Mennonites in Nicaragua Claim “Persecution” over Miller Case

From Life Site News (H/T Right Wing Watch):

Nicaraguan Mennonites say that they have been persecuted by government authorities since they chose to shelter ex-lesbian Lisa Miller and her daughter Isabella following their escape from the United States, but add that they are willing to suffer and even die to protect Isabella from a court-ordered custody transfer to her non-biological lesbian “mother” [Janet Jenkins].

…The letter of the Nicaragua Brotherhood does not specify which Nicaraguan Menonite churches are represented. Although its publication date is given as February of this year, it appears not to have been distributed outside of Mennonite circles. It was quoted in May in the Mennonite World Review, and was quoted in Jenkins’ lawsuit.

The letter can be seen here. It contains accusations of low-level harassment and intrusion, but there is no reason to suppose that anyone is at risk of coming to real harm.

However, one can see why Life Site News would want to promote a narrative of persecution: last month, a pastor named Kenneth Miller (no relation to Lisa Miller) was found guilty of helping to organise Lisa Miller’s escape, and Jenkins has now begun her own proceedings against him and others. Those named are (links added):

Liberty University School of Law and Thomas Road Baptist Church… Ken Miller; Lisa Miller; Timothy Miller, a pastor in Nicaragua apparently of no relation to the other Millers; Andrew Yoder and the Ohio ministry he works for, Christian Aid Ministries; Philip Zodhiates and his corporation Response Unlimited; and Winchester resident Douglas Wright.

The connections are explained in an extensive account which appeared in the New York Times at the end of July. The article includes a reference to “the family of Pablo Yoder, another pastor”, who “hosted a birthday party at their tranquil homestead”; Pablo Yoder came to wider attention last year, after he sent an email to the AP:

“God’s Holy Law never recognizes a gay marriage,” said Pablo Yoder, a Mennonite pastor in Nicaragua, in an email message to The Associated Press. “Thus, the Nicaraguan Brotherhood felt it right and good to help Lisa not only free herself from the so called civil marriage and lesbian lifestyle, but especially to protect her nine year old daughter from being abducted and handed over to an active lesbian and a whole-hearted activist.”

In August, a blog called Ain’t Complicated reproduced an article from “Pablo’s Newsletter”, in which Yoder described meeting Lisa Miller and her daughter in Managua in March 2010. Yoder was impressed by Miller’s spiritual progress, noting that “though she started wearing modest apparel strictly for disguise, it started to work on her after she lived in Managua”, and he added that “we are saddened now to know that they had to go into hiding at a later date.” However, this is slightly odd; the meeting was months after the court-ordered custody transfer date, so she was already in effect “in hiding”.

Pablo Yoder is a member of the Beachy Amish Mennonites, named after Bishop Moses Beachy. He is the author of a number of books, including an autobiographical account of his youth in Costa Rica after his parents relocated from Virginia. Since 1995, he and his family have been engaged with “evangelization, church planting, and ministry in Waslala, Nicaragua”.

At the outcome of Kenneth Miller’s trial, according to the New York Times, “more than 100 of Mr. Miller’s supporters from the Beachy Amish-Mennonite sect… gathered outside the courthouse to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ and other hymns.” However, not all Mennonites approve of his action, and a recent article by Tim Huber in the Mennonite World Review is highly critical:

Refusing to obey laws that violate one’s conscience is an Anabaptist tradition, but aiding a kidnapping exceeds justified civil disobedience… It is far from obvious that Lisa Miller is a fit mother and Jenkins is not, and it seems presumptuous for Ken Miller to claim to know who deserves custody.

Lisa Miller is wanted by Interpol and the FBI. Federal marshals are hunting her in Nicaragua. Church members fear their phones are tapped. All because some Anabaptists in Virginia were willing to do what even Liberty University wasn’t willing to do itself.

Ken Miller and his supporters claim to “gladly submit” to the state but fought charges the state brought against him. Mercy may have been the motive, but the actions stand on shaky ground, theologically and legally.

(Name variations: Nicaraguan Brethren; Nicaraguan Brotherhood)

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