A Pastoral Letter to Mennonite Church USA,
“We are dying, and you are killing us.” These are the words Jay Yoder writes to the Mennonite church on behalf of LGBTQIA+1 people in the wake of the shootings at the Pulse Nightclub.
So far there has not been a response from the leadership of MC USA to the tragedy in Orlando or to Jay’s accusation of the church’s complicity in this violence. The silence serves to enhance the violence being done to the bodies and spirits of people within the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color.
As Mennonite pastors, we will not participate in the silence of our church.
To those who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community, your words matter, your experiences matter, your presence in our church matters. We are deeply grateful for your presence and your voices within our church. We desire to support you in whatever ways we can. If you reach out to any of us we will seek to be a nurturing, Christ-like presence as we listen to you in your grief and anger. We love you.
To the larger Mennonite church body, we must acknowledge that this hate crime was directed against people who are part of both the Latino and LGBTQIA+ communities; we can no longer claim that our desire to welcome Hispanic Mennonites requires us to shun LGBTQIA+ Mennonites.
We must do a better job of listening to and believing the testimonies of those within the LGBTQIA+ community who have experienced violence within our churches. If we continue to insist on the unworthiness of those who do not conform to “official” standards of sexual identity and attraction, we must acknowledge the ways in which that message promotes ideologies of hatred and violence. We cannot continue to preach peace in one breath and condemn our LGBTQIA+ siblings in the next.
If we hope to even begin a faithful response to the horror of the Pulse Nightclub shootings, we must listen well, speak in love, and back up our listening and our speech with actions of compassion and justice. As the book of James exhorts us, “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
As we attempt to resurrect our faith, let’s consider engaging in the following works:
- Read the statement published by Brethren Mennonite Council (BMC) and support their work financially.
- Thank your nearest Pink Menno advocate and support the work of Pink Menno as they prepare for our next MCUSA Convention in Orlando.
- Give financially to the Pulse victims fund set up by Equality Florida, the state’s LGBTQIA+ civil rights organization.
- Take any opportunity you can find to show God’s abundant, all-encompassing love in this world that so desperately needs it.
“Love is a verb.” Indeed. So let’s do something.
Joanna Harader, Peace Mennonite Church (Lawrence, KS)
Ruth Harder, Rainbow Mennonite Church
Ryne Preheim, Rainbow Mennonite Church
Cynthia Lapp, Hyattsville (MD) Mennonite Church
Theda Good, First Mennonite Church of Denver
Joel Miller, Columbus Mennonite Church
Ron Adams, Madison (WI) Mennonite Church
Chad Martin, Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster
Susan Gascho-Cooke, Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster
Laura Brenneman (chaplain), First Mennonite Church of Champaign-Urbana (IL)
Rose Marie Zook Barber, Eugene Mennonite Church (OR)
Mark Rupp, Columbus (OH) Mennonite Church
1Lesbian, gay, bissexual, trangender, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual