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April 13, 2011 | Viewpoints | Number 8

Former MCC director laments ‘big failure’ of Wineskins process

Re: “MCC ‘divorce’ a cause for confession, remorse,” March 21, page 12.

I, too, am saddened and indeed angered with the result of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Wineskins process.

In his Feb. 21 article, “MCC revisioning loses connection with people in the pew,” page 23, I think Will Braun did a fine, spot-on analysis of what has happened to MCC as a result of the Wineskins revisioning process.

During the long, drawn-out process, they asked for constituency input, but in the end they dealt mainly with cross-border internal management problems, “which did not need constituency input.”

I think the cost has been astronomical and, in the end, they have eroded a sense of ownership, dynamic voluntarism and general interest in the constituency.

I, too, would like to join Kreider’s request. Are there others who would wish to join now in an event of gratitude for an MCC past, contrition for an MCC di-vided, and hope for an MCC renewed?

I would hope that Mennonite Church Canada administration would initiate a process and actually ask for a reconsideration of the result.

In my opinion, the Wineskins process has been a big failure on the part of fellow Canadians on the board.

Peter H. Peters, Winnipeg, Man.
Peter H. Peters is a former executive director of MCC Manitoba.

Election priorities for the Canadian Council of Churches

The following letter was sent to the leaders of the five political parties contesting the May 2 federal election by Karen Hamilton, general secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches, of which Mennonite Church Canada is a member.

In view of the current federal election campaign, I would like to take this opportunity to put before you the top priorities of the Canadian Council of Churches.

Poverty in Canada

The recent Interfaith Forum on Faith and Poverty on Parliament Hill ended with a commitment by all participants to work towards making ending poverty in Canada the No. 1 issue during this election.

  • What action will your party take to pass an historic Federal Anti-Poverty Act that ensures enduring federal commitment and accountability for results with measurable goals and timelines, publicly comprehensible indicators, and a means for monitoring and evaluating progress to reduce poverty?

Global poverty

Canada’s record on meeting the 0.7 percent target for overseas development assistance (ODA) has been disappointing, and, despite some recent gains, ODA is currently frozen under 0.3 percent.

  • What commitment will your party make to take all necessary steps to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, invest 0.7 percent of gross national income in development assistance in a transparent and accountable manner, and cancel debts of poor countries without regressive conditions?

Climate change

The Earth, our home, is a gift from the Creator. The impacts of climate change adversely affect the most vulnerable, who are least responsible for it. The strategy of promoting endless economic growth and high consumption lifestyles that contribute to increased greenhouse gas emissions must be challenged and constrained. Wealthy countries like Canada must come to a more profound understanding of the interdependence of life and take courageous steps to care for the planet.

  • In the realm of climate change, what concrete plans will your party implement to ensure global average temperatures do not exceed a two-degree C increase from pre-industrial levels?

Canada’s role in Afghanistan

We believe God desires peace in Afghanistan as well as in Canada. In terms of political commitment and dollars spent, Canada’s military investment in Afghanistan dwarfs our support for diplomatic solutions to the conflict, community reconciliation, and promoting human rights and development. Non-military solutions to resolving the conflict are out of balance with military approaches pursued so far. Meanwhile, excellent principles to ground new and important non-military efforts are available in the most recent consensus report of the House of Commons Special Committee on Afghanistan.

  • How will your party work for peace in Afghanistan, supporting Afghans in implementing reconciliation programs, and responsive governance at local and district levels, as well as urging the international community to pursue diplomatic efforts to end the war?

A world without nuclear weapons

In a recent letter from church leaders on the topic, they wrote, “We cannot conceive how the use of nuclear weapons could be justified and consistent with the will of God, and we must, therefore, conclude that nuclear weapons must also be rejected as a means of threat or deterrence.”

  • How will your party work towards achieving the vision of a world without nuclear weapons, and publicly and prominently recommit Canada to the energetic pursuit of the early elimination of all nuclear weapons?

Convention on Cluster Munitions

  • When and under what conditions will Canada become a full state party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions by ratifying it?

Human trafficking in Canada

Human trafficking is a growing worldwide and Canadian phenomenon that exploits and dehumanizes women. The issue is complex, multifaceted and stretches across different levels of jurisdiction.

  • What federal legislation will your party introduce to better prevent, protect, prosecute and partner to end human trafficking in Canada?

Prisons and corrections

Many faith leaders have expressed concern that, in this time of financial cuts to important federal services, a significant increase in investment in the building of new prisons is proposed. Increasing levels of incarceration of marginalized people is counter-productive and undermines human dignity.

  • What commitments will your party make to enhance public safety through healthy communities that support individuals and families; that consider the impact corrections policies have on the most disadvantaged in society; and that rely on the most effective ways to restore human dignity for individuals, families and the communities they live in?

Please be assured of our prayers for you and your members in this time of campaigning and elections. May your efforts help strengthen the common good of all.

Karen Hamilton, Toronto, Ont.

Read Henry Rempel’s letter, “On being a conscientious objector during an election campaign,” at

Better ways to deal with our fears

Re: “What are we afraid of?” Feb 21, page 13.

While I agree with Jerry Buhler that fear is probably the basis of unkind behaviour, as well as clouding our ability to see hope and possibility both personally and corporately, I am not sure I can accept his approach to dealing with fears. I see a danger in giving our fear “lower status.”

First, I have difficulty imagining how we would go about doing this. When we respond to something real or imaginary with fear, it is very difficult to simply say, “My fear is not very important,” and be done with it.

 Second, does he mean that we ought to deny our fears and hope that they will then stop having an influence, often negative, on our lives? I think that it is probably healthier to name our fears to ourselves, admitting what we are struggling with, and also learn to share our fears with others, rather than trying to cope with them on our own. But this means leaving them on the front burner of our hearts and minds, rather than sliding them to a back burner.

Third, the suggestion to “practise letting go of fear” may well be on the right track, but without some hints as to how we might go about doing this, we are left entirely to our own devices. How do we let go of fears that clamour for attention every day? How do congregations practise letting go of the fears that immobilize us and keep us from being courageously faithful?

Rather than giving a lower status to his fears, the psalmist admitted fear and said, “When I am afraid I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:1-2).

I agree that the Bible repeatedly urges us, “Do not be afraid,” “Be courageous,” and, “Fear not,” but I can’t think of any passages that actually elaborate on how we go about “not fearing.” Even Jesus, who told his disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled,” was himself deeply troubled and fearful in the Garden of Gethsemane.

I would suggest naming our fears, sharing them, paying attention to fear as mentioned in a number of hymns, and immersing ourselves in the biblical story as better options than trying to give fear a lower status.  

John H. Neufeld, Winnipeg, Man.

‘Priesthood of all believers’ really a Lutheran idea

Re: “Priesthood: A work in progress,” March 7, page 2.

In his recent editorial, Dick Benner spent considerable time exploring our current failure to appropriately use the so-called Anabaptist concept of the priesthood of all believers. Given its public identification as an Anabaptist idea over the last 50 years, he can be forgiven.

However, it is probably time we Mennonites stopped this kind of use. The priesthood of all believers is historically a Lutheran doctrine, not Anabaptist, and was never used by significant Anabaptists with the exception of Menno Simons, for whom it was a reference only to the purity of the church, Menno’s driving concern. There is also, as Marlin Miller pointed out in his research, no consistent use of the term among contemporary Mennonites.

If we wish to use the concept, we need to explore its historic Lutheran origins and define more clearly what it means to us in our contemporary world. I am sure there are many Lutherans who could help us in this task.

I think it is time we started recognizing that, while Mennonites have roots in the rich diversity of historic Anabaptism, not everything we value is Anabaptist, nor are we the only ones to value Anabaptism and claim it.

As well, we have adopted many ideas from other Christians over the past 500 years, including the priesthood of all believers since it was popularized by the World Council of Churches in 1954.

Perhaps it is time we set aside the “Anabaptist Vision” project and begin to explore what it means to be a people of peace rooted in Christian discipleship in a changing world.

Bruce Hiebert, Abbotsford, B.C.

Stirling pastor hired with ‘overwhelming enthusiasm’

Re: “I don’t have anything to prove,” March 7, page 10.

Concerning Martha Smith’s interview for the pastoral position at Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church, Kitchener, Ont., it should be made clear that she was hired as Stirling’s pastor with overwhelming enthusiasm. Her short period of leadership was interrupted when she met and married Gerald Good, and soon thereafter found that she had to curtail her ministry at Stirling because of more urgent family needs at home. Her services at Stirling were always appreciated and the congregation saw her leave with reluctance.

All of this is amply described in Risk and Endurance: A History of Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church by Laureen Harder-Gissing, curator of the Mennonite Archives of Ontario located at Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Ont.

Anne Millar, Kitchener, Ont.

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