Readers write: April 4, 2022 issue

March 30, 2022 | Opinion | Volume 26 Issue 7
(Graphic by Betty Avery)

Marriage is a spiritual union of soulmates
God didn’t create you wrong,” Feb. 21, page 4.

Nicolien Klassen Wiebe shows how Mennonite churches have been struggling with questions around the growing number of transgender and gender-diverse members in our congregations. One of the key issues is about marriage in the church. In the past the response of Christian churches has been mainly to ignore the issues. However, it is now time to reconsider.

I met my wife, Sheilah, the love of my life, the same day that each of us arrived in a strange city, from opposite ends of the country, to begin new and exciting chapters in our lives. We were joined together by God, in December 1970 in the Wolfville Baptist Church, and we’ve been together ever since, in good times and in challenging times. Truly, we are soulmates, joined in a spiritual union that has transcended time and place. It is what I would wish for everyone.

Such was the strength of our bond that we have wondered if we would still have found each other if both of us had been a man, or both a woman. We might well have, but if we did, we would not have been able to marry in either her church or mine.

The purpose of Christian marriage is to affirm the marriage as a spiritual union, above and beyond the societal and legal requirements. To accomplish this, I propose that we think of those who are joined in holy matrimony as soulmates. The union of two human beings in an intimate relationship is, at its heart, a spiritual union, bound together by the movement of the spirit, joined by God. Therefore, it is a relationship that needs and deserves a Christian wedding, regardless of the sex and gender of those who are joined in that union.

—Paul Redekop, Winnipeg
The writer is a retired professor of conflict resolution studies.


Two views on the ‘freedom convoy’
MC Canada executive ministers release statement on ‘freedom rallies,’” Feb. 21, p. 8.

We are deeply saddened and troubled by this statement. While as Christians it is important to stand against hatred in the world, such as anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and racism, it is a gross misrepresentation to say that the convoy and rallies in Ottawa and across Canada represented any of these prejudices.

We seem to be facing an information war, in which the portrayal of this event in the mainstream media vastly differs from what thousands have experienced in person, and many more across the world have seen through live videos.

Those who were present in Ottawa experienced many people coming together for church services and worship led by pastors on the Hill. Prayer circles were formed to support the convoy and pray for peace, with many people coming to Christ during this time.

The Freedom Convoy group showed love and support to others: feeding the homeless, shovelling the streets, providing activities for children, with many cultures, races and diverse voices coming together for a common cause.

After three weeks, this group, which protested peacefully and lawfully, was met with force, including tear gas, pepper spray and police horses.

With that statement, MC Canada is not showing its support to many people across the country and globe advocating for their freedoms and peace in their country.

“Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others” (Philippians 4:2). This verse represents what the truckers were doing for all Canadians, at their own cost and peril.

—Bible study group in St. Catharines, Ont.: Betty Anne Adams, Martha Fransen, Mary Huminilowycz, Susan Park, Elaine Reimer, Margaret Wiens, and Rebecca Hahn


RE: Learning to listen, Feb. 21, page 2
My compliments on this perceptive and well written editorial. My ability to give ‘gracious space’ to those with whom I disagree has been sorely challenged during these past months, especially with what I consider the woefully misbegotten “freedom convoy,” which has a flavour of being covertly and even overtly anti-vax.

Vaccines have been the unequivocally greatest advance in medicine in my 45-year pediatric career, with a host of infectious diseases such as bacterial meningitis simply disappearing. I was reminded of this while talking with a neighbour who is approximately 70 and has needed three spinal surgery procedures due to the ravages from polio at the age of two. He was unfortunate enough to be born just before vaccination for that dreaded affliction emerged in the 1950s.

Do we really want our loved ones to have the “freedom” to acquire dreadful and deadly infections like polio or COVID-19 for which we have the amazing protection afforded by effective vaccines? I admit that the “freedom convoy” has not elicited gracious sentiments from me.

—Paul Thiessen, Vancouver
The writer attends Point Grey Inter-Mennonite Fellowship in Vancouver.


Memories of Ukrainians coming to Alberta
During the early 1930s, George MacDonald welcomed a trainload of Ukrainian immigrants to farm in the Peace River region of northwestern Alberta. They dressed in beautiful sheepskin coats, but my grandfather noticed their poverty, confusion and need for understanding. As chair of the local school board, he brought Ukrainian children into the classroom and gave other kids a lesson in acceptance of newcomers.

The Depression was hard for Albertans struggling against economic collapse and drought, but the Ukrainians who joined them on the land were escaping persecution in Communist Russia, where 10 million had died from starvation. Previous generations of “Galicians” had found freedom in Canada from oppression in Europe.

My grandfather met many Canadians originating from Eastern Europe on his beat as a police constable in working-class northeast Edmonton. During the First World War, the government saw these citizens as “enemy aliens” and jailed them in a detention camp near Banff. Immigrant children were rigorously drilled on the “superior” values of British culture, which did not bode well with my grandmother, a teacher who treated all her students the same.

Despite their difficulties, Ukrainians stayed and contributed to Alberta’s multicultural society. When I was a kid attending school during the 1960s, many of my classmates were of Ukrainian ancestry. I learned about their dancing and music; how they kept their second language via attending Ukrainian school; and about their traditional foods: pierogis (dumplings), holopchi (cabbage rolls), and kubasa (pork sausage). I listened to “Ukrainian Hour” on the radio and visited the Pioneer Village east of the city.

I hope Canada will continue to assist those suffering in Ukraine today. Whether asylum seekers settle here or return home when it is safer, we care about them!

—Robert Proudfoot, Edmonton, Alta.
The writer is a member of First Mennonite Church in Edmonton.


European Mennonites offering support in Ukraine
I am writing about the current situation in Ukraine and how that affects the rest of Europe.

Since the conflict there started, the conferences of Mennonites in Europe have been mobilized to pray, help, and support Mennonites in Ukraine.

In October 2018, I had the privilege of visiting that wonderful country and churches in Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia and Molochansk. I saw wonderful and vibrant churches, with lots of youth and great relationships among the members. Unfortunately, those great times are mostly gone now, and the Mennonite churches in Ukraine are making great efforts to support everyone in need.

The Mennonites in other parts of Europe and their partners are committed to supporting our sisters and brothers in Ukraine, not only financially but also with material goods and anything else they need.

Currently 12 European Mennonite conferences in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Lithuania, Ukraine, Netherlands, Germany and United Kingdom are offering help. For example, Mennonites in Lithuania are doing a fantastic work of driving vans full of goods, from Vilnius all way to the Ukraine border, covering around 2000 kilometres round trip. Because there are so many refugees waiting at the border, sometimes drivers need to wait several hours before entering the country. When they get there, they also gather with the members of the Ukrainian church, and after some time they return home.

The European Mennonite conferences are also working with Mennonite Central Committee Europe, Multiply and Dnipro Hope Mission, an organization connected with the Anabaptist Network in the U.K. that has social projects in Ukraine.

Please keep Ukraine in your prayers and pray for European Mennonites, that we can continue being effective and committed to our sisters and brothers in that troubled country.

—José Arrais, Portugal
The writer serves as regional representative for Europe with Mennonite World Conference.

(Graphic by Betty Avery)

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I disagree that marriage is a spiritual union of soulmates. It could be that, but that is not the essence. One could be spiritual soulmates with several, even many people, of both genders, without being married to them. Marriage is the union of a man and woman in matrimony, which has as its foundation a common purpose in physical union, with the possibility of producing children, or at least conjugation, and is enhanced by common goals and purposes, which hopefully also includes spiritual union. Spiritual union will make the marriage blossom and grow, unified in purpose of glorifying God and keeping his commandments, and honoring his grace and mercy towards us.

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