Readers write

April 24, 2013 | Viewpoints | Number 9

Original CIDA model is dead and buried by Harper government

Re: “Ottawa gets more ‘strategic’ about foreign aid,” April 15, page 18.

When the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) was conceived in the early 1960s, it was based on a radical untested model anywhere in the world that international assistance could only be delivered by any government if it did so at arms length from that government. In other words, foreign policy should not interfere with international disaster assistance and more sustainable international development.

Where Canada led the way was to untie its aid from foreign policy. Where Canada also led the way was to fund enormous amounts of aid to nongovernmental organizations. Mennonite Central Committee became one of the models for CIDA because it was honest, had people on the ground and delivered what it said it would deliver at a low administrative cost.

During the first half of CIDA’s life, many new Canadian NGOs were born. They began to depend on CIDA funds for their budgets. Only MCC limited its take from CIDA because the argument was that CIDA would dictate MCC’s direction.

The Harper Conservatives are completely different from the Progressive Conservatives of former prime minister Brian Mulroney’s time.

Harper is ideologically driven. He would rather use his own army to deliver aid than give it to UN agencies. Most recently, he cut $350,000 dollars to drought assistance. Even friendly nations could not believe this.

Harper cannot bear to see Canadian money without his fingerprint on it. It was just a matter of time before he would place CIDA’s $3 billion budget under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The old CIDA is dead. The new one is emerging and its objective is to provide a link between aid and trade.

Jake Buhler, Saskatoon

Was article meant to confront denominational authority?

Re: “A place at God’s table,” Feb. 18, page 16, about how Hope Mennonite Church, Winnipeg, extended a welcome to the communion table to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer (LGBTQ) community.

I realize that the purpose of this article is telling much more than simply the fact that people got together to have communion. I feel that this article has been published to test the waters on the issue of homosexuality and the reaction within Mennonite Church Canada.

I see this article as the “thin edge of the wedge,” which, in a very subtle way, confronts the stated will and authority of MC Canada. If I remember correctly, a few years ago there were certain Mennonite
churches that lost their status as members within MC Canada because of their inclusive position and approval of homosexual behaviour.

All churches should be open and hospitable; therefore, I fail to see the purpose of making such a distinction in this article. Is this a challenge to church leaders, daring them to call for the question on their church membership within the area and national churches? It certainly appears to be more than a simple announcement of a church activity.

It is time to either fish or cut bait on this topic.

David Shantz, Montreal

Prof ‘puzzled’ by School for Ministers coverage

Re: “Violent verses explained,” March 18, page 24.

I was surprised and puzzled by Canadian Mennonite’s article on the recent Mennonite Church Eastern Canada School for Ministers event on studying Joshua.

For instance, the bullet points the article provides were not Matties’ suggestions for how to approach Joshua, but an overview of how others have done so. While the article spent significant space on relatively minor points, it passed over Rahab and the Gibeonites, the topics for several hours of presentations, in one sentence.

Most striking, the article did not mention Matties’ key emphases, including the central importance of: “hospitable hermeneutics” (committing to hear and enter into conversation with difficult biblical material); genre (although the book contains descriptions of conquest, it is not itself a “conquest account”); canonical context (relating Joshua as one voice to the rest of the chorus of Scripture); and the “commander of the Lord” passage (Joshua 5:13-15), which Matties identified as an interpretive key to understanding Joshua.

As a seminar participant, as well as Matties’ colleague and friend, I thoroughly enjoyed the event and appreciated his challenge to explore Joshua for the insight it has to offer. As Christ-followers committed to peace, it is particularly important to provide an alternative reading of this troubling and inspiring book. Matties’ work is helpful here, and I encourage Canadian Mennonite readers to refer to the introduction and final essays in his recent Joshua commentary in the Believers Church Bible Commentary series.

Better yet, invite Matties to your congregation or area church to help you wrestle with Joshua and issues of biblical and contemporary violence. As a man of profound faith and scholarly intellect who has studied this book for 20-plus years, I am confident you will find him engaging, inspiring and informative.

Derek Suderman, Waterloo, Ont.
Derek Suderman is an assistant professor of religious studies at Conrad Grebel University College.

In praise of biblical articles

When I was a young teacher at Conrad Grebel College, articles on the Bible like the ones that have appeared in Canadian Mennonite over the last months could not have been published. Today, they are markers on the road that indicate how far we have come.

I applaud the authors for their honesty, care and commitment, and Canadian Mennonite for publishing them. Religious journalism of this kind is absolutely essential at a time when biblical ignorance among Christians is widespread and frightening.

It occurred to me also in the light of the foregoing to ask why many Mennonite worship services are so Bible-starved? Why not more practiced Bible reading and fewer popular words? How about following the lectionary, a Psalm and readings from the Old Testament, epistles and gospels?

At the service of Tenebrae in Holy Week we gathered to read Scripture for a whole hour! In this reading we knew ourselves to be part of the world-changing story of the suffering God on behalf of the world.

Walter Klaassen, Saskatoon

Talking about abuse is not enough

Re: “A hidden darkness” editorial, March 4, page 2.

I appreciate your magazine thinking about abuse of women and children, but talking about it is not enough.

There are ministers who think it is okay to watch pornography. They claim the women aren’t real, and that it’s a release for them. It is a sad day indeed when our ministers have to find release in sin, instead of finding release in the Bible or prayer.

Pornography is abuse of women and children at a gut level, but nothing seems to be able to be done about it. Where can ministers go for help?

Helen Unger, Haywood, Man.

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