It’s been a good eight-year ride, my friends, with a few bumps along the way. I will miss this biweekly meeting with you on the second page of Canadian Mennonite. While it’s been a monologue, I have felt it had the makings of a dialogue, of one friend sharing thoughts with another friend. I have tried to make it more of a conversation than a lecture.
Having my roots in the United States, and more particularly as a Swiss-German emigrant, I have enjoyed the adventure of learning another culture, both political and religious, that challenged some of my assumptions and stereotypes about Canadians, bringing me face-to-face with a gentle and articulate people. Your naturally peaceful and friendly nature has nurtured my spirit and quieted my soul.
While you are certainly not a passive people, you seem to have a higher sense of honour and decorum as you have engaged with me and with each other. This dynamic has both challenged and humbled me as I have attempted to lead the conversation among us as both friends and fellow-Christians travelling on the same Anabaptist-anchored journey. We have a rich spiritual heritage that transcends national and cultural boundaries and that gives us guideposts along the way.
I have tried to regard those markings as we have plunged headlong into an uncertain and rapidly changing post-Christendom era in which we have needed to pay attention, through discernment at the congregational level and a new hermeneutic in our theology, to find our way through some of the fog.
Along the way, I have pleased some of you, annoyed others and incensed some of our leaders. That is the risk of my role as a journalist, and it goes with the territory. Being in this craft for more than 50 years, I can say this comes as no surprise. It gives the conversation richness, depth and substance, and hopefully shapes our identity in the process. Our diversity gives us character and keeps us from becoming complacent and self-serving.
Relying on Scripture as our guide and the Holy Spirit as our inspiration and mentor, I have tried to point the way through some of the thorny issues confronting us. Like the wind, we don’t know from whence it comes nor in which direction it will take us, but we are confident that this is of God, and therefore rest in the confidence that a way will become clear.
Feeding into this dynamic are some humble attempts during my tenure, such as carving out a section to hear our Young Voices, inviting them to be more intentionally a part of our communion, hearing their individual voices and recognizing the energy that contributes to the body’s health and welfare.
We have given prominent place to the local stories across the country by continuing to hear from our area church correspondents, a feature unique to this publication in which we pay these “eyes and ears” on the ground so that we can keep in touch with each other across the vast spaces of Canada. It guards against parochialism and a top-down approach to church life.
We have given place to various viewpoints in our opinion pieces, never insisting on one point of view in the conversation. We have printed all letters unless they attack another person rather than his or her ideas.
And we have done all of this with a model of independent journalism—having our own governing board that has full representation from the denomination and area churches, but with the editorial freedom to critique as we find it appropriate, all within the framework of “fostering dialogue as we share the good news of Jesus Christ from an Anabaptist perspective,” as our mission statement declares.
On this topic I leave with a cautionary note. As the new structure for Mennonite Church Canada takes shape in the next two years, there may be a tendency to push Canadian Mennonite to be more closely aligned with the governing bodies that will emerge, resulting in our pages becoming more of a cheerleader than they have been historically.
In my view, that would diminish the quality of the publication and quiet the voices of dissent so necessary to retain the integrity and quality of our communion. Unfortunately, this “alignment” would follow a trend with some of our Mennonite cousins in the U.S. and Canada.
With this I take my leave. This is my last editorial. I will miss talking with you every two weeks.
Since March 2009 Dick Benner has written 176 editorials. You can read his first one here.