Maple View insert: Canadian Mennonite responds

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October 18, 2017
, Publisher

The Sept. 25 print issue of Canadian Mennonite contained an insert from Maple View Mennonite Church entitled “Honour God with Your Bodies.” Some readers have asked about the rationale for its inclusion, many expressing pain, anger and confusion about its contents, and the fear that it will do further harm to LGBTQ Mennonites who have suffered rejection, shaming and exclusion from the body of faith, and to the church as a whole.

We have been deeply impacted by the stories we have heard. We regret the harm this insert has caused.

We want you to know that the decision to accept this insert was not taken lightly, but in response to the recommendations of the Becoming a Faithful Church (BFC) process.

CM publishes paid “promotional supplements” as an option for companies, organizations and church bodies to present their goods, services or ideas to our readers in the form of an insert that looks and feels different from the magazine. A supplement offers a sponsor control over format, paper stock, and content without the same editorial oversight given to news and viewpoints pages. While these inserts obviously generate revenue, the content must fit our editorial policy. CM has rejected requests when the insert does not, for example, represent a body related closely to the Mennonite church and its mission.

When Maple View Mennonite Church, a member of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, approached CM about having a place to present its conclusions on its three-year participation in the BFC process, this was the vehicle it chose—certainly an unconventional one for a single congregation. This included having it stapled in the centre spread, so it wouldn’t slip out during mailing and could then be easily detached. Our staff was in dialogue with the church over a period of months. Because of the sensitive nature of the topic, we also discussed it with our board and church leaders. Because Maple View is a member of our church body, and the magazine’s stated mission includes helping diverse voices speak to the larger church, the difficult decision was made to allow the church’s statement to appear in a promotional supplement.

We believe making space for this is consistent with the recommendations of the BFC process, as the recently released General Board Confession states: “The General Board decided at the outset, that the process of the BFC should reflect the congregationally based polity of the denomination. This meant that discernment of faithfulness would emerge from the congregations and not only from the academy, advocacy groups, institutional structures or a representative committee. The BFC Task Force was mandated by the General Board, not to do the discerning, but to design a process that would allow all voices in our church to speak, to be heard, and to hear what others were saying.”

CM’s mission is “to educate, inform, inspire and foster dialogue on issues facing Mennonites in Canada . . . .” We recognize that this is a difficult and painful conversation, particularly for those who have experienced it in a deeply personal way, and we need to keep learning how to facilitate it. How do we “allow all” of us to speak, to be heard and to hear?

To read some readers’ letters responding to the insert, go to: www.canadianmennonite.org/readers-write-october-23-2017-issue and www.canadianmennonite.org/stories/readers-write-nov-6-2017-issue

Comments

Hi Steve, thx for the reply. God, in Her omnipresence and omnipotence, would like us to live in harmony and respectful love. I'm glad that you enjoy the paid insert and that it confirms your beliefs. Please remember, God shines Her light on all of us equally. Isn't it better to be compassionate and find similarities in bringing people together rather than trying to find differences to drive them apart? There's an excellent article you may want to peruse ("God is a lesbian...") to gain further knowledge and develop your perspective. Good luck with you're Biblical scholarship and I hope it helps you to expand your horizons. It's been wonderful to have had this opportunity to share ideas with you.

Steve, biblical references to God as a “father” are metaphorical. They don’t actually mean that God has male genitalia. Accordingly, it’s quite appropriate to conceive of God as male or female or neither or both.

Mark, unfortunately you're misguided in your logic. First off, we know that God the Father is Spirit (Jn 4.24) and therefore is not male in the same way you and I are. That, however, by no means gives us license to then conclude God is female. One statement does not logically follow from the other as you claim.

Please study the Bible to see where God is described as male in the Bible. If you do you will find that it is with metaphor ("God the Father"). Then also note how whenever God's female attributes are described in the Bible they are done with the use of simile. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling" (Lk 13.34).

There is a massive difference between the two, and failing to discern this difference leads to critical theological error, just as you have demonstrated. Furthermore, Jesus was quite content to continually refer to God as Father. Are you saying you have superior knowledge (Gnosis?) about God's nature than Jesus, who is the only one to have seen God (Jn 1.18)? Or are you saying, as many Mennonites currently suggest, that the scriptures are merely a product of patriarchal culture and therefore cannot be trusted? If that is the case we'd better toss out the parts of the Bible we like as well, such as the Sermon on the Mount, in order to be consistent.

It's worth taking a closer look at the root languages here, though, since they are all gendered languages and their handling of gender in grammar is different from English and from each other. So when you say that God the Father is Spirit, in the Greek of John the word for spirit is neuter, while paired at times with masculine grammar and sometimes with feminine imagery. In contrast, the Hebrew word for the Spirit of God is feminine, as it is in Aramaic, so it's likely that the gender implied by the language used to describe the Spirit of God switched from feminine to masculine when the words that Jesus spoke about the Spirit were translated into Greek.

Yes, the word for Spirit in Greek is neuter but Jesus himself clarifies that the actual person of the Spirit of God is male.

"Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you." (Jn 16.7)

As I said in the previous post, in order to discount the continual references Jesus himself makes to the Godhead as masculine, not feminine, you will either need to claim to be smarter than Jesus or simply acknowledge that you don't believe in the authority of the Bible. Either scenario is quite frightening and completely at odds with what it means to be Anabaptism Christian.

The better approach to understanding biblical truth is to cease approaching the Bible with presuppositions, then proof-texting to support that argument. Instead, simply believe God's word is true and humble yourself in living in obedience and submission to it. The Bible is really not that complicated, even a 5 year old can grasp the main ideas behind it.

The real issue at play here is that many so-called Christians today are living lives of moral compromise and sin and do not want to submit to God's commandments. Instead they produce countless red-herring arguments, such as the one you are indulging in here, to divert attention away from the very straightforward demands of the scriptures. Please stop this nonsense, humble yourself and repent before God. Otherwise The Holy Spirit will continue to veil your eyes from seeing truth.

Steve, at some point you may want to shake loose the shackles of patriarchy and experience God in all Her glory. Being bound by dusty tomes is limiting at best. Scholarship without direct experience is pointless. Open your heart and mind and experience the wonder of God and your limited view will become infinite. The doors of perception can only be cleansed through direct experience. Try it, you might even like it.

Richard, it is a tell-tale sign that one's argument is empty when a person reverts to personal accusation, insults and sarcasm.

As I've said before, please humble yourself before God and stop this nonsense. What I am articulating theologically is orthodox Christian belief that Menno Simons himself endorsed.

Jesus' warning (Matt 18) to those who teach others to stumble into sin is very sobering, and when individuals, like yourself, go online encouraging people to believe things that are not true about God they are actually helping them to stumble. I ask you with all sincerity to stop what you are doing and repent.

I pray for you, Steve, that you will encounter the living God and begin to live by faith, following Jesus. It will likely not be easy to give up the certainty of allegiance to a book to live by faith in God, but both the OT and NT are replete with stories of God's deliverance from idolatry. I am sorry if this hurts and for the tone which might well come off as self-righteous and accusatory, but I sense your openness to valuing truth above all else, and that that will help you filter out any hubris I, in my fallen humanness, may have introduced into this dialogue. I really am sincere and I do pray for you.

Hi Craig,

I will take your comments as sincere, and as a result your prayers as well. Unfortunately, you are the one who is deceived. Greatly, in fact. If you stop to consider what you are saying you might realize how erroneous you are. You say, "It will likely not be easy to give up the certainty of allegiance to a book to live by faith in God, but both the OT and NT are replete with stories of God's deliverance from idolatry."

Are you actually saying that having a certainty and allegiance to the Bible as the word of God is idolatrous, and that it's antithetical to having faith in God? If so, you are also calling Jesus idolatrous because he affirmed the absolute authority of the scriptures himself.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." (Jesus, Matthew 5.17-18)

In reality, the reason the Bible is "replete with stories of God's deliverance from idolatry" is precisely because God's people failed to live according to the commands of God in the Bible. (You've completed cancelled out your own argument.)

I urge you to further consult our denomination's Confession of Faith (article 4) and the entire historical witness of the believing church for the past 2000 years, which declare that the Bible is authoritative for living the Christian life.

You're not only uttering heresy, Craig, by implying the Bible is an idol, but you're displaying your immense ignorance on this issue as well.

I was dismayed to see the paid supplement from Maple View Mennonite Church published in the Canadian Mennonite. Regardless of the viewpoint expressed, sponsored content is not an appropriate venue for dialogue on any topic, especially one that has already proven to be divisive and hurtful. Giving a megaphone to one voice (the one who offers to pay for it) after inviting dissenting voices into a difficult conversation is no way to foster dialogue, nor does it allow all voices to be heard.

I urge the Canadian Mennonite to review its policies around paid supplements so that our conversations are not dominated by those who can pay to have their voice amplified above all others.

Joanne Thiessen Martens

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