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November 21, 2012 | Viewpoints | Number 23

New Mennonite building can provide synergy

Re: MCC’s big building rationale not compelling.

After returning from a fundraiser for MCC’s relief work in Syria, I read Will Braun’s critical article on the new Mennonite building underway in Kitchener (Nov. 12, 2012, page 11). The well-attended event was organized by the local Syrian community and Conrad Grebel students, with support from MCC Ontario. We had a live Skype conversation with a community activist in Homs, Syria, talking of the horrors his family and community are experiencing. I think this was a great example of MCC’s ongoing commitment to support the creative engagement that Braun feels will somehow be shortchanged.

I support the idea of having all of our related agencies together in one place, because there is a synergy that can’t be achieved working in isolation. MCC came out of that same desire for Mennonites of different stripes to work together, helping our sisters and brothers in Russia. Likewise, as Mennonites we are best when we come together as a community and not label people as creative, affluent or poor. Creativity and deep faith can be found in poor and rich alike. We are all equal before God, and Jesus mingled with people from all walks of life. In fact, his ministry was supported by the generosity of a few wealthy women.

I’m often amazed at the generosity and humility of our people, who through hard work and good fortune may have more financial resources than others. I’m also amazed how MCC Ontario can manage to bring together Mennonites from seven different conferences under one roof. Our theology may divide us, but they bring us together in a desire to help a hurting world.

I felt privileged when I travelled to Israel/Palestine on an MCC Ontario Learning tour to share that experience with three brothers from the Old Colony Church. I’ll always remember one night in Nazareth where our Old Colony brothers sang in German, along with Rick Cober Bauman, as the local Muslim call to prayer drifted through an open window. I think that scene made God smile at our shared humanity. So how can we find ways to come together like that, rather than retreating into our own silos and labels?

Will the new building accomplish things that couldn’t have happened in isolation? I think I’ll leave that for history to decide, but until then, I trust our leaders in their decision-making process.

Leon Kehl, Floradale Ontario

Let’s not hide sin under new names

I have found recent letters such as “Dismayed with church’s LGBT statement” (Sept. 3, page 10) disturbing.

In the days of Jonah, God had compassion on Nineveh, because they didn’t know wrong from right. His dealing with Israel was different, because, though they had been taught to know wrong from right, they chose to live as though they didn’t, calling “evil good and good evil.” (Isaiah 5:20)

When and by whom was temptation changed to orientation? When did living together unmarried become co-habitation (as though they just happen to live in the same apartment, or just happen to use the same bed)? When did the sin of Sodom become a lack of hospitality, or the relationship of Jonathan and David homosexuality? When did yielding to temptation become cause for celebrating?

Isaiah said about the people of Jerusalem, “they parade their sins like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them!” (Isaiah 3:9) Can we expect the Lord to show us the compassion he did to Nineveh?

Paul informed the Ephesians that there ought to be not even a hint of sexual immorality among them. Could that be a message for today as well?

Jake Heinrichs, Winnipeg

Modern warfare connected to powers of evil

Carol Penner’s article “Peace to our Neighbour Once Removed” (Oct. 29, 2012, page 4) brings home the truth that modern warfare, though it operates with rubber gloves on, is still doing what warfare does—killing people deliberately and with no accountability for the destruction and grief caused. No matter how sanitized the delivery of death, the people surviving the blow know that the powers of evil delivered it.

How can we, who cohabit with these powers of evil, possibly distance ourselves and effect change? Followers of Jesus must be committed to love ALL God’s children. We must scrutinize our lives to see where our complicity with the powers that be contributes to the violation of others’ lives and homes. Then, using our God-given creative imagination, we must find ways of withdrawing our support.

Mary Groh, Scarborough, Ont.
Mary Groh is a board member of Conscience Canada.

Menno-Scots are a hardy lot

Thanks to Mennonite Church Alberta’s “McThiessens” and “McFriesens” for a wonderful photo of their skit, joking their way through what it might mean to be a “Menno-Scot.”

As a Swiss Mennonite married to a Scotsman, I feel that our three children may truly be “Menno-Scots” with patchwork quilts and sandwich tartan blankets on their beds. Shortbread and Pfeffernüsse overflow our cookie jar. My two daughters Highland dance to church hymns they play on the fiddle. Once my son wore his grandfather’s army tartan—the Cameron Highlanders’—to a Sunday School class about peacemaking.

Some compare the hardiness of the Highlanders, to that of the Swiss from the Jura mountains. Others say the faith of the Scots runs deeper than Glasgow’s river Clyde, akin to that of the Swiss and their Bernese river Aare. The small differences we do have go unnoticed however, as we are privileged to live in Canada’s most multicultural community and worship at a Mennonite Church led by Congalese, Tamil and Chinese pastors (Hagerman Mennonite).

Suzanne Conrad McWhinnie, Richmond Hill, Ont.

Support for expressing religious values

I am shocked, saddened and horrified at the government’s attack on your magazine. I’m not a Mennonite, but I believe most Canadians share the values in the editorial written by Dick Benner—“peacemaking, compassion for the poor, and care for creation.” It is instructive that the Conservatives find this a partisan statement, and it seems an admission that these are not Conservative values, although they are conserving concepts.

The government’s attempt to silence your expression of your core values seems to me to be a Charter issue. My concern is how they found these articles. Are we, the taxpayers, funding what appears to be a paranoid witch-hunt into the farthest corners of journalism? Canada Revenue Agency refers to editorials and articles in four editions of your magazine. It is inconceivable to me that CRA would accidentally stumble upon articles in four editions.

I fully support your right to the expression of your religious values.

Penny Mills, Newmarket, Ont.

Layton article not ‘political advocacy’

Re: “Canadian Mennonite warned of political activities” (Nov. 12, 2012, page 16).

Rachel Bergen wrote a thoughtful and inspiring article, “Jack Layton inspires young people to vote for change” (Sept. 19, 2011, page 34). I was appalled to read that it prompted Paul Fournier of Revenue Canada to remind Canadian Mennonite of income tax regulations that speak to rules around “political advocacy.”

I have a Mennonite father and a Jewish mother, both of whom consider Canada the land of their prayers for its freedom of speech. Rachel’s article is being treated like a call for violence instead of an appreciation for a politician who stood up for all that is right about our country. Bravo to Canadian Mennonite for printing it and shame on Canada Revenue.

Melanie Friesen, Vancouver, B.C.

Mennonites do not understand the holiness of God

Re: Canadian Mennonite warning from Canada Revenue Agency (Nov. 12, 2012, page 16).

I was just given notice of the warning you received from Canada Revenue regarding some materials you published in your magazine.

I do not know your background, but my grandparents escaped Russia, fleeing with what they could carry out with them. They left a communist, socialist regime that severely limited their ability to believe what they felt was true.

It concerns me greatly that so many Mennonites today are supporting the same type of government in Canada that our forefathers fled from. Your writings suggest you are against the Conservatives and would vote for any of the three other parties (Liberal, NDP, Green). The Conservatives are not without their problems, but they are not nearly as socialistically minded as the others. Notice what the McGuinty Liberals have rammed through the legislature in Ontario, what they want to do, and what the NDP stand for. I believe it is shameful to side with such an ungodly government.

It has concerned me for some time to see Mennonites attacking Israel and supporting the Palestinians who are out to wipe out Israel. I would advise you to read Genesis 12:1-3.

The Mennonites are in grave danger as most have no understanding of the holiness and righteousness of God, let alone His love. I would hope you would read God’s Word and see just how far off base you have come.

Walter Bartel, Grande Prairie, Alta.
Walter Bartel is pastor of Harvest Baptist Church.

Emphasis on God’s Spirit difficult to maintain in Canada

One of the discussion questions following the article, “Ethiopian Church grows in maturity” (Oct.15, 2012, page 4) asks about the difference between the MKC experience of the Spiritual world and that of our church.

In Canada the emphasis is on individualism, self-sufficiency and independence. Whatever we need we buy, not asking anyone else to be involved. If we have a medical problem we see a doctor, not thinking about God’s role in healing. If Ethiopian church members were asked about this they would say it was the work of the Spirit. When we have wealth, it is harder to depend on God than when everyone lives in poverty.

A brochure for volunteers states, “When the person you are helping has nothing to offer you, you have nothing to offer them.” If our help for those in poverty or homeless is only what we can give, our help often disappears.

In Canada there is a class system that measures the amount of wealth we have. This system has a tendency of creeping into our church. When we lived in Pennsylvania in the 1960s, our church was located in a district with lots of poverty. We tried to set up a program to mentor school children, but almost no one came. When we asked why not, the answer was, “Look at all the new cars around the church!”

Our church believes very much in the Spirit’s leading, but like the MKC church, we will have to teach and train leaders to keep the faith and find ways to keep the church dependent on God and the Spirit.

Rudy Wiens, Calgary

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