ended with reflections from Romans 14-15. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted, in order to bring praise to God.” This was written to the church in Rome that was deeply divided over significant ethical matters. “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you.”
The modest goal of this symposium, planned and led by the Human Sexuality Discernment Task Force of Western District Conference, was that Christians with profound ethical disagreement would engage each other in respectful conversation and theological reflection. Evaluations indicated that this was indeed the experience for most participants. One described the symposium as modeling vigorous discussion in an atmosphere of deep listening and mutual respect while representing a variety of opposing viewpoints.
There were two insights mentioned repeatedly by the participants. The first one was “the grace of uncertainty” offered by Keith Graber Miller, Goshen College professor. He encouraged us to remember that we all see through a glass darkly in this life. Therefore it is best to offer our certainties with a good measure of humility.
A second often-noted insight was offered by David Boshart, Central Plains Conference minister. “Jesus demonstrated special concern for those rejected in society or who were living in a state of alienation. So should the church. But Jesus did not practice radical inclusion. He practiced radical hospitality.”
Participants were grateful for the open, honest conversation. Many hoped for this kind of conversation in their congregations. Many noted that there are other sexual matters that also need the church’s attention including pornography, the exploitation of sex, premarital sex, rape, and healing ministries for those wounded by sexual violence.
I remind us all of some of the key phrases I underlined in Romans 14-15 in the closing worship. “Accept those whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.” “You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister?” “We will all give an account of ourselves to God.” “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” “Accept one another, then, as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”