In a sermon-essay just uploaded (pdf file) to her Enduring Space website, Ruth Krall talks about the struggle within the Mennonite church, in which she is actively involved, over issues of LGBT inclusion. She notes the deep theological-scriptural roots pointing towards an inclusive stance that is being hotly contested by some Mennonite leaders and by groups using threats of financial reprisal if the Mennonite church becomes more welcoming to gay members.
For Mennonites, with their historic emphasis on discipleship as walking in the footsteps of Jesus, the example of Jesus is absolutely foundational: as Ruth notes, citing Luke 19:1-10,
I find very little evidence in Christian scriptures that Jesus preferred ritual purity to compassionate love. Instead, what we see is that he included those despised by his Jewish synagogue as the precise objects of his compassion. Scripture bears many witnesses to his willingness to include social outcasts among his disciples.
And then she adds,
Jesus, son of a woman who was not married, who hung out with prostitutes, women who studied, tax collectors, crazy men in caves, Samaritan women at wells, rugged fishermen, as well as family friends at whose weddings he performed miracles of water and wine – this human man and Jewish spiritual prophet, in my opinion, never excluded anyone from his community of spiritual seekers and disciples because of their sexual orientation, their gender, their skin color, their economic status, their enrollment in the temple, or any other socio- cultural marker of human diversity. Instead, he provided food (fish, loaves of bread, wine) for his followers and disciples on multiple occasions.
Table fellowship is one way that we include others in our most intimate friendship networks. It was not the Pharisees and ruling elites of the temple that Jesus welcomed to his table; it was ordinary people from many different walks of life. It was men and women of many different social identities. His rag-tag band of disciples and followers included social outcasts – lepers, prostitutes, women with menstrual disorders, people possessed by spirits, and spiritual doubters (in short, the lame, the sick, and the blind). It included ordinary people – women who cooked, smelly fishermen who tended their nets, men who were wine-drinkers, a gentile Roman Centurion – a soldier, and an uncompromising prophet who challenged political injustice and baptized his followers in river water.
I'm glad to see that Pink Menno, a website promoting full acceptance and inclusion of gay people within the Mennonite community, has published Ruth's fine sermon. It deserves wide circulation.
The photograph of Ruth is from Enduring Space.