The year was 1963. D.W. Friesen and Sons of Altona, Man., publishers of 10-year-old The Canadian Mennonite were struggling to keep the first English-language, inter-Mennonite publication financially afloat.
Next to the Toronto Blue Jays, nothing more has gotten our attention as Anabaptist Mennonites than the greatest refugee crisis in the modern age, with more than 50 million displaced persons—the greatest number since the Second World War. With our own history of resettlement during the past century, this has become our defining spiritual moment.
Some days I would like to just unplug my computer, walk out into the sunshine and warmth of an autumn day, breathe in the clear air and pretend I was living in a time before the Internet. Find a close friend and chat face to face, rather than “like” his thoughts on Facebook.
Canadian Mennonite received a copy of a letter sent to David Martin, executive minister of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, as a response to its releasing the story on the alleged sexual misconduct of the late Vernon Leis (Sept. 14, 2014, page 16).
It’s been 14 years since Canadian Mennonite conducted an independent readership survey. In the next edition (Sept. 28), print and digital readers will find a list of questions that invite your feedback, solicit your opinion on content and attempt to ascertain your reading habits in both venues—print and digital.
The irony couldn’t have been more self-evident. Here were 7,500 modern-day Anabaptists celebrating the beliefs and convictions that hold them together in 65 countries around the world, following on the heels of a troubled assembly of Mennonite Church USA which appeared to be coming apart at the seams over sexuality.
The sky was a deep blue, the sun shining brightly as we gathered in the Zion Memorial Gardens to bury the ashes of a beloved family friend, my brother-in-law Frank R. Keller, in the community of our birth—Souderton, Pennsylvania. We all knew him as “Butch.”
A modern-day wannabe prophet calling himself a “marginal Mennonite” audaciously predicts that this year’s Mennonite World Conference gathering will see a “mass exodus” from that body and maybe the end of the assembly, depending on the outcome of the polarizing sexuality debate at the Mennonite Church USA assembly this month in Kansas City.
The ripples from the final Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearing and report held in Ottawa early this month after five years of hearings across Canada are far-reaching and damning. Almost no one in the religious and political establishment is left untouched.
As of the end of 2015, the Mennonite Brethren Herald, the 54-year-old periodical of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, will cease to exist. This untimely death calls for a eulogy and some lessons learned, some warnings implicit as it goes through its dying throes.
The Anabaptist/Mennonite worldwide communion has come a long way since the first Mennonite World Conference some 90 years ago.
That’s right—the mere cost of a cappuccino at Starbucks by 33 of your friends every day for three months provides relief for 1,000 refugees or some 200 families in war-torn Syria.
“Discernment” has been a much-used word and concept in interpreting the Bible over the past number of years. Mainly we have defined it as a working tool to determine what God in the person of Jesus would have us do about difficult issues facing us in the 21st century.
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.