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Sabbath II

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Sep 24, 2014

In a chapter on “Sabbath” in her book An Altar to the World, Barbara Brown Taylor confesses to “holy envy” of how the Jews practise the Sabbath, beginning with a proper Friday evening Shabbat service and the lighting of two candles, one for each of the Sabbath commandments in Torah, both of which call God’s people to be more like God.

Where are we headed?

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Sep 10, 2014

It is almost a cliché to say that the church is in the middle of mind-numbing changes, nearing a revolutionary scale. Anglican Bishop Mark Dyer calls the situation a “giant rummage sale,” as we take a look at all our old stuff and sell what we don’t need.

A new leadership model

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Aug 27, 2014 | 1 comment

“We would benefit more if our leaders were leading more and following less,” lamented one reader in reflecting on the Being a Faithful Church (BFC) discussions at Assembly 2014 this past July. “It is very difficult to guide a scattering herd of sheep from the rear.”

Well, maybe. That sentiment reflects a style of leadership that might have been effective in the past, but is becoming more and more dated. It is apparently calling for more decisive action from the top, crafting statements that are black and white while leaving little room for nuance or grey areas.

Helplessly watching Gaza

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Aug 13, 2014

We, in North America, watch helplessly as the human carnage continues in Gaza. The continuing struggle for control of a tiny piece of land on the Mediterranean Sea—a narrow, densely populated, coastal strip 40 kilometres long and a few kilometres wide—has held our attention for a month now.

It’s the images that linger

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Jul 23, 2014

Words, words, words—millions of them filled the Loewen Auditorium during the four days of Assembly at Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg, earlier this month. Conversations, greetings, drama, spirited singing and good humour made this another inspirational gathering for delegates to the biennial event of Mennonite Church Canada.

Coming off the ‘high’

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Jul 02, 2014

By the time this editorial sees the light of print and the Internet, some 500 delegates attending our national assembly in Winnipeg will have discerned, debated, parsed and probably tired of the theme for the event:  Wild Hope, faith for an unknown season.

‘Such is the kingdom’

Editorial | By By Dick Benner | Jun 18, 2014

They sat in rapt attention, taking in every word from the 80-year-olds sitting in front of them.  The usual restlessness was gone.  The children took in every word.

It was children’s time last Sunday at our church.  It was also a new event—a special celebration of the seniors 80 years young.  There were 26 of them in our 250-member congregation that is demographically diverse—persons spread across all age ranges.  Having just satisfied our “sweet tooth” from several “birthday” cakes in the fellowship hall, you would assume the children were on a sugar high.  Not so.

Community at its best

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Jun 04, 2014 | 1 comment

Once in a great while along comes a classic literary work that gets our attention like no other, not necessarily intended or viewed at the time of its publication, but touching our minds and spirits as a rallying point in our continuing Anabaptist story.

The voice of the future

Editorial | By Willard Metzger | May 21, 2014

Willard Metzger, executive director of Mennonite Church Canada, has been invited to comment on the complexities of the relationship between Canadian Mennonite and the denomination, in part as a response to Dick Benner’s three-part series of editorials published in September/October, 2013, a series explaining the history, governance and future of this publication. These are his sentiments:

All ‘church’ is local

Editorial | By Dick Benner | May 07, 2014

“All politics is local,” is one of the enduring lines of political wisdom uttered by the salty, outspoken U.S. congressman from Massachusetts, the late Tip O’Neill, nearly three decades ago—a line that seems to be gaining momentum in the 21st century. And it applies to more than politics.

It’s time to divest

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Apr 23, 2014 | 3 comments

It’s been called the greatest human rights issue of our time. Or if that sounds too secular for Anabaptist Mennonites, let’s translate it to say it is the most pressing justice issue of our time.

Of genitals and gender

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Apr 09, 2014 | 1 comment

The timing of Mennonite Church Canada’s current segment on human sexuality couldn’t have been better. And while the Being a Faithful Church (BFC) Task Force has been intentionally silent on the matter (while congregations process the issue), the wider religious community seems to think there is nothing more important to discuss right now.

Who are the millennials?

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Mar 26, 2014 | 1 comment

They are confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change. They are more ethnically and racially diverse than older adults, less religious—while claiming to be spiritual— less likely to have served in the military and are on track to become the most educated generation in North American history.

CoSA: cautious optimism

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Mar 12, 2014 | 1 comment

Programmers and volunteers of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) across the country happily got word of a reversal of a federal government decision to cut funding that helps keep sexual offenders from reoffending.

CoSA is a highly successful program that matches a circle of volunteers with offenders convicted of serious sex crimes, such as rape and pedophilia, just as offenders are completing their prison sentences. The nationwide program operates in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and New Brunswick.

Eden and the rock

Dick Benner

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Feb 26, 2014

His passion for creation care was palatable, his enthusiasm infectious, his words direct but searing the silence. His stature was not imposing, his voice not booming and bouncing off the walls, but as he spoke his words not only reached beyond the abstractions that sometimes cloud things “environmental,” but his spirit touched ours with an almost magical resonance.

On breast-feeding

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Feb 12, 2014

The headline caught my eye: “Breast-feeding on the rise, remains an issue in the pews.”

What? I thought, as intrigue took over and I continued to read the full article from Religion News Service. Of all the issues facing the church in our 21st century, do we really have to divide over one of the most basic and natural functions of human life? Has our conversation really descended to this level of discourse?

Faithful speech

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Jan 29, 2014 | 2 comments

A letter writer in this issue questions the practice of yoga and doing labyrinths and other types of what she calls “non-biblical meditation and prayer.”

“Are these practices of the Bible?” Angela Harder asks rhetorically. “Did Jesus teach us to do these things?

Nature’s fury and blessing

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Jan 14, 2014

Bone-chilling blizzards, record-breaking deep freezes, ferocious winds, devastating floods, ice storms downing trees and power lines, leaving hundreds of thousands without heat and light.

Priority issues for 2014

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Dec 31, 2013

What will the issues be for Canadians in 2014, my American friend asked me over the Christmas break. A good but difficult question, I said to myself—a query worth sharing with my faith community for the coming year. So here goes:

The angels’ song

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Dec 11, 2013

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to [all] on whom his favour rests” (Luke 2:14) will be read and re-read in our places of worship this Advent season as well as sung with gusto, sometimes glibly, to the words of Henry Longfellow: “I heard the bells on Christmas Day.”

Still believe in peace?

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Nov 20, 2013

It’s Remembrance Day as I write this. To say that Canadian Mennonites are conflicted on this day is an understatement.

How do we respond in a culture that, even in peacetime, glorifies war as a source of national pride, and our soldiers, fallen and living, as heroic and honourable? As a faith communion, we have always taken literally Jesus’ command not to kill, to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us. Our own hall of heroes includes those who suffered in prison and died as part of a counterculture to a deeply embedded nationalism of empire over five centuries.

Glue and rough drafts

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Nov 05, 2013

“Canadian Mennonite is the glue that holds Mennonite Church Canada together,” Larry Cornies, a journalism professor and former chair of this publication’s board of directors, told our staff and regional correspondents during a two-day workshop held last month at our Waterloo, Ont., office.

Peace Prevails


Editorial | By Dick Benner | Oct 23, 2013

The local newspaper editor called it a soap opera. The local Member of Parliament tried to make the spokespersons for the historic peace churches lone fringe persons in a celebration of the War of 1812, speaking only for themselves and not for the members of the several Mennonite, Brethren in Christ and Friends (Quaker) churches in Stouffville, Ontario.

What’s ahead?

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Oct 09, 2013 | 1 comment

It was Soren Kierkegaard who said: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Independent or inter-dependent?

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Sep 24, 2013

Robert J. (Jack) Suderman flinches every time I, or anyone representing Canadian Mennonite, uses the word “independent” to describe who we are as a publication. The characterization apparently grates on his pastoral instincts to think, even for a passing moment, that we are not an integral part of the “body of Christ” as it is expressed in the institution of Mennonite Church Canada.