Tag Archives: theology

Reflections on “All You Need is Love”

All You Need is Love
In worship we were led to dance, singing “Walk into the holy fire, step into the holy flame.” Photo by Nekeisha Alexis-Baker/AMBS

by Diane Bleam, Bally congregation

A lot has changed since I last attended a Women Doing Theology Conference in Bluffton, Ohio in 1994.  I was excited to attend “Anabaptist Women Doing Theology Conference: All You Need is Love” in Leesburg, VA on February 20-22 for some theological stimulation as well as to observe how young women are experiencing theology in the church today.

The most refreshing aspect of this conference for me was sharing with women from other ethnic groups, hearing their experiences, joys, and struggles as women leaders in the church.  As one of the older attendees, most of whom were young women, I was encouraged by the energy and competency of many women and by their ability to step out and take risks.

I found that racial and ethnic differences are still an issue, although the issues are sometimes more subtle as we have become more sensitized to the long-standing oppression of many women.  I was reminded how very difficult it is to overcome historical assumptions, whether related to gender, ethnic, or sexuality biases.

The women I met were strong women, women willing to take risks, while at the same time giving and receiving affirmation and appreciation, as evidenced by many public expressions of thanks and praise of work well done.  It reminded me of the difference between a gathering led by men, with brief acknowledgements of thanks (maybe), and a women’s banquet, where everyone gets flowers.  Not that one is necessarily better than another, just different.

While I didn’t notice much anger, I did notice a lot of determination.  There was also grief and joy; many of us shed tears at different times.  There were calls for justice in the face of any kind of oppression, and calls for solidarity among women.  While I was sometimes uncomfortable being with so many women because I’ve spent most of my public ministry working with men, it was refreshing to see women learning from one another and being strong supports to one another.

Women being created in the image of God inspired rich experiences of worship and rituals.  God’s immanence was emphasized as we sought to find God’s presence within ourselves.

If the conference schedule was an indication, much is expected by and from women today.  I returned from the Conference exhausted, missing my own youthfulness, while at the same time feeling that these young women are well-prepared to go beyond those who came before.  I’m excited to see where they take us.

‘Tis a gift to be complex

by Emily Ralph, eralph@franconiaconference.org

John Rempel preaching at Salford on Sunday. Photo by Ben Wideman.

We’re a simple people, right?

Yes, I’m a seminary student, but I am often frustrated with those who want to find answers for every single question in the Bible or to debate all the ins and outs of theology.  I’m comfortable with a simple faith that learns and accepts, that ponders and lets go, that embraces the ambiguity.  I only need to understand theology as far as it affects the way I live.

I assumed I thought this way because I’m postmodern, but Sunday evening John Rempel suggested that I may just be steeped in a historic Mennonite worldview.

Rempel, professor at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Indiana, gave a presentation at Salford on helping congregations discuss difficult issues theologically.  He said that traditionally, Mennonites haven’t tried to create a theology that answers every possible question.  In fact, the Anabaptist impulse was in response to what seemed to them to be too much theology and not enough practice.

The Mennonite ideal has been to keep the question as simple as possible and get on with living the Christian life.  But questions these days are not so simple—in fact, they are growing in complexity.  Unfortunately for us simple folk, said Rempel, the more complex the challenges, the more complex the answers have to be.

And this calls for serious theological reflection.

As Anabaptists, we believe that every follower of Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit and that God can and will speak through any member of the church.  But we also believe that the Holy Spirit is in community, so we collectively struggle to decide how we are to behave as Christians, Rempel said.  How exciting!

How terrifying.

It suggests that the word of God is living and active.  It suggests that we trust the Holy Spirit in one another to bring us to unity on divisive issues.  It suggests that we struggle and wrestle and persevere.

So where do those of us who are allergic to deep theological reflection start?  First, find a healthy balance between prophetic leadership and the priesthood of all believers, Rempel said.  Then look at biblical themes (also called “trajectories”), especially those of grace, hospitality, covenant, and discipline… and discern solutions that do justice to all of them.  We also need to accept new understandings of the Bible that adapt to our culture, according to Rempel, while still honoring traditional interpretation.

Am I the only one that feels exhausted?  How many balls do we have to keep in the air?

And yet there is freedom in the possibility that our answers don’t have to be simple, that there is room for nuance.  There is hope if we will give ourselves permission to experiment—together.  There is a promise of peace if we simple folk can learn to embrace a little complexity now and again.