Priority issues for 2014

December 31, 2013 | Editorial | Number 1
Dick Benner | Editor/Publisher

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:

New biblical themes and practices will be explored. David Rogalsky has already investigated some new and fresh thinking on the atonement. Next issue, John Rempel challenges our practice of communion, asking us to stretch our imaginations and look at this long-established spiritual ritual. “Is it an inclusive or a covenantal meal?” he asks.

New excitement about the biblical canon itself is already in the works—reading the narrative in storytelling form can breathe new life into this guide for living. “Biblical storytelling is an act of translation,” John Epp tells managing editor Ross W. Muir in an interview beginning on page 4. “It takes the ‘paper Bible’ and returns it to its native medium of speech. The Bible was speech before it became paper.”

Aaron Epp, our Young Voices co-editor, is challenging his peers to a year of reading the biblical text from cover to cover, an admirable discipline that can lead to serious spiritual formation early in life. We commend him for this campaign and ask older adults to join in. “I want to have deep thoughts. I want to ponder my faith a little bit,” Epp writes in issuing the challenge. “I figure one of the best ways to do that is to immerse myself in the Bible. I’ve never read the Bible from beginning to end and, more importantly, reading my Bible on a regular basis has not become a habit in my life. I’d like it to be.”

A study on human sexuality is on schedule by Mennonite Church Canada, in Stage 5 of Being a Faithful Church, a process underway for congregations for some three years now. This is an important issue to discern as sexuality becomes front and centre in the larger society. Laden with potential controversy, this discussion requires a delicate approach over the next year. The framers of this study have given us some important goalposts, such as:

“We want to be a people confident of our identity as faithful Christians, going about the vocation that is ours, practising the love, forgiveness, burden-bearing, truth-telling, humility, sincerity, trust and nonviolent spirituality that are embedded in our identity, our formal Confession, and our proclamation to others.”

Good advice from Robert J. Suderman, Rudy Baergen and Willard Metzger.

Euthanasia, while not on the church’s official radar, is edging its way to the top of ethical dilemmas facing a modern society in which longer life is bringing its own unique issues to the aging. Whether passive or active, either form of the right to end one’s life remains illegal in Canada, but a recent British Columbia Supreme Court decision has overturned the section of the Criminal Code banning physician-assisted suicide, which has, in turn, been appealed by the federal government to the Supreme Court of Canada. This will likely hit the pages of Canadian Mennonite in the year ahead.

Continuing as important issues will be: how we care for creation; our relationship to our indigenous neighbours; and what we will do as faithful peacemakers in an increasingly militaristic/nationalistic political environment that tests our core belief in peace and justice, and our identity as citizens of God’s kingdom first and our country second.

It goes without saying that the demographics of the global Mennonite family, of which Canada is a vital part, is undergoing rapid change, directly affecting how we relate to each other as sisters and brothers in the faith. It is not too much to declare that the Global South is rising, not only in numbers, but also in shaping our theology and practice. The issues with which we struggle, as a dominant European majority, differ considerably with those of our African, Latin American and Asian contingent.

As first-generation Christians, their issues of personal piety expressed in more charismatic, free-spirited ways take priority over many of the social concerns on the North American scene.

Canadian Mennonite, as announced last issue, will give voice to the leaders and spokespersons of colour and differing ethnicities in 2014, so that with humility and grace we can be more united as we engage in conversation and learning.

--Posted Dec. 24, 2013

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