Readers write: April 11, 2016 issue

April 6, 2016 | Viewpoints | Volume 20 Issue 8

Jesus ‘affirms’ male-female marital unions

Re: “What is ‘good’ and ‘acceptable’?” feature,  Feb. 15, page 4.

We are greatly encouraged by Darrin W. Snyder Belousek’s scholarly article on marriage. Using scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, he has convincingly shown that marriage as ordained by God is not negotiable: “The Jerusalem council, in redrawing membership boundaries to include gentiles, did not redraw moral boundaries in any way that deviated from the canonical arc concerning marital union and sexual practices.”

It is also clear from the Genesis account that procreation was a major part of the whole creation story. God created man and woman for that purpose: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). God said it very plainly for all to read and understand.

If this does not fit into the reasoning of postmodern “innovationists,” “libertarians” or “revisionists,” it does not in any way change the fact that “[i]n the beginning God created male and female . . . and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 1:27, 2:24).

Jesus affirms this order, and adds that “[i]t would be easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the smallest part of a letter in the law to be changed” (Luke 16:17, Matthew 5:18, New Century Version).

Jakob Hildebrandt, Winkler, Man.


International partners deserve ‘a more incarnational ministry’

The Future Directions Task Force proposes to shift resources away from international to a more local focus.

I am deeply convinced of the importance of the local ministry my congregation does. At the same time, I believe that we move away from international ministry to our own detriment. Leaders in North America and Europe have pointed out that as the church declines in our regions, we more than ever need strong connections to the vibrancy and growth of the church in other areas.

We desperately need to see the poverty of our wealth through the eyes of others rich in commitment and faith in challenging settings. For that to happen, we need bridge people who truly have a foot firmly planted in two cultures. International ministry workers at their best have often played that role. Only a long-term presence in another culture has given them both the language skills and the cultural intelligence to create solid bridges in our global church family. 

The report recommends reconfirmation of call for long-term workers, with congregational and regional support required. Some workers may choose not to serve under the new regime with its uncertainties. The call of others may not be supported or funded.

The future envisioned beyond existing ministries is for short-term assignments, with their opportu-nities but also serious limitations and pitfalls. I have participated in short-term resourcing ministry in Latin America and the U.K. But those assignments only made sense in the context created by long-term relationships and trust established by others.

There is a lack of humility in projecting our future ministry with the global church as persons parachuting in, and not slogging through, the difficult process of being humbled by language learning and cultural disorientation.

We owe our international partners a more incarnational ministry.  

Rebecca Yoder Neufeld, Waterloo, Ont.


Task Force reminds us of ‘years of unfaithfulness’

After reading about the Future Directions Task Force in the three recent issues of Canadian Mennonite, I wonder if I have read the same document. I heartily agree with concerns raised by Witness workers (Feb. 1, page 4) and Derek Suderman (Feb. 29, page 12), but editor Dick Benner leads them in misinterpreting several parts. Thus, they fear outcomes that are not prescribed. Rather than all the negativism expressed, I have hoped for suggestions that would help us move forward. The timeline is not “chiselled in stone,” as Assembly 2016 will demonstrate.

Most comments failed to acknowledge several realities that “pushed” Mennonite Church Canada delegates to initiate this Task Force that has reminded us about years of unfaithfulness in regards to supporting delegate-approved ministries. I’ll suggest two more:

1. Too many congregations, like their individual members, have allowed the western culture of individualism and self-gratification to replace our profession of being disciples of Jesus our Lord. With changed loyalties, we act accordingly. Some larger congregations may act self-sufficiently, but we have a biblical tradition that highlights an interdependent church, an ideal that need not be lost with a leaner structure. We need constructive ideas, motivated leadership and loyal members.

2. Although I admit to not understanding the workings of our area and national church offices, I naively offer two alterations:

A. Our local congregations need frequently to see their faces and hear their testimonials. In the past, it was possible when staff at all levels was about a 10th of the current size.

B. We need to stop building bureaucrats. Inspirational and motivational public relations was of exceptional quality when we had many more mission workers and only two or three North American mission office staff.

Ivan Unger, Cambridge, Ont.


Pastor feels Evana Network was misrepresented by article

Re: “Evangelical Anabaptist Network generates hope and frustration,” Feb. 15, page 20.

I am disappointed that Canadian Mennonite elected to misrepresent the January Evana preview weekend and the Evana Network as a whole. Even as it stated at the onset that interest in Evana is due to a number of issues, the article proceeded to over-emphasize concern regarding same-sex relationships as the primary driver. I’m concerned that ill-will and unwarranted conflict due to false assumptions will be exacerbated by this.

It should be noted that same-sex relationships were not mentioned publicly even once throughout the weekend, nor does the Evana website mention this issue on its website outside of one brief line in both the personal and congregational covenants. The focus, instead, has been on equipping evangelical Anabaptist churches for evangelistic mission within holistic community engagement.

There’s no question that concern regarding the acceptance of same-sex relationships is an undercurrent. However, it is only one of many issues. Evana rightly understands that clarifying and living out our convictions together regarding Jesus, salvation and mission ought to be our primary focus, even as we discern various other critical matters along the way.

Ryan Jantzi, Zurich, Ont.
Ryan Jantzi is pastor of Kingsfield-Zurich Mennonite Church.


Marriage shouldn’t be confused with wedding

Re: “Cohabitation focus of discussion event at CMU,” Feb. 29, page 29.

I applaud Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) for hosting this important discussion. However, in my view and experience, becoming married is a process that begins before a wedding and continues afterwards. Thus, the question posed at CMU, “Cohabitation: The question of living together before marriage,” could have been better focussed as “Living together before the wedding,” or as “Living together while becoming married.” The conversation, as reported, confused marriage with wedding.

Additionally, I applaud the unnamed congregation that blessed a couple as they took the next step of “becoming married” by forming a home together. May we continue these conversations.

Tim Schmucker, Toronto
Tim Schmucker is a member of Toronto United Mennonite Church.


More than ‘reasonable doubt’ about climate change is necessary

Re: “Is climate change real?” by Will Braun, Feb. 29, page 17.

Maybe because a criminal trial is a relatable context for a wide audience, we can easily think science operates similarly: If a reasonable doubt about the accused’s supposed guilt can be established, then a prevailing scientific theory must be acquitted or discarded.

But a critical difference is that, unlike in a court of law, merely casting reasonable doubt on one—or even several pieces—of evidence is not enough to discard a prevailing scientific theory. To effectively discredit the claim that we’re contributing substantially to climate change, an alternative theory explaining the data better is needed, which, in the case of climate change, means a theory explaining what, other than human activity, accounts for the converging lines of evidence consistent with human forcing of the climate system. “Poking holes” in segments of data or individual model assumptions is not the same as demonstrating the improved explanatory power of an alternative theory.

Like Braun, I, too, can feel defensive when someone questions climate change, because, in my experience, such questioning never includes a presentation of a convincing alternative theory that indicates our current one should be replaced.

Brian Ladd, Edmonton


Climate change column makes the church seem irrelevant

Re: “Is climate change real?” by Will Braun, Feb. 29, page 17.

Disappointment is the word that I would use to describe my reaction to this Viewpoint column, because how is  this article helpful to anybody? How is asking this question helpful to Indigenous Peoples in Canada dealing with the loss of permafrost, to economically important forests ravaged by pine beetles because of warmer winter temperatures, or to food producers worldwide concerned with irregular weather patterns?

Certainly to say that climate hasn’t changed on its own over time would be wrong. But to also suggest that we haven’t had an impact on climate would also be wrong. This column isn’t helpful for us to move ahead in an ever-more-complicated world.

If our church magazine prints material like this, I would say it is no wonder that some find the church to be irrelevant.

Jay Reesor, Markham, Ont.


Listening to other points of view can lead to ‘irresponsible journalism’

Re: “Is climate change real?” by Will Braun, Feb. 29, page 17.

I appreciate Braun’s commitment to seriously considering other people’s points of view and listening to their arguments with an open mind. We need more journalists who are willing to do that.

However, it’s problematic to take an issue like climate change and pretend that there are two opposing views, each carrying equal weight. I’ve met intelligent, kind and reasonable people who can marshal all kinds of facts to “prove” that the moon landing was faked. I try to respect these people and listen to them, even though I don’t trust their arguments.

I think it’s pretty clear to anyone who’s paying attention that the majority of serious scientific inquiry has confirmed that indeed the planet is warming up at levels that threaten human habitation and that humans have contributed significantly to that trend. Fresh research by NASA shows that February 2016 was by far the hottest February on record and a new report from the World Meteorological Organization tells us that humans are currently putting carbon into the atmosphere at a rate 10 times faster than at any point since the extinction of the dinosaurs.

It’s worth listening respectfully and openly to those we disagree with. But we also need to weigh what we learn against what we already know. To suggest that there are two answers to the question Braun poses in his headline, each supported equally by scientific inquiry, is irresponsible journalism.

Josiah Neufeld, Winnipeg


Should we really listen to an angry God?

Re: “To whom do we listen?” by Phil Wagler, March 14, page 8.

I began by being interested and curious, but as I read and thought about the column in the light of my own experience and the experience of others, I became puzzled and disappointed.

I was puzzled by his apparent change of focus. At the outset, I had the clear impression the column was about the importance of heeding Scripture (the “authoritative canon”), but later on the focus seemed to shift to Jesus—that he was the one we really ought to listen to and heed.

Wagler wrote that we need “an authoritative canon for faith and life. We disregard Scripture to our own demise . . . for it is God’s speech to us.” It is Scripture that reveals the nature and character of God, he states, but the complexity of this claim is not explored; it is only stated.

This puzzles me and leaves me wondering what I am to make of disturbing passages in which God is presented as violent, rather than loving? How am I to reconcile God being “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 103:8), and the response of God’s immediate anger when Uzzah tried to steady the cart carrying the Ark (II Samuel 6:1-8)? When we come across such passages—and there are many—we join the teenager who commented, “Sometimes I’m afraid of God when I read the Bible. God seems so angry.”

This is where my disappointment comes in. Where are the suggestions for  interpreting such quite different portrayals of God in Scripture?  How are we to distinguish views of God that are found in Scripture, but are definitely not Christian? Not only are there no suggestions about this, there seems to be no hint that a problem exists and that interpretation is desperately needed. How is it possible to read an ancient collection of literature without interpretation?

John H. Neufeld, Winnipeg


Star Wars review promotes violence against women

Re: “Hollywood feminism and the decline of cinema,” Feb. 29, page 21.

I am in shock that a publication that is  supposed to represent pacifism and social justice would print an article that is so harmful to women.

Let’s examine the statement that you not only printed, but highlighted: “Female leaders like Rey could be teaching men that there are other ways to handle conflict, and to challenge evil and oppression, rather than through violence.”

Here are the problems with that sentence:

  1. It is based on the sexist assumption that women are inherently nonviolent, rather than having been conditioned by a male-dominated society to behave in a passive way, in order to maintain their control.
  2. It is based on the sexist assumption that men are inherently violent. Men are fully capable of being nonviolent; look at Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela.
  3. It puts the responsibility of “fixing” men’s problems on women. This attitude has led to decades of women being taught how not to be raped and to victim blaming.
  4. In this scenario, men have no responsibility for their actions.

I realize that there are qualifications surrounding this statement that make it seem like it is legitimate and maybe even respectful towards women. I guarantee you it is not.

I assume that Vic Thiessen, who wrote the review, and Dick Benner, the editor, who allowed this to be printed, are not violent towards women. However, these attitudes are responsible for violence against women every day.  Sexism contributes to violence against women and that is why it is never okay to publish—let alone highlight—a statement like that.

Canadian Mennonite needs to acknowledge that it has contributed to the victimization of women and needs to apologize for doing so.

Bev Hunsberger, Thunder Bay, Ont.


A thank you is in order

Re: “Praise her at the city gates,” March 14, page 13.

I want to thank Meghan Florian for a helpful and meaningful article in Canadian Mennonite. It is reassuring to all of us who can feel overwhelmed both in community and church from time to time. Please tell her how much that column meant to me.

Barbara Ens, Saskatoon

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