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What Do We Mean by "Dialogue"

   

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Resolutions on Human Sexuality | Meaning of "Dialogue" | Commentary | Agreeing and Disagreeing in Love

RESOLUTIONS ON HUMAN SEXUALITY
[underlining added to facilitate comparison; bold font section deals with dialogue]

 

Mennonite Church, Purdue ’87 General Conference, Saskatoon ‘86

A Call to Covenant

We covenant with each other to study the Bible together and expand our insight into the biblical teachings relating to sexuality. We understand the Bible to teach that genital intercourse is reserved for a man and a woman united in a marriage covenant and that violation even within the relationship. i.e., wife battering, is a sin. It is our understanding that this teaching also precludes premarital, extramarital, and homosexual genital activity. We further understand the Bible to teach the sanctity of the marriage covenant and that any violation of this covenant is sin.

Our Covenant

We covenant with each other to study the Bible together and expand our insight into the biblical teachings relating to sexuality. We understand the Bible to teach that sexual intercourse is reserved for a man and woman united in marriage and that violation of this teaching is a sin. It is our understanding that this teaching also precludes premarital, extramarital and homosexual sexual activity. We further understand the Bible to teach the sanctity of the marriage covenant and that any violation of this covenant, including spouse abuse, is sin.

We covenant with each other to mutually bear the burden of remaining in loving dialogue with each other in the body of Christ, recognizing that we are all sinners in need of God's grace and that the Holy Spirit may lead us to further truth and repentance. We promise compassion and prayer for each other that distrustful, broken, and sinful relationships may experience God's healing. We covenant with each other to mutually bear the burden of remaining in loving dialogue with each other in the body of Christ, recognizing that we are all sinners in need of God's grace and that the Holy Spirit may lead us to further truth and repentance. We covenant compassion and prayer for each other that distrustful, broken and sinful relationships may experience God's healing.
We covenant with each other to take part in the ongoing search for discernment and for openness to each other. As a part of the nurture of individuals and congregations we will promote congregational study of the complex issues of sexuality, through Bible study and the use of materials such as Human Sexuality in the Christian Life. We covenant with each other to take part in the ongoing search for discernment and for openness to each other. As a part of the nurture of individuals and congregations we will promote congregational study of the complex issues of sexuality through Bible study and the use of Human Sexuality in the Christian Life: A Working Document for Study and Dialogue.
Finally, we covenant that as we discern God's will for our lives and our fellowship, we will seek to obey it, through God's grace and strength.
Our prayer is that the Holy Spirit may continue to work within us as we relate with understanding to persons with varied needs and concerns in our church.
Finally, we covenant with God that as we discern his will for our lives and our fellowship we will seek to obey it, through his grace and strength.

 


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Mennonite Church
Council on Faith, Life and Strategy Statement
Meaning of "Dialogue"

  1. The document on Human Sexuality of Purdue '87 is the position of the Mennonite Church.
  2. The Council on Faith, Life and Strategy of the Mennonite Church affirms this position statement of the Mennonite Church and its General Board.
  3. The Mennonite Church's position in this statement is both clearly stated and biblical.
  4. The words "remaining in loving dialogue" found in this document should not be construed to mean that the homosexual issue is unresolved or that the position of the church is in question.
  5. "Dialogue" relates to the area of pastoral care in terms of biblical teaching on the denomination's position, care of families and individuals who are touched by this issue, admonitions to those with a homosexual orientation, sponsorship of ministries that are directed toward calling persons out of homosexual practices and restoration in the body of believers, and dialogue that reflects the love of Jesus.
  6. We encourage the church and its leaders to teach in an affirmative way the position of the denomination rather than letting it go by default. It is our sincere desire to speak with biblical understanding and Christlike compassion. We commend this understanding to Mennonite Church.

Council of Faith, Life and Strategy
November 1995

Myron Augsburger; Owen Burkholder; Richard Headings; Phyllis Litwiller; Martha Yoder Maust; Michael Meneses; Emma Richards


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[Excerpt]
COMMENTARY

On the Resolution on the Issue of Homosexuality
Adopted by CMC Delegates at Stratford ON, July, 1998


Paragraph 5 – “That we continue to dialogue on those matters wherein we disagree, and that we call upon the leaders of the CMC to facilitate and lead in this dialogue; and”

a. Some have stumbled over this article in the Resolution. They have asked, “What is the agenda of dialogue?” What are we discussing? The “matters wherein we disagree” are many. At this time, having re-affirmed our conviction that homosexual activity is sin, we do not intend, as a conference, to re-open that question. At the same time, there is still work to be done. This includes at least the following:

  1. coming to better understandings about definitions of “homosexual,” “heterosexual,” “orientation,” “activity,” “celibacy,” and many other words and terms that are used in this debate;
  2. finding good ways of responding pastorally and Christianly to people who experience temptations of many kinds;
  3. advising one another about how we test and refine our own and each other’s obedience to Christ, and what are appropriate ways to support (discipline) one another in faithful discipleship;
  4. coming to understand how we work together as congregations, conferences and denominations in responsible and accountable ways regarding appropriate action or discipline in areas on which we disagree;
  5. discerning together how the church should function within society and what the church should say about issues that are before the governments, courts and media of the world in which we are also citizens. These are some of the related issues that provide a challenge to our Christian communities. We are not finished with our task.

b. What is meant by dialogue? There have been many monologues and diatribes regarding homosexual issues. What we need is heart-to-heart encounter. This applies to every side of the discussion. Dialogue happens only when people, in the light of Scripture and in prayerful submission to the Spirit, truly listen and attempt to understand each other. Dialogue happens when people honestly, respectfully, and frankly express themselves in each other’s presence. It is “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15-c.f., vv. 25-27, 29-32) and also hearing the truth in love (1 Corinthians 13). Indeed, our Confession of Faith states that even when “suspension of membership ... occurs, the church continues to pray for them and seeks to restore them to its fellowship” (Art.14). On the topic of homosexuality we can be sure the need for discerning thought will extend for many years because of the debates within the society around us. Even if we were to make “definitive” decisions, the discussion will continue for at least another decade because of those external pressures. Churches that have taken stands on various questions related to homosexuality continue to debate, and churches which have taken no previous stand are now being drawn into it. We cannot avoid this, and our resolutions in Saskatoon and Stratford call us to engage the process.

c. The resolution “call[s] upon the leaders of the CMC to facilitate and lead in this dialogue.” While the General Board of the CMC is responsible to oversee and advise in the process of facilitation and leadership, most of the work of implementing plans and of working with congregations and conferences fall to the staff. Still we believe that discernment must happen in face-to-face settings, primarily in congregations; and that questions such as relationships between churches are primarily the responsibility of area conferences. CMC works in partnership with area conferences and provides resources to congregations. We understand that our responsibility to facilitate and lead can best be exercised by providing resources for congregational use (through the Resource Centre and through persons who can help with discernment) and by being supportive to area conference leaders. Some initiatives are underway in the national or bi-national communities of the church at this time.

Prepared by
Walter Franz, Executive Secretary, Ministries Commission
Helmut Harder, CMC General Secretary
Dan Nighswander, CMC Conference Minister
Robert J. Suderman, Resources Commission Executive Secretary
November 24, 1998


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Agreeing and Disagreeing in Love

Commitments for Mennonites in Times of Disagreement

"Making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," (Eph. 4:3) as both individual members and the body of Christ, we pledge that we shall:

In Thought
 
Accept conflict 1. Acknowledge together that conflict is a normal part of our life in the church. (Rom.14:1-8, 10-12,17-19;15:1-7)
Affirm hope 2. Affirm that as God walks with us in conflict we can work through to growth.(Eph.4:15-16)
Commit to prayer 3. Admit our needs and commit ourselves to pray for a mutually satisfactory solution (no prayers for my success nor for the other to change, but to find a joint way). (James 5:16)
     
In Action
 
Go to the other... 4. Go directly to those with whom we disagree; avoid behind-the-back criticism.* (Matt.5:23-24;18:15-20)
In the spirit of humility... 5. Go in gentleness, patience and humility. Place the problem between us at neither doorstep and own our part in the conflict instead of pointing out the others'.(Gal.6:1-5)
Be quick to listen, 6. Listen carefully, summarize and check out what is heard before responding. Seek as much to understand as to be understood.(James 1:19; Prov.18:13)
Be slow to judge, 7. Suspend judgments, avoid labeling, end name calling, discard threats, and act in a non-defensive, nonreactive way.(Rom 2:1-4; Gal.5:22-2)
Be willing to negotiate 8.

Work through the disagreements constructively.(Acts 15; Phil.2:1-11)

  • Identify issues interests, and needs of both (rather than take positions).
  • Generate a variety of options for meeting both parties' needs (rather than defending one's own way).
  • Evaluate options by how they meet the needs and satisfy the interests of all sides (not one side's values).
  • Collaborate in working out a joint solution (so both sides gain, both grow and win).
  • Cooperate with the emerging agreement (accept the possible, not demand your ideal).
  • Reward each other for each step forward, toward agreement (celebrate mutuality).
     
In Life
 
Be steadfast in Love, 9. Be firm in our commitment to seek a mutual solution; be stubborn in holding to our common foundation in Christ; be steadfast in love.(Col.3:12-1)
Be open to Mediation, 10. Be open to accept skilled help. If we cannot reach agreement among ourselves we will use those with gifts and training in mediation in the larger church. (Phil.4:1-3)
Trust the community, 11.

We will trust the community and if we cannot reach agreement or experience reconciliation, we will turn the decision over to others in the congregation or from the broader church. (Acts 15)

  • In one-to-one or small group disputes, this may mean allowing others to arbitrate.
  • In congregational, conference district or denominational disputes, this may mean allowing others to arbitrate or implementing constitutional decision-making processes, insuring that they are done in the spirit of these guidelines, and abiding by whatever decision is made.
Be the Body of Christ. 12. Believe in and rely on the solidarity of the Body of Christ and its commitment to peace and justice, rather than resort to the courts of law. (I Cor. 6:1-6)
     
    *Go directly if you are European-North American; in other cultures disagreements are often addressed through a trusted go-between.

 

From the General Conference Mennonite Church and Mennonite Church General Boards, March-April 1995


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