Readers write: August 22, 2022 issue

August 17, 2022 | Opinion | Volume 26 Issue 17
(Graphic by Betty Avery)

Point: Teachers are fallible, but God can use them
Over the past decades, as a “dyed-in-the-wool” Anabaptist Mennonite, I have come to value the teaching/preaching of several “new Anabaptists.”

Recently, Brian Zahnd’s sermon of May 29 (Word of Life Church, St. Joseph, Miss.) reminded me of how often we Mennonites, as historic keepers of Anabaptist theology, are losing our enthusiasm about the teachings of our Prince of Peace. He reminded me that loyalty to our Saviour/Lord is a challenge that ultimately offers healing and hope.

I believe these teachers, like all of us, are fallible, sometimes contradicting or minimizing aspects of the gospel. But God has used them in offering me valuable biblical insights. For me, they include Bruxy Cavey and John Howard Yoder (the latter can hardly be called a “new” Anabaptist).

Israel’s King David, the tax collector Matthew, and the Apostle Paul are others. And all of them have demonstrated their sinfulness. Why aren’t we tearing out much of the Old Testament and parts of the New Testament that contain writings about their dishonest, violent and rapacious lifestyles? How can we idolize King David?

Inconsistent judgmentalism has resulted in condemning the musical and theological offerings of people after we identify some aspect of their sinful lives. This results in limitless censorship and destruction. I wonder if Jesus is saying, “You hypocrites,” or, “Those of you without sin throw the first stone.”

What is happening to our calls for restorative justice and mercy? Surely, we can offer “circles of support and accountability” to our own, just like we do to society’s sexual offenders. And that must include lovingly encircling the victims of those cruel actions.
—Ivan Unger, Cambridge, Ont.

Counterpoint: Sinful teachers should find other ways to serve God
Teachers are fallible, and God loves them even after they have sinned grievously. There are many ways to serve God besides being a teacher.

When public school teachers sexually abuse their students, they lose their employment because student safety is the No. 1 priority. Should the church have a lower standard and care less about the safety of vulnerable people? What is judgmentalism, and what is just common sense in our world today?

Imagine a bank manager stole money from the accounts of people in her community for decades. Dozens of people losing homes and their life savings. Finally the crimes come to light. Should our conference then hire this woman to be chief financial officer?

Jesus did love Matthew the tax collector. But Jesus didn’t put him in charge of the money. Even though Matthew was the money expert, Jesus gave that role to someone else. I think he wanted to keep Matthew out of temptation’s way. People in Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) for sexual abuse should not be leaders in church.

I have met many victims of pastoral sexual abuse, and one of their priorities is that their abuser “not be allowed to hurt anyone else like this again.” Encircling victims means listening to their concerns.

“Limitless censorship”? No one is burning books here. John Howard Yoder’s books are in the library, for anyone to read, and Bruxy Cavey’s sermons are online.

I am very cautious about the writings of those who teach and sexually abuse people in their care at the same time. I will extend mercy to them personally, but that doesn’t mean I have to read and teach their books.

—Carol Penner, Waterloo, Ont.
The writer is assistant professor of theological studies at Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Ont., and pastoral sexual abuse is one of her research areas.


Neopronouns worse than ‘singular they’ when it comes to abuse
Point: When words don’t make sense, conversation is at risk” letter, June 13, page 8.

A call for new language for nonbinary pronouns is out of touch with the state of the conversation. We’ve had neopronouns —such as ze and zir—for decades, and there are people who use them. But the abuse they receive is even greater than the abuse those of us who use the “singular they” receive.

If someone is confused by my use of they/them pronouns, elucidating it for them is an opportunity to have a conversation about the false gender binary, providing opportunity for even greater understanding.

I’ve never found a lack of understanding to be the source of the bigotry I experience on a regular basis as a queer Christian. Even in cases where those harming me are factually wrong, I’ve never been able to use facts to convince them to stop harming me.
—Tim Wenger (online comment)

(Graphic by Betty Avery)

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