By Stephen Kriss
Mennonite historian and retired pastor John Ruth once told me that if you don’t have gelassenheit, you really don’t have anything as a community. Gelassenheit (yieldedness) is a hallmark of our Mennonite story. In our historical moment, it’s a counter-cultural thing.
Gelassenheit is a willingness to put my own conscience or belief in the context of community and to yield my own position to the discernment of the group. It is the opposite of fight or flight. It’s remaining, staying, maybe even holding to your own viewpoint, but yet yielding.
While this yieldedness has possibilities for abuse, it also has an immense power in our time of individualism and consumerism. Typically we humans think of ourselves first and then those we consider like us (by biology, ethnicity, geography, politics, faith, language, or citizenship.) Our commitment to those who are different diminishes within diversity, rather than strengthened through intentional engagement.
It is the opposite of fight or flight. It’s remaining, staying, maybe even holding to your own viewpoint, but yet yielding.
In Mosaic, we are trying what can feel like an impossible thing by holding together some of those differences under the Spirit of Pentecost. We choose this community together, continuing the commitments of baptism to give and receive counsel and to identify with Jesus by walking together. We choose, in the face of diversity and adversity, not fight or flight, but engagement and connection.
At our recent Conference Assembly, we discerned a pathway together, a compromise with a two-year maximum timeline. While 81.5% of us found this to be an affirmable option, 20% of us didn’t. Our task now as Mosaic leaders is to hear the reservations of that 20%, some who think the process is too quick while others too slow, and to diligently include those concerns going forward.
We are not a community that simply allows the majority to rule. We take the concerns of everyone seriously. In this way, the church can bear witness to the reconciling love of Jesus in a way that isn’t evidenced often in political or economic realms. We are still one community, with one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God who is above all and through all and in all even when we are not quite of one accord.
I am committed to hearing the concerns and cautions (I read all the ballot comments before writing this article). A red vote didn’t mean you don’t love or know what it means to be Mosaic, nor that you weren’t ready to go the second mile in the spirit of Chesed. It meant you thought the plan was imperfect, not the best option, or you hoped for something else. I hear that. We all need to hear that, and also continue to move forward.
As a leader, I am committed to the principle of leaving no one behind. It comes from battlefield tactics and understandings. But it also comes from my sense of faithfulness in believing that the loudest or quickest person doesn’t negate the perspectives of those who speak more quietly or slowly or have yet to discern. God speaks in rolling thunder and in the still small voice as well. We need space for both and time to consider our way. There are times when we need to be quick and responsive, but also times when we need to be slow and contemplative. We will need to balance these realities together. We are both broken and beautiful, strong and weak.
In the next weeks, the Board and staff will begin to work at implementing pathway recommendations. There will be opportunities to begin to help shape this process further together. All of us will be invited to engage across our varieties of difference in Mosaic. I hope we will be able to yield to the process of our imperfect discernment for now, trusting the Spirit to keep working within us on the way and beside us in paths of mutual transformation and renewal.
Stephen Kriss is the Executive Minister of Mosaic Conference.