Readers write: January 5, 2015 issue

December 24, 2014 | Viewpoints | Volume 19 Issue 1

How long will natives be patient with Mennonites?

I just read the “Can we talk” feature article, Oct. 13, 2014, page 4, that made me angry! I had a higher ideal for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) than I read about.

We taught in the Yukon and had two native girls live with us at Faro. They came from the native community to the east—Ross River—to complete their high school. The only other choice they had was to go to the residential school in Whitehorse. They worked hard and did well. They have every right to be treated with dignity and respect.

Letting Darryl Klassen go at age 64 is a shame, whether he works with natives or any other group. He was greatly appreciated by all accounts mentioned.

What is meant by “results”? Are you expecting native people to respond like the white society? They do not live or act like that. Can we not learn to accept their way of responding? You will never get “results” if you can’t learn to pay attention to the way they do things.

It makes me angry to see that our leaders haven’t learned one single thing in these 140 years we, as Mennonites, have been in Canada. How long are the natives to be patient with us? This is ridiculous!

Mary Ann Goerzen, Salmon Arm, B.C.

MCC banquet cancelled due to Pentecostal church’s racism

This letter was originally sent to the Winnipeg Free Press about the cancellation of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Manitoba 50th-anniversary fundraising banquet on Nov. 15, 2014, and copied to Canadian Mennonite.

It is a travesty that a wonderful organization such as MCC had its 50th-anniversary gala event cancelled due to racism.

All preparations were made and tickets had been handed out for this historic event. But at the last moment, Immanuel Pentecostal Church in Winnipeg cancelled the event because a smudge was to be part of the ceremony. MCC has had a long and very positive relationship with first nations across Canada, frequently working together on issues of residential schools, racism and other social issues.

It is a sad state of affairs for a congregation that ostensibly preaches peace, harmony and good will to all for this to happen.

Approximately 20 years ago, a similar thing happened to me. I taught a large adult Sunday school class at McIvor Ave. Mennonite Brethren Church, Winnipeg, and had contacted several indigenous Christians, including a pastor, to speak to us on faith within their communities. They began their presentation with a smudge calling upon God in Christ to be within our circle that morning. A number of people made a show of walking out. Later, others spoke indignantly to me because I had not warned everyone that a smudge would happen. Others noted that I should never have permitted a smudge within the church itself. They were emphatic that a smudge was heathen and called upon evil spirits.

There are Christians of many different persuasions, and racism lurks among them, particularly evangelicals. It is sad that the Christians of Immanuel Pentecostal claim to follow the Prince of Peace when their actions loudly speak the exact opposite.

Ken Reddig, Pinawa, Man.

Canadians called on to pray for peace in the Middle East

A special thanks for the Aug. 18, 2014, edition of Canadian Mennonite with Palmer Becker’s feature, “From milk and honey to a land of rubble,” on page 4.

I was sad to read that Christian Peacemaker Teams are not allowed to walk in Gaza anymore. I encourage all my brothers and sisters in Christ that are travelling in the Middle East to remind each other, wherever they put their feet, to pray for God’s peace in that area. Let’s see where the Holy Spirit leads. I could see that we, as Canadians, really could be a help for the region through our prayers. I believe the Middle East would be more peaceful if they had one government.

I often watch Discovering the Jewish Jesus TV program with Kirk and Cynthia Schneider, a Messianic Jewish rabbi and evangelist, respectively. Listening to their program makes me think of Isaiah 44 and Romans 11, where God says that he will put the branch back into the tree.

I believe that we, as Anabaptist Mennonites, can unite, stand up, love Jesus and boldly go where God leads us to serve Christ.

Marlene Hiebert, Steinbach, Man.

Church needs to find unity in community, not hierarchical control

Asked by Earle Cornelius about how Mennonite World Conference (MWC) looks at issues related to same-sex marriage, Danisa Ndlovu, MWC president, responded: “There are some that want to accommodate those that find themselves in those situations; there are some that would say, ‘No, the Bible does not necessarily accept that.’ But that has not been an issue that divides us. Rather, we are saying, ‘Let’s talk about it. Let us find ways of dealing with those issues without necessarily being confrontational.’ ”

Then on Nov. 9, 2014, came the news that 96-year-old Chester Wenger—missionary, pastor and churchman par excellence—had married his son to another gay man in the backyard of his East Lampeter, Pa., home. In his “An open letter to my beloved church,” he stated: When our gay, young adult son about 35 years ago was excommunicated from the Mennonite church by a church leader, without any conversation with him or his parents, my wife and I grieved deeply. . . . When the laws of Pennsylvania changed in July, our gay son and his committed partner of 27 years went immediately to apply for a marriage licence. Subsequently they asked me if I would marry them. I happily agreed.”

In many ways, Ndlovu and Wenger got it right. They understand the subtleties of the way forward to being a faithful church. We can still be one people with many different voices. In that way we are no different than the often-divided early church that nevertheless clung together at key moments in the common belief in Jesus Christ. Like them, we should know that, although we may never reach total consensus on some issues, we can reach a deeper understanding born out of exercising mutual respect. This is a unity discovered in community, not a unity imposed through hierarchical control.

Wenger’s prayer “is that [Mennonite Church U.S.A.] leaders in their next assembly will . . . not only approve but warmly invite into congregational fellowship those believers in Christ who have suffered exclusion from membership in our Mennonite church. Let us pray the Spirit of Christ will teach us all how to love and welcome the outcasts as Jesus did.”

Bert C. Lobe, St. Jacobs, Ont.

Students need to see how sexuality and spirituality are interconnected

Re: “Sexuality is about more than just sex,” Oct. 27, 2014, page 19.

On behalf of Rockway Mennonite Collegiate, I would like to thank Canadian Mennonite for attending the evening session of our “Healthy sexuality” series and covering the story.

During this year’s annual Spiritual Emphasis Week, our chapel committee and administration chose to address the topic of “Healthy sexuality.” We wanted our student community and parents, together, to build a positive Christian sexual counterculture. We wanted our students to recognize that sexuality and spirituality are integrally interconnected.

And as Keith Graber Miller is quoted in the article, we wanted our students to internalize that “sexuality is . . . far more than what we do with our genitalia.” We chose to address this topic because we want our students to be reflective, responsible and compassionate in their efforts to form healthy relationships, particularly in a world of highly conflicting messages.

We were delighted to have parents and area Mennonite Church Eastern Canada pastors join us for the evening session. Rockway faculty are committed to walking with our students on their journeys of faith. We view conversation around this topic as one crucial way to engage with students in their faith development.

Healthy sexuality is a timely topic, and one that needs continued discussion in our church schools and our congregations.

Ann L. Schultz, Kitchener, Ont.
Ann L. Schultz is principal of Rockway Mennonite Collegiate, Kitchener.

No one chooses to be left-handed . . . or gay

I didn’t choose to be left-handed and neither my own efforts nor the pressure of parents or teachers could make me learn to write with my right hand. One result was that I never learned to write legibly with either hand.

Studies have shown that about 5 percent of humans are left-handed. Coincidentally, about the same proportion is gay. Being left-handed or gay are not lifestyle choices. You either are, or you aren’t.

I’m told that the effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals on reproductive biology in humans during gestation and lactation can influence gender. Lee Harding, in a letter to the Vancouver Sun, maintained that a person can be chromosomally male and have female genitalia, or vice versa. According to him, there are chromosomal aberrations: women’s sex chromosomes are normally XX and men’s XY, but a person can have a missing, damaged, or extra X or Y. Science cannot define all the ways chemical, hormonal and chromosomal aberrations can cause a mismatch between a person’s apparent biological gender and his or her gender identity, wrote Harding.

Given the social stigma and implications for sports and career advancement, no one in his/her right mind would choose to be either left-handed or gay.

Irene Kroeker, Langley, B.C.

Doubting is not a virtue

Re: “Faith vs. doubt (Pt. 1),” Oct. 27, 2014, page 13.

Satan said to Eve, “Did God really say . . . ?” and she began to doubt what God had said.

Evangelist Charles Templeton looked at the world and at the opinions of men—particularly about evolution—and began to doubt God.

We should understand that many of us doubt. Perhaps all have some doubts about some things from time to time: Will God really heal us? Will he always do what is best for us? Will God really forgive us? Is God too mysterious for us to understand? Is Scripture really as perfect as we say it is?

But one of the recent problems we have is the opinions of men who promote doubting.

Jesus clearly said to Thomas, “You have seen and touched and now believe. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

Doubting is not an unforgiveable sin, but neither is it a mark of sincerity or a new virtue. Asking questions in faith is different than asking questions to test God or to challenge God.

Rather, pray in faith for a steadfast faith, a trusting faith, a strong faith. God is greater than our doubts, and is always victorious. Do not be satisfied with a doubting faith. You may get what you ask for.

John Zylstra (online comment)

Influence from alongside, rather than from within

Re: “When faith and politics intersect” editorial, Nov. 10, 2014, page 2.

I want to thank Dick Benner for his excellent editorial to lead into the discussion of Anabaptists engaging political processes (“Seeking the welfare of the city,” page 4).

The Anabaptist/Mennonite tradition of influencing the welfare of the countries, cities and towns in which we live by establishing businesses that function according to the principles of our beliefs, by engaging relationships in the community led by these principles, and by speaking to those in political office based on the example of our lived-out faithfulness, I would argue is still the preferred way.

To seek the “peace and prosperity of the city” (NIV) or the “welfare of the city” (NRSV) can be done very intentionally alongside the powers of political office. In fact, this is the missional way: to align ourselves with what God is already doing in our neighbourhood and work together with our neighbours to make it a better place.

I am okay with the uncertainty of “no guarantees” of success. When the influence we offer does not have the power of force, but the power of relationships in community, there are no guarantees of getting those in political power to give their attention to our neighbourhood, but we can still brighten the corner where we are. Getting some public dollars and support thrown at a community vision for improving our neighbourhood is a bonus, but not necessary to make a difference.

The compromise of aligning with the powers who have force as an option to get things done, and have the option of seeking to make peace by lethal violence, is too great.

Garry Janzen (online comment)

Holy Spirit can collectively guide the whole church

Re: “If lesbians can’t be ordained is there still a place for ordination?” letter, Nov. 10, 2014, page 8.

Perhaps letter writer Victor Fast asks the wrong question. Other questions that come to mind in his letter are: Is there a place for Mennonite Church U.S.A.? (As a Canadian reader, we may ask about MC Canada.) Or a broader question: How does the Holy Spirit guide Christians today, or how does the Holy Spirit guide our Mennonite people?

I am disturbed by the judgmental statement referring to the difference between “a fallible delegate assembly and the leading of the Holy Spirit.” Does the Holy Spirit not guide both Denver First Mennonite Church and also guide our Mennonite people as we gather as churches in a broader gathering?

As an individual, I may sense the Holy Spirit’s leading on an issue. But when my church gathers to consider the same question and prays for wisdom to discern the Holy Spirit’s leading, if the answer arrived at is different from my own, I think it’s best to assume the church is probably right.

Spending time together and asking for guidance together is a good step towards unity in the Spirit. I believe that the same principle holds true for a small church like I attend and the body we call MC Canada.

My conclusion is that there is a place for MC Canada and MC U.S.A. And I believe the Holy Spirit can guide us as we collectively and earnestly seek wisdom from God.

Harold Penner, St. Malo, Man.

Following a nonviolent God is a challenge for Christians

Among our most pressing needs today is the challenge to follow a nonviolent God as revealed by the nonviolent incarnational Jesus of Nazareth. Unfortunately, many Christians have opted for the use of military violence to punish “evildoers,” choosing war as the most effective means to protect freedom, justice and peace.

Many Christians endorse the “violent apocalyptic Christ” as described in Revelation 19:11-21 and other passages, justifying the use of violence and using our sacred Scriptures to support a major destructive political practice on earth.

How can we use Canadian Mennonite even more effectively to demonstrate our faith in a God who triumphs over evil, calling his people to serve humanity and all creation by pursuing peace with powerful acts of sacrificial compassion and love?

Erwin Kroeker, Winnipeg

--Posted Jan. 2, 2015

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This issue here isn't racism. It's about spirituality. Where in scripture is there an indication that smudging is to be practised by Christians?

Smudging started when burnt sacrifices were first offered to Yahweh. That would be around the time of creation ... maybe a bit later, around the time of Cain and Abel.

Mr. Warkentin,
In a nutshell, smudging ceremonies are done to cleanse and purify physical/spiritual bodies. Spirits of herbs or other plants are called on to supposedly send away negative energies. This is in opposition to Christianity. We must rely on the blood of Jesus Christ alone to cleanse us.

It's a specious argument, to say that since smudging is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, it cannot be a legitimate ritual for Christians. Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, is a sober occasion for us to have the symbol of the cross put on our foreheads -- since it wasn't a Biblical practice either, it must be categorically condemned?

God's Spirit continues, throughout history, to provide humanity with creative ways of expressing fundamental values; we impoverish our faith and deny God's power when we always utilize the filter that says: "but did they do it that way, back then?"

Sadly the same lifeless arguments are used when we try to discern the question of same-sex relationships. It is rather obvious that neither Paul nor the writers of the Levitical code were at all familiar with the nuances of today's LGBTQ ethical debate. The context is vastly different nowadays!

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