May 21, 2023
“Are we going fishing? Surely, we’re not saying women are staggeringly off balance?” This was the MW USA Communications Team recently discussing our messaging around gender. One of us spoke Lizzo’s lyric—“If you feel like a woman, then you real like a woman.”—and the rest of us got an exercise for our inner poets!

It came up again in a draft invitation for the upcoming Coffee & Conversation with the Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests. Attempting to address the potentially limiting welcome of our name, we mused: Every twenty-four hours the Earth rotates on its axis in front of the sun, dividing one aspect of our perception of time into night and day. There is rich darkness, and sparkling stars, and less congested roadways and there is brilliant light with its warming rays and food for the greenery, but there is no real binary dividing them. There are only infinite gradations of magically gorgeous in-between times where the sky paints and the rays shimmer and the shadows dance. Maybe this is like gender. 

Beyond our name, there’s the character of our community. MW USA expresses solidarity with LGBTQIA siblings on social media. We find ourselves similarly seeking to be as we are, following our dreams and callings apart from the expectations that serve to reinforce harmful and anachronistic power structures. So, we have posted 1 John 4:7 over an LBGTQIA flag for Pride Month in June. This particular post has gone viral more than once with overwhelming appreciation and support. 

Why does a fluid embrace of “women” resonate so? MW USA has long understood ourselves to be diverse in age, ethnicity, geography and theology, and in the same way, we sense ourselves to be diverse in gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. Let’s turn to 1 John, Chapter 4, starting at verse 7 with the first paragraph of that section titled, “God’s Love and Ours” in the NIV translation with “God” replacing the masculine pronouns for God:

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed [God’s] love among us: God sent [God’s] one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that [God] loved us and sent [God’s] Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and [God’s] love is made complete in us.

Here at MW USA, we operationalize love as sisterhood among siblings. Sisterhood and this scripture both require every one of us. MW USA honors everyone’s story—especially making space for stories too long ignored—because we are all created in God’s image. We also can’t gather around the Bible, share inspiring resources, hold healing seminars, listen, give, make friends or cross divides in isolation. The scripture tells us it’s not enough to remain satisfied in God’s revelation of love to us. Love is not complete until we love one another, until we give and receive the love of God that lives in each one of us. Perhaps we resonate with the social media post because we collectively know that exchanging love from our authenticity (just as we are, just as we were made) brings us closer to the source of love.

May our God, who is love living in each one of us, hear our prayer. May we complete God’s love by living like Jesus and receiving from God’s glorious diversity. Together we seek to better understand and love the infinite gradations of magically gorgeous reflections of God in humans on Earth. Together we will engage the prophetic voice of all who feel like a woman.

This Grapevine devotional was written by Suzanne Ayer Lay
MW USA Administrative Assistant + Graphic Designer

This month we are listening to a diverse panel of LGBTQIA sisters and siblings. They will share stories of struggle and resilience surviving our collective realization towards genuine inclusivity. As they share their stories, we are all invited to sit in their wisdom and light. From the struggle, we will ask what God is calling us toward. Through storytelling and listening to one another, we will seek to see and love one another more fully.

Are you in the Goshen/Elkhart, Indiana area? Join MW USA for our next Coffee & Conversation gathering with the Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests (BMC). This special in-person gathering will include a light dinner, so must be capped at 20 participants. Please request a spot below indicating your identification as LGBTQIA or Ally so we can be sure the small group saves space for both. We are so looking forward to this, our first in-person Coffee & Conversation since the pandemic started!

Happening at the MC USA Elkhart offices (3145 Benham Avenue Elkhart, IN 46517) on May 25 at 5 pm, the first 20 sign-ups will receive confirmation to attend once everyone gets a chance register. We will message with a numbered waitlist for folks who register after the first 20.
The women gathered at this table are diverse in religion. They were called together by Erica, MW USA’s SW Regional Rep, to celebrate sisterhood! We gather with women who are similar and those that are not. How are you and your friends gathering with diverse groups of people? Send us a note and/or pictures about your gatherings to share on our social media channels so we can all celebrate with you!
Memee Yang from Minneapolis taught Sister Care and co-ed Compassionate Care seminars in Laos this past week. Pictured are some of the Sister Care participants working on their life timelines. Memee has translated the Sister Care manual into Hmong and in 2020 interpreted for Rhoda Keener and Carolyn Heggen when they taught the seminar in Thailand. Find videos from Sister Care in Laos and Thailand on our social media channels: Facebook and Instagram.
MWUSA Donors enable women to come together in hope, healing and solidarity. We circle around the Bible, guided by women authored Study Guides. We are part of an international gathering of women who reflect on self care and each other care through Sister Care. Pooling our support for Scholarships makes new spiritual leadership possible every semester. God moves in our Conversations and Moves Us to places of growth. Every time we come together in person and online we make ever more links so our gifts and networks can bind the world in God's love.

We make a difference so our sisters can make a difference. Donating makes a difference.