Mennonite marriage, Tinky Winky and a slew of droves

Mennonite marriage, Tinky Winky and a slew of droves July 2, 2012

What do you do when you’re in a tsk-tsk-ing tizzy about same-sex marriage, but you’re part of a denomination that holds a core doctrine of individual liberty?

Ann at The Revealer finds the answer in a recent statement, from the executive committee of the Mennonite church, which says:

The board owns the understanding of our confession of faith that sexual union is to happen between one man and one woman who are committed to each other for life in holy marriage.

But then, remembering that they’re Anabaptists with no popes or bishops, the statement concludes:

The national church does not have the authority to control the discussion or decisions at [congregation and area conference] levels. … Congregations decide on their members and conferences decide on member congregations. Ministerial credentials are held at the conference level and thus minister’s accountability is to the area conference rather than the national conference. We are aware that our polity creates some differences in the practice of church discipline from conference to conference.

The promising news that sparked this awkward exercise in magisterium-envy was this:

In 2011, Western District Conference pastor Joanna Harader performed a same-sex covenanting ceremony. Since Illinois made same-sex unions legal on July 1, 2011, Central District pastor Megan Ramer has performed three such ceremonies.

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Scott Paeth discusses Nick Vadala’s theory that the exodus of the younger generation from the church began with Jerry Falwell’s attack on Tinky Winky.

Paeth is reluctant to pinpoint a single moment as quite so significant, but if the Tinky Winky Incident wasn’t actually a watershed moment in the cultural history of the church, it was at least an outstanding example of many of the things that have gone awry in American Christianity:

Jerry Falwell’s Teletubby stupidity was simply an example of the way in which these trends began to coalesce in a particularly toxic way over the last decade or so. There had certainly been precurors — the rise of the religious right in the 1980s, the emergent barbarism of the 1990s era Republican congress, the personal and political corruption of Bill Clinton and his followers, the 2000 election. But for any who had begun to become political aware in the period from about 1995 on, there were too many examples of the absurdity of essentially any institution or ideology you could point to to make any of them credible on the surface as viable methods of organizing one’s life.

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That study of religious doubts expressed by members of the Millennial generation has produced a slew of articles describing how younger people are leaving the church “in droves.”

So I thought this might be useful: The Word Detective on “in droves.” (The noun “slew” above, btw, comes from the Irish sluagh, meaning “a host, crowd, multitude.”)

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One in. One out.

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In Baghdad, a performance of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in which the Montagues and Capulets are Shiite and Sunni.

More than 20 years ago, on a student trip to Israel and the West Bank, I wound up late one night at the American Colony in Jerusalem, talking Shakespeare with a teacher from one of the underground schools of the first Intifada. His dream was a production of Romeo and Juliet, with a Palestinian Romeo and a Jewish Juliet.

That wasn’t a new idea then, and it isn’t a new idea now, but it’s still a good idea.

Wherever there is ethnic or religious conflict, wherever civil blood makes civil hands unclean, that play should be performed, over and over.

"Definitely a Vernon character, then; I think I read that book."

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