Readers write: January 1, 2018 issue

December 20, 2017 | Viewpoints | Volume 22 Issue 01
Various contributors,

 

More responses to Maple View’s paid supplement on sexuality
Re: “Honour God with Your Bodies”
insert, Sept. 25, 2017.

Thank you, Maple View! I have waited for years to see a statement such as this in Canadian Mennonite and I commend CM for publishing it. A true biblical interpretation cannot read other than that which is stated in this paid supplement. I feel it was done respectfully, honourably, kindly and truthfully, and in accordance with Scripture. 

I am not intolerant nor homophobic, but I simply cannot affirm what is forbidden in God’s Word. I have made every effort to understand this issue by studying what has been written in Scripture, as well as Christian and secular articles, and have read numerous books relating to homosexuality. I truly recognize the struggle for those who identify as LGBTQ. However, in my biblical research I find no affirmation of this way of life, but I do find opposition to it.

“Intolerance,” which is so readily ascribed to those who hold the views stated in the Maple View insert was certainly evident to the extreme in some of what was said in the responses that appeared in the Oct. 23 issue of CM

A letter in the same issue, “Silence him. We are speaking” by Helen Redekopp, is noteworthy in how it calls us back to a biblical view of the matter. Churches have withdrawn from the Canadian and regional conferences, and individual members have left the Mennonite church entirely over this very divisive issue. 

So how do we go forward from here? Whatever the answer, it must not deviate from biblical teaching. Jesus did not condemn, but he did say, “Go, and sin no more.” And as Redekopp wrote, “Sin will not ultimately be judged by the way we see it, but by the way God sees it.”
—Lorina Janzen, Waldheim, Sask.

I feel my heart grow a little colder every time someone equates faithfulness with using lots of Bible verses. This refrain has emerged again with “conversation” that the Maple View paid supplement has stirred. The insert appears to be heralded by many as a courageous return to the Bible. I, and many others, have worked hard over the years demonstrating how uninformed such a view is.

To follow the Bible is also to acknowledge that often the Bible points away from itself in God’s call for faithfulness:

  • Consider Moses, who was asked to keep the “mercy seat” clear of any fixed object so that the living God might continue to be heard (Exodus 25:22).
  • Consider the psalmist, who called out for a new song that, by definition, wouldn’t simply be repeating the old sheet music (Psalm 96).
  • Consider Paul, who had the audacity to say that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision mattered (Galatians 5:6).
  • Consider Jesus, who told religious leaders that simply searching Scripture would not lead to eternal life (John 5).
  • Consider the Holy Spirit, whose activities appear to have little regard for our best reading of the Bible (Acts).
  • Consider God, who told Peter to disobey biblical commands for the sake of faithfulness (Acts 10).

We can at least acknowledge that we are given the weighty task of discernment, and see in Scripture the difficult and contested path God’s people have travelled. At its best, this is what the Being a Faithful Church process called—and still calls—us to do.

If there is concern about how the Bible is used in our context and in these matters, I would suggest we consider the question of idolatry, the use and control of a fixed object in the place of our living God.
—David Driedger, Winnipeg
The author is associate minister of First Mennonite Church in Winnipeg.

We wish to affirm the passion and commitment that the people of Maple View Mennonite Church have for both following Jesus and taking the Bible seriously.

As part of that passion and commitment, we wish to add the following to the conversation:

Jesus was clear that everything there is to know about God and ethics, wherever written, spoken or acted upon, is to be expressive of love (Matthew 22:34-40). Paul echoes this when he says that whatever we do that expresses love, “fulfills the law” (Romans 13:8-10).Therefore, it would seem to us that when discussing same-sex marriage, all we need to do is answer the following questions, and we will know what to do:

  • If we say yes to same-sex marriage, who will be hurt and who will—or will not—experience love?
  • If we say no to same-sex marriage, who will be hurt and who will—or will not—experience love?

—Ray Friesen, Wymark, Sask.
The author is pastor of Emmaus Mennonite Church in Wymark, on whose behalf this letter was written.

I disagree with Maple View’s “Honour God with Your Bodies” paid supplement, but I think Canadian Mennonite made the right choice to publish it. We are a divided church, and sharing our values may help us to live with our differences.

I find it particularly troublesome that Maple View, in its search of Scripture, ignores the reality that Jesus did not condemn homosexuals, yet the church finds that practising gays are unfit for membership unless they live as celibates or marry heterosexually. In my opinion, there is no quantity of references in Leviticus or Numbers that surpasses the silence of Jesus, the son of God and the church’s one foundation (I Corinthians 3).

To me, any examination of homosexuality is an attempt to know good and evil. The third chapter of Genesis tells us that this desire was Eve and Adam’s forbidden fruit. Only God has the capacity to know good and evil. Eve and Adam’s offence was of such magnitude that it brought death to the human race. Both Jesus and Paul explicitly instructed people not to judge others (Matthew 7 and Romans 2).

Maple View reminds us of Paul’s beautiful image of the marriage of Christ and the church joined in a voluntary union in which spouses give their lives to each other. But at no time, in no territory, has Paul’s image been the norm in actual life. Ancient Hebrew families, including Abraham and Sarah, violated the ideal, as did Jacob, David and the people of Israel as a whole
(I Samuel 8). God noted their failures and reproached them but did not cast them off despite his disappointment with them.

I recently walked by a church with a banner which expresses beautifully the reality and mission of the church: “No one is perfect, but all are welcome.”
—John Klassen, Vancouver
The author is emeritus professor of history at Trinity Western University, Langley, B.C.

Are farmed animals worthy of our compassion?

I always read with interest in Canadian Mennonite about the various concerns of Mennonite congregations as they chart their way through the complex waters of the 21st century, but I have yet to see articles that suggest Mennonites focus on the welfare of farmed animals, although many Mennonites are hog and chicken farmers with large operations.

Yuval Harari, the Israeli historian and author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, has postulated that “industrial farming is one of the worst crimes in history,” and has called the “fate of industrially farmed animals . . . one of the most pressing ethical questions of our time” (The Guardian, Sept. 15, 2015).

I have to agree. When I see images of sows in farrowing crates and chickens in battery cages, and studies indicate that many people are starting to question what they see as the extreme practices of modern industrial farming, people like me are turning to small farms for meat and poultry products, or avoiding them altogether. 

I wonder if Mennonite farmers and consumers are wrestling with the issue, and I don’t know about it. I also wonder if, in the Mennonite view, leading a Christian life of compassion is understood to solely—or mainly—mean compassion towards human beings. Or is there a movement among us that focusses on farmed animals as beings who, as God’s creatures like us, are deserving of compassionate treatment? If so, that’s wonderful, and how can I help? If not, why? 
—Jane Suderman, Barrie, Ont.

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