Disclaimer

Anything I write on this blog is my opinion only. It reflects neither policy nor consensus among the faculty and staff at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University.

Posted in Eastern Mennonite University, Living emergently, Metaphors as attractors, Social emergence | Leave a comment

A Possible Way Forward

To Summarize My Main Points about EMU and MCUSA

1. EMU is no longer a primarily Mennonite university in terms of demographics. The majority of the students are not Mennonite, particularly if you count the graduate students, Intensive English Program students, and those enrolled in the Adult checklistDegree Completion Program.

2. EMU is a powerful expression of Anabaptist values. In my view, it is the premier Anabaptist university with worldwide reach and influence. Its Anabaptist roots have created a university that is not only Christian like no other, but university like no other. We have an approach to knowledge and engagement with the world that is leading edge, because it focuses on: complex social problems that are cross-disciplinary and that require new ways of defining the problems, not just new ways of answering old puzzles. The Anabaptist commitments to nonviolence, justice and community create a frame for changing intellectual discussions that have been dominated by incorrect assumptions about human nature, our relationship with the planet, and our purpose in life. Our Anabaptist commitments also allow us to engage with powerful actors without being pulled into their frames and assumptions about the world. Continue reading

Posted in Eastern Mennonite University | Leave a comment

An OTM @ EMU on university as a parachurch organization

EMU is already functioning as a Mennonite-founded parachurch organization.

I ended my last posting with this controversial claim. So, I should explain why I say that.

I used the following definition of parachurch organizations with the phrase that is most likely to concern some of my colleagues at EMU highlighted.

Parachurch organizations are Christian faith-based organizations that usually carry out their mission independent of church oversight. The prefix para, is Greek for beside, or alongside. Most parachurch organizations, at least those normally called parachurch, are Protestant and Evangelical.

My colleague Roman Miller wrote in the Weathervane, “As a parachurch organization, I believe EMU should walk along with the church and not make a premature decision which will enhance division and mar the body of Christ.”

The question is, which church is he talking about?  I think Roman means MCUSA. That might make sense, except that parachurch organizations are not related to a single denomination. An organization related to a single denomination is a church agency, not a parachurch organization. Much as Roman might want to avoid enhancing the divisions in the Christian community and in MCUSA, the reality is we (Christians) are already divided on this issue. And we will be for quite some time, I think. Just as we have been (are) divided on the role of women in church life, divorce and remarriage, and a variety of other issues.

If we are a parachurch organization, the question is, “How can we live with our divisions while working together on other goals — such as providing a high-quality, Anabaptist-influenced education (EMU) or relieving poverty (e.g., World Vision)?”
Continue reading

Posted in Eastern Mennonite University | 3 Comments

Questions from an OTM @ EMU Part Two

Why blame EMU for the fragility of MCUSA?

Individuals on and off campus are worried that a change in EMU policy regarding hiring LGBT individuals in committed relationships will “push MCUSA over the cliff” into schism. I understand the fear. But I question logic.

I arrived at EMU just in time to help celebrate the re-merging of the schismatic Mennonite community into MCUSA. Having just published a book on negotiating worldview conflicts, I had a lot of questions. “How,” I asked Ervin Stutzman, “did you all renegotiate the worldview and cultural patterns that led to the splits in the first place?” He looked a little stunned, and then he acknowledged they had not focused on that issue, but had instead focused on the merger of organizations and other problems. Fair enough; those were difficult issues.

However, it meant that MCUSA was built on unstable ground because little or no attention was given to the underlying problems that led to the Mennonite alphabet soup (OM, OMB, MB, GC, MC…) in the first place!   Church-Stevns-Cliff-Denmark

Like the Church built on a chalk cliff in Stevn’s Cliff (Denmark), MCUSA has been moving towards the cliff since its founding.

Continue reading

Posted in Eastern Mennonite University | Leave a comment

Questions from an Other Than Mennonite (OTM) @ EMU Part One

A guest sees more in an hour than a host in a year.                (African Proverb)

As the child of a military officer, I spent a lot of time as “the guest” in various parts of the United States. It made me a keen observer of cultural norms and an attentive listener for narratives that reveal community worldviews. The tendency to share those observations and ask hard questions — and the resulting discomfort that asking questions can create — is just my personality, I think. I once told my mother, “I can’t help naming the elephant in the room.” elephantclassroom

To which she replied, “Jayne, you can’t help pointing out an ant that is walking across the room.”

BeNiceToAnts

Continue reading

Posted in Eastern Mennonite University | Leave a comment

What I want MCUSA to know about EMU

Eastern Mennonite University is not Eastern Mennonite College only bigger and with graduate programs added.

When EMC became EMU those who questioned this move were assured that the core mission of the school and its commitments to the church would not change. I believe those assurances were given in good faith, but they were incorrect. I can understand why some who opposed the change feel betrayed by what EMU has become, and I am sorry for that, but I do not think it was intentional.

I also think the changes that upset them actually started with the decision in 1982 to establish a Cross Cultural Program that requires all students to travel out into the world with faculty members. The Cross Cultural Program  set in motion new ways of thinking about education, new ideas about what the future might hold for our graduates, and a host of smaller changes that we are still feeling our way into. At its core, sending students out into the world challenges the idea that the church can (or should) remain separate from the world.

crosscultural-header-1 Continue reading

Posted in Eastern Mennonite University | Leave a comment

You left me! No, YOU left ME!

Is EMU leaving MCUSA or has MCUSA (or parts of it) left EMU?

This question came up when faculty and staff were discussing the relationship between MCUSA and EMU. It felt familiar. It probably felt familiar to anyone who has been through a divorce. At first, I thought, “Yeah! THEY left us! Or at least a whole bunch of them left us! How dare they say we are the ones leaving? They don’t send their kids here, anymore. They accuse us of betraying the church values and teachings. They question our integrity and our credentials as a Mennonite university.”

In every “divorce” there are recriminations like this, usually around who betrayed the relationship. Then I realized, this makes my stomach hurt.coupleuse

I’m not interested in having EMU and MCUSA divorce. But the relationship we have can’t continue as it is. Continue reading

Posted in Eastern Mennonite University | Leave a comment