Mennonite Health JournalArticles on the intersection of faith and health
Controversy and Discernment
Paul D. Leichty
from Mennonite Health Journal, Vol. 17, No. 3 – August 2015
Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship (MHF) exists to explore the interface between Christian faith, human health, and the many healthcare professions in which MHF members are engaged. As we do this exploratory work, there are three major factors that affect how we think about health.
- Personal experience. As beings made in the image of God, human beings who are physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual, we come with our own personal experiences of health as we live in the world around us.
- Professional experience. As healthcare professionals, educated, mentored, and certified to provide care for the health needs of others, we are particularly attuned to the science of health and how it applies to those we see in the practice of our professions as well as society as a whole.
- Corporate faith experience. As members of the body of Christ, the church, we relate to other Christians proclaiming the vision of health as we attempt to discern the way of Christ and what it means to move toward wholeness and health as disciples of Jesus in both our individual lives and as a church.
As we do this discernment together, it is inevitable that our experience of being human, our understandings gained through education and interacting with others, and our vision of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus will reveal differences in our perspectives. These differences can easily bring controversy into the discernment process. This is illustrated most notably in today’s discussions in the North American church around issues of sexual identity and orientation, or, in popular speech, the “homosexuality issue.”
Until now, Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship has steered clear of this issue, primarily because it is controversial and MHF members have many different and sometimes conflicting views. However, the issue has come to a head for Mennonite Church USA, the largest Mennonite group in North America. This was particularly demonstrated in the July Convention in Kansas City in which delegates struggled mightily with the controversy about the relationship of persons in same-sex covenanted relationships to the larger church.
While the church is made up of humans who call themselves Christian and want to follow Christ, not all of us in the church are as well educated about the many aspects of human health as are healthcare professionals who have spent much of their lives studying these matters. Thus, as the church is looking for collective wisdom, it is increasingly calling on healthcare professionals to lend their voice to the discussion so that the science of health may augment the personal experience of health and inform the theology of health.
It is in that spirit that Mennonite Health Journal begins this discussion with articles by Carol Lehman and D. J. McFadden based on a workshop that they jointly led at the Mennonite Church USA Convention in Kansas City. These articles are not intended to be any kind of official position of Mennonite Health Journal or Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship or any of its publication partners. Both authors provide ample documentation of their sources and reasonable evidence for their conclusions, but there may be other sources and opinions as well.
MHJ welcomes letters to the editor and other short responses to these articles as we do for any article. We will use our discretion as to whether and in what form we publish such responses. What we would most welcome are additional articles from the perspective of healthcare providers that would give additional insights that are equally thoughtful and well-sourced. We will seriously consider such articles for future issues of Mennonite Health Journal.
MHJ is a forum for discussion among healthcare professionals who share an Anabaptist Christian perspective on the health issues of our time and particularly the issues faced by healthcare professionals themselves. Such a discussion serves a two-fold purpose. It encourages each of us to a greater integrity in our personal lives, our professional responsibilities, and our life of faith in Jesus Christ, and it serves as an additional resource to the larger church from the perspective of those who think about and work in the area of human health.
May God grant us grace to listen carefully, share humbly, and discern wisely as the Spirit leads!
About the author
Paul D. Leichty, M.Div. was the first Executive Director of Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship (MHF), serving from Sept. 2011 through May 2020. Paul has served as a pastor, church musician, computer support person, disabilities advocate, and administrator/organizer of a number of church-related ministries. In addition to responsibilities at MHF, Paul is Executive Director of Congregational Accessibility Network and was formerly Director of User Services at Mennonite.net. He is a member of Agape Fellowship of the Mennonite Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania where he lives with his wife, Twila Charles Leichty.