The Sept. 25 print issue of Canadian Mennonite contained an insert from Maple View Mennonite Church entitled “Honour God with Your Bodies.” Some readers have asked about the rationale for its inclusion, many expressing pain, anger and confusion about its contents, and the fear that it will do further harm to LGBTQ Mennonites who have suffered rejection, shaming and exclusion from the body of faith, and to the church as a whole.
We have been deeply impacted by the stories we have heard. We regret the harm this insert has caused.
We want you to know that the decision to accept this insert was not taken lightly, but in response to the recommendations of the Becoming a Faithful Church (BFC) process.
CM publishes paid “promotional supplements” as an option for companies, organizations and church bodies to present their goods, services or ideas to our readers in the form of an insert that looks and feels different from the magazine. A supplement offers a sponsor control over format, paper stock, and content without the same editorial oversight given to news and viewpoints pages. While these inserts obviously generate revenue, the content must fit our editorial policy. CM has rejected requests when the insert does not, for example, represent a body related closely to the Mennonite church and its mission.
When Maple View Mennonite Church, a member of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, approached CM about having a place to present its conclusions on its three-year participation in the BFC process, this was the vehicle it chose—certainly an unconventional one for a single congregation. This included having it stapled in the centre spread, so it wouldn’t slip out during mailing and could then be easily detached. Our staff was in dialogue with the church over a period of months. Because of the sensitive nature of the topic, we also discussed it with our board and church leaders. Because Maple View is a member of our church body, and the magazine’s stated mission includes helping diverse voices speak to the larger church, the difficult decision was made to allow the church’s statement to appear in a promotional supplement.
We believe making space for this is consistent with the recommendations of the BFC process, as the recently released General Board Confession states: “The General Board decided at the outset, that the process of the BFC should reflect the congregationally based polity of the denomination. This meant that discernment of faithfulness would emerge from the congregations and not only from the academy, advocacy groups, institutional structures or a representative committee. The BFC Task Force was mandated by the General Board, not to do the discerning, but to design a process that would allow all voices in our church to speak, to be heard, and to hear what others were saying.”
CM’s mission is “to educate, inform, inspire and foster dialogue on issues facing Mennonites in Canada . . . .” We recognize that this is a difficult and painful conversation, particularly for those who have experienced it in a deeply personal way, and we need to keep learning how to facilitate it. How do we “allow all” of us to speak, to be heard and to hear?
To read some readers’ letters responding to the insert, go to: www.canadianmennonite.org/readers-write-october-23-2017-issue and www.canadianmennonite.org/stories/readers-write-nov-6-2017-issue