Readers write: August 27, 2018 issue

August 22, 2018 | Viewpoints | Volume 22 Issue 16
Various Contributors |

It’s important for a pastor to be married, not just living with a partner
Re:Introducing Dave Rogalsky, Eastern Canada correspondent,” June 18, page 2.

Are we so proper now that we cannot say whether people are married or not? When I was much younger, people “were living in sin” if living with a partner and not married. Here we have a pastor, as well as his children, living with partners! I have been accused more than once of not being very sincere or committed in my religious beliefs, but I want my pastor to be married if he/she is living with a partner.
—Orly Friesen, London, Ont.


Steve Heinrichs: A modern-day prophet?
Re:Protests and pipelines,” July 2, page 12.

In his “Viewpoint” article, Helmut Lemke makes several good points about pipelines being the safest means of transporting oil, and that in the short run pipelines are beneficial as long as we are dependent on fossil fuels to supply our energy.

However, the problem is greater than supplying our present needs for oil. From information available, it seems that the present pipeline system is adequate for present domestic needs for energy. The main reason for expanding the pipeline is for export and perhaps future domestic requirements.

Lemke states, “Our government considers the pipeline of national interest and useful for our economy.” But what is our national interest? Is it only the economy? Official government positions tend to consider only the short term—that which will be politically expedient for the next election campaign, not what is best for the next generation. Yes, we need a healthy economy, but not at the expense of desecrating our environment, for which we have a God-given vocation to protect and sustain.

Lemke questions whether Steve Heinrichs has to disregard the law of the land in fulfilling his work of reconciliation. Does the law of the land trump God’s purpose for creation? The prophets of old and Jesus himself broke laws of their time when these failed to bring justice to humankind and the rest of creation. Many of our laws are enacted not necessarily for the sake of what is best for humanity and creation, but to protect the power of the people in office and political institutions.

Do we perhaps have a modern-day prophet in our midst in the person of Heinrichs, who has, and is, risking his all for the sake of fulfilling his call to promote justice?
—Walter and Elsie Wiebe, Morden, Man.


Re:Information on pipeline protest available” letter, July 23, page 10.

I have been following the debate in the pages of Canadian Mennonite on Steve Heinrichs and his prayer witness at Burnaby Mountain from some distance, but with great interest. I have been quite surprised by the reaction that he has garnered.

In the next 20 years, when the full effects of climate change are taking hold around the world, tipping into a crisis for God’s creation, people like Heinrichs will be regarded as nothing but heroes and advocates for Christ.  

The Canadian government, however, in its astonishing unilateral decision to use 35 percent of the carbon budget it has left to meet the Paris climate change agreement target of keeping global temperature rises below two degrees, with only 1 percent of global population, will not.

As the father of two small children who will have to live with the consequences of this decision made a long way away, I have to ask: Since when did anyone in the Mennonite church even think about siding with fossil fuel and financial interests ahead of Indigenous rights and the rights of our children to experience a stable climate?
—Richard Coyle, Rochester, Kent, U.K.


Re: Heinrichs’ protest mirrors Christ in overturning the moneychangers’ tables” letter, July 2, page 10.

Sorry I missed the 600-kilometre Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights. You can add my name in support for Steve Heinrichs, along with the five Kitchener letter writers.
—Howard Wideman, Sudbury, Ont.


Walk a mile in my shoes before you judge my actions
Re:Suicide may not be painless, but it is selfish” letter, July 2, page 7.

This response to “Suicide isn’t painless,” May 21, page 16, was very painful to read. As a person who struggles every day with extreme depression and suicidal ideation, I was quite offended to be judged as selfish.

Suicide is not selfish. It is a response to unending, unbearable pain. People who attempt suicide, whether they succeed or not, do not do it because they are selfish. Most are aware of the pain that may result for those left behind.

In my personal circumstances, I am aware that it might create pain for a few people, but I truly believe it will be minimal. Family or others who have no time for me while alive will not suddenly suffer when I am gone.

I hear so often that “suicide is selfish,” or “you should not cause pain for others.” What about my pain? Is it not valid? Why is it necessary for me to continue living with this extreme unrelenting pain because ending it might affect others?

Another question I have is in regard to the church teachings and conversations that happen at funerals or memorials. We are told that “Heaven is wonderful,” and “all pain is gone,” because “they are with the Lord
. . . in a much better place.” If this is true, why do I need to stay in pain when there is a better place?

I am not saying suicide is the right solution. But if you have never personally experienced the pain, both emotional and physical, of severe depression, you are not in a position to judge the actions of people like me.
—Name withheld by request


Calling suicide ‘selfish’ dishonours those who struggled with mental illness
Re:Suicide may not be painless, but it is selfish” letter, July 2, page 7.

No one wants to die; they only wish the pain to end. To suggest that suicide is simply an act of selfishness indicates a lack of understanding of mental illness and the despair that leads to suicide. To suggest that people who take their own lives are selfish only adds to the pain of those left behind and does nothing to honour the memory of those who have struggled with despair and mental illness.
—Arla Longhurst, London, Ont.


Guilty conscience leads to ‘selfish’ suicide
Re:Calling suicide selfish is uncharitable” letter, July 23, page 7.

My father took his own life when I was 14 and my sister was 12, leaving us a note saying, “Take care of your mother. Be good to her. She will need a lot of care.”

He did not have a mental illness. He was involved in an extra-marital affair. He ended his life purely out of a guilty conscience. Instead of facing the consequences of his behaviour, he chose suicide, leaving his children without a father. It was a selfish and cowardly act.
—Name withheld by request


The fundamental meaning of baptism and communion rests in Jesus
Re:From belief to belonging,” July 2, page 4, and “Remembering my baptism,” July 23, page 4.

These feature articles speak to two “core” beliefs and practices. I read them as saying that current church culture has become the gold standard, in contrast to Jesus and the Scriptures teaching us the fundamental meaning of, and purpose for, our practices—ordinances in this case.

In “Response to ‘From belief to belonging,’ ” July 23, page 10,  John Rempel rightly challenges us with a more biblically focussed perspective. His comments remind me that our carefully discerned Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective must not be ignored or discarded without carefully considering our time-honoured Scripture.

A detailed review of references directly and indirectly relating to the language used about baptism, communion and church reveals integral relatedness. Jesus and his apostles offer depth in meaning and practical implications that go well beyond commonly quoted definitions or subjectively based congregational surveys. It is critical that we interpret the Bible and life through the lens of Jesus, the living Word of God, not through changing popular or feel-good lenses.

Why is Jesus’ baptism no longer a valid guide? Jesus reminds us to first count the cost, which requires significant maturity. Think of the implications of Mark 10: “Can you drink the cup of suffering that I must drink? Can you be baptized in the way I must be baptized?”

Why does John highlight Jesus’ injunction to love each other and to wash each other’s feet in John 13, with no reference to the Lord’s Supper? Because the Lord’s Supper is much more than a memorial. Study carefully Paul’s admonitions related to our most commonly used communion liturgy (I Corinthians 11). Communion, community and fellowship are not liturgies, but human relationships. Jesus invites us to a new life of discipleship, not only forgiveness.  Do we really want to replace our Anabaptist perspective? 
—Ivan Unger, Cambridge, Ont.


Wally Unger made sure ‘Columbia continues to thrive’
Re: Former CBC president dies at 81,” July 2, page 24.

I appreciate the excellent summary by Amy Dueckman and have one comment to add.

Wally Unger helped create a business model to keep Columbia Bible College relevant in today’s society by evolving from strictly theological studies programs to career programs with a theological basis. At a time when fewer parents, youth pastors and lead pastors were encouraging their youth to attend a Bible college, and many Bible colleges were discontinuing, Columbia continues to thrive.
—John Piera, Calgary
The author is a member of Foothills Mennonite Church, Calgary.

CORRECTED Sept. 10, 2018


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The anonymous author of the letter "Guilty conscience leads to ‘selfish’ suicide" says that her father committed suicide due to guilt over his extra-marital affair. To my mind, someone might feel extremely guilty about something, but it won't lead to suicide unless mental illness is already a factor. After all, thousands -- millions -- of people around the world engage in extra-marital affairs everyday (as well as other acts that might elicit self-reproach), but they don't kill themselves. It's possible that a mental illness such as depression might prompt a person to have an affair; and it's possible that guilt over an affair might contribute to mental illness. Either way, mental illness is a factor when someone takes his or her own life (excluding, of course, situations where someone chooses to die because of a debilitating or excruciating terminal illness). I think that compassion and empathy are better responses to someone's suicide than judgement and scorn.

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