Letters in response to sexuality issues
Re: “There is hope for those who want to leave the gay lifestyle” letter, Oct. 17, pg. 7.
Yes, there is hope for gay persons, just as there is hope for heterosexual persons. We appreciate that there have been some who have found help in attending Exodus International and Living Waters. We acknowledge that there are persons who have felt God’s grace and power, and have left what Selma Pauls calls the “gay lifestyle,” and are now living as practising heterosexuals. But we believe that sexual orientation exists along a continuum that ranges from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual, including bisexuality, and, in our opinion, it is persons in this middle range that may be influenced by a change ministry.
We rejoice that many gay persons have come to know the peace of God’s love. They have an authentic relationship with Christ, they are honest and authentic with themselves, and have accepted Christ’s love unconditionally. They, too, have wonderful stories to tell.
We believe that being gay is an intrinsic part of a person’s being, not a behaviour that can be repented of. The former leader of Exodus International, who resigned as executive director of Love in Action in 2008, says that you can’t repent of homosexuality, and now, after 22 years in the organization, publicly admits that he himself is gay—and always has been.
We are saddened for the hundreds of gay persons who have spent years in change ministries and have come away as broken individuals. We rejoice with the many who have come to know God’s transforming power to live lives as gay Christians, who want to be part of the church, just as heterosexual persons are.
When we think of the hundreds of persons whose talents have been lost to the Mennonite church because they are not accepted as gay, we are very concerned. Some have, thankfully, joined “accepting churches,” but the majority have left the established church permanently. May we all be able to rise to Christ’s call to love one another in spite of our differing opinions.
Paul and Martha Snyder, Kitchener, Ont.
Re: “Unwrapping sexuality,” Oct. 31, page 4.
Thank you for printing Keith Graber Miller’s article. It is the first time that we have seen the topic discussed openly in a church context. The article was candid, presented with a light touch, and helpful for all ages.
Barbara and Jake Ens, Saskatoon, Sask.
Thank you for encouraging “a reasoned discussion” (Oct. 31, page 2) on topics of sexuality, diversity and biblical prooftexting. I strongly agree with your comment that we have “a moral obligation to question the ways the Bible has been used in the past to defend the indefensible and promote the unacceptable.” This misuse of the Bible has occurred repeatedly.
One family, who upon hearing their son tell them that he was gay, used the Bible to show him that he was sinning. The family decided not to have anything to do with him. They shunned him and treated him as if he did not exist.
Some time later, one member of the family noticed a light on in the garage. The mother sent her sons out to check and they found their brother lying peacefully on the garage floor, hands over his chest, with his face directly under the exhaust pipe of his idling car. The boy who had been treated as if he didn’t exist now really didn’t exist.
Other events come to mind related to the inhumanity that has been shown towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people in our society. In the school where I was a counsellor, high school boys abused their effeminate male classmates. The cruel “joke” was to hang these unfortunate boys by their belts from the coat hooks behind the bathroom doors. It was heart breaking to listen to the crying victims asking what they had done to warrant such mistreatment.
And there is no such thing as a homosexual “cure.” The most popular method used to try to change gays and lesbians is reparative therapy, a combination of behaviour modification, psychoanalysis and prayer, which is opposed by the American Psychological Association. This approach has little long-term effect for change, tends to lower self-esteem, and has been linked to suicide and depression.
I was involved in writing the principles for ethical decision-making for the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association. Briefly the principles are: being proactive in helping others; refraining from actions that risk harm to others; respecting the equal treatment of all persons; respecting the need to be responsible to all of society; honouring commitments; and respecting people’s right to freedom of choice.
Maybe a more detailed, closer examination of these principles could be helpful to the members of the Mennonite church in their dealings with all people, and particularly LGBT people, in society.
Bill Schulz, Winnipeg, Man.
The recent spotlight on homosexuality in Mennonite Church Canada has tended to sidestep the question of where this discussion is taking us with regard to a theology of the Bible. The matter-of-fact approach is that the Bible is uniformly opposed to homosexuality as a lifestyle choice.
This being the case, those who favour a fuller acceptance of homosexuality in the church have deconstructed every relevant biblical passage with the intention of showing that they are all fragments which relate only to certain historical/cultural situations and, therefore, have no general bearing on the issue. Of course, this also means that none of these passages can be used in any way to support an acceptance of homosexuality.
The point of this deconstruction then seems to be chiefly to invalidate the use of the Bible for matters of faith and life. And we have seen how this has progressed in some of our sister denominations. Homosexuality then becomes a non-biblical, non-spiritual matter, thus raising the question as to why it is on the church’s agenda at all.
I am somewhat sympathetic to Keith Graber Miller’s approach in “Unwrapping sexuality,” Oct. 31, page 4, which takes a larger overview of all lifestyle issues. However, here, too, there needs to be some particular understanding of what role the Bible plays, if any, in directing our understanding.
Recently, former MC Canada general secretary Jack Suderman has referred to Mennonites as a “biblically grounded people,” a perception that seems to be at odds with the current situation.
I would respectfully suggest that it is impossible to address these lifestyle issues intelligently until we first decide on how we evaluate the Bible as informing our understanding of faith and life. Exactly what weight does it have in our discussions: very much, quite a lot, some, a little, or none at all?
Kevin McCabe, St. Catharines, Ont.
I have read with interest the exchange of letters between Joyce Gladwell and her sister Elaine Linton, and it has prompted me to make the following observation.
We had the pleasure of attending the ordination of a young Mennonite woman into the United Church of Canada ministry. She was raised Mennonite, would have loved to serve in the Mennonite church, but, because she is lesbian, she could not, so, instead, she became a minister in the United Church. She is a wonderfully talented woman, committed to Christ, and I can’t help but think we, the Mennonite church, are the big losers.
How long will it take before we accept gays and lesbians into our church leadership? Will it be in her lifetime?
Henry Pauls, Waterloo, Ont.
When I read the Oct. 31 editorial, “A reasoned discussion,” I was encouraged and deeply moved.
I want to encourage and support Canadian Mennonite in its attempt, as I understand it, to face what to some has become a difficult issue, and to move to a place where we can complement each other and learn together, rather than polarize.
I appreciate also your sensitivity to the Mennonite Church Canada officials. I want to try to understand their concern for proper process, but I wonder if the Holy Spirit is not well ahead of us on this, as with Cornelius and Peter over the gentile issue (Acts 10-11).
I believe we received a real gift when some of our brothers and sisters gave us the Post Card Project in 2008. Unfortunately, it did not fit into our assembly guidelines. It is interesting how that same project was a real blessing to many people when it was made available at the Saskatoon assembly in 2009.
I believe the same was evidenced this summer at the MC Canada assembly in Waterloo, Ont. The Holy Spirit is still at work among us.
In 1986, we made a clear statement about homosexual behaviour for heterosexual people with the Saskatoon Resolution. We also recognized that we have members among us with a different orientation that we needed to learn more about. There are many stories of the persons and churches that have come to a new understanding, stories we need to hear.
I believe, as you indicate in the editorial, we still have much to learn about sexuality in general. As I am getting to know gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and queer (GLBTQ) people—my brothers and sisters in the faith—I am learning a lot more about my own being as a heterosexual man. I have been blessed. There is a great variation among our heterosexual world as well, where labelling has often not been very helpful.
Egon Enns, Winnipeg, Man.
A wonderful coincidence?
What a wonderful coincidence—or was it—to have Keith Graber Miller’s “Unwrapping sexuality” feature followed by Troy Watson’s “Faith beyond belief” column in the Oct. 31 issue? These two articles must be read together!
Miller argues that, “I’m not convinced that traditional marriage—and even the sacred authority of the biblical text—are unduly endangered by gay and lesbian people loving each other and committing themselves to each other.” But traditional marriage and biblical authority are being threatened in the opinion of many faithful Christians.
Thankfully, Watson comes to the rescue by offering two insightful questions:
- “Why has Christian faith been reduced to a list of tenets we need to believe in?” and
- “How did believing the ‘right’ things become the measuring stick of authentic Christian faith?”
The point, I think, is that if we could treat faith and truth as equals, we would increase our capacity to accept a wider range of tenets and would find it less important to be right about some of these divisive issues. Look at Menno Simons; by faith he moved marginally on matters of accepted truth and left us with the legacy of pacifism and service.
Peter A. Dueck, Vancouver, B.C.
Promote the gospel, not protest or homosexuality
I was disturbed to see that the cover of the Nov. 14 issue was promoting protesting (“Young Mennos ‘occupy’ Wall Street and Winnipeg”). It is also disturbing to see that homosexuality is once again becoming a prime focus of your magazine (Oct. 31 issue). We have had so many years of that topic. Can’t we move on?
What is happening is that your magazine is coming into homes, but not being read. Let us get on with what we have been called to do: Promote the gospel!
Alice Unrau, Calgary, Alta.
The decision to hate is a personal choice
Re: “Can ‘free’ speech be ‘hate’ speech?”, Oct. 31, page 21.
Might we look at this hate speech issue from a theological perspective? It is my understanding that Canada’s hate speech laws are in place not so much to silence individuals, but to prevent the proliferation of hatred. But if mankind has been bestowed by God with the gift of free will, how can it be said that one might, through his words, incite another to hate? Similarly, if someone reads this letter and agrees with its premise, I may have helped him reach that decision, but the decision itself would be ultimately his and his alone.
Benjamin P. Weber, Kitchener, Ont.
Abandonment is a marriage covenant-breaker too
In “A double edged sword,” May 30, page 10, Melissa Miller so clearly articulates my experience as a divorced person. Having added abandonment to Miller’s list of covenant-breakers may help others in similar situations recognize that a lifetime of guilt over a marriage ending is not warranted if one has already been abandoned for decades.
In “Who gets the church when a couple divorces?”, June 13, page 4, Donita Wiebe-Neufeld raises a very real question.
My own experience was that the pastor provided personal support during my decades of abandonment. Without that support and his prayers with and for me, I would have felt even more isolated. At no time did I consider the church as an avenue to address my marriage dysfunction, nor was such intercession offered. Belatedly, after all secular alternatives were exhausted, there was a discussion about options, but everyone recognized it was too late. However, the subsequent strength, support and understanding of the pastor and ministerial were crucial for my continuing relationship to the church, although I was no longer attending worship services.
Wiebe-Neufeld assumes that lawyers have a major role in divorce settlements, but I completed the process myself. At my request, all discussions between myself and my separated spouse were conducted in the pastor’s study in his presence and that of a deacon of the opposite gender. All separation agreements, asset divisions and the petition for divorce were similarly signed within the church. Divorce was not the solution of the church, but rather a recognition on its part of the failure of two members, and that my desire for non-adversarial ending of a life-destroying situation was perhaps the lesser pain.
The pastor arranged a very meaningful and, for me, liberating, service to recognize the divorce, confess sin and failure, and hear assurances of pardon through God’s grace.
Throughout this period of non-attendance, the pastor and fellow members unfailingly invited me to return, and were most welcoming when I finally felt comfortable enough to enter the sanctuary. Since then, I have attended several services and, most importantly, after a decade of non-participation, a communion service at which my former spouse was also present. This latter service was essential in my journey of forgiving her. The church can indeed be a “healing place.”
It is still unclear to me as to what future relationship I will have with the church, but its custody is not in question. It is there for me, it is there for my former spouse, it is there for everyone who chooses to accept its welcome. The pastoral support and progressive leadership I have experienced can be a model for churches striving to be faithful to God in the midst of a marriage ending.
Name withheld by request
Look for a ‘not’ on the government cheque
Re: “Feds fund Foodgrains Bank with $125 million,” Nov. 14, page 24.
Canadian Foodgrains Bank executive director Jim Cornelius had better scrutinize that cheque he received from Bev Oda, federal minister of international cooperation, to ensure that there is no “not” above the indicated amount, as she has a demonstrated ability to tamper with financial documents.
Vern Ratzlaff, Saskatoon, Sask.
Beat fighter jet planes into peace symbols
Re: “Say NO to the logo,” Oct. 3, pages 1 and 4 to 7.
Yes, it is a picture of a fighter jet. Our Winnipeg Jets have always been fighters, in my estimation. The old Jets, and now the new Jets, including the players, have made great effort and progress in doing away with goon hockey: deliberate injury, attempt to injure, dangerous fisticuffs, etc.
Fight for peace on and off the ice. Who is to say that we cannot apply that principle and effort to our fighter jet airplanes? Make them a peacekeeping symbol and machine. Isaiah 4:3 states: “They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
Wally Rempel, Steinbach, Man.
Jets’ logo owned in part by the air force
I’ve read with a bit of dismay the many letters posted regarding the logo of the Winnipeg Jets (“Say NO to the logo,” Oct. 3, page 4). While many of them raise valid points, I feel they are, in the end, beside the point.
Yes, the critique that there are bigger issues in the world to address is valid, but we also need to be encouraged to examine our daily routines and mundane choices, and the implications that they have. Yes, it is possible to cheer on a team without approving of its logo. Yes, it is possible to respect the good work that members of the military do while still rejecting the idea of an organization whose fundamental purpose is war. Yes, we can acknowledge that Don Cherry has a generous spirit while not approving of his military boosterism or other views.
The issue is that, when we wear clothing with logos or name brands on them, we are agreeing to advertise for that team or company. The roundel part of the Jets’ logo is an air force emblem that is owned by the Department of National Defence. The Winnipeg Jets can use it only by permission of the Department of Defence, according to a Nov. 19 Canadian Press story. If I wear clothing with the Jets’ logo on it, I have agreed to be an advertiser for, and therefore an implicit supporter of, the Royal Canadian Air Force.
The issue is not whether we should feel bad for cheering for a sports team or not. The issue is whether we choose to be an advertiser for the military, and, if so, is this consistent with our beliefs?
Doug Durksen, Winnipeg, Man.
Managing editor’s note: The Canadian Press article also notes that the Jets’ contract with the air force requires the team to use the logo “in such manner as to protect and preserve the reputation and integrity of Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of National Defence, and the Canadian Forces,” and that, “True North Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Jets, has also promised to give $1 million to military charities over the next decade.” Will that money come out of the sale of merchandise with the new logo, one is left to wonder.
‘It may be easy to be smug’
The cover of the Nov. 14 Canadian Mennonite is a little misleading. It is not just young people who are part of the Occupy protests, but rather individuals of all ages have taken to the streets. On the other hand, it may be easy to be smug.
Canada does not spend trillions of dollars on military exploits around the world. Furthermore, did not Canada’s former finance minister, Paul Martin, eliminate the federal deficit several years ago?
Aren’t poor management by countries like Greece, Italy and maybe France, and the poor themselves clearly at fault for our present crisis? The “invisible hand” of the market is always right.
Myron Steinman, Kitchener, Ont.