Readers write: June 9, 2014

June 4, 2014 | Viewpoints

Pretty girls can be a distraction

Re: “Getting back on track” by Aaron Epp, May 12, page 37.

We need to read the Bible for personal nourishment, and to learn how to follow God in our daily walk. Pretty girls are often more of a distraction, if that is our sole motive. Hang in there, and God bless you for your honesty!

Ryan Carney (online comment)

What will it take to change?

Re: “Time to divest” editorial, April 28, page 2.

I can’t express how good it feels to read Dick Benner’s editorial.

Working in the world of science, these words of warning have been going out for years. Yet I have seen only small voices shouting out this warning within the church. These voices have been doing a good job, but they are hardly mainstream within the Mennonite community.

So what will it take for us to change? Benner starts his editorial by saying this is a justice issue, an issue to which Mennonites feel closely aligned. Could that finally be the hook that gets Mennonites to respond?

Henry J Rempel, Winnipeg (online comment)

Fossil-fuel divestment is not the answer

Re: “It’s time to divest” editorial, April 28, page 2.

I will not be signing the open letter to the leadership of Mennonite Church Canada that calls for fossil-fuel divestment. I don’t believe that this approach will result in one less drop of oil on the market or the slightest diminishing of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  

This is not really a supply-side problem. Fossil fuels are available because they are in demand. When this demand diminishes, supply will diminish. And this will happen regardless of who holds shares in this market.  

What is needed—desperately needed—are alternative energy sources other than fossil fuels. It’s time to hear a great deal more on that front.

And who better to lead the demand for this discussion than faith-based communities. That is, we who believe that the planet, the abundant and diverse life forms on it—including ourselves—are a special gift from God.

As far as fossil-fuel investments themselves, I am surprised—even amazed—that MC Canada would have any. But since the anonymous group has called for divestment, I assume they know such investments do exist. But why call for a time-consuming study when a simple delegate motion can direct MC Canada to go ahead with divestment.

Global warming is here and it is very serious, many orders of magnitude more serious even than the FossilFreeMenno letter describes. And the outcome, if not reversed soon, will be another mass extinction, of which Earth has already had five. But this time the extinction will include the human race.

The task of the churches’ prophetic voices now is to join others in convincing the world that alternate sources of energy must be found—and they can be.

As Stompin’ Tom used to sing,  “If you don’t get at it when you get to it, you won’t get to it to get at it again.”

And too late really will be too late.

Bill Bryson, Toronto

God’s Not Dead is alive with gospel truth

Re: “Film doesn’t prove ‘God’s not dead’ ” review, April 28, page 27.

Having read Vic Thiessen’s film review, I was wondering why anyone would waste their time and money watching it.

I, however, have seen it twice, and was totally captivated and impressed by it. The film is a powerful presentation of actual university life. One freshman, Josh, is determined not to deny his Lord, facing a professor’s ridicule and tough class questions on the beginning of God, and why there is evil, violence, hatred, sickness and pain in the world.

In three gruelling sessions, one by one he wins the class’s support. Philosophy is dead. God is alive. The rest of the film proves the reality and existence of an almighty God.

The minister and black man in the film show the necessity of faith and trust in God. The lady with cancer accepts the Lord. The lady with dementia utters gospel truth.

The men’s quartet in prayer before a concert with thousands in the audience; many classmates, including a Muslim woman who became a Christian (after suffering physical abuse from her father) all stand with outstretched arms, praising and thanking God for his love, grace and salvation.

Even the atheist professor, when struck in a stormy traffic accident, is led to faith in Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour, in his dying seconds.

A remarkable film and a “must see” for all young people and university students.

C. Neil Klassen, Rosemary, Alta.

Bible can’t be ‘crystal clear’ when it’s self-contradictory

Re: “Christians must continue to call all sins ‘sin’ ” letter, May 12, page 9.

While fulminating against “homosexual sin,” Pastor Artur Esau wonders “why for heaven’s sake do we have to have dialogue about things that are crystal clear and obvious to begin with in the Word?” His assumption, though, is flawed. Nothing in the Bible is crystal clear. Every passage requires interpretation.

Indeed, one might say that the key impetus of the Protestant Reformation was the desire to allow individuals to interpret the Bible as they saw fit, rather than have it construed for them by dogmatic priests.

Esau’s assumption, too, begs a further question regarding translation. I doubt that he and his congregation in Hague, Sask., are worshipping from the original Hebrew Old Testament and the original Greek and Aramaic of the New Testament. Any translation is an act of interpretation. That’s why translations of the same text differ. This fact also makes any claims about biblical texts being “crystal clear” rather suspect.

Finally, it’s hard to see how Scripture can be “crystal clear” when it is self-contradictory. This pertains even to the most basic aspects of Christian doctrine. As a single example, Acts 13:39 says that all sins can be forgiven; yet Mark 3:29 says that blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable. If the Bible was really intended to be “crystal clear,” then surely God would have ensured that it is free from internal contradictions.

In short, it seems to me that it diminishes the Word of God to see it as nothing more than a handbook of immutable, black-and-white rules. Instead, Scripture invites and impels us to interpret it, and those interpretations will—and should—change as people and cultures change. That’s what keeps Scripture alive, and that’s why ongoing dialogue is necessary, even when it makes pastors and congregations uncomfortable.

Mark Morton, Kitchener, Ont.
Mark Morton is a member of Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church, Kitchener.

Just what practices are ‘sexually immoral’?

Re: “Christians must continue to call all sins ‘sin’ ” letter, May 12, page 9.

Writer Artur Esau asked, “Why should we now accept sexual immorality . . . as not being sin anymore?  Could someone explain that to me, please?”

I don’t think anybody is trying to not name sexual immorality as sin. I think people are questioning what specific practices we lump under the phrase “sexual immorality.”

In attempting an answer to that question, I find Tony Campolo’s definition of sin—“anything that dehumanizes”—a fairly good place to start.

Kyle Penner, Steinbach, Man.
Kyle Penner is associate pastor of Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach.

Expecting crystal clarity disrespects church dialogue process

Re: “Christians must continue to call all sins ‘sin’ ” letter, May 12, page 9.

Regarding the discussion about homosexuality and the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered/queer (LGBTQ) community, the author asks why “do we have to dialogue about things that are crystal clear?”

I was recently in a meeting in which we were discussing our church’s response to this very topic and someone who would be on the opposite side of the issue from Pastor Artur Esau made a similar statement, that clearly we know where Jesus would stand on this. Someone else replied that it is clearly not clear.

To say that this is clear and obvious minimizes and disrespects the very intentional and prayerful thought that has been focused on this topic by many sincere and spiritual people. This is something that continues to be a difficult topic for much of Christendom and has caused much pain on many levels and to all kinds of people.

I wonder if we cannot trust each other’s sincere desire to be followers of Christ and to do the right thing while we humbly and lovingly continue in this dialogue.

Carol Gaeke Franz, Winnipeg
Carol Gaeke Franz is a member Grain of Wheat Church/Community in Winnipeg.

MC Saskatchewan moderator defends assembly process

I would like to correct some misinformation in Ray Mutlow’s letter to the editor, “Reader feels MC Saskatchewan misled delegates,” May 12, page 12.

First, the relevant item in the Mennonite Church Saskatchewan Safe Church Policy is misquoted. It should read, “No person will be granted a position or prohibited from a position on the basis of age, gender, cultural background, physical appearance or sexual orientation.”

Second, all the relevant information regarding the Safe Church Policy and a resolution put forward by one member church pertaining to that policy were included on page 17 of the report book. Churches that took the time to read and discuss the report book and to prepare delegates were well aware that a “controversial matter” would be on the agenda.

As moderator, I was well aware of what the gist of the concern entailed: namely, that most people were quite comfortable with inclusiveness regarding participation in camps and worship, but that some members and member churches were not ready to assume a similar position regarding employment of personnel. The resolution to refer the “preventing discrimination” section back to council for further study was representative of this concern.

I take responsibility for the handling of the resolution to adopt the Safe Church Policy as printed in the assembly report book, as well as for conducting the debate on its approval and on the amendment to refer Section V back to council. As moderator and council, we decided to put the decisions into the hands of the membership delegates, who decided, after a time of courteous debate from both sides, to adopt the policy without referring Section V for further study.

Two things occur to me as I contemplate the experiences to which Ray Mutlow refers:

• Our assumptions sometimes jump ahead of actual cases. The only item in Section V that was challenged in my conversations with the movers of the referral motion was on the question of employment. In practice, following the MC Saskatchewan Safe Church Policy means that personnel committees will not reject an application for employment outright on the basis of sexual orientation. In other words, a personnel committee’s first question to an applicant will not be, “Are you gay, straight or bisexual?”

• Leadership is sometimes seen as conspiring to promote positions on which there is not broad consensus in the membership. Mutlow’s letter exemplifies this: “a deliberate attempt to hide this from our church and possibly the delegates we might have sent.” The tendency to attribute motives to people before approaching them for dialogue represents a real danger. How can progress be made on vital issues if false assumptions prevail, and why would anyone consent to assume a leadership role under those circumstances?

I would echo Mutlow’s opinion that, “[t]rust and integrity . . . are two main character ingredients for people and organizations.”

 George Epp, Rosthern, Sask.

--Posted June 4, 2014

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