Readers write: December 14, 2015 issue

December 9, 2015 | Viewpoints | Volume 19 Issue 24

Demographics play a big role in the future of MCC

Re: “The future of MCC,” Aug. 31, page 11.

I appreciated Will Braun’s attempt to ask this question.

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is experiencing the narrowing of its donor base. This is evidence of a demographic decline, where those with deep roots in the agency, its mission and values continue to give, but those donors are not being replaced by a similar cohort.

I do not have specific data, but I suspect that the average MCC donor is progressively aging, and will probably pass in the next 10 to 15 years. Demographic decline of Mennonite churches in Canada will mean that there will be fewer church members called upon to give in a similar fashion as the previous generation.

In the mid-1990s, MCC slowly shifted from being a people and funding agency to becoming primarily a funding agency. This was meant to honour the skills and abilities of agencies in the developing world: a good thing.

What it also resulted in was fewer and fewer alumni returning from overseas service to take up church membership and becoming an unofficial support for MCC. More and more volunteers who do go out with MCC have no connection to Mennonite congregational life. The result has been an erosion of lay-led leadership.

We are on the cusp of a significant demographic downturn that will challenge most of our church-based institutions with funding shortfalls, a smaller pool of volunteers, and a smaller reach in what can be accomplished. We will need to learn to do discipleship with much smaller institutions than have been at the forefront of our public faith.

We will also have to reckon with the fact that our many and manifold ministries have not resulted in non-believers seeking faith and community with us in numbers that will sustain these ministries into the future in North America.

Walter Bergen, Abbotsford, B.C.


MC Canada leaders should be ‘free to be prophetic’

Re: “Finding my prophetic voice,” Oct. 12, page 11.

I am deeply disturbed to hear that, as a leader working with Mennonite Church Canada, Vic Thiessen was basically muzzled, unable to comment on any existing policy that he might not agree with. That is not my expectation of leadership. Do we not appoint individuals with ability, insight and experience because we believe they have something specific to offer us? It sounded like he was expected to maintain the status quo.

Before returning to pastoral ministry, I spent much of my time and energy in management and leadership training. I learned that the opposite of quality is “good enough.” When we stop challenging the way things are, we will never get to where they should be.

I believe that applies to every sphere of life and certainly to leadership in the church. We have not yet arrived in any of our policies and practices. Can we not set our leadership free to be prophetic in their roles and lead us to new places?

Art Sheil, Parkhill, Ont.
Art Sheil is the pastor of Nairn Mennonite Church in Ailsa Craig, Ont.


By only listening we withhold Jesus’ divine love from others

Re: “Ready to listen and learn,” Nov. 9, page 9.

Katie Doke Sawatzky’s statement that she’s “not interested in converting anyone to Christianity immediately affected my spirit. I assume this statement was borne out of a reaction from some who try to force Christianity on people as a doctrine, informed no doubt by our own sorry history in the Indian Residential School system.

I can understand a reaction like this, but it is depressing because such a stance of only listening—and not sharing—neuters the transformative love that is embodied in Jesus. To withhold this divine love, especially in the face of real pain and brokenness sure to accompany refugees from the Near East and East Africa, would be a great loss, both to the one sharing this love and the one receiving it.

Evangelism isn’t about having all the right answers and shoving it in everyone else’s face. It is about seeing people from God’s perspective, recognizing and validating their true value and seeing how Jesus has already been acting in their lives.

This is exactly what Christians should do. The verse from I John 4:7 comes to mind: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.”

Jonathan Janzen (online comment)


Is the church afraid if love goes unchecked?

As a Mennonite singer, this year I was invited to be a cantor at the ordinations of women as priests into the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. These are women who love their church and feel that women excluded from priestly ministry is not constitutive to the gospel of Jesus Christ and that the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church is the will of a liberating God in our time. The movement began in Germany in 2002 and in Canada and the U.S. in 2005. Its communion table is open, and sexual orientation and marital status are irrelevant. The women are excommunicated and exiled from the sacramental spaces of the Roman Catholic Church.

My experience with this movement has resulted in me rethinking much of what has evolved in our Mennonite Church Canada agenda in "Becoming a faithful church.” What authority do we, as a church, have to tell God who he or she can love or not love?

I find it very difficult to accept that we are happy to pay lip service to the idea of bearing with one another in love, so long as we can continue the practices of exclusion we have held to all along.

I quote from an article in the July 6 issue of Mennonite World Review by Meghan Florian: "We say we want to strive for unity. How do we call it unity when we choose to ignore the very voice of the Holy Spirit moving in our midst. Why won’t you listen? We want so much to gather with you, to sing with you, to live with and worship with you. Are you so afraid of what might happen if love goes unchecked?”

I celebrate the courage of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests! May we have the wisdom to emulate that courage.

William Taves, Leamington, Ont.

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