Eastern Mennonite University President Loren Swartzendruber, DMin (Photo by Jon Styer)

EMU trustees recommend six-month “listening process” regarding same-sex relationships and employment at EMU

In its regularly scheduled meeting Nov. 15 and 16, the Eastern Mennonite University board of trustees heard upbeat reports on the status of a multi-year fundraising campaign to renovate the Suter Science Center, a record number of applicants to EMU’s undergraduate programs, the unexpectedly fast growth of its MA in biomedicine program, and the interest by some faculty, staff, administrators and students for the enlargement of “safe space” for respectful, honest conversations on campus about minority sexual orientation and its implication for access to employment at EMU.

In action taken during an executive session the morning of Nov. 16, the board authorized President Loren Swartzendruber, DMin, and his cabinet “to design and oversee a six-month listening process (beginning January 2014) with EMU’s multiple constituencies.”

The recommendation issued by the board said, “The purpose of the listening process is to review current hiring policies and practices with respect to individuals in same-sex relationships.”

“As a Christian university it is our responsibility to engage in community discussion and discernment over issues that Mennonite congregations – indeed almost all denominations in the United States today – are wrestling with,” Swartzendruber told faculty and staff during a 90-minute “University Forum” on the morning of Nov. 18. He noted that the board made this recommendation unanimously and stressed that the outcome of the “listening process” cannot be predicted in advance of holding it.

In its official statement, the board “reaffirms EMU’s relationship with Mennonite Church USA and its practice of biblical discernment in community.” It also reaffirmed ‘’EMU’s Academic Freedom policy,” which upholds the right of staff, faculty and administrators “to articulate their personal beliefs and values.”

Swartzendruber said he would draw on university resources to help him organize a listening process that will encourage all views and voices to be shared widely, with attention “given to relationships and prayer throughout the process.”

Citing the thoughts of one board member, Swartzendruber said, “Unilateral decision-making leads to broken relationships and rogue actions. Collaborative decision-making means that a community is functioning well. This board’s decision and this process will, I think, show how well our community functions. God is giving us the opportunity to model respect for each other, honesty and integrity.”

The listening process is expected to wrap up in time for a report to be delivered to the board of trustees during its June 2014 meeting.

In his Nov. 18 remarks to faculty and staff, Swartzendruber recalled accepting a call in 1978 to be the pastor of a Mennonite congregation in eastern Pennsylvania. He was 28 years old, fresh from Eastern Mennonite Seminary. Upon arriving, he found a letter on his desk from a gay member, who was now living in an urban area but who welcomed Swartzendruber to the church. In his pastoral role, Swartzendruber recalled trying to help this gay man and his parents have a healthy familial relationship, but feeling unprepared for this role from his seminary training in that era.

Swartzendruber offered this example in support of  “the reality” that discussions within the broader Mennonite church on non-majority sexual orientations have been occurring for decades, including in such publications as the Mennonite World Review and The Mennonite and in Mennonite Church USA forums such as delegate sessions and district conference meetings.

“One responsibility of leadership is to help define reality,” said Swartzendruber.

Discussion on “EMU trustees recommend six-month “listening process” regarding same-sex relationships and employment at EMU

  1. In the listening process, will you give time to someone who strongly believes that the Scriptures present homosexuality as sin? Will you give uninterrupted time to someone who can articulate that position, and give time to a presentation of the exegesis of relevant Scriptures on the matter, along with any hermeneutical reasoning that may be needed? Will you give time to people who can critique the arguments of those promoting a homosexual lifestyles in the church?

    1. Thank you for inquiring. The listening process has not yet been fully planned. It will begin in January. ALL voices will be welcome. EMU staff, faculty, students, alumni, friends and donors will be invited to share their feedback. Andrea Wenger, EMU Director of Marketing and Communications

    2. With all due respect, Brother Hoopert, your perspective has had uninterrupted time for hundreds of years now. So hopefully EMU will try to make up for that by giving uninterrupted time to those who have suffered under the oppressive interpretation of those scriptures. That would be my prayer.

  2. It is an important matter of integrity that any listening process, meetings, etc., fully engage the persons about whom you are listening and making decisions. Too often Mennonites have talked about their understandings and positions regarding the LGBT community without actually including them in the conversation. I invite EMU to be in contact with the Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests, of which I am a board member. BMC has a long history of helping Mennonite organizations in their discernment and can offer professional, theologically-based resources for the process.

  3. Yawn. Too little too late. By about 25 years. Will Mennonites ever be ahead of the curve about anything important?

    1. I guess that means we’re not ahead of the curve on relief and development, disaster relief, sustainability, peace building, an ethic of service and volunteerism, a genuinely Christ-centered faith/practice, very high participation rates in our mission/service/university institutions, charitable giving, a tradition of spiritual accountability, interfaith dialogue, diversity across nations/peoples/races, and vibrant and involved church communities, then. Funny, pretty much every relevant observation in my life suggests that we are ahead of the curve on most of those things. I suppose your comment is open to interpretation, perhaps we might be ahead of the curve on such things, but they are unimportant.

  4. I guess if the world and social media says homosexuality is okay, we should consider it an acceptable practice in our churches and Christian schools. Right? I just don’t get it. Don’t you think if God wanted same sex marriage he would have given homosexuals the opportunity to have kids with each other? Am I missing something here? You can interpret the verses on homosexuality all you want, but the fact remains, they still can’t have kids with each other. Adopting is different then having your own child for those of you who say, “they can adopt”. Not trying to bully, just tired of people accepting this as an acceptable lifestyle in the church. Thank you.

        1. Amen to Jo and Sally Sue. It’s not too simplistic to believe the Bible gives us standards for living. Let’s not water it down and try to make it say what we want. I pray EMU will stay true to the Menn. USA stand on homosexuality.

    1. Did you know that in nature when there is danger of over population, animals have been known to turn to same-sex practices? Overpopulation is a threat to human survival.

      1. Also in nature/humanity, people sometimes just don’t have children because they don’t want to. Even hetero married people ;)

      2. No.TheLord God told MAN and WOMAN to go forth and multiply. It’s not overpopulation that is the problem. It is the unjust inequitable distribution of resources that keeps the poor poor and the 1% overbloated and excessively abundant. The gift of life in God’s eyes is the most precious miracle there is and to deny a person the right to live and breathe over the lie about overpopulation is unimaginable to me. No government, and no organization should have the right to dictate that just because the world has refused to heed God’s call to life, love & honoring what God made good. No one who spends time in God’s word daily can deny this truth.

        1. I’m not sure how allowing people of varying sexual orientations the right to God’s love is in any way denying anybody else’s “right” to have children.

    2. Moderator, what is the problem? Can’t we “dialogue”? How can we discern whether or not people with differences from us deserve to be treated equally if we don’t let everyone, including those who insult adoptees AND people who call out homophobia have a voice in the discussion? Can you engage instead of deleting?

    3. So by this logic those heterosexual couples who are biologically unable to have children are living in sin? I wasn’t aware that our favor with God lied in our ability to reproduce with the love of your life.

    4. I am highly offended by your comment “Adopting is different than having your own child.” This comment is highly offensive and hurtful to me.

      I am a woman that cannot have biological children the “natural” way no matter how many times I try. I have a medical condition that does not allow my body to function that way. The only way I can have children is through adoption.

      When I finally get through the adoption process, that child WILL be “my own” child. That child WILL be a natural part of my family.

      There are many straight couples out there who cannot biologically have children for one reason or another. Does that mean their marriage is not worthy in the eyes of God?

      There are thousands of children in this country that need a loving home, that are parent-less. And there are gay couples that make far more caring, loving parents than some straight couples I know! The Bible talks about many stories of many different types of families. Family is family. Some women are blessed to have children, some are not. But family is family – whether they are biological or not.

      And I am sure that gay couples are quite aware of the fact that they can’t biologically have children when they finally decide to live their lives authentically.

      If marriage for you is all about procreation only – then so be it, I respect your beliefs. But do not, ever, make a comment that targets every woman who cannot biologically have a child and insinuate that adopting a child is a second-class form of “family.” And not just every woman, but every man who is married to a woman who cannot have children. MANY straight couples face the grief of the reality that they cannot procreate.

      I respect your beliefs about homosexuality – but you take this conversation to a totally different level when you say that the reason gay relationships are not accepted by God is because they can’t have children…because that isn’t true for just gay couples. It puts God in a box saying that God only created marriage for procreation. This conversation is supposed to be about why or why or not EMU should extend respect and equality to homosexual employees without them feeling ostracized by the EMU community. NOT about whether or not they can biologically have children or whether or not they choose to have children.

      Your beliefs about homosexuality and marriage are your beliefs…but be careful when you start making statements about the definition of family and whether or not children are “true” children of their parents. Until you have been in the shoes of a woman who cannot have biological children or in the shoes of a man whose wife cannot biologically have children, you have no place to say that adoption isn’t the same thing. You have offended and excluded every person who has been adopted by their parents, every woman who can’t have children for medical reasons (whether she is straight or gay), and every man married to a woman who can’t have children. I am personally highly offended and request that you keep to the topic of why or why not gay people deserve equality and respect in the workplace.

      I may highly disagree with the beliefs of the person in the office next to me who attends a Mormon church and believes that polygamy is of God…but that doesn’t change the fact that God has called me to love my neighbor as myself, and it doesn’t change the fact that they do deserve the same equal human rights as I do. And none of that has ANYTHING to do with the fact that they have a totally different definition of family than I do. They are human, and all humans are created by God.

      As a student who attended EMU, I am very disappointed to see a post like this in the EMU community. I know we have our differences, but I had always experienced EMU to be a far more tolerant, loving community regardless of people’s differences in beliefs. Wasn’t one of EMU’s missions to expose us to diversity and to learn to, at the very least, respect groups of people different from ourselves?

    5. Why do you feel this is not an acceptable lifestyle? Shouldn’t Christians be open and accepting of others and give them the freedom to love? With the growing population rate, it is not sustainable or responsible for every couple to have children. I think homosexuals are doing a service to our world by adopting children in need. Also, are you saying heterosexual couples should only have sexual intercourse when they wish to conceive a child?

  5. Couldn’t agree with you more Jo Shom! Satan has reared his ugly head again and a lot of people don’t even realize it! This is so very sad! And don’t think for a minute there is any hate in this statement – if I didn’t care/love I wouldn’t even comment! Praying!!

    1. I agree. It is a sad thing to see the churches and authorities forget what God intended for us. He would have created humans to be woman and woman or man and man if he wanted to. But, he didn’t. I am saying this with as much love as I can express right now. I encourage everyone to pray hard about this and not let your thoughts and motives overcome the Lord’s.

      1. What God has intended for us? Woah that is a question that has been contested since the time of Abraham. Who are we and how are we different? I like to believe that within the person of Christ we come a little closer to who we are and what it means to be who we are.
        Now the actually work begins. Christ in the Gospels gives us a direction in which to go, gives us a path to walk. Thanks be to God we are given the opportunity to search and find, to ask and listen. For we aren’t given a book of “How to” rather we have been blessed with a sacred text that show us which way to go.
        John Wesley, in his work within the Anglican tradition, gives a framework in which we begin to understand the Christ the we read. For each of us are working with our ideas of tradition, scripture, experience, and reason. We are charged to then now as a community to discern how each of these play out and how we live.
        We haven’t forgotten who we are, rather we are now reexamining how we will walk. So as a follower of Christ who is LGBTQ, I am called to sit at the table and wait for you. I am called to be sure there is a space at my table for you so that we may discern together how we will walk. So yes I am praying hard as you are, so that God’s vision for the world will prevail once again. The Kingdom is here and now.

        1. I agree that we have been given the ability to search ourselves and know who we are. Christ has graciously given us the freedom to do that. I didn’t mean to offend you by using the term “intended”. What I was getting at is that there is a way of living that Christ depicts in the bible. As Christians we try to reflect that as much as we can. Choosing to be something that Christ did not display in the bible is hard for me to wrap my head around. I am not perfect by any means and my reflection of Christ in my life is certainly flawed but I don’t understand how someone who says they believe and love the Lord can see themselves reflecting a Christ-like life through biblical means when the scriptures tell us all what a life reflected as Jesus looks like. If a community wants to be drawn together and resemble the kingdom of God then it should reflect what the scriptures say. Not what man says. Thank you for replying to me though, I am again sorry for the miscommunication. I hope you understand.

          1. You need not apologize for the word ‘intended’. The Bible, in Genesis, clearly addresses the fact that God created woman for man as a companion and that only between these two can an everlasting sexual covenant be made between each other and in doing so facilitate life between them so that the world can be populated to God’s satisfaction. The fact that man and woman broke covenant by disobeying God has clearly produced a perennial floodgate of bad fruit that only Jesus’ death on the cross can redeem. As one studies further, through out the Holy Word, it has also been encouraged for those who desire to commit their lives to something beyond the natural appetites of our sexual being that a life of singleness (celibacy) can be just as if not more rewarding. Sex is not , as the world has defined it, the sole purpose of our life & being. Whatever natural desires we are born with, our spiritual longings carry far more value than anything the world values. There has been too much pain and strife that has been attached to this obsessive belief that the act of sex merits more value than anything else. Well, in God’s eye, I would call that idolatry. Sex is not and should not become our God. God may have given us our sexuality but he did not give us the right to misuse it or do things with it that are not in line with his Word.

        2. First of all, NOBODY knows what God intended for us since we’re all human with damage and mistakes by which to examine life through filters.

          Secondly, God DID make people to love those of the same gender. If you study science or biology or even listen to understand the experiences of those who knew who they were attracted to from a young age, or who knew they were different than everyone around them, you’d realize God DID IN FACT make people exactly the way they are. You need to accept and love them the same way Jesus loved and accepted the hated tax collectors of his day!

    2. Really kmill? You don’t think equating “satan rearing his ugly head” and the consideration to let gay people have the jobs they want is at all hateful? What does god tell you about hate when you’re praying?

  6. It is difficult for any community to be “ahead of the curve” when it comes to social change, particularly when that community is as diverse, and rooted in tradition as the Mennonite Church. While many of us wish this conversation would have happened 25 years ago as Charlie Kraybill suggests, I can also appreciate that the church is struggling to hold us all together in a world that is rapidly changing. Regardless of the personal grievances any of us, on all sides of this issue, may have experienced, I hope that we can take this opportunity to listen closely, and to respect the dignity in one another. We will not all come away from this conversation in agreement, but if by the end of it, we understand each other a little bit more, it will have been an enormous success. The Mennonite church has never been an institution of uniform belief, but it HAS been a place of love, peace, and community, and uniformity is not necessary where those qualities exist. I deeply appreciate that EMU is leading the church in this conversation, and I hope that we can allow it to strengthen, not weaken, our commitment to each other.

    1. Thank you for sharing Josh. Wise words. I agree with your statement. I am grateful for the leadership team at EMU and do firmly believe they will listen carefully and discern wisely.

  7. While I appreciate and respect the spirit that Joshua conveys, I have a difficult time understanding how any of us who are not LGBT can claim a personal grievance. We are not the aggrieved parties in this conversation, we are the perpetrators. How can we claim to respect the dignity of individuals if we continue to exclude them from full communion within their own Church?

    The Church has for too long sacrificed so many of its children, of God’s children, on the alter of church unity. Church unity has become a false idol, an excuse to continue “conversation” without a just resolution.”Struggling to hold us all together” hardly seems a worthy goal if it is at the sacrifice of those who are not given a place at God’s table.

    1. Thanks for the clarity here Todd. I like you have run out of patience. Every movement for basic human dignity and justice has demanded bold, prophetic leaders who have the courage to take a stand. Those who cling to the idolatries of scripture and “church unity” will be no different than those who chose to cling to earlier historical injustices in the name of God. Slavery and the oppression and silencing of women and children in the face of terrible abuses were also fiercely defended by Biblical passages in the not so distant past. As a church we have waited too long. Thank you EMU for taking a bold step.

      “How long? Not long. Because no lie can live forever….because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it leans towards justice.” MLK’s speech about morality has universal application for us today.


      1. I’m also out of patience. So much so that I wouldn’t call this move a bold step. I’m so exhausted with this. I’m running out of ways to say, “don’t discriminate.” Obviously, I hope the policy changes. But honestly, I’ve heard too much hate for too long at this point. It’s nice to think about the possibility of a restored relationship and a better future, but it’s also real that for some of us, the damage is too deep.

  8. As a non-Mennonite, but raised in the Anabaptist tradition, it appalls me to hear that many people seem to believe their own personal powers of reason trump the truth of the Word of God. The prevailing trend is to avoid calling certain behavior as sin. Instead, they are not part of our tradition. When we resort to a forum or a “time of listening” to determine what is right, rather than using the Bible as our standard of Christian Conduct, we have already succumbed to the same thing as did the Children of Israel, they all “did what was right in their own eyes.”

      1. Hannah,

        If you think the Holy Bible is nothing more than a human book, then you should scratch the word Holy off the cover and simply choose your own creed. Kindly answer this. If you don’t believe the Bible is actually God’s Word, why bother with “faith” at all? What then is your faith placed in? If God’s Word is not the foundation of your faith, then certainly your faith is not in God. 2 Peter 1:21 tell us “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Was the Bible penned by human hands? Of course, but that is completed different then to simply say it was written by humans like you just declared. Men, who were moved by the Holy Spirit, wrote the words, which is not unlike the creation of Mankind. God formed man, and breathed life into Him. In the same way, if the words were simply conjured up in the human imagination, they would have no power, but God spoke through the prophets and we have Words of Life.

      1. If you were asking this question of me, my reply is that I too value the Wesleyan Quadrilateral which was referenced by someone else earlier in this discussion. The problem is they put tradition before scripture. The Wesleyan Quadrilateral is in this order: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, Experience. We should always consult scripture first for moral guidance. Where the scriptures are not abundantly clear, we should look to the tradition of our church which connects us to 2000 years of wisdom and allows us to stand on the shoulders of the Early Church Fathers. Next, Reason is not a mere human invention but a quickened mind assisted by the Holy Spirit. Experience then will confirm what is true.

        1. But what do you do when experience emphatically does not confirm the 2000 year old words? The people with those experiences are just wrong?

    1. While the Bible (in Proverbs) does tell us not to lean on our own understanding, it is impossible for us to do anything but that. The truth is the Bible is not as straightforward as many of us wish. It would be great if it was because we could all agree, but at the same time it gives room for more people with more opinions. It gives room for diversity, which Jesus fully embraced. EMU’s move is not making a decision like you seem to think it is. It is simply opening the doors for conversation, which is an integral part of understanding the Bible because how else can we understand it if not through our own understand? We can understand it through group interpretation and discussion.

      1. But EMU does make a decision about whether or not it is acceptable to hire gay people every time they update their hiring policies or an openly gay person applies for a job there. The listening process is just an announcement that those decisions will be discussed for six months.

  9. I guess Paul, the OT, and the rest of God’s word is trumped by our foolish wisdom. Go ahead and reply how Paul was incorrect, the scripture is full of errors, or the Bible was put together by man and therefore, invalid. Romans 1:18-25 or better yet for those comparing the sins of slavery as justified by the Bible and that it does not compare to homosexuality, here is a wonderful word from Paul to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1.

    8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.
    9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers,
    10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine
    11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

    1. Haha you’re doing all the work for me!

      You might want to look into “foolish wisdom”, there’s a lot of interesting stuff out there about holy fools and crazy wisdom. But warning, some of it is from Buddhist tradition!!

    2. Well, let’s look at that those Greek words used for verse 10 that you want to wave around.
      The first one is “pornos,” the second one is “arsenokoites,” and the third one is “malakos.” “Pornos” is sometimes translated to refer to male prostitutes, “arsenokoites” to refer to men who have sex with men, and “malakos” to refer to slave-traders (or traders of sex slaves). Whenever you translate a foreign language, you end up having to make assumptions as to what words can mean because one word can mean several different things (and that’s even if you’ve got the hang of the declension of nouns and conjugation of verbs). Given that prostitutes are often sex slaves, one could probably connect the dots of those three to refer to three different groups, making it something like this: “male prostitutes, the men who have sex with them, and the men who rent/sell them out.” One can even turn that toward describing pederasty (the practice of using boys, who were often slaves to get sexual pleasure) or temple prostitution, both of which had similar social structures.

      The alternative is to take a broad translation of “pornos” to refer to all sexually immoral men, then get specific with men who have sex with men with “arsenokoites,” and then just use “malakos” to really generally refer to slave traders and move on. Yet, wording it that way doesn’t have the same organized flow that either of the two other possible translations have.

  10. I attended a chapel at EMU this past Friday–the first chapel I’d been to in several years–and it was so energizing to see that Safe Space (a group that was banned from campus during my time at EMU) led a pre-chapel hymn sing and proudly took part in Friday Announcements. They were not being rude or angry–they were simply asking for a seat at the table, to be allowed to join church life with their whole person. This is a huge turnaround from my days as a student, when students who were gay and faculty and staff who supported them had to tread ever so softly.

    I hope that these discussions are not just bells and whistles to try to quiet those that question tradition; that LGBT + supporters can show their faces and stories can come to them openly and actually listened to, not just be treated with disrespect by those who disagree with them, and that EMU will be reliable to listen to what is ethical rather than who shakes the money-bags in Mennonite USA.

  11. I am surprised EMU is willing to do this, and at least publish that it was doing it, because as all of these comments demonstrate no matter what EMU decides toes will be stepped on. While I have my opinion and hope for their final decision, no matter their final decision, I am glad they are starting this conversation because it is all too easy to just keep the conversation under the rug. Nothing makes me more thankful for my Mennonite upbringing than my value for conversation between opposing viewpoints; in addition to a nonviolent stand and social justice concerns, community decisions and conversations are what define us as a denomination. Let us not quash that important part of our heritage and culture.

    1. Derek,

      While your appreciation for non violent stand, social justice, community decisions and conversations are something all people in the Anabaptist tradition value, historically, our people have also had the strength to stand for our scripturally based values, even in the midst of great persecution and even death. That’s why my family migrated to the New World. Now it seems, we look to see which direction the cultural winds are blowing and we adjust our theology.

      1. How about some cultural and historical understanding from which the Bible was written? How about the possibility that the homosexual practice by soldiers to dominate over their victims and underlings is the “sin” by which the Bible most likely preaches against since it was such common practice in Biblical times?

        Nobody wants to consider the very real implications of the culture and history from which the Bible is written. Everyone wants to believe the Bible was written for today, literally, in every aspect instead of reading it for what it is.

        Many of you need to buy a clue.

        1. Cultural understanding is hard because sometimes you have to read things outside of a biblical context or listen to people who aren’t white cis het men to learn.

          By the way, how much do clues cost? I’d be willing to put some money up for others if they’re short.

      2. I think it is quite a stretch to say that “we look to see which direction the cultural winds are blowing and we adjust our theology.” Within the last few years, my home church struggled with whether or not someone who smoked could become a member. I do not know what ever came of the whole thing, and I am not sure if that person still attends.

        Things are constantly changing. They always have been, and we have always dealt with those changes in one way or another. If we refuse to talk about them, people get hurt. If we talk about them, other people get hurt. Thank you, Derek, for acknowledging that, and bringing up the point that transparency and conversation are the important things here. This is bigger than “cultural winds”.

  12. While we are at it, why not really get ahead of our times for once. I for one would find it fascinating to review and change EMU’s hiring policies concerning those who practice adultery, bestiality, polygamy, incest, and necrophilia. Where are the rights those people? Why is it that our conversations only focus on homosexuality?

      1. The attitude expressed in your post Becky, is one of a multitude of reasons for why I left the Mennonite church and never looked back. I was elated to see that EMU of all places had finally entered into this discussion, but I fear that complete change will be a long way in coming. Thank you for reaffirming my belief that Mennonites, the LGBTQ community, and their allies are decidedly two-faced in their proclamation of love and equality. As long as you continue to silence and marginalize those of us whose sexual orientations and practices fall outside of what you deem acceptable the hate will continue. While you jump to your conclusions and scramble for your bible verses with which to condemn me, I hope that your eyes will somehow be opened. Equality for everyone – that is all I ask. I’m finished here.

        1. Menonomore, I’m confused. Was your original comment supposed to be in favor of EMU hiring gay people? I would have never known.

    1. You know…you may be on to something. Why shouldn’t we love people who do things we find despicable and provide them with a chance to make a living, feed themselves and their loved ones, and maybe change their hearts. Call me crazy…but isn’t that what Jesus would have done?

  13. Even if you don’t agree with a person’s lifestyle or practices, there are verses in the bible that say we should be engaging and open to everyone regardless. It is not for us to judge. It is only for god to judge. We cannot deny anyone access to the church without judging. I cannot believe my eyes when I see the hatred spewed on this comment feed in the Christ and Christianity. Jesus said “the greatest of these is love” and “love thy neighbor as thyself” think of how you would feel if you were being treated like EMU and the Mennonite Community as a whole (or the Christian Community or Mainstream USA even) is treating LGBTQ folks. Just open your hearts and have compassion. Faith is something that does not restrict itself to heterosexual Christians. Who are we to deny anyone equality in faith? As an alum I’m glad that EMU is taking this step, though to my eyes it does not seem enough of a step for people who truly mean the compassion they preach.

    1. Thanks, Lucy. If we aren’t using our God-given brains and hearts to understand Scripture, then what are we doing? Jesus understood the problem of scriptural interpretation. That’s why he offered the clear responses that you’ve cited: measure your understanding by determining if it enables you to love your God and your neighbor fully.

  14. I am so looking forward to this. I think it is about time we have equality and justice. Regardless of where anyone stands, those people are our brothers and sisters, and they DESERVE the opportunity to be heard. May we make this beautiful step towards what Christ desires for us as a people in His Kingdom.

  15. I speak as a current student at EMU. I am a senior and very much value the education that I am receiving. I love my community and the various ways that EMU has impacted my growth into adulthood.

    One valuable lesson EMU has taught me is how to come together to speak and listen in times of disagreement or tension. We each speak from our own stories and through unique lenses. I urge us all to remember that our words can very easily hurt one another. And the tone in which we speak (and type) can impact someone far more than we may know. Let’s share our questions and concerns but also listen to one another. That is hard to do through the internet, but let’s try to model this behavior for one another! I am so thankful for the opportunity that the EMU community has. Let’s listen and speak to one another as a community who cares about each other.

    1. Thank you for the reminder, Christine!

      What we seem to forget is the reason Anabaptists were chased from pillar to post was because other Christians believed their interpretation of the Bible was the “truth” and the Anabaptists’ interpretation was false and needed to be physically stamped out. When we attack others for their views, we are joining in the same mentality as those who killed and tortured our ancestors. We may not be tying someone to a stake, but we are tying them down with shame and twisting a screw of hatred into their mouths each time we say: “This is the truth. This is what God says. Anyone who says differently is a heretic and needs to be pushed out of our community.”

      We want to be kind even in our disagreements. This is tough to do, I’ll readily admit, but it should, in my view, be the goal of everyone involved in a discussion about the tenets of a faith that’s based on nonviolence and following Christ’s example of love.

  16. As a student, I am incredibly glad to be here at this time. There are and will be disagreements, but talking about those disagreements is so much healthier–for individuals and for the community–than keeping them in the dark. How we engage with one another in respect and love will say infinitely more about our character and faith than any verse will or can.

    I’m already seeing this care and respect–from both “sides” of the “issue”–being shown around campus. Many of the comments on this article are immature and disheartening, but the way that things are being addressed at EMU continues to be encouraging and respectful. Let us hope that this continues to be a season of growth in love and character.

  17. It is about time this discussion happens. When I was at EMC(U) there was such a hostile and hateful attitude toward homosexuality. Hate, fear, confusion. It rips apart the fabric of our society and so often I am ashamed at how much of it exists in this country and in the Mennonite communities. I have many MANY gay and lesbian friends who are in loving committed relationships. I also have many friends that are straight and in committed loving relationships. I just don’t understand the blinding ignorance of preaching intolerance and hate. I am raising two boys, ten and seven. Acceptance is our family mantra. They already know many of my gay friends, know that some of their friends have two mommies or two daddies. No matter what comes out of this listening period, I know that my sons emabrace our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and I am incredibly proud of them for that.

  18. I’m not sure I understand what the purpose of the discussion is. If, as Christians, the discussion is to enable an understanding and acceptance of the LGBT lifestyle, then how can that reconcile with the Biblical truth? Romans 1:26 is pretty clear that homosexuality is a sin. So if the discussion is to “enlighten” or “evolve” Christian thought to match the secular world viewpoint that practicing homosexuality is acceptable, then it is clearly in conflict with God’s Word and intention. At what point does EMU proclaim God’s truth to be absolute and not relative? God is the same yesterday and today and for all eternity, right?

    If the discussion is to open dialogue and build relationships, then I’m all for it. We are called to love one another. Loving one another does not mean we have to accept their sin but we accept their persons. We can love the person without condoning the sin. The problems have been magnified by both sides because media and the world have tied homosexuality with the person and not he sinful behavior.

    Are homosexuals defined by their sexual choices? or is that merely one of many behaviors? Who they are is not the same as what their sexuality is.

    if you can keep the dialogue focused on how to accept and love gays as people and children of God, it will be constructive. However, if in degrades into a politicized battle about the “rights” of gays, then it is destructive.

    At some point, Christians, including EMU, must recognize and call sin as sin.

    1. Acceptance of gay people is not only a secular belief. It is a Mennonite belief. Gay people are not other people, they are us. While sexuality is not the entire identity of a person, it is an integral part. Straight people don’t have to cut off a part of their identity to be in the Mennonite church and gay people shouldn’t have to either.

    2. I’m also curious if you are able to look people in the eyes when you trivialize their human rights. Is it easy? Or just something for the Internet?

  19. As long as our conversations are based on human intellect, wisdom, and understanding the gulf between the two sides of this issue will only continue to widen. As long as our judgements are based on emotions, feelings, and traditions one side will continue to be labelled as hate-filled bigots and the other side will continue to be labelled as liberal haters of God. I pray that as a Christian university community we could lay our differences and feelings aside and spend these next six months dedicated to seeking the Holy Spirit’s leading through prayer, surrender, and meditation on the word of God instead of storing up ammunition to be used against one another. Perhaps then we can converse in a way which is edifying to all. Shalom.

  20. Perhaps a little humor is in order, with thanks to Kent Ashcroft who posted first version in 2000

    Dear Dr. Laura,

    Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding what the Bible says about homosexuality. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination… End of debate.

    I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other Biblical teachings and how to follow them.

    1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

    2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

    3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of Menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

    4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is, my neighbours. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

    5. I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath.Exodus 35:2. Clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

    6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

    7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle- room here?

    8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

    9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

    10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16.Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

    I hope you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

  21. I just want to express my support for making our institutions welcoming and accepting places for all.

    Also, feeling unwelcome for one’s beliefs is a very different thing than feeling unwelcome for one’s actual identity. In other words: If you’re a racist and feel that your community doesn’t welcome those racist beliefs, that is not on a par with being a person of color who feels unwelcome because they happen to be black.

  22. I also want to express my support for our faith communities and related institutions to be welcoming and accepting places for all.

    If I believe that God created me in his/her image and loves me as I am than I know that God also loves my child, neighbor, stranger because they were made in his/her image as well. Who am I to say how this image has to look like or that our image has to be identical?

    Throughout history we have failed over and over to believe in God’s love for all humankind (his/her creation) and ostracized people of color, sexual orientation, physical disabilities, ability to have children and the list goes on.

    God is love and we are called to love him/her and our neighbors just as ourselves.

  23. Comments on this blog are now closed. Watch for invitations to speak into the EMU discussion beginning early January 2014.

Comments are closed.