Readers write: August 15, 2016 issue

August 10, 2016 | Viewpoints | Volume 20 Issue 16

What about the pastors who are forced to refrain from moonlighting?

Re: “Meet the pastors who moonlight,” June 20, page 4.

The flip side of the scenarios presented in this feature is that of full-time pastors who attempt to moonlight in their off hours, but find that their congregations do not agree that they have the right to do so. They understand 24/7 to be quite literally that. Hobbies are fine, giving a change of pace and often even honing skills endemic to the pastor’s calling, but a pastime that brings in a few dollars or a small computer business that takes up a few minutes here and there are somehow deemed to leave the congregation bereft of its pastor if any need should arise. The fact that such off-hour activities would be dropped in a moment by pastors if a call came for their services appears to be irrelevant.

Is there possibly a concern that it reflects poorly on a congregation when a few extra cups of coffee are earned by its pastor? A tongue-in-cheek response would be for them to claw back their pastor’s salary in proportion to the extra income gained, similar to our government’s unemployment insurance policies.

L.M. Friesen, Abbotsford, B.C.

 

Former ‘eight-year-old’ has no answer to ‘Aryan’ system

Re: “Becoming Aryan,” July 4, page 12.

Ben Goossen raises an intriguing question: “What responsibility do we, as Christians and as members of a peace church, have for the victims of a system that benefited our co-religionists and, in many cases, our own families?”

I do not have an answer. There is a great ambiguity in living in any system. Maybe one place to start would be to listen to the stories of the people who lived through these experiences. Although I did not become an Aryan, I was definitely informally treated as one.

In 1950, my parents, who came to Canada in 1924, moved into an Anglo Saxon community. We were the only German-speaking family in the area for several years. At that time, I was a Grade 2 student in an 80-student three-room school, the only “Nazi” in a community that saw many young men either killed or wounded in a monstrous war with the German enemy.

Needless to say, I survived the community antagonism. However, to this day, there are still feelings of resentment and bitterness within me, especially when comments made by my English friends are, “That’s how you Mennonites do things.”

One could readily adopt an attitude of being a little eight-year-old victim, initially scared but now scarred for life with this experience. However, who really is the victim of the system?

Were my Anglo Saxon friends victims? Definitely.

Should I today feel a responsibility to them for being a victim of a system when, as an eight-year-old, I didn’t even know what a Nazi was?

Peter J. Dyck, Winnipeg

 

‘A world of incomprehensible inequality’ remains

Re: “The lucky struggle,” July 4, page 4.

This excellent feature on migrant workers brought back long-standing and haunting memories. As a Mennonite Central Committee educator/administrator for almost a decade in southern Africa in the 1960s and ’70s, we witnessed the migrant labour exodus to South Africa. It was routinely referred to as the biggest export that several of these countries produced.

The benefits of this migrant labour were obvious: Cheap and hard-working labour for the mines and farms of South Africa, resulting in substantial profits; higher wages for the workers than they could achieve in their home countries; foreign remittances sent to their home countries, resulting in significant foreign reserves and financial help for the families of the workers.

However, the down-side of migrant labour was tragic, indeed catastrophic: The very humanity of the workers denigrated by the apartheid system of South Africa; men segregated into single-sex hostels for their 12- to 24-month contracts, with little freedom to do anything other than work; men sent home as soon as they couldn’t work because of illness or injury, with no medical or other benefits; the social fabric of the home communities shredded because of the absence of the husbands/fathers/brothers. Only years later was it discovered that this migrant labour system was one of the prominent contributors to the HIV/AIDS pandemic that has decimated whole generations from these countries, resulting in plummeting life expectancies.

Thanks be to God for Jane Andres and South Ridge Community Church, and others like them! With commitment and imagination, what are the other strategies—more than minimum wage; educational/cultural/sporting activities; family and church relationships; government advocacy on citizenship, medical and others benefits—that can be invoked in even small ways to recognize the humanity of these guests in our midst?  But even then the bigger moral issue—“a world of incomprehensible inequality”—remains.

Ronald Mathies, Waterloo, Ont.

 

Who really left MC Saskatchewan?

Re: “Hope Mennonite withdraws from MC Saskatchewan,” June 20, page 18.

As I read this article, I am left with the impression that the action of withdrawing has all been done by Hope Mennonite Fellowship. What is meant by the “underlying theological rift” that has taken place?

The Confession of Faith, I believe, is our response to the question that Jesus put to his disciples when he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15).

As a community of people identified as Mennonites, we have responded to that question as inclusively as possible, with the incarnate Christ being the chief cornerstone. We focussed on the teachings of Christ with a special concern for the areas of peace and reconciliation.  

I believe that we have failed by not keeping the balance between truth and grace found in Christ, as it is described in John 1:14. I believe that we have recreated a Christ after our own image. Now we have a Christ full of dogma and sympathetic emotion.  

Dogma is teaching based on a shallow understanding, resulting in an “I hope so” attitude, foggy ideas and wishful thinking about knowing truth.

Sympathy is not one of the qualities demonstrated by Christ. Christ demonstrated and exuded empathy.

The issues pertaining to homosexuality pale in comparison to what is taught about Christ and practised by some pastors.

My question for discussion is: Who has withdrawn from the faith statement of MC Saskatchewan? Is it Hope Mennonite Fellowship or is it the leaders of MC Saskatchewan?  Once that question has been answered, we will know who, in essence, has left the area church.

David Shantz, Montreal

 

To my brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community

Last week, I watched the video on the listeningchurch.ca website. The reason I am writing is because one of the speakers said that there is one voice that we consistently do not hear from: mine.

The voice of “the allies who didn’t used to be allies,” those who once felt that the LGBTQ community should be limited in its contribution to the church or excluded altogether, and who have now come to think differently. Well, that’s me, and since these brothers and sisters have had the courage to put themselves out there, I thought that perhaps it was time that I should too.

There was a time when my language was limited to homosexual, lesbian and gay. I used to believe that with enough prayer and faith, LGBTQ people’s sexual orientation could be changed to become heterosexual like mine. I used to believe that if people within the LGBTQ community wanted to be part of the church, then they needed to accept a life of celibacy.

Why have I changed my mind? I’ve had opportunity to have people—straight and gay—who have studied the Bible more extensively and deeply than I, speak into my life and answer some of my questions. My world-view has expanded to include mystery and wonder.

But I think the biggest reason for change in my thinking is because my circle of friends and family has expanded to include people from the LGBTQ community who have been gracious, patient, loving and accepting of me as I’ve wrestled with my theology. Thank you for that.

Angelika Dawson, Abbotsford, B.C.

 

‘Highly partisan resolution’ harms interfaith relations

Re: “Decision roundup,” July 25, page 16.

I was saddened by Mennonite Church Canada’s passage of a highly partisan resolution regarding Palestine and Israel this summer in Saskatoon.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, a respected Canadian Jewish organization, was quick to condemn the resolution containing boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) measures. In a July 14 news release, it stated: “We condemn [Mennonite Church] Canada’s decision to adopt a policy that discriminates against Israelis, hinders Palestinian economic opportunity and ultimately serves as another barrier to peace.”

It has always been surprising to me how a certain segment of Mennonites has become so deeply invested in one side of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Logically, pacifist Mennonites might have taken a more balanced approach to this deeply complex conflict in which none of the major parties on either side has renounced violence.

In the end, I suppose it’s a function of who the conversation partners are. After years of Mennonite relationship-building with Palestinians and many learning tours guided by Palestinian interests, it shouldn’t be surprising that there is no understanding of, or sympathy for, Jewish and Israeli perspectives.

MC Canada has surely made itself irrelevant to the already deeply imperilled peace process, and on top of that it has done harm to Jewish and Mennonite interfaith relations here in Canada.

Another excerpt from the news release does not mince words: “Prior to the vote, CIJA, the Canadian Rabbinic Caucus and our local partners in Saskatoon reached out to the Mennonite church’s leadership to urge the assembly to adopt a positive, peacebuilding approach, rather than destructive and discriminatory BDS measures. Frankly, its decision to join the toxic ranks of the BDS movement is a slap in the face to those of us in the Jewish community who have been building bridges with our Christian neighbours, particularly given our proactive efforts to create opportunities for interfaith partners to support projects that help foster Israeli-Palestinian peace. That the church chose to reject this reasonable alternative speaks to the moral blindness and increasing marginalization of a denomination in decline.”

Ouch.

Kathy Shantz, Kitchener, Ont.
* For MC Canada’s position, visit bit.ly/palestine-israel-resolution.

 

Canadian Mennonite should add a food section

At the recent Mennonite Church Canada assembly in Saskatoon, keynote speaker Safwat Marzouk spoke about covenant and mentioned fellowship rituals—a time to talk about our stories while preparing food and eating together—and how important they are to our lives.

When we update our Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, perhaps we could add “preparing food and eating together” into Article 18 on “Christian spirituality” together with “corporate worship and singing hymns.”

As I’ve always been attracted to publications that have food articles, I suggest that we share the fruits of God’s good creation from coast to coast within the pages of Canadian Mennonite.

I would love to hear from our many ethnic cooks and gardeners, and also from our youth and elderly as to what kinds of food inspire them. We could celebrate Chinese New Year with an abalone recipe or learn how to make the best samosas and hummus with our Middle Eastern congregations. And someone might even share his/her best salsa recipe!

Marguerite Jack, Calgary

 

More thoughts on Assembly 2016

When I told one of our daughters while on our way home from Assembly 2016 that we had skipped the Sunday morning worship on July 10, she said, “What! You passed a resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery, you passed [the Being a Faithful Church] motion, and you passed a motion supporting boycott, divestment and sanctions with regards to Israel/Palestine, and you didn’t want to worship God?”

She is right. We did have every reason to praise God for what happened at Assembly 2016, although we missed Sunday’s worship due to fatigue related to some health concerns.

I arrived in Saskatoon on July 5, afraid that I would leave on July 10 with MC Canada in tatters. On the night of July 9, I took one of the plants with me to put in my office to remind me every day that I left the next day believing that MC Canada is on a new trajectory of vitality and hope. May it be so!

I experienced something similar when the assembly was in B.C. several years ago and we decided to become “missional.” I was cynical on my trip to B.C. and rejoicing on my way home. Deciding to be “missional” was an important step forward for our denomination and our vision of what it means to be the church.

I believe our assembly this year was another impor-tant and helpful step forward in being missional, being, as I have come to define it for myself and our congregation, as “a blessing and healing reminder of God’s love.”

Ray Friesen, Wymark, Sask.
Ray Friesen is co-pastor of Emmaus Mennonite Church in Wymark.

 

I’m 74 years old and a member of Foothills Mennonite Church in Calgary. I attended Assembly 2016 out of curiosity and to learn more about the current status of the Mennonite church in Canada. I grew up in a Mennonite community in Alberta, but have been away from anything Mennonite for the past 45 years.

The first day was a “downer” for me. A heavy, negative air seemed to weigh on this gathering. I might have gone home had I not spent a good amount of my personal money to come. However, after the second day, something magical seemed to happen. There was a very recognizable air of anticipation and some energy.

It became clear that this assembly was very thoughtfully organized. Led by a very capable moderator, Hilda Hildebrand, attendees from across the spiritual and political spectrum were made to feel comfortable in expressing their views. There were definite “rules of engagement,” gently but firmly controlled by the moderator. There was plenty of participation, many speaking from carefully prepared statements.

It became apparent that the worship leaders and organizers were conscious of creating a broad and tolerant atmosphere. The Old Testament was talked about as much as the life of Jesus. There was a definite respect for our Anabaptist history and the suffering of our ancestors. Plenty of younger people seriously concerned about the future were in attendance.

A very safe, open and free atmosphere seemed to prevail by the voting day on July 9. Both of the main resolutions passed by clear margins, but there was no noticeable gloating or protest. Much detailed work and “fleshing out” remain to be done, but I, for one, am a prouder Anabaptist willing to march on.

Richard Penner, Calgary

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I have to say, much of the analysis in Kathy Shantz's letter to the editor rings true for me.

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