In the cross-hairs of change

February 22, 2017 | Editorial | Volume 21 Issue 5

“The times, they are a-changin,” belted out singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in the mid 1960s.

While Dylan made the words a hum-them-all-day-long habit for many of his fans, those of us living more than a half-century later smile to ourselves and ask: “What’s new about that?” Change has been constantly a part of our lives if we are awake and taking nourishment every day. Get used to it, sister. Adjust your lenses regularly.

Today, though, change is taking on a whole new meaning. Its pace has quickened. What we long considered changeless and stable is now being uprooted, in many cases considered archaic and useless, even mocked as something to be discarded.

Take “fake news,” for example. Those of us keeping informed through what we considered reliable news sources are now being told by the new U.S. president that this information is false because it doesn’t align with his ideological views of how government works, or should work.

Or that immigrants, especially from a certain seven Middle East countries, are likely terrorists—whatever that easily-thrown-around term means—and should be kept out. Or that Russia, historically a brutal regime dealt with warily by western governments, is now an international friend and ally.

All these are profound changes that can rock us to the core and even shake our faith in a God whom we consider a power in our lives that works in mysterious ways to counter and confound the nations as they rage and engage in warfare to keep their power and place intact. As Anabaptist Christians, we are always conscious, with the psalmist, that “the kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed” (Psalms 2:2 NIV), biblical lyrics set to powerful music in Handel’s Messiah.

Make no mistake, though, that these wider cultural/political forces are affecting life in our own communion known as Mennonite Church Canada. The Brexit vote event in the United Kingdom and the isolationist Make America Great Again slogan can have an insidious but subconscious way of seeping into our own worldview as we carve out our own future in faith matters.

Two articles in this issue point to some undercurrents in our national and congregational life that should be brought to the conscious level.

In the feature “Who’s winning at church?” Ryan Dueck, in dealing with the recent David Haskell survey that draws a strong connection between theological conservatism in Canadian mainline Protestant churches and church attendance, warns profoundly that “theological truth and biblical fidelity cannot be reduced to an attendance referendum.”

We couldn’t agree more. But giving legs to a possible rift in our own communion right now is the disagreement over Being a Faithful Church 7 that pits one interpretation over another in this so-called “biblical fidelity” debate regarding same-sex marriage. Will we divide over this or come together in good-faith disagreement?

And in his Future Directions article on page 14, senior writer Will Braun, in interviewing César Garcia, general secretary of Mennonite World Conference, cautions that in emphasizing the local congregation in our restructuring efforts, the new paradigm may be taking us to the point of “losing a biblical view of God’s vision: ‘A multicultural global community made up of people from every nation.’ That is everywhere in the Scripture.”

Will the shifting of our Witness program from a national office to congregations within a new regional church structure diminish that vision and bend toward the isolation that is gripping the international political culture?

And add to all of this the influence of the Internet on our daily lives. Conversations among us on social media can be more dominant and influential, it seems, than what the well-established media, such as Canadian Mennonite, fosters on a regular basis. Can we continue to nurture and shape a communion-wide narrative with so many venues feeding into it?

We are trying our best to use all media platforms to keep our readers informed and inspired across the country. Our website changes regularly to carry updated information and news that is important to feed and strengthen this narrative.

These are just a few of the forces that undergird the surface changes being proposed by the Interim Council of the Future Directions Task Force. Will they be recognized and taken into account as we discern together the future of our faith community?

Only time and our collective godly wisdom will tell.

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