“Betwixt and Between”

I’m at the national Mennonite Assembly in Saskatoon held at Generic Convention Centre XYZ900. It’s the usual suspects that gravitate to the mic at these sorts of events—not entirely but mostly. Person A, seemingly bent on being the hero of the traditional way, steps to the mic and goes through the usual litany of thumping Bible references. MC Canada AssemblyEveryone has heard these before. We learn nothing, except that person A now feels released from some sense of prophetic guilt. Then person B, seemingly intent on taking an epic stand in the opposite direction, steps up to another mic and reaches for a King-Gandhi-Luther (insert other moral hero here) reference. Again, we learn nothing, except that now person B feels released from some sense of prophetic guilt. Then there is person C, who says it’s all about love, and person D, who says we just need to pray more, and person E, who says it’s all about unity, and, of course, person F, who says unity is impossible because many have already been hurt and have left. The conversation around Christianity and same-sex marriage has been rehearsed so many times in so many places I wonder why there are still those out there who think there is a ‘solution’.

There is no solution. Since there is no solution we hand the reigns of discernment to those who seem most comfortable with having no solution and those who are least likely to hit others with a hymnal. We gather together then, share intractable views, keep the hymnals at arm’s length and vote on a measure that essentially affirms what is already happening. Of course, not everyone likes where we are at. We are “betwixt and between.”

The phrase “betwixt and between” comes from Susan Beaumont. She spoke on Wednesday to pastors from across the country. Most of our congregations are, she believes, in a liminal place. Our challenge is not dealing with change (since change implies knowing what comes next) but dealing with the ambiguity of only knowing what is ending. We don’t know what comes next, at least not in specific terms. I think Susan is generally right, and I think this applies to the key issues our church is grappling with (you can find the relevant documents here).

It is hard to find encouragement in such a season. There are bits of it here and there—young people are still engaged in the church, the general sense is that MC Canada churches want to stay together, passionate and smart leaders do exist, many churches are doing wonderful things . . . . But still, there are no solutions. The BFC resolution will probably pass, some will probably leave the denomination. Our challenge then will be how to reclaim a sense of joy and hope, a deep gut-level sense, as we move into a future that is marked by unknowing. This will prove difficult since as a national body we have become more comfortable talking about things like process and structure than God.

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