Readers write: September 30, 2013 issue

September 25, 2013 | Viewpoints | Number 19

Widespread, ongoing abuses not best left alone
The “Ministry in a very different world” feature article by senior writer Will Braun, July 8, page 4, really caught my attention. I applaud Mennonite Central Committee staff and volunteers who try to serve among our people—in this case in Durango, Mexico—when they see needs.

The response by Royden Loewen (“Boxing up the Old Colony Mennonites,” Aug. 19, page 14) puzzles me. Surely, the Mennonite Studies Department at the University of Winnipeg would not want it said that it believes widespread and ongoing abuses, as reported, are best left alone.

Sara Wenger Shenk’s Viewpoint piece two pages over (“Revisiting the legacy of John Howard Yoder”) speaks to this issue. Reading her reflection on a difficult topic reminds us of the basic teachings in both the Old and New Testaments that the gospel message must be supported by the underlying integrity of those in spiritual leadership.

Do we remain silent and avert our eyes when we know of unacceptable practices inflicted on the defenceless among our own? Can we allow the light to shine into dark places, or must current conditions be allowed to continue indefinitely? I still believe in the power of the gospel to change lives, and while not always popular, Christ-followers are challenged to bring the message of reconciliation to all (II Corinthians 5:19).

Dave Froese, St. Malo, Man.

 

Single lauds Amanda Zehr article on singles in the church
I very much enjoy reading the Young Voices section of Canadian Mennonite, and the article entitled “Encourage single people in the church” by Amanda Zehr really hit the nail on the head, as far as I’m concerned.

I have been fortunate in having friends who are married for whom my single status is not an issue. However, I have had many experiences, particularly in church, where married people don’t seem to know how to relate to me, and think I must have no life because I am single. I won’t say any more than that, but thanks to Zehr for putting it in print for others to see!

Theresa Rempel, Saskatoon

Call for volunteers

 

Many reasons why someone is called ‘lesbian’ or ‘gay’
Re: “New evidence challenges gay choice idea” letter, Aug. 19, page 11.

Readers should know that not everyone labelled “lesbian” or “gay” chooses to be lesbian or gay. Also, not all people who have had sex with someone of the same sex are gay or lesbian. It is true for many people, but it is not the whole story.

As a teenager I experienced homophobic sexual and physical violence, which spoiled my sexual identity. From around that time, gay men repeatedly tried to seduce me until, at age 20, and after much alcohol, I succumbed to a much older male friend who lived in my shared house. I saw this friend once or twice a year for 10 years, which further boxed me into an unwanted identity. The tension this caused contributed to my being diagnosed with a severe mental illness when I was 25.

My severe mental illness diagnosis resulted from a number of other factors in combination, including distance from Godde (a term that encompasses both masculine and feminine concepts of the divine), nicotine, alcohol, cannabis, politics, depression and a recent diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder.

Unhelpfully, the people around me seemed to think I simply needed to be more sexual one way or another. Although I knew I was not gay, I did not see myself as “parent material” either, making relationships with women problematic. Given the difficulties I faced, I now see that problem as my being responsible in a semi-conscious way.

I am now in my mid-40s and stopped using nicotine, alcohol and cannabis a number of years ago. My parents were not Christian and I grew up in a secular world. I only acknowledged Godde when I reached rock-bottom.

Finding Godde brought me to the Mennonite church, where I met my wife-to-be. Here, we safely got to know and trust each other without the pressure to be too sexual too soon. If, however, my desire to marry and have children had not been supported, I don’t know if I could have joined the church.

I, therefore, see clearly the need for this refuge to be opened for other people who want to marry and be faithful for life, regardless of whether they chose their sexual orientation or believe they were born with it.

Name withheld by request

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Comments

In regard to the first letter, in my opinion public hand wringing can be needlessly stigmatizing to everyone, including many who will be wrongly blamed for something that someone else did. In addition, such comment promotes gossip and innuendo that cannot be helpful.

Church related bodies need to get together, offer assistance, provide clear but respectful expectations and work with people. In the meantime, someone who was there once is not a reliable guide to reality, and nothing useful is accomplished by more words. I agree with Royden Loewen.

Thank you to the writer of the last letter. Your letter must have been difficult to write since so many people in the past have not listened. Thank you again for providing your comments.

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