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April 23, 2014 | Viewpoints | Number 9

NHL players miss a ‘coachable’ moment

Re: “It’s all part of the game,” Feb. 17, page 33.

I attended the event held at Peace Mennonite Church, Richmond, B.C., at which Mike Fisher and Nick Spaling from the Nashville Predators were interviewed by Willard Metzger of Mennonite Church Canada, and I even stood in line to get an autograph for my nephew’s son.

I want to point out a couple of important aspects from this evening, as I left with much to think about.

I forget the specific question Metzger asked, but something about how each of them stays focused on what’s important. Spaling responded that he looks at whether or not he is still enjoying the game. He shared that when he told his dad that he wanted to play hockey, his dad had said, “Okay, let’s go have some fun and see what happens and where it goes.”

Mike Fisher said he works at remaining “being coachable.”

So am I coachable? I want to be. Often I’m not. I pondered what hinders my coachableness. Am I just stubborn? Or could it have something to do with the people who are trying to coach me? Or a combination of the two? As I pondered that, I realized that my tendency to respond with a coachable spirit improves dramatically if the people who are trying to coach me are also coachable.

Since the evening was primarily geared for younger people I felt that the hockey players could have reminded the young people in attendance that for every person who dreams of playing in the NHL, there are only a very few who get to realize that dream. Young people need to know that often the dreams we pour our energy into just don’t work out. Disappointment is part of life.

My nephew dreamed of playing in the NHL and he was living towards that dream, progressing in junior hockey, and then his dream ended. This can be devastating and yet it’s a pill many of us have to swallow so that we can entertain a new dream. And who knows, maybe it will be a better one.

Finally, I was reminded that throughout history the younger have been teaching the older as much as the older have been teaching the younger.

George W. Goertzen, New Westminster B.C.

John Howard Yoder was reconciled to his church

Re: Ongoing coverage and letters relating to John Howard Yoder’s sexual abuse.

There is an essential side of the Yoder story that begs to see the light of day.

From its beginning, the Anabaptist movement emphasized the redemptive process of the Rule of Christ (Matthew 18:15-17). This process seems to have been skipped in the case of Yoder. Given the circumstances, one can empathize with the petitioners not desiring to face the accused, or even to be named. To be sure, the charges could have been made through an intermediary. Even in a public court case, the “who” needs to be identified in conjunction with the “what.”

Fortunately, there was a conference/congregational process lasting four years that ended in genuine reconciliation. John M. Bender, a Prairie Street Mennonite Church (Elkhart, Ind.) elder, summed up the results of the process in an April 22, 2013, letter he sent to me:

“Dec. 6, 1996, Elder meeting minutes: ‘It was noted from conference communication that the charges against John have been satisfactorily settled and closed. Action: Moved and carried to recognize John Howard Yoder’s continued membership at Prairie Street Mennonite Church . . . .’ Elders and John and Annie again met for dinner on Feb. 1, 1997. . . . The meeting turned the tables for me in terms of apology, repentance on the part of John, restitution and restored fellowship with the congregation. I recall it as a turning point, a moment of grace that summed up all previous steps of accusation, discipline, counselling, apology, repentance and efforts to make things right. . . . John wanted to make things right as much as he could, but the multiple parties in the process had no clear lines of communication with each other.”

Yoder himself had established a fund to be used for those he had hurt. Those involved in the process came to the conclusion that he was aware of needed boundaries, and would from now on stay within such boundaries. Indeed, he apologized publicly for the “inappropriateness of his actions and his desire for healing for the people he hurt,” as reported by Ted Grimsrud, in the March 3, 1998, issue of The Mennonite.

We gave John his life back, rejoicing that an errant has repented!

Leonard Gross, Goshen, Ind.

Millennials shape their own morality without the church

Re: “Who are the millennials?” editorial, March 31, page 2.

“Who are the millennials?” is the wrong question to ask ourselves. I suggest that the right question is: “What does the church have to offer millennials—or anyone else, for that matter?

It’s true that millennials have finely-tuned B.S. meters and they are leaving the church in large numbers. But maybe it’s not because of the pastor with skinny jeans offering them a latte. I think it’s because the very core of what the church offers is not relevant anymore. Scripture and faith tradition have little to no relevance to anything that millennials are doing.

Our religious traditions were born in frightening and superstitious times. Millennials have had the opportunity to grow up in a more educated and sceptical society, and it looks good. There are friendly people from so many other faiths out there, but most of the friendly people they know are very secular. How can we expect millennials to turn back to the one particular faith that their parents were taught to believe by the millennials’ grandparents?

Many churches are patting themselves on the back for now accepting homosexuals. To a millennial, a church that says, “Welcome! We’re now okay with gays,” sounds about as backward as a church that says, “Welcome! We’re now okay with black people!” Unburdened by the task of rationalizing how the New Testament is right, but Leviticus is wrong, millennials have a head start on shaping their own morality without the church.

The Bible still has important stories to tell all generations, and it is not irrelevant. But it is not any more relevant than Harry Potter. Both Harry Potter and the Bible have heroes, morals and life lessons to learn. And both have a central theme of magic. And no matter how hard we try, magic just doesn’t work.  

Clark Decker, Winnipeg

--Posted April 23, 2014

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