For the last six years I’ve served on the Ministerial Committee of Central District Conference. We oversee credentialing of pastors and chaplains, and give support to CDC pastors and our conference minister, Lois Kaufmann. Along with the other committees and the board of CDC, we meet twice a year at Camp Friedenswald in southern Michigan. This past Friday and Saturday were the final meetings I’ll attend before my term ends this summer.
Much of the conversation this time around had to do with our conference’s relationship to Mennonite Church USA – or rather, how the denomination is relating to us. Our denomination is quite theologically diverse and has different views of where authority should be held. CDC has always given congregations freedom to discern their own path while remaining in relational accountability with one another. Other conferences emphasize more clearly defined guidelines and expectations. Because CDC is willing to credential all qualified pastors called by a congregation, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression, our conference will undergo a “peer review” by a panel of denominational representatives. The review is not designed to be punitive, but is the denomination’s way of calling us out on something considered out of line with its “teaching position.” There’s more that could and will be said about this over the next few months.
One thought coming off the weekend is the power wielded in how people and organizations give or withhold blessing. CDC has chosen to extend the blessing of credentialing to all qualified persons called to a vocation of ministry. MC USA has chosen to withhold its blessing from CDC’s readiness to bless persons who are LGBTQ. It doesn’t mean CDC can’t extend the blessing, but not being blessed in our blessing is a spiritual and relational loss, a wound in the church body.
In our congregational life we extend blessings to one another. We recently blessed two children and their parents as we dedicated them into congregational life. This coming Sunday we’ll bless a new mentor/mentee pair as they begin their journey together. We bless when someone is baptized, when a couple marries, when new members join the church, when someone moves away, when we pray for one another. There are things we cannot bless. We cannot bless violence and greed.
Blessing is powerful. It’s an action of expansion, of amplification. It takes what is, celebrates and honors it, and enables it to become more. Blessing is an act of creation. It’s a holy act, a Godly act, and one we have the privilege of doing for one another in all kinds of formal and informal ways.
Blessing always goes two ways. To bless blesses the blesser and the blessee (to make up a couple words). Which is one of the reasons I feel, at this point, sorrier for our denomination than our conference. Our denomination is not yet able to bless that which many of us have discovered to be good and beautiful.
There are so many factors making us feel powerless in life, but we always have the power to bless.