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An Open Letter to Ervin Stuzman

Dear Ervin Stutzman,

Grace and peace to you. I recently read your response to the "Rule of Love" letter. I was particularly struck by your "lament that the individuals and groups at opposite ends of the spectrum of concerns related to sexual identity and orientation are no longer willing to be in patient forbearance with each other." Like so many Mennonite leaders before you, you seem burdened by the obligation to arbitrate the conflict over the external boundaries of the church—that is to say, who is out and who is in. It seems to me that the book of Acts offers a different approach to the leadership of the church—one that might relieve you of this burden to arbitrate. From the earliest times of the Jesus movement, there was deep conflict about the external boundaries of the Body. Could Gentiles be Christian, or is the Jesus movement limited to Jews? Peter wrestled with this question fiercely until the Holy Spirit offered him a vision (Acts 10). It seems to me that the vision makes clear that the external boundaries of the Body are the purview of the Holy Spirit. As we approach the Jew-Gentile conflict of our time—whether or not and to what extent to welcome LGBTQ Mennonites—it is tempting to reside in the anxious role of arbitration. There is no amount of effort or good intent, however, that will wrest this authority from the Holy Spirit. The margins of the church are the playgrounds of the Holy Spirit. We are not called to intervene in that work. I believe God calls church leaders not to the burden of arbitration but to the essential task of leading from the center. I'm not talking about the center between two opposing viewpoints. I'm not talking about the center that is the majority viewpoint. I am not talking about the center as the center of leadership's power. Rather, I speak of the center of gravity of our faith--the spring from which all else flows: the abiding love and grace of God. To lead from the center is to relinquish the burden of arbitration, to reject the notion that a majority opinion is always and only the voice of God amongst us, to release the reigns of control in humble obedience to the Holy Spirit's power. To lead from the center is to ask, "Is this love? Is this grace borne amongst us?" and to trust the leading of the Holy Spirit. All that remains is this: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:28-34). I wish for you all the grace and love in the world as you and the Executive Committee discern your calling in this momentous time.

With love, Lisa Ann Pierce

Member of Saint Paul Mennonite Fellowship, an SCN congregation

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