So currently Rachel & I are on a two-week road trip across Canada. Her parents are moving back east from Victoria, and we are using it as an opportunity to take one of their cars and drive across this beautiful land.
It is a bit rushed though – because of the 15 days we have off, we spent the past 5 days in Saskatoon.
Why would we be spending 1/3 of our trip in Saskatoon?
Well, in my church denomination (Mennonite Church Canada), we have a bi-annual national delegate meeting. So delegates from Mennonite churches across Canada came together and met in a big conference room in downtown Saskatoon to talk some official church business.
Not exactly my idea of a good time.
Some people love the higher up church process stuff.
But I gained a new appreciation for it this week. Mennonite Church Canada is a national body of 30,000 members. When they make decisions, it can wield tremendous influence.
When they make decisions.
That’s part of the hang-up – because it’s as political as any decision-making that represents a diverse group of 30,000 people.
There were some definitive actions taken.
Mennonite Church Canada officially repudiated (almost unaminously) the Doctrine of Discovery, which gave a theological basis for handing over indigenous lands in the Americas to which ever European explorer “discovered” them in the name of their monarch. In Canada, this has led to tremendous evil and destruction against indigenous peoples at the hands of the church, which still continues to this day.
As well, the church voted to support resistance against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. I thought we had done that already, but I guess not. Again, this process stuff goes over my head.
There were two less decisive, but more controversial, actions voted on. One was to consider a change in our national church structure. The other was to allow for some churches to include and affirm same-sex couples (which isn’t really a decision, it’s just naming what’s already happening). Both generated a lot of discussion – not all of it good or helpful. Some of it was quite hurtful, particular for members and allies of the LGBTQ community.
I came away from Saskatoon encouraged by who I encountered. I had some good times, met many wonderful people, and felt like I learned a lot personally.
I led a seminar called “Young adults do not need “the church”‘, which basically involved just getting people of different generations talking to each other – and it was received quite enthusiastically. Church people can often be quite further along than I think.
But I also come away understanding why there is a trend in Christian communities to move away from denominationalism. Denominations, because they are such large boats, cannot move quickly enough to keep up with the rapid changes and new awareness in our society.
So although I’m coming away with many good feelings, I still have this unresolved tension.
It’s a good thing that the church is naming and repenting from oppression. But how was this religious system, that’s intended to be a force for good, allowed to be complicit with evil for so long?
It’s a good thing to meet wonderful Mennonite people from across the country. But why was the real diversity of our body not actually represented in Saskatoon? Why was it a bunch of mostly older, white people with Mennonite last names?
It’s a good thing that we’re meeting together to worship. But why did it so often feel like worship is an expression of Mennonite culture and ethnicity than the living god we profess in our confessions? Why do we so often prefer to use language that appropriates Old Testament Jewish peoplehood to Mennnonite peoplehood? How can we be so blind to the ways that this theology is oppressive to both indigenous and Jewish peoples?
It’s a good thing that we’re becoming more welcoming to the LGBTQ community. But what still lingers in the church that allowed it to become such a stronghold of homophobia in the first place?
So although it was a great week, and I learned about the Mennonite church, I leave with more questions than answers.
I have lots to ponder as I travel the rest of the way home across this very wide land.