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Readers write: Nov. 6, 2017 issue

Nov 01, 2017 | Volume 21 Issue 21

Manitoba church celebrates pastoral couple’s retirement
Carman Mennonite Church celebrated a retirement party on Aug. 27, in honour of Bob and Martha Pauls, who had served our church for 17 years.

The morning service was a more private event, during which we were encouraged to let our tears flow, and we did. The afternoon was more open, and many visitors attended from other churches, especially from Bob’s former congregation, Home Street Mennonite Church in Winnipeg.

Back in 2000, our Carman congregation was experiencing a grieving experience after our young pastor, Dave Wilson, passed away due to terminal cancer. In my last visit with him in the hospital, he encouraged us to promptly fill the vacancy left by his passing.

In our first interview with Bob, the positive signals were overwhelming and convincing. When they were young, both Bob and Martha were baptized and nurtured in Carman Mennonite Church, so it was really a homecoming for them.

After 17 years, the search committee’s affirmative recommendation has been fully vindicated. Bob has truly demonstrated the attributes and qualities of spiritual leadership. A remarkable feature of his ministry was performing hospital baptisms to dying patients, at their request.

Bob has also worked well with our first youth pastor, Jarrod Chamberlain, and our current pastor, Karen Schellenberg.

As a church, we want to sincerely thank the conference, and particularly Sig Polle for his counsel and skills, in helping us navigate through this process of selection.

Erdman (Ed) Klassen, Carman, Man.

 

Thanks for the challenging editorial

Re: “Making space for the Spirit,” Sept. 25, page 2.
Your excellent editorial encouraged us to “make space for the Spirit,” and, in so doing, to trust that the Holy Spirit can nudge and guide all of us, regardless of our understanding on committed same-sex relationships. You quoted John Paul Lederach, who suggested that we build a life-long friendship with someone with whom we disagree on this question. Thank you for your challenge to us to practise a “Christ-mandated love towards those with whom we disagree.

Fran Schiller, Ottawa
The writer attends Ottawa Mennonite Church.

 

Chosen Nation leaves out the role of Mennonite women
Re: “Menno-Nazi connection unconvincing,” Aug. 28, page 31.
As a historian and Mennonite community leader, I agree with Barbara Draper that Benjamin Goossen’s arguments in his book Chosen Nation: Mennonites and Germany in a Global Era are unconvincing. Clearly, a more-accurate, less-condemning and much-more-complete account of Mennonite life in Russia during this period needs to be researched and written.

While his understanding of the evolution of Mennonite life in Prussia leading up to and including the Nazi assumption of power in Germany is written with detail and comprehension, his understanding and interpretative narrative of Mennonite life in Russia, particularly from the 1920s to 1940s, is based on erroneous assumptions and a minimal grasp of the Russian Mennonite experience during those tumultuous years. He forgets to explain that in the 1930s most Mennonite men had been exiled, imprisoned or executed, leaving families to be led by mothers and grandmothers, whose only goal and focus was to survive. This was the prevailing experience for the majority of Mennonite families, including my own.

These very mothers continued to plant and nurture seeds of faith in their children. Many of these children, and their offspring, have been faith leaders in our churches, schools and conferences because of their core faith values, which have transcended all ethnic, linguistic, cultural and socio-economic boundaries.

Mennonites were, as a whole, not collaborators, anti-Semites or Aryan, as Goossen argues. They lived next to Ukrainians, Germans and Jews. Although Mennonites under German occupation witnessed how their Jewish neighbours packed up and fled, they did not know about the outcome of this fleeing until much later.

Linda Tiessen, Leamington, Ont.
The writer is the administrator of Leamington Mennonite Home.

 

Readers react to ‘a condemnation followed by a scolding’
Re: “Silence him. We are speaking” letter, Sept. 25, page 11.
How disappointing it was to see Helen Redekopp’s response to the very positive, forward-moving question by John Neufeld (“Constants in the context of change,” July 24, page 14). Neufeld asked what we might suggest before the church begins restructuring. The question provided an opportunity for an opening of hearts and minds, and an unfolding of visions.

Sadly, however, the only response offered was a condemnation followed by a scolding. The focus of her concern: homosexual relationships and same-sex marriage. She calls for church decisions on this matter to be made “on a biblical basis,” citing Leviticus 18:22 as the support for her position. Further, she contends that decisions based on interpretive readings of the Bible constitute a “sin of insubordination.”

If biblical directives are to be obeyed literally, she would necessarily also have to agree, as further directed in Leviticus 20:13, that couples in same-sex marriages “must be put to death.” Surely she would not agree to this directive, but, using this line of reasoning, that would amount to “overruling what God has to say on this issue,” which, in her words, is a “sin of insubordination.”

In the light of even these few examples from Leviticus, it becomes evident that making judgments based on literal readings of selected Bible verses is a fraught endeavour, especially when these judgments are used to take away the basic human rights of people.

Renate and Bill Schulz, Winnipeg

 

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

Over the past several years, our church has experienced an influx of people. The reasons are varied and diverse, but one of them is that they know we try to create a safe space for the LGBTQ community, their families, friends and allies.

The paid insert that “grieved the BFC recommendations” was unasked for, and runs contrary to the spirit of the Being a Faithful Church recommendations of making space to test alternative viewpoints. Furthermore, the paid supplement hinders the work of local congregations that are trying to create the safe spaces needed for the LGBTQ community.

We trust Canadian Mennonite with the home address of our church members. Through Mennonite Church Canada, we help pay for your magazine to be sent to our houses. After your decision to distribute this paid supplement, I am deeply disappointed.

Kyle Penner, Steinbach, Man.

 

I found the paid supplement submitted by Maple View Mennonite Church very refreshing. I thought it could not be stated clearer what it means to be “a faithful church.” Truly, God has given this church leaders who have a clear vision of what the Bible teaches. In the same issue, I found the letter by Helen Redekopp (“Silence him. We are speaking,” page 11) to be very well written.

In our time, we love to read the Psalms in church. Why not also the Revelation of John? In our denomination, we would do well to read the letter to the church at Pergamum in Revelation 2:13-17.

Isaak Eitzen, St. Catharines, Ont.

 

The four-page “reference statement” from Maple View Mennonite Church includes this self-evident observation: “Speech, including humour, which demeans LGBTQ people, has no place in the Christian community.”

It’s ironic and hypocritical, therefore, that elsewhere the statement asserts that the cause of same-sex attraction is irrelevant because “it does not reflect God’s intention and does not render homosexual behaviour acceptable to God.” The conclusion reached is that “we therefore will only authorize and recognize heterosexual marriage.” Those assertions, along with others found in the statement, obviously demean LGBTQ people: their behaviour is unacceptable and their conjugal unions are not worthy of recognition.

The editorial that introduces this issue encourages readers to be open to opposing viewpoints, to “move beyond judgment to a posture of listening and caring.” Perhaps this is good advice, but does Maple View’s statement “move beyond judgment” in its assault on the dignity of LGBTQ relationships? It sound pretty judgmental to me in its claim that same-sex relationships are unacceptable.

It was an affront to have such demeaning material delivered to my home. Please cancel our subscription.

Mark Morton, Kitchener, Ont.

 

Thank you to Maple View Mennonite Church for the insert in the Sept. 25 issue of Canadian Mennonite.

It is important to recognize that there are people and congregations that have examined this issue biblically and feel convicted, as outlined in the insert. Is it not okay for a Christian magazine to include this type of information outlining how a congregation is convicted and has interpreted the Bible on this issue?

Many issues of Canadian Mennonite have upset me as well in their liberal thinking on some issues, with sometimes little difference from my local secular newspaper.

In my position as administrative assistant at a Mennonite Church Eastern Canada congregation, I struggle with signing new congregants up for Canadian Mennonite due to the almost-secular content.

Christianity is not meant to conform to the beliefs of the world around it. Would the Anabaptists who were martyred for their faith recognize the church they died for?

Janet Weber (Facebook comment)

 

In the past, I have valued the inserts placed in Canadian Mennonite by our schools, camps and financial institutions, to name a few. All of them, I believe, have provided us with good information and options to consider.

This Maple View Mennonite Church insert had a very different feel. I do not feel it was intended to invite further dialogue with diverse opinions. I would suggest that Canadian Mennonite not allow itself to be bought by paid inserts when the topic at hand is one that is divisive and hurtful to individuals and the body as a whole.

Audrey Mierau Bechtel, Saskatoon
The writer is a member of Wildwood Mennonite Church.

 

I commend Maple View Mennonite Church on the publication of “Honour God with Your Bodies” in Canadian Mennonite. The article is clear and biblical, and should be very helpful  to all readers, especially those who went to the Mennonite Church Canada assembly in Winnipeg last month.

Cornie Martens, Rabbit Lake, Sask.

 

I was saddened to see that Canadian Mennonite chose to include the paid supplement from Maple View Mennonite Church in the Sept. 25 issue.

I am a strong supporter of the Being a Faithful Church decision and I fully acknowledge that Maple View has every right in its local context to reaffirm Article 19 of the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, just as other churches have been given room to “test alternate understandings.” What I do not support is the publishing and distribution of a hurtful supplement by Canadian Mennonite.

Although it may have been written out of a desire for helpful discourse, it was forced upon LGBTQ Mennonites in their homes. That is an abuse of Canadian Mennonite’s power. It is this magazine’s job to protect its readership from abuse. Yes, we can talk about hard things together in these pages, but that is done through the curation of an editorial team to bring context and diversity to the discussion, to be the gentle hand that helps guide the conversation and widens our perspective.

Being a distributor for other people’s content who are willing to pay is just not acceptable. I do not believe that this error was done intentionally, but it was a substantial lapse in judgment by the decision-makers at Canadian Mennonite.

What might be thought to be just a healthy debate from a person speaking abstractly can be experienced as a traumatic attack to a person who has a different lived experience. The Mennonite tribe is a diverse one that has way more than just two sides, and we need to be equally expansive and sensitive in our discourse. We can no longer write about LGBTQ people as if they are not members within our national church. It is just not true.

Randell Neudorf, Hamilton, Ont.
The writer is pastor of The Commons in Hamilton.

 

I applaud Canadian Mennonite for publishing the insert on behalf of Maple View Mennonite Church. Many churches in the denomination, and those that have left, still agree with the views expressed by this congregation. Well done.

Garry Fehr, Rosetown, Man.

 

In reading Maple View’s positional paper, it is apparent the congregation is trying to find a careful but faithful balance between the gracious love of God, on the one side, and the truth of God, on the other.

But I have come to realize that God’s love and God’s truth are fully realized together when we focus on what brings life to people and ourselves.

Throughout church history, God’s truth has often been understood as the knowledge of good and evil. While such knowledge may to be tempting to attain, it does not bring life to us. Instead, such knowledge of good and evil soon becomes beliefs and laws that are used against us and others. This is why the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8 that the law cannot save us, and he goes on to say that only the spirit of life found in Christ can set us free from the law of sin and death, a fallen law based on eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. But the spirit of life found in Christ is the same fruit that is found on the Tree of life in the Garden of Eden.

When you focus on what brings life to people, you begin to see that truth and love come together as one.

This is why I support Mennonite Church Canada’s resolution that allows a space of grace for Mennonite churches that are testing other ways of being faithful in relating to people of different sexual orientations. These churches are sensing that there must be other ways to minister to all people who are seeking faithfully to follow the way of Jesus, without having to exclude anyone.

Gord Alton, Baden, Ont.
The writer is pastor of Mannheim Mennonite Church in Petersburg, Ont.

 

‘Is there still room for voices like ours?’ Maple View pastor asks
It has been painful to learn that some have received Maple View Mennonite Church’s “reference statement on sexuality, marriage, gender identity and same-sex attraction” in the Sept. 25 issue of Canadian Mennonite as a cruel and violent assault. I know that many in the LGBTQ community already carry a great weight of personal suffering. We do not want to be a church that “ties up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders” without being “willing to lift a finger to move them” (Matthew 23:4).

The LGBTQ Christian community includes people of diverse theologies and convictions about what it means to be faithful to Jesus in the realm of sexuality. Some share our church’s understanding of biblical teaching on sexuality and do not experience it as a rejection of who they are: people created in the image of God whose identity is anchored in Christ.

In New Testament scholar Wesley Hill’s Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, for example, the author places his own experience of same-sex attraction within a theological framework quite compatible with ours. As our church was testing and revising our “Honour God with Your Bodies” document, one person among us who experiences same-sex attraction expressed appreciation for its message and made suggestions for strengthening it. He was grateful it makes “clear that homosexual relations of any kind are sinful” while offering “all people the hope of the gospel,” whatever their struggle.

As a congregation, we know we have much to learn about how to walk well with people who experience same-sex attraction or wrestle with questions of gender identity. Even so, we believe it is possible to love others even when we do not agree with their sexual ethics.

I believe that Maple View’s understanding of sexuality reflects what is still (nominally) the official position of Mennonite Church Canada. Is there still room in the denomination for voices like ours?

Brent Kipfer, Wellesley, Ont.
The writer is pastor of Maple View Mennonite Church in Wellesley.


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