Where do you start?

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a conference on sexuality. Before you get too excited, I should clarify: it was our Mennonite Brethren denominational study conference: Honoring God with the Body.

That said, beyond the captivating topic, it was a meaningful time of connection with friends and colleagues from across Canada. And talking about something as personal as sexuality, it was good to be among friends.

It was interesting, however, how just like families gather and divergent opinions exist and percolate, this study conference clearly reflected an ongoing diversity in how Mennonite Brethren understand the various facets of sexuality.

Yes the group shared a common faith in Jesus and acceptance of our Confession of Faith. But does this mean we approach the issue of sexuality from a common place? It was quickly evident that despite shared convictions in faith, there was no common starting place in understanding sexuality.  

For example, one speaker strongly emphasized God as law-giver, offering a thorough exegesis of biblical texts in which we can ascertain God’s moral laws for sexuality (homosexuality in particular). Another speaker presented a personal/pastoral example where  his starting point was the relational example of Jesus in engaging sexuality. Not surprisingly, these presenters offered different conclusions for what it meant to show love, with various individuals responding positively or negatively depending on if the presenters approach resonated. There was a palpable angst from all directions - "that's not right!" or "that's insensitive!" Such comments revealed frustration with certain conclusions. But with such diverse starting points, can we really be surprised?

I bring this up to remind us not to only grapple with conclusions in understanding diversity, be it theological or otherwise. If we could improve at naming our starting points, not only could we develop a healthy self-understanding (avoiding the self-righteousness one speaker chided us about), but we could also understand each other. No doubt difference will remain. But understanding difference - particularly in an area as complex and personal as sexuality - is a good place to start if you ask me.


Anonymous said...

Hi David, I was not at the conference but appreciated being able to pick up bits and pieces via you and other participants who tweeted, and also to read the various MBH reports and listen to a number of the podcasts. It does sound, as you say, that beginning and ending places are diverse, and I agree, perhaps "difference" on so many levels is the place to start. So thanks. And best to you as you deal with these significant matters with young people at a college level. -- I was moved by this article today and include it here for your perusal.http://www.themennonite.org/issues/16-11/articles/The_rule_of_love

David Warkentin said...

Hello Dora, thanks for the encouragement and passing along that article. No shortage of things discuss as I engage students!

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