My Opinion of Ervin Stutzman at Kidron Mennonite Church

First of all, a disclaimer. This blog post is my opinion only. It’s not speaking for or endorsed by any group. This is just an individual speaking her mind on her own space of the internet.

So, Ervin Stutzman made his rounds here in Ohio to a constituency he perceived to be mainly conservative and I attended his stop at Kidron Mennonite Church. I have attached the audio file of my question that I asked him that of course, included some commentary. I was ready to do more than just ask a one liner question.

I appreciate the listen:  http://yourlisten.com/naturebeckles/my-question-to-ervin-stutzman

What Ervin said is well summarized by my friend Jean Hershberger over on the Pink Menno Campaign FB page. Though her use of the topic phrase I think makes it clear this is her impression and opinionss of what Ervin, let me make it clear that it is. This is not meant as a record of factual statements, but of a response and impression of what he said. Please do not think that either one of us are purposely misleading or lying about Ervin. Here is the quote:  “*These are some of the troubling aspects of Ervin’s ‘answers’ to questions…
**Feeding into negative stereotypes: In the context of a question about celibacy…he said something to the effect that he didn’t know, but maybe it would be better to allow for monogamous relationships/not all are called to a celibate lifestyle; then as examples, he shared about a doctor friend reporting of having a gay patient with over 300 partners; and then said something about some priests not being able to handle celibacy and because of that resorting to ‘pederasty’ (yes, he did use that word) I guess I was naïve to think that a man of his intelligence, even though we disagree, would resort to extreme, stereotypical and downright false examples
**At one point he attempted to speak with the ‘voice’ of a scientist/psychologist with vague and questionable references to ‘research’.
**Had I not been following MSMC & Denver Mennonite’s decision in licensing Theda and been aware of the depth of their journey, their seeking Spirit guidance…from Ervin’s comments I would have come away with the belief that they took it quite lightly and based the choice on their feelings – not on any sound biblical study. He wove that into answers several times – ‘they did not go through a study of the scriptures’ – not exact words, but close. And not just in talking about MSMC, but also in (poorly!) summarizing what’s going on with EMU and Goshen.”

So, Ervin’s comments made my blood boil. It isn’t simply a matter of his position on LGBTQ’s in Mennonite Church USA but the outright lying and misleading he did in his position of power. What is Ervin afraid of? He HAS to be afraid, because I don’t see any other motivation for using his leadership position to go around answering questions in a manner that is inconsistent with being honest.  Mountain State Mennonite Conference did not throw the Bible away when they decided to affirm licensing Theda Good. But that is precisely how he made it sound. As if anybody who seriously studies the scripture can’t possibly come up with a different conclusion than he does. He used the term not accepting Scripture at “face value.” Apparently, Ervin is a fundamentalist because fundamentalism is the dangerous theology that takes everything literally in the Bible, out of historical context, out of context of the author’s theme/whole message, and out of context of the two main commandments that Jesus gave us in Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? And He said to him, ‘You shall love the lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” And as I learned from my personal healing journey, you can’t really learn how to love your neighbors until you learn to love yourself.  Anyway, I’m getting off track.

Back to Ervin. He MUST be fearing polity change. That’s what this all boils down to. He is afraid that people would actually get behind the idea its time to reform the documents MCUSA has been living by since 2001. He’s afraid the voices he and others have been working so hard to silence can’t be silenced anymore. He stated clearly his beliefs coincide with the current MCUSA documents.  But what bothered me most is the deceitfulness in his language to fool the sheep and prevent honesty and progress.

More than hoping at least some of my words stuck with Ervin in his head, I hope my words stuck with the audience who came to hear what he had to say. Whether Ervin likes it or not, change is coming. More people are ok with lesbians and gays getting legal marriage than ever before. Christian denominations will not be able to hold on to their hateful oppression without looking like fools much longer. They are losing the younger generation and giving in to fear of conservatives with money. Fear is the opposite of love. God is love. God is not complicated. HUMANS make things complicated.

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About Jack Ladouskas

My quest in life is to look back at the end of it and accomplish two things: 1) be happy with how I lived it and 2) make a positive impact in the world. This blog is a little slice of both. I hope you enjoy it.

7 responses to “My Opinion of Ervin Stutzman at Kidron Mennonite Church”

  1. Dave Ross says :

    Jean, Sorry about the misunderstanding on who wanted to “argue” with Ervin. Hopefully, if you reread the comment, it will be clearer that I was directing that to Becky, not you.
    Thank you for your thoughts. Although my words above probably seemed directed at you in a negative light, I have deep respect for you and particularly your mission with “Jean’s Kids” which I support.
    In this current struggle in the Mennonite Church, my heart is also torn. I went to the meeting in Kidron with an open mind, and with ears to listen. I did not know what to expect. I have not entered into this discussion in any form until replying to this blog. I have however, read copious amounts of literature, blogs, discussion forums, etc for the last year and a half in an effort to understand what each side is saying, and in the hopes of understanding from a neutral point of view. Becky has informed me (above) that I have “conservative filters that do not allow me to hear the truth.”
    Don’t we all have a truth? So what happens when our truths don’t match? In every instance of “truth” we can easily find experts and PHD’s that will support and “prove” the truth that we are personally inclined to believe. This is where things get muddy. We can prove any “truth” even if the opposite is also “true”. This happens in politics and religion all the time. Choose your subject.

    I apologize, Becky and Jean, if my comments hurt you. That was not my intention. I too want truth, and hearing (reading) comments that were not accurate quotes bothered me to the point of needing to respond.

    Wouldn’t it be awesome if the meeting had been recorded, and everyone could have a chance for themselves to hear the questions, comments, and Ervin’s replies. I think that would be very helpful to all who were not in attendance.

    Blessing to you too,

    Dave

    • naturebeckles says :

      Yes. We all have truth. It is exhausting at times to get others to understand a truth from an oppressee’s perspective. Sometimes I don’t cut people enough slack because my truth has changed so much over time. I have ADHD and a lack of patience for lots of things. I am working at it. I appreciate you clarifying that you did not mean to offend. At first glance, you first reply though respectful, seemed you were accusing me of being dishonest and I wanted to make sure you knew it was not the case or done on purpose. Plus also know, I do not hold you, me or Jean to as high standards as I do leaders. I don’t know if that’s a fault of mine, but it is where I am at this time.

      Peace,
      Becky

  2. Dave Ross says :

    It’s unfortunate that Jean Hershberger has misquoted Ervin on the Pink Menno Campaign Facebook page, and you have repeated the misquotes. I’m pretty sure this is accidental, but I was at the Kidron meeting too, and it seems only honest to attempt to set the record straight.

    Jean reports, “**At one point he (Ervin) attempted to speak with the ‘voice’ of a scientist/psychologist with vague and questionable references to ‘research’. What Ervin did was quote the American Psychological Association’s words. You wanted to argue with Ervin, but he told you that he is quoting, not arguing. He said we could find the information on the web, so I did. Here it is. http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/orientation.aspx?item=4

    Jean also wrongly quoted Ervin about MSMC. ‘they did not go through a study of the scriptures’ . Ervin did NOT say this about Mountain States. He only said it about EMU, and that was to answer someone’s question about whether EMU used the scripture in their process. What he DID say about MSMC is that they felt they had included MCUSA Executive board in their decision-making process, but the Executive board feels like they didn’t. They have a difference of opinion about how the process included (or didn’t) representatives from the MCUSA board.

    It would have been nice if you could have also included Ervin’s answer to your question (in the audio file.) Just hearing your question without Ervin’s answer leaves your readers in the dark. They are left to assume the worst based on the remainder of your blog. It would have been more honest to include it. I personally felt he answered you thoroughly and from several different angles. Of course you didn’t agree, but he did answer honestly and respectfully from his perspective.

    It would also have been more honest to report that Ervin offered to talk with you afterwards, one-on-one. You needed to leave early though, so I guess that was not possible.

    Thank you for allowing feedback.

    Dave Ross

    • naturebeckles says :

      Dear Dave,

      Thank you for your reply, first of all and allow me to respond to your comments.

      First, I did not have enough phone power to record everything so I apologize for not recording his answer. His answer was ok, but not really much of an answer. He was more paraphrasing my question in his own words to make sure he understood my comments, but he did not actually answer my question other than to state he could not make any promises as far as making things less complicated.

      EVERYONE hears people through their own filters. Jean, you, me, and everyone else who was in that room interprets what was said through their own mind filters. In my opinion, Jean did NOT misquote Ervin. Even though he misapplied what each institute did different, in summary in did, in fact, accuse them of not doing scriptural study as part of their decision process. He said it multiple times. And the thing is Dave, you accuse me of not being honest, but in fact it is not honest at all to lie about institutions not doing a scriptural study.

      The fact is, Dave there are MANY resources out there that ANYONE can find like http://www.wouldjesusdiscriminate.org/ , http://www.fishoutofwaterfilm.com/ , not to mention countless blogs by LGBTQ Christians, Pastors and others that aim to inform and discuss the actual SCRIPTURAL difference of interpretating this “issue”. It is actually quite irresponsible of Ervin to not make himself aquainted with these point of views within the diverse Mennonites of MCUSA and to act as if entire conferences or educational institutions are without these resources in regards to scriptural study. And he actually DID make that accusation of Mountain State Conference. He said that First Mennonite Church of Denver DID do a study, but that the conference who affirmed First Mennonite’s decision did not. He made that clarification quite clear.

      Jean also did not misapply her summary of the American Psychiatric Association. It doesn’t matter if the science of psychology doesn’t know what causes people to be gay. More scientific evidence is concluding that’s not a psychological event at all, but a biological and genetic one. The realm of psychology is not an authority on biology and genetics. So, it is also dishonest and irresponsible of Ervin to use whatever grasping of “scientific” information he can to support his own position while ignoring the branches of science who actually ARE an authority of knowledge in this area.

      Unfortunately Dave, I do not think you are aware of information from the perspective of First Mennonite Church of Denver or of Mountain State Conference to somehow believe Ervin is an honest person. I can tell you from the knowledge I know and the frustration of being a voice not heard by some in leadership positions in MCUSA and of my own congregation, that he is not being honest. He is either honestly clueless on certain information, which makes him irresponsible in his leadership position, or he IS actually privy to the information we have been attempting to share for decades and he’s being deceptive on purpose. Since he knows of the past documents from the 80’s & 90’s and the quieting of LGBTQ and ally voices has been purposely occurring for a long time now, I think I believe he is being deceptive and dishonest on purpose.

      I am not naive, Dave. I spent four years in an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church as a teenager and am a past victim of emotional and mental manipulation. It took a lot of healing and research to get where I am today. And though I may still hear Ervin from my own filters, I can no longer give him the benefit of the doubt after what I heard that night. It’s too bad your conservative filters do not allow you to hear the truth.

      Peace be with you,
      Becky

    • Jean Hershberger says :

      Hello David Ross,
      Thank you for your reply and comments. Let me start off by saying that I did not intentionally misquote Ervin…I only meant to convey my perceptions about some of his statements and some of his responses to questions that evening. Pink Menno is a forum for supporters of inclusion designed to be a safe place to share and it is understood that posts are an individual’s personal opinions, impressions & understandings. For that reason, it bothers me that you feel the need to ‘set the record straight’ – what I recorded was what felt and the impressions that I had, so they really can’t be corrected. But, with that said, and in retrospect, when I gave Becky permission to share what I had written, I should have asked her to preface my words with a clear disclaimer that these were my opinions and feelings.

      As I shared during the town hall – my experience comes through the filter of being a mother of an amazing young gay son…a filter which also includes countless LGBT friends, co-workers and family members. My hope is for the Mennonite Church to one day welcome them completely in full membership and communion because I can’t imagine navigating life’s journey without the support of a church family.

      I’d like to respond to the points you made.

      1. Thank you for posting the link! I have an older APA pamphlet and hadn’t visited their site recently, so your link prompted me to do so. It is a great resource and I hope that folks read the entire pamphlet because it might help them better understand sexual orientation. As I read my words in your 2nd paragraph, I see that they are not fair to Ervin and not what I was trying to convey; so I’ll try to flesh out here what I really was trying to say…

      The sentence in the APA studies that Ervin summarized is just a small portion of the APA’s overall findings as reported in the “Sexual Orientation & Homosexuality: Answers to Your Questions for a Better Understanding” pamphlet. The part he summarized: “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation” has often been used to definitively justify the belief that it must be a choice. For my son, it was not a choice…and knowing many people in the church community that he loved (and who had loved & supported him in return) believed he chose to be attracted to the same sex caused him unimaginable pain…despair to the point of contemplating suicide.

      The APA findings also state: “Both heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality.”; “Lesbian, gay, and bisexual relationships are normal forms of human bonding.”; “Thus, sexual orientation is closely tied to the intimate personal relationships that meet deeply felt needs for love, attachment, and intimacy.”; “The widespread prejudice, discrimination, and violence to which lesbians and gay men are often subjected are significant mental health concerns.”; as well as outlining and giving information contrary to several misleading stereotypes (#12).

      In conclusion, please understand that when I said, “At one point he (Ervin) attempted to speak with the ‘voice’ of a scientist/psychologist with vague and questionable references to ‘research’” it was from a place in my heart that has been wounded by people who have used the ‘choice’ card to try and convince me that there is no way Jon could truly be a Christian and definitely no place for him in the church.

      (One more thought…I don’t understand why you said that I “wanted to argue with Ervin, but he told you that he is quoting, not arguing”? I didn’t reference this part of his responses when I shared…)

      It’s very late! I’ll respond to your second point tomorrow.

      Blessings to you, David,
      Jean

  3. Jay L. Troyer says :

    Thank you, Becky.

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