Some significant changes are occurring at Canadian Mennonite.
Disturbing and perplexing is the only way to describe the cut in federal funding for a proven program of ex-prisoner rehabilitation called Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA).
So how are we doing 490 years later?
“Many members are not happy with the direction and general content of the magazine,” writes a Mennonite pastor, in a solicited follow-up note after one of his members cancelled his subscription. The member was unhappy because Canadian Mennonite has put “homosexuality as a priority,” rather than reflecting our church life.
While personally rejuvenated from my four-month sabbatical, I am saddened to come back to a faith community that seems wounded and immobilized with what one of our interim editors, Barb Draper, called a “difficult debate” over sexuality.
Before things “broke badly” for the actor Bryan Cranston, he was in a great family TV show called Malcolm in the Middle. If you’ve seen it, you will remember the catchy theme song with the refrain, “You’re not the boss of me now . . . and you’re not so big.”
Since the 1980s, the Mennonite church has been debating how it should relate to those who are same-sex attracted. It has been a long and difficult debate, and it isn’t over yet. Since 2009, Mennonite Church Canada has been working on how to deal with this contentious issue through the Being a Faithful Church (BFC) process.
The dawn of a new year is always alluring to me because there is so much promise. You say goodbye to the year that was. If the previous year was a good one overall, you hope that the new year will be similar. If the previous year was not so great, the new year promises an opportunity to start afresh.
Several years ago, a fellow pastor sighed in resignation as we talked about the approach of Advent, a pastor’s workload equivalent to an accountant’s tax season. “I don’t like preaching through Christmas,” he said.
Among other shifting sands in the Mennonite world is how we view our relationship to the state, moving from a stance of a nonviolent witness but not participation, to one of entering its ranks to influence policies for its betterment in the areas of justice, creation care and peacemaking. We are becoming participants, not only witnesses.
Several months ago, our editor heard complaints from someone who wanted Canadian Mennonite to stop carrying letters to the editor because letters often cause too much friction.
Mainstream Mennonites tend to be doers. We have been taught to work hard and take satisfaction from getting things done, whether that is fixing up houses through Mennonite Disaster Service or sending relief kits and food aid through Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to places where people are destitute. We like to feel that our hard work is getting results.
In a chapter on “Sabbath” in her book An Altar to the World, Barbara Brown Taylor confesses to “holy envy” of how the Jews practise the Sabbath, beginning with a proper Friday evening Shabbat service and the lighting of two candles, one for each of the Sabbath commandments in Torah, both of which cal
It is almost a cliché to say that the church is in the middle of mind-numbing changes, nearing a revolutionary scale. Anglican Bishop Mark Dyer calls the situation a “giant rummage sale,” as we take a look at all our old stuff and sell what we don’t need.
“We would benefit more if our leaders were leading more and following less,” lamented one reader in reflecting on the Being a Faithful Church (BFC) discussions at Assembly 2014 this past July. “It is very difficult to guide a scattering herd of sheep from the rear.”
We, in North America, watch helplessly as the human carnage continues in Gaza. The continuing struggle for control of a tiny piece of land on the Mediterranean Sea—a narrow, densely populated, coastal strip 40 kilometres long and a few kilometres wide—has held our attention for a month now.
Words, words, words—millions of them filled the Loewen Auditorium during the four days of Assembly at Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg, earlier this month. Conversations, greetings, drama, spirited singing and good humour made this another inspirational gathering for delegates to the biennial event of Mennonite Church Canada.
By the time this editorial sees the light of print and the Internet, some 500 delegates attending our national assembly in Winnipeg will have discerned, debated, parsed and probably tired of the theme for the event: Wild Hope, faith for an unknown season.
They sat in rapt attention, taking in every word from the 80-year-olds sitting in front of them. The usual restlessness was gone. The children took in every word.
Once in a great while along comes a classic literary work that gets our attention like no other, not necessarily intended or viewed at the time of its publication, but touching our minds and spirits as a rallying point in our continuing Anabaptist story.
Willard Metzger, executive director of Mennonite Church Canada, has been invited to comment on the complexities of the relationship between Canadian Mennonite and the denomination, in part as a response to Dick Benner’s three-part series of editorials published in September/October, 2013, a series explaining the history, governance and future of this publication.
“All politics is local,” is one of the enduring lines of political wisdom uttered by the salty, outspoken U.S. congressman from Massachusetts, the late Tip O’Neill, nearly three decades ago—a line that seems to be gaining momentum in the 21st century. And it applies to more than politics.
It’s been called the greatest human rights issue of our time. Or if that sounds too secular for Anabaptist Mennonites, let’s translate it to say it is the most pressing justice issue of our time.
The timing of Mennonite Church Canada’s current segment on human sexuality couldn’t have been better.