My vision for Canadian Mennonite

March 30, 2011 | Editorial | Number 7
Dick Benner | Editor/Publisher

“I have never heard the editor’s vision for the magazine,” said a reader when asked what she thought of Canadian Mennonite. The observation caught me up short. Assuming my vision was implicit in the biweekly conversation I engender, being explicit with my goals and aspirations didn’t seem necessary.

To do so might even be redundant, I reasoned. Apparently, I am wrong. With each change of editors, some readers would like to know what roadmap or blueprint they are following. Here goes:

Canadian Mennonite should, first and foremost, serve the interests of its readers—members of, and those attending, the 220 congregations making up Mennonite Church Canada, totalling, at this point, some 32,000. These persons, by definition, have made a faith commitment to follow Jesus Christ and find themselves, in large part, historically linked to an Anabaptist-Mennonite expression of that faith in word and deed.

That expression is not fixed in time, however, but is dynamic and a primal force as the culture changes. This not to say that we are “tossed about with every wind of doctrine,” but rather that the gospel—or the unchanging Word (good news)—adapts itself to its surroundings, finding new ways to express itself, applying itself anew in the prevailing culture.

To that end, Canadian Mennonite will carry stories and features that help us apply our faith in an increasingly consumer-driven, nationalistic, multicultural and, yes, secular, society. Our faith, though grounded in the biblical narrative, needs to be relevant to our time and place, adaptive to changing societal norms and life-giving to persons at all stages of the life cycle—from the young in their formative stage, to parents and middle-agers as they implant spiritual values in the next generation, and to the seniors in their wisdom and generosity.

To do this, we will draw on all of the resources, all of the abundant gifts of our body politic. We have been gifted by God with the prophetic voices and clear thinking of our academic communities, the compassion and inspiration of our many pastors, the expertise of many dedicated persons in the varied professions and business, the down-to-earth but often unnoticed contributions of special lay persons, the vision of our young persons seeking faith applications in a very different environment than that in which their parents and grandparents grew up.

And speaking of young persons, we are quite aware, through our own studies, that we have an aging readership, one that is appreciative and loyal and generous to a fault. For that, we are most grateful. Many of you are enthusiastic with your comments, dollars and constructive suggestions.

Since our young, aged 18 to 35 let’s say, live largely in a technologically driven world, the printed word has less appeal than the electronic venue. Canadian Mennonite, perceived by them as one of the church’s institutions, does not command their loyalty or inspire them to the same degree as their elders.

In a discussion by our board, we are making specific plans to address the young audience. A student intern, to be hired this summer, will develop a youth section of the magazine, which will reference a special youth-oriented space on our website—an interactive place where young persons will be free to discuss their issues and hopefully discover a fellowship of the like-minded as they openly and honestly ask their questions. We will use the tools of social networking to draw readers to this site.

Part of my vision, too, is to have readers take more ownership and responsibility for what appears on our pages and on our website. From preliminary returns of our readership survey (the deadline for which just ended), there is still too much regionalism among us. Such complaints as “too much news/views from the west,” or vice-versa, “too much from the east,” or “too much from the Russian Mennonites,” or, “too much from Swiss Mennonites,” are parochial and can be divisive.

While ethnic self-identities die hard, let’s make a special effort to look at MC Canada as a faith community united, as a national church with a mission to strengthen “all” of the saints, and to spread the good news regardless of local preferences. What happens in a small congregation in British Columbia should be of vital interest to congregants in Waterloo, Ont. We are one body in Christ.

Share this page:

Comments

Thanks for this, Dick. I particularly appreciate your concern that we see ourselves as an united faith community. That does not mean, of course, that we agree on all matters. And it is one of those contentious matters that sprang to mind as I read your concerns regarding young people.

Could you please comment on the status of the moratorium that is imposed on letters and articles in Canadian Mennonite, dealing with same-sex attraction? It strikes me that MC Canada has signaled its readiness to address questions of sexuality - as witness the paper on "Testing the Spirits" introduced two years ago. There are plans by some delegates to this year's Assembly to introduce a Resolution to revisit the 1986 Saskatoon Resolution on Sexuality. It would be good to have a forum in which our united faith community can start to throw out some ideas and perspectives - without the limitation imposed by the moratorium on one part (the homosexual part) of this discussion.

My reading of "young people", both at CMU (where I work) and across Canada, is that the moratorium is one reason (admittedly among others) why they feel Canadian Mennonite is irrelevant. They may or may not agree with the position of MC Canada on gay relationships; they may or may not want to participate in debate; but they definitely disagree with an editorial position that does not permit all legitimate voices to be heard.

I would be happy to speak to the so-called moratorium on letters discussing same-sex attraction, Erwin. First, there is no such moratorium under my editorship. And you will be happy to know that at the time of my predecessor's leaving, and I was coming on board, that the board of directors, at their annual meeting, dealt with a request by one of area churches to extend that moratorium. It was a complete and thorough discernment process with each of the directors weighing in after talking with a representation of their constituents. At the end of that discussion, there was absolutely no appetite for extending that moratorium, or for any other controversial subject, for that matter. There was a unanimous "no" to the area church's request.

As I recall that discussion, there was a consensus that this publication should be open to any and all conversation on issues that face the church as long as good form in communication was present in the spirit and language of the letter-writer--no personal attacks, a minimum of contentious, provocative language and an attitude of openness to another's point of view.

I don't know that this has to be noted as an announcement of change as my understanding was that this was kind of an "inside decision" in any case rather than something the editor announced to the readers. In fact, I can find no record of such a moratorium being made "official." I may be wrong; you can correct me.

Thanks for your other kind comments.

Add new comment

Canadian Mennonite invites comments and encourages constructive discussion about our content. Actual full names (first and last) are required. Comments are moderated and may be edited. They will not appear online until approved and will be posted during business hours. Some comments may be reproduced in print.