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June 22, 2011 | Viewpoints | Number 13

Following the wrong drummer to Parliament Hill



The first in Dick Benner’s elections editorials, “Vote your core beliefs,” April 18, page 2, should have spoken to our constituency clearly. It should have delineated the political issues relating to our faith.



A political lament,” May 16, page 2, summarizes the tragedy of our Mennonite (Conservative) orientation as evidenced not only by the outcome of the recent election, but also by comments made by acquaintances.



We, the Canadian Mennonites, are extremely affected by the right-wing evangelicals in Canada and the United States. I suggest that we are more motivated by the political right than by Jesus. In other words, we follow the wrong drummer.



Walter Quiring, Surrey, B.C.

Editorial topics violate magazine’s mission statement



Re: “A political lament,” May 16, page 2.



Your latest editorial has shocked and saddened me. The two events you write about—the recent election of a majority Conservative government and the assassination of Osama bin Laden—are very personal and both are not covered in the mission statement of this magazine. Nothing in this editorial shares the good news of Jesus as mandated in the mission statement.



The other point is that you condemn Prime Minister Stephen Harper for lining up with Jewish groups, but I thank God for giving him the courage to stand with Israel.



The Jewish people today occupy less of the land which God promised them and they are being asked to give up more land. (Maybe God went overboard when he promised them the land that they should occupy.) This will all change during the final war when God takes command and defeats the armies of the whole world, gives the Jews their land back and then punishes the nations and individuals that were hostile to Israel. Peace will finally be upon the earth. Woe to those who did not support Israel.



G. Heinrichs, Christopher Lake, Sask.

Election results leading to erosion of honorable Canadian traditions



Re: “A political lament” editorial and “Aiming at evil” column, May 16, pages 2 and 13, respectively.



I wish to offer thanks to Dick Benner and Will Braun for their useful and possibly courageous comments regarding the recent Canadian election and Osama bin Laden’s death.



I share Benner’s sadness at Canada’s increasing militarism and shortsighted Middle East policies. For years, Canadians have smugly looked south and pointed fingers at the Americans’ “either you’re with us or you are for the terrorists” Texas-style worldview. How the tables seem to have turned. Now the U.S. has a president that clearly sees the world as complex and nuanced, and Canada now has a prime minister who is prepared to see his—and, it seems, our—world through a lens which seems to have completely forgotten the honorable Canadian traditions of peacekeeping and consensus-building. We are prepared to spend billions on worthless fighter planes and we re-elect with a resounding majority a cabinet minister who openly is contemptuous of Parliament . . . and who is then promptly re-appointed to Cabinet.



I wonder with Braun and Benner where this will end.



Benner correctly points out that the current policies of security and balance of power are out of touch. It’s a pity that neither he nor Braun did not go a bit further in their analysis. Perhaps they were too kind. For those of us who have spent time in other parts of the world, we are aware of the bubble we in North America live in. We create a “reality” that is convenient, self-satisfying and self-justifying. It’s no wonder that we have no clue why people out there hate us when we are so clearly the “good guys.”



For many years, we, as Canadian Anabaptists, rightly or wrongly, took some comfort in being citizens of a country that defined itself outside of the U.S. traditions of expansion and a strong dependence on the military. Seems pretty clear to me, those days are over.



Peter R. Andres, Chilliwack, B.C.

Editorial ‘lament’ expresses reader’s feelings



Thank you for your editorial entitled “A political lament” in the May 16 issue.



I, too, was saddened by the take-out of Osama bin Laden and the celebrations that followed, but have been careful to whom I expressed these thoughts, as I am a Canadian and have not lived through, nor suffered, what Americans have at his hand. I believe that further violence is not the answer, though.



I am an Albertan and this province voted Tory blue almost exclusively. I was not one of those who voted for this government, as I have concerns about the leadership of Stephen Harper as prime minister and his staunch defence of ministers who bend, if not break, parliamentary rules, or who make changes to contracts or agreements after all parties have already signed these documents.



I encourage you to continue to express your concerns about our country, and yours, as you feel led.



Sylvia Lauber, Camrose, Alta.

Churches need to consider new needs and commitments



Re: “The signs are clear” column by Willard Metzger, April 4, page 18.



In my 50 years of service in General Conference, national and provincial church leadership structures, I have noticed that often structures grow and multiply on their own merits. Our past tells that conferences began because of the need in local congregations. They joined for clearly defined purposes that couldn’t be handled singularly.



These original needs have well been met, but pressing new ones have come up since. I think it would make sense now to have the congregations seriously involved in revising existing structures. The Anabaptist movement certainly was a grassroots movement. Is it expecting too much of our congregations to think deeply in formulating today’s real needs and come up with solid commitments of support?



I love the Lord, our church and its heritage. There is no reason for despair if we let God lead us in our congregations and area and national churches.



Erwin Cornelsen, Vancouver, B.C.

‘Sexual inclusivity’ article stirs readers, leaders to write



Re: “Sexual inclusivity motion to be presented at national assembly,” May 30, page 15.



How does it happen that the Saskatoon Resolution is “used as a tool to make non-heterosexual people feel excluded,” as Ben Borne claims, rather than simply to provide guidance? Society and everyone in our communities need direction; the church serves as “salt” and “light” for that very purpose.



The church’s role is to love people into the kingdom and into good behaviour. This was my very first impression of what the church was, and what it did in 1986 (when the resolution was passed). It is so sad that our government has taken a detour from full love and acceptance by implying that bad or pathological behaviour is acceptable.



It is obvious that same-sex-attracted people are looking for love and acceptance, for a place to carry out the living of their lives. The church, as hospital for sick people, needs to include all of us; we all need to experience the hospitality of God.



Eunice Yantzi, Toronto, Ont.

We are all born with an orientation to sin. We all need to deal with our own orientation to sin by repenting of it and bringing it to Christ for forgiveness and deliverance.



I agree with dialoguing, but not fully embracing, because same-sex relationships are sin. I would suggest that all delegates study Romans 1:18-32 and I Corinthians 5 and 6 before the delegate sessions. I am sure we will all find in them different things we all need to repent of. Hebrews 12:1b says, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”



The church is not meant to make sinners comfortable, but to bring them to forgiveness and deliverance from sin. I know from experience that Christ is able to set the vilest of sinners free. He did it for me.



Jim Mullet, Drake, Sask.

What a great God we have. And this great God loves us, sinners that we are, but hates sin. We, too, should love the sinner, but hate the sin, whether it is cheating, lying, killing, dishonesty, adultery, etc.



As for the Saskatoon Resolution, it is right on. Don’t even think about changing it. I am sure that my father-in-law, the late I.P. Friesen, a General Conference (GC) evangelist, and his son, the late Isaac I. Friesen who passed into eternity at the annual GC conference in Steinbach, Man., in 1974, would walk out on your denomination if this subject were to be brought up for discussion.



This motion will divide the church, I am sure. But if you, corporately or individually, endorse the ways of lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgendered people, your argument is not with the church, but with God.



Jack W. Friesen, Abbotsford, B.C.

I very much believe in being a faithful church. But I am at a total loss to understand why we would want to go back to all the pain, anger, separation and churches leaving the conference during our last sexuality discussion and misunderstanding. Are we willing to risk all that again during the proposed discussion on sexuality between September 2012 and March 2013?



As a church, we have a clear statement on sexuality. Marriage is between one man and one women. Can we not just leave it at that? Does this mean that we need to have compassion for those who struggle with sexual issues? Of, course, in the same way we need to have compassion for those who struggle with any issue.



Dick Hildebrandt, Campbell River, B.C.

Mennonite Church Canada’s leadership body is well aware of the challenges of this and other difficult conversations the church is called to have. That is why the Being a Faithful Church (Parts 1-3) process document was developed: to provide a scriptural and godly guide to help us all undertake a healthy discernment process.



We do, however, take issue with the stated assumption that “[MC] Canada and area church leaders have made a move that points to a shift in values regarding sexuality within the denomination.”



MC Canada leaders’ participation at the Harmony Group meeting does not indicate a shift in values, but rather re-affirms our commitment to remain in “loving dialogue” as promised in the 1986 Saskatoon Resolution. Leaders have put much energy and effort into the Being a Faithful Church Pt. 3 document. On behalf of all leadership, we commit ourselves to listening to as many voices as possible as we begin the four-year process outlined in the document.



The leadership of MC Canada asks readers to pray in love for openness and the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we engage these challenging matters with joy, for it is with joy that the church is called into the service of difficult dialogue.



Willard Metzger / Ken Warkentin, Winnipeg, Man.



Willard Metzger is general secretary of MC Canada. Ken Warkentin is executive director of MC Manitoba.

The leadership of the Harmony Group is well aware of the challenges of this and other difficult conversations the church is called to have. That is why the Harmony Group endorses the Being a Faithful Church document (Parts 1-3). We welcome guidance from our national church to help us all undertake a healthy discernment process. We anticipate that our conversations will be bathed in prayer, humility and openness to the Holy Spirit.



We do, however, share Mennonite Church Canada and MC Manitoba’s concerns about a statement in this article that “[MC] Canada and area church leaders have made a move that points to a shift in values regarding sexuality within the denomination.”



We welcome MC Canada leaders’ participation in the Harmony Group, and see such participation as less a shift in values than a shift in attitude—an attitude that legitimately reflects the “loving dialogue” that is called for in the 1986 Saskatoon Resolution. We are committed to the discernment process as detailed in the Being A Faithful Church Pt. 3 document, and we hope that as broad a spectrum of MC Canada as possible will be involved in this discernment—area churches, congregations, study groups, families and individuals. The leaders in MC Canada and the Harmony Group encourage readers to delve deeply into the Being a Faithful Church process.



Ben Borne, Saskatoon, Sask. / Erwin Warkentin, Winnipeg, Man.



Ben Borne is a member of Wildwood Mennonite Church, Saskatoon, and Erwin Warkentin is a member of Bethel Mennonite Church, Winnipeg. Both are members of the Harmony Group.


 

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As someone who has spent much time fellowshipping with church members struggling with their sexuality, I'm excited to see the church taking steps to be the body of Christ for all church members, regardless of sins committed.

Why condemn people as “Homosexual”?
When somebody does something that is foolish or harmful that leads to something destructive , we have two options; we can either discipline and encourage in word or deed to a better choice or we can condemn that person as a fool, as stupid or as useless. There is a very big difference between saying that someone is stupid and saying that a person has done a stupid thing. We well understand what it does to an individual when because of others condemnation and judgement they see themselves as being stupid or useless and live down to being that.
Yet it seems that where homosexual acts are involved (which God informs is destructive) there is a rush to judge and condemn them as homosexuals and have them self condemn themselves as such. The social “sciences??” where this propensity has originated because of their inability to effect change in individuals in a whole host of socially destructive passions with their resultant acts , are very quick in labelling people and thus absolving themselves of having people change. They only answer that they put forward is to attempt to get people to minimize the destructiveness of these passions.
God has made humans a little lower than the angles therefore Satan and his host has the ability to deceive humankind and they have no power to overcome that deception once they have sinned although they may mentally agree with what is good. As such they are a slave to sin. Sin is merely what falls short of the character of God. This puts humankind in a rather wretched position. Their destiny since the beginning is to be like God yet they cannot, even if they want to. How are they to be rescued from such a position when their passions rule them?
This is where the power of Christ comes in, His power in the Holy Spirit is greater than any power and he is willing to take charge within and release you to be free to become all you were created to be for all eternity. To die to self and life to God and bare good fruit not sin. To reach this point in our lives at which we give up self rule which leads to slavery to sin, it seems we must at some point come to the conclusion that we have not control over some area in our lives and even though we try and try we are ruled by it rather than able to rule it. This process Menno Simons in his writing on “The Spiritual Resurrection” is a painful one. It is death to self, something the rich young ruler walked away from in his passion for wealth.
The good news is God's life within in exchange for ours, ours week for His strength. Without this there is no eternal or God's life in humans. There is no church and there is no hope.
Pastors are not the mouth piece of psychologists or psychiatrist who possess only the feeble powers of the wisdom of this world, to attempt to get people from birth through this life. They are rather the mouthpiece of God and his saving good news to get them through to eternity.
As for what is happening in Mennonite Church Canada leadership in regards to the passion towards homosexual acts, especially in allowing themselves to be manipulated by accepting Ben as a poster boy for sexual inclusiveness. The seeds that young people sow do not bare their destructive fruits immediately because God is long suffering and patient giving people time to come back to Himself.
God will also deal with the person or persons that have put Ben up to this.
As for Ben, it is a fine thing to be zealous, but do not let yourself be used but rather be zealous for God's good news of freedom by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Gerhard Luitjens
Pastor Hope Mennonite Fellowship of North Battleford

Hey
What angle to begin with, (spelling was never my strong point and MS Spell-check does not help me with this) perhaps to just say thank-you for reiterating some of the main points of discussion.
Firstly, I may not have made myself clear in the dismissing of social sciences. They are involved with people while they are living on this earth. As such the only tools available are those that belong to the realm or dimension of this earth. These tools include all manner of therapies, counselling, reasonings, and encouragements to name a few. What sets the Bible apart is that it introduced a realm or dimension that is not tied to nor under the control of the physical universe but rather controls the physical. The physical universe is introduced as merely a shadow of the realm most often referred to as heaven. The power that comes from heaven via the Holy Spirit can change a person by rebirth into the spiritual being that is “The Christ”.
The point of discussion then, when not if, we individually reach the point that Paul reached in Romans 7 where he could not do what he wanted but did what he did not want. Or to put it in Freud’s terminology when it appears that “the ship (of our lives) is not being steered from the bridge of our conscience but from the cargo hold of our sub-conscience” and so appear not to be in control but rather under its control, we stand at a crossroad. We could say to ourselves or have others convince us that we are what we are. Even if we realize ourselves as broken we then attempt to deal with all the circumstances that result. We could listen to the self-help “crowd” (just try harder, just do this, just think this, try this idea...etc). Or you could do as the prodigal son did...go back to the father for a new life.
Why do I mention psychiatry? I assume that the person that wrote this response is younger that I am because of lack of us of capitals. That could mean that there is no awareness that before 1973 homosexuality was listed by American Psychiatric Association (APA) as a mental disorder. Then not through science but rather via political pressures it was removed from that list. What this did in effect was to let people be homosexual and only treat any other symptoms that might be affecting the person. As to the suggestion that Psychiatrists

Next, contrary to your assertion it is very important who pastors speak for. A servant can only say what his master says not something they themselves dream up. Nor are they to speak someone else's words and attribute them to their master.

The scripture on prayer is very good, I would ask you to keep in mind the context, especially the practising your righteousness before men. Having said this, I do not see your point, as leader or facilitator of the congregational prayer, we ask for prayer requests and then pray for those, in line with “if any of you agree...I will answer”. If you have insight as how this is better done, I am always open to that. Also we do pray the Lord's prayer together at the end of the congregational prayer, at least when I lead it. I do believe that the “Our Father” means it is to be prayed in community. I also do have a room in which I pray by myself, it is called the pastor's office. Again I don't see your point unless it is that all pastors are hypocrites. Then we get to the same generalization that was made of the Psychiatrists. I would suggest those are less than valid arguments.

I would like to make the point that I have no desire to merely change a homosexual to a heterosexual. Besides there are so many variations of sexuality, just in the area of sexuality with the same sex that it would be pointless to attempt addressing them all even. Besides my point is that homosexuality is just a symptom of a much deeper problem. If one only addresses the symptom and not the root cause nothing really is gained. The root problem is that there is something broken in all humans that when God says not to do something they can not help but do it. The areas of life it effects may be different in different people and to different degrees; there are probably many more people offending God's rules on money than homosexuality.
This is the human condition. The only way out is in Jesus death and resurrection; namely that we die to self and all it's desired and accept the life of the eternal God through his Holy Spirit.
This new life is what works from a new set of desires in us. The problem for most of us is that we refuse to give up who we are (it is a huge struggle).

I would also caution that an agreement in minds is very different than an agreement in the Holy Spirit. A large part of the Church can and have felt to agree wholeheartedly to support war or slavery. That in itself should make us think of who to follow, especially when to do so they rationalize and ignore section of scripture.

To continue the conversation, I do have a question that I would like answered. Why does the harmony group even want to be associated with the Mennonite Church. If you have problems with what I say, you will have much problems with the writings of Menno Simons after whom the church is named. ( Have you even ever read any of Menno's writings?) If it is social acceptability that you are after, many of those that are socially acceptable or are more Christendom oriented have long since fled to the “cottage” or other like pursuits. The acceptance of a small historically radical church is hardly worth the fight, it takes more energy than it is worth. Also, and more importantly, even if you get the acceptance of a number of Churches, this does not in any way gain acceptance with God ( a God, if the Bible is to be believed, who never once puts same sex sexual acts in a positive category). A far more delicate
question is; “If you are still looking for acceptance and love, are you not finding it in your chosen solution?”

The last point seems to suggest that I need to make myself acceptable to you by pleasing you by seeing things your way. Again Jesus own behaviour in word and action suggests that pleasing God is of highest importance and pleasing humans of least.
Gerhard Luitjens
Hope Mennonite Fellowship North Battleford

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