Readers write: April 27, 2015 issue

April 22, 2015 | Viewpoints | Volume 19 Issue 9

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Bible’s answers were ‘cut and dried’?

While I haven’t got any answers, I have been reading with interest the articles and letters about sexuality issues in Canadian Mennonite. All seem to be written with a biblical base by Spirit-led Christians but with widely differing and sometimes polar oppo-site points of view.

I think it’s good that God sometimes sends us questions like this that show us that we are not really up to the task of figuring everything out, hard as we try and as well meaning as we can be.

I think of past issues—genocide, slavery, women in ministry—that theologians can argue both for and against based on biblical principles, And even though “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness,” I come to the conclusion that maybe God is even too big for the box we call the Holy Bible.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just go to the Bible and read out the answer, cut and dried, end of discussion? But God doesn’t seem to work that way. We “see through a glass darkly,” and I don’t want to be too quick to “judge another man’s servant.”

Art Bast, Sudbury, Ont.


Is gay celibacy a form of sexual abuse?

Re: “A biblical and better way” feature, Jan. 19, page 4.

Ron Sider makes a strong and passionate appeal for the church to demand celibacy of those gays who desire full participation in the Mennonite church, and the feature has elicited many favourable letters to Canadian Mennonite.

Although celibacy for gays is already the de-facto, unwritten policy of many Mennonite churches and institutions, Sider’s article nevertheless strikes a disturbing note. Were celibacy to become official church policy, it would be a clearly discriminatory policy, targeting lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer (LGBTQ) people only.

Furthermore, as same-gender sexual attraction is widely accepted by the scientific community as a normal variation of human sexuality, the policy proposed by Sider is more than discriminatory. To place the hurtful, even inhumane, demand of celibacy on a narrowly prescribed group of persons, makes such a demand a form of emotional abuse with potentially serious repercussions for any LGBTQ person who takes such a prescription seriously. Since celibacy di-rectly challenges the legitimacy of human sexual activity for LGBTQ persons, required celibacy is arguably a form of sexual abuse.

It is difficult to see how the Mennonite church can strive to be a compassionate community of hope and healing, and require celibacy for gays at the same time. It would seem to be a blatant violation of our own values.

The Mennonite church is responding with appropriate concern to issues raised by the alleged misconduct of John Howard Yoder. How can the institutions and church leaders of our day show any less concern when today’s reputable theologians propose church policies which, if implemented, would hurt a large number of already marginalized persons, potentially driving trusting victims to depression, self-hate and even despair?

Victor Fast, London, Ont.


Who speaks for the wisdom of the past?

If no bishops or elders represent the wisdom of the past or tradition, then the interpretation of Scripture will come from the media and academia. Only writers who support reinterpretation of the traditional sexual ethic have been published in Canadian Mennonite since the current editor/publisher took over, with the one notable exception of Ron Sider’s highly criticized feature article, “A biblical and better way,” Jan. 19, page 4.

Constant barbs about intolerance and unloving attitudes appear in articles and some letters. This repeats the pattern followed by the United and Anglican church magazines prior to those denominations changing their sexual ethics.

In the media and academia, new is always preferable and more captivating, while individual freedom constitutes the ultimate value. But when one excludes the voice of critical thought based on older wisdom, society can turn quickly to political correctness as the arbiter. Groupthink rules while stable families and parental responsibility crumble.

Those aged 40s and above have generally heard the rationale for the tradition and sometimes know the formulations of statements of faith. But those in their 20s have rarely heard or read of this, and may be unaware that virtually all religions and all cultures share similar views on sexual promiscuity and gender differentiation. They only hear the newer wisdom without the context of the established bases for our society and the church.

Mennonites have no Pope, no regular repetition in liturgy of a creed, no catechism. Instead, they have community gatherings, some attendance at Mennonite schools and Canadian Mennonite to foster unity. If all those institutions are questioning the statements of faith, and primarily or exclusively providing voices for those who contest these, then change will be swift but shallow, not having to struggle with the reasons why previous generations and other cultures thought otherwise, not having to look carefully at Scripture, not having to read the products of Willard Swartley and other Mennonite authorities.

The Mennonite church needs urgently to name some body to defend the faith as traditionally given and to ensure that Canadian Mennonite provides a more balanced coverage of these issues. Then there will be fewer hostile letters from those who have felt that they were being brainwashed out of their tra-ditional views.

Richard Lougheed, Montréal
Richard Lougheed is a church history professor at the École de Théologie Évangélique de Montréal.


‘Mennonite’ credit union perceived as ‘exclusive’

Re: “ ‘Mennonite’ name should stay” letter, March 30, page 10.

I would like to thank Albert Isaac for his keen interest and engagement in the future of Mennonite Savings and Credit Union (MSCU). His current contributions to this process are appreciated and his past work as a committed board member is invaluable.

Our journey is enriched with a diversity of committed voices in our membership.

For more than 50 years, MSCU has had to balance the pressures of the marketplace with its Mennonite faith commitment. This commitment remains central when issues of growth, sustainability and marketing are raised. Our ongoing desire is to provide current and future generations a unique and compelling way to live out their faith and values through their finances.

With this in mind, it has become clear that increased levels of growth and profitability are needed to sustain the important work of this credit union. The broader financial services marketplace continues on a pace of rapid change and increased competition fuelled by shifts in demographics, technology and consumer preference. In this context, slightly higher growth rates are a necessary component of achieving our mission and offering our members the breadth of competitive products and services they expect.

We have grappled with Isaac’s question of why MSCU is not being actively promoted and championed as an option for people of faith. While our marketing already reaches a faith-based audience outside our traditional Mennonite constituency, many potential members who share our values are not aware that they can join. We understand they don’t feel welcome due to the perceived exclusivity of our name, and increased marketing alone will not bridge this gap in perception.    

Rather than “scrapping Mennonite from the name,” we are currently hard at work consulting with members in a thorough and transparent process of change. As a credit union owned by its members, we invite all members to join this conversation and provide input in a number of ways as we continue to plan for the future. In the end, I believe that Isaac and I want the same thing for our children and grandchildren: a vibrant credit union built in community, that offers a way to live out our faith with our finances.  

Brent Zorgdrager, Kitchener, Ont.
Brent Zorgdrager is chief executive officer of Mennonite Savings and Credit Union.

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