Readers write: November 20, 2017 issue

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November 15, 2017

More responses to Maple View’s paid supplement on sexuality

Re:Honour God with Your Bodies” insert, Sept. 25.

I find myself in the awkward position of defending my theological adversaries. I think the publication of the Maple View statement was appropriate. The authors of the statement have communicated their sincere concern to sister congregations in MC Canada through a rigorous and theologically articulate document. This represents an invitation to actual debate.

Regrettably, the statement probably comes 10 years too late. It should have been argued—for and against—within the Being a Faithful Church framework.

I also think Canadian Mennonite’s decision to allow the publication was the correct decision. I would discourage too many expressions of regret on that front, though. Otherwise, it may be too hard to do the correct thing next time around. My one suggestion is that the statement really ought to have been made available online as well.

Speaking of doing the correct thing, Matthew Froese, in his letter to the editor (Oct. 23, page 11) has the right idea. He engages with the Maple View statement and advances an alternate position.

I am quite convinced the authors of this statement have taken liberties with Scripture. However, my personal commitment is to read through, and think hard about, each of the many Scripture references in the document, when I have time. Not that it is likely to change my mind. Does anyone ever change their mind? But you never know.
Russel Snyder-Penner, Waterloo, Ont.

I applaud and support Maple View Mennonite Church for its insert and completely support its point of view. I believe the church stood up for what the Bible says and for its convictions.

The sexuality issue portion of the Being a Faithful Church process is, to me, quite ironic considering the title: We are not being “faithful” to the Word. Is the issue attendance, finances, or being seen by the community as accepting of all and inclusive?

We will succeed and grow as a church community if we are faithful, if we are truly being a faithful church.

Others have cancelled their subscriptions, and I’m borderline, no longer associating with the Mennonite church, much like others have done.
James Friesen

James Friesen attends Danforth Mennonite Church in Toronto.

I am a transplant into the Mennonite family. When we began this journey I was asked to accept the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, which I was comfortable doing. I was informed that not all Mennonites were happy with the Confession, but that it was the document we were working with.

Over these last 13 years I estimate that 90 percent of Canadian Mennonite issues contain articles suggesting change or of individuals sharing how they contradicted our Confession. We were encouraged to be tolerant, loving, peaceable and accepting, and to listen to other points of view.

I am asking what happened to that tolerant, loving attitude, when not an individual—but an entire congregation—expressed its understanding of Scripture and how to live it out?

I applaud the courage of Maple View and the courage of CM to circulate its point of view. I am embarrassed that some of my church family is ostracizing, rather than listening, loving and accepting those we disagree with.
Charles Byer, Port Rowan, Ont.

While I disagree with the position of Maple View Mennonite Church, that is not the focus of my concern here. My real concern is why Canadian Mennonite would accept it as a paid supplement and give it centre-fold status and glossy paper. I understand that, in the name of “fostering objectivity and dialogue,” the magazine feels a certain obligation to print hurtful letters condemning our LBGTQ community, but accepting money to do so is simply wrong. As a church-supported publication, it takes an implied position and negates the apology given by Mennonite Church Canada’s General Board.
Ron Harder, Kitchener, Ont.

We all interpret information through our past experiences and unconscious biases. This becomes problematic when we are emotionally attached to a particular point of view. Depending on the bias we begin with, similar comments may be understood differently. The Sept. 25, Oct. 9 and Oct. 23 issues of Canadian Mennonite demonstrate this.

The seven-year Being a Faithful Church process was a major effort in helping us to listen carefully to each other. Sadly, it and the final resolution at Assembly 2016 in Saskatoon are being understood differently.

I believe that the “Honour God with Your Bodies” insert in the Sept. 25 issue respectfully expressed the opinions of Maple View Mennonite Church. In contrast, the responding critical letters sounded disrespectful. They suggested a misunderstanding of Maple View’s perspective. We need to respect other people’s right to their opinion, just as we want our opinion respected.

The “General Board confession to the LGBTQ community” (Oct. 9, page 9), while appropriate, neglected to recognize how often the “straight” majority felt afraid to openly express our support for the official position of our denomination, a fact that I am sure is difficult for many of the LGBTQ community to comprehend. If both sides of this conversation had been listening empathetically, neither would have felt threatened.

I believe that “Canadian Mennonite responds” (Oct. 23, page 12) was appropriate. It recognized that within our church community we must respectfully listen to each other’s opinions, even if we initially disagree.
Ivan Unger, Cambridge, Ont.

I have been reading Canadian Mennonite for several years, and have had real concerns about the LGBTQ issue and the first Mennonite Church Canada-officiated same-sex wedding and the church ministers who served at the wedding (“It felt like a big deal . . . it was so powerful” (Jan. 19, 2015, page 13).

For several issues of CM, people have asked what the teaching of the magazine is on this matter, but nothing was said by the leadership. Answers came from the public and nothing from Scripture. Then came “Honour God with Your Bodies,” a very refreshing paid supplement in the Sept. 25 issue, with many scriptural references explaining biblical teaching on LGBTQ issues.

On page 9 of the next issue (Oct. 9) MC Canada’s General Board offered its “confession to the LGBTQ community.” I read the entire piece and not one Bible verse was mentioned.

No wonder the membership is confused. I would have the General Board ask Maple View Mennonite Church to set up guidelines for MC Canada on this matter. We need to get back to the Word.
Menno Unger, Kelowna, B.C.

 

Another negative response to Chosen Nation book

Benjamin Goossen’s interpretation of the Mennonite experience, especially during the time of the Second World War and the following years, has struck many of us who are survivors of that time, and descendants of those, as well off the mark.

His characterization of our people in Chosen Nation seems to me to be intentionally antagonistic and apart from the experience of our people.

The suggestion of “nationhood” for the Mennonites of Ukraine during these years seems a stretch. We were people who had been deliberately starved, exiled, shot, dispossessed of our lands; we were people whose churches had been closed for decades and whose leaders had been dragged off and killed.

The occupying German army was seen as saving our people from Stalin. It was as if a huge threat had been lifted. Churches were opened. Our people were generally treated well by the Wehrmacht; a shared language encouraged that. General anti-Semitism and the killing of Jews, however, was not part of our experience.

Timothy Snyder in Bloodlands suggests that between the horrors perpetrated by the forces of Stalin and Hitler in the killing fields of Ukraine and Poland, 14 million non-combatants were killed. It is in this vortex that this little group of Mennonites made its perilous way. To suggest that Mennonites could develop and compete for a nuanced “national identity” in this context is laughable. They were trying to survive.

Goossen’s cynical use of I Corinthians 3 suggests that the church’s foundation rests on shifting sands of national identity. But those of us who count ourselves as part of the kingdom of God also look to find the movement of God in every time and place. Those who lived through those horrific times could say that, too.
Victor Winter, Leamington, Ont.

Comments

As the dialogue on sex and gender issues continues unabated (we just cannot seem to let go of it), I'm reminded that in Matthew 22 and Mark 12, Jesus answered a question about the greatest commandment. Both gospels indicate that, in the same breath, he included a second commandment. According to Jesus, following these two commandments fulfilled the entire requirements of the law and the teachings of the prophets! When responding to others whose opinions differ from our own, it might help to remember that we are disciples of Christ and that these commandments are for us. (Of course, we could also remember 'the Golden Rule.')

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