After seminar leader Chris Lenshyn began his post-Christian landscape session by reading chapter 1 of Daniel, he invited participants—48 adults and one baby—to gather in twos to converse about this story of young exiles living out their faith in a foreign land.
During the 2013-14 academic year, Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) was engaged in intense conversations on and off campus regarding its hiring policy concerning individuals in covenanted same-sex relationships. Research professor Lisa Schirch sent the following letter to the university’s student newspaper, The Weather Vane, representing some of that conversation.
1. Does your church give equal status and rights to women and men? How did earlier generations explain their assumption that powerful roles were reserved for men? How much does our culture affect our attitudes when it comes to what is right or wrong in the church?
I came across an editorial by Dick Benner a few months ago and was distressed to read about the late—and highly regarded—John Howard Yoder having sexually violated 80 women “at last count” (“Healing sexual abuse,” Sept. 2, 2013, page 2). This was news to me, as I am relatively new to the Mennonite circle.
1. Why do some of us find it so difficult to talk about sexual abuse? What is it about sexual abuse and allegations of misconduct that makes them so hurtful? Is sexual misconduct an open subject in your congregation? How important is listening in the healing process?
“I really do not want more community than we already have at this church,” shared a congregant during a Sunday morning adult Sunday school discussion. “What I like about this church is that no one judges you for not being more involved or attending regularly. If we had more community, people would expect too much from me.”
1. What are some examples of things you do to support others in your family, congregation, team or club? In what situations have you received support from others? In what groups do you feel a strong sense of belonging? Have Mennonite congregations tended to take the importance of community for granted?
‘End-of-life decisions will be more complicated as time goes on. It will be necessary for the church community to be aware of the complexity of cases and to seek to find appropriate Christians responses to them.’ (Marianne Mellinger)
David Schroeder, professor emeritus of New Testament and philosophy at Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg, says that we fail to recognize that death is always with us and every day we are making life-and death-choices.
When Susan Griffiths of Winnipeg went to Switzerland a year ago to die by doctor-assisted suicide, it was headline news and re-ignited the debate around end-of-life issues. Responses to her death revealed that we are living in a time of shifting public sentiment when it comes to end-of-life issues, especially concerning euthanasia and assisted suicide.
1. Have you participated in any end-of-life decisions? Under what conditions would you consider withholding possible treatment for yourself or a family member? How would you respond to a loved one’s request for assisted suicide? Why are we so reluctant to talk about death?
The following announcement was released by Vyacheslav Nesteruk, president of the All-Ukrainian Union of Associations of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, and Aleksey Smirnov, president of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, after they met on April 8:
1. William Yoder suggests that democracy requires compromise and a sharing of power. Have you had experiences in public, church or family life where compromising or sharing power was difficult? Why is power so hard to share? What role do emotions play in these situations?
1. When you meet friends or family, what form of greeting do you use? Have you ever met anyone who used “peace” as a greeting? Does your congregation use “passing the peace” or some type of peace greeting in worship? What is the meaning of this greeting of peace?
1. What experiences have you had with prison visitation or helping someone with a painful past become settled in Canadian society? What level of acceptance would someone like Jack McKay, the pseudonymous former inmate in this story, find in your community? What social services would there be to help him? What would happen in your congregation if a former sexual offender began attending?
1. What kind of jokes make you laugh? Why do we value a sense of humour? When can laughter be disrespectful or inappropriate? What is the tipping point where there is too much laughter? How do you interpret Ecclesiastes 7:3: “Sorrow is better than laughter because a sad face is good for the heart”?
Physician-assisted suicide has been in the news a lot recently.
Last spring, Canadians watched as Winnipegger Susan Griffiths took her final journey to Switzerland to end her life, rather than face a slow, painful death from multiple system atrophy.