Readers write: February 1, 2021 issue

January 27, 2021 | Opinion | Volume 25 Issue 3
(Graphic by Betty Avery)

Might Jesus have really said ‘Our Mother’?
“Gendered images of God,” Nov. 23, 2020, page 23.

The committee that worked on the new hymnal, Voices Together, says that “the decisions made about the language used for God may be unsettling for some.”

I am one of those. I’m sure we all believe that Jesus spoke the truth when he said, “I am the way the truth and the life,” and taught us to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven.”

How can we now say he could have been wrong and may have said, “Our Mother”?

In all the Bibles I have, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are always referred to in the male gender.

I also think it is wrong to change words in hymns that we all love and that were written for us hundreds of years ago. When we use someone else’s words and claim that they are our own, that is called plagiarism. Doing the exact opposite has to be wrong, too.

I’m sure the committee is sincere and wants to be inclusive, but making these changes is not going to help.
—Cornie Martens, Rabbit Lake, Sask.


Dealing with sexual abuse should be a ‘both/and’ exercise for the church
Point: Compassion needed for both victims and perpetrator,” and “Counterpoint: No quick forgiveness for perpetrator” letters, Nov. 23, 2020, page 7.

As a retired family therapist who has worked with both perpetrators and survivors, I know it’s common for individuals, therapists and the church community to approach difficult problems within an either/or paradigm, which is limiting and insufficient. We need a paradigm of “both/and,” one that I believe is more closely aligned with the teaching of Jesus.

From my perspective, Tom Yoder Neufeld eloquently outlined the painful dilemma of John D. Rempel’s sexual misconduct, his devastating behaviour and the church’s need to take a clear stand with “those who have been harmed” and “with those who have done the harm.” I also agree with Yoder Neufeld that the church has done a much better job of dealing with those who have been hurt, abused and traumatized than it has in dealing with those who have offended, where we have too often slipped into an either/or approach.

Marcus Shantz’s letter is one clear example of this, as he would have us believe are those of some of the survivors who reached out to him: “They unfortunately experienced [Yoder Neufeld’s] letter as shaming them for coming forward, and pressuring them to quickly forgive.”

But after reading Yoder Neufeld’s letter a number of times, I find no indication that he suggested, encouraged or even hinted at the survivors’ need to forgive Rempel for what he has done. His comment on forgiveness was clearly directed at the church, to those who have done the harm [Rempel] coming to a “full acknowledgment and true repentance.”

Survivors who have interpreted his letter differently are doing so from their internal emotional process, not from what is written by Yoder Neufeld. Furthermore, they are using their energy to enlist an ally rather than using their energy to reflect on their own pain, turmoil and trauma, which is where the healing must take place.

Shantz, in becoming that ally, has slipped into an either/or approach and has lost some of his freedom to be helpful. I would, however, completely support his position that “the day may come when we can talk of forgiveness,” but for the survivors that must always be left in their hands—whether to forgive and, if so, when.
—George Enns, Saskatoon


Mother and daughter can’t keep from singing hymns
My 92-year-old mother, Ruth Marie Wideman Reesor, lives north of Toronto, where she is a member of Community Mennonite Church in Stouffville, Ont. I live in north Florida.

At the beginning of the first pandemic lockdown, I realized how important our phone calls were. I started bringing poetry books for our daily chats. The Zoom choirs on social media sparked an idea. On Mother’s Day last year we started singing hymns together, she on her landline phone and me on the speaker of my cell phone.

We quickly realized how good it feels to sing with someone else, despite the lag or the bad reception. After four months of hopping around in three hymnbooks, we started in September to systematically sing our way through each book. What a treasure this heritage has been for us! It’s amazing to realize how many hymns we know. Mom has lots of stories about specific songs, especially from the old Church Hymnal (1928).

It continues to be so gratifying to sing seven to eight hymns every evening. Last week our new Voices Together hymnals arrived, and we began our journey. It looks like a great resource for many decades to come. We do have to watch the pronouns and new words, so it keeps us alert. I bought the CDs, so hopefully we can learn some new songs too: “My life flows on in endless song, above earth’s lamentation. / Since Love is lord of heav’n and earth, how can I keep from singing?”

I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to learn to sing in choirs in Sunday school; at what is now Rockway Mennonite Collegiate in Kitchener, Ont.; at the former Conrad Grebel College in Waterloo, Ont.; and in the Mennonite Mass Choir. It is such a rich tradition.
—Norma Reesor, Tallahassee, Fla.


MAID article pulls rug out from under reader
“chttp://He asked if it was okay for him to die,” Dec. 7, 2020, page 29.

I’m guessing that I would be classified as an average reader of Canadian Mennonite. I look at, or read, most articles and finish with the feeling that all is well in my Mennonite world, thanks to the fine and uplifting news and stories.

I felt the same with the Dec. 7 issue until “wham,” you pulled the rug out from under me. John Longhurst’s people story is disturbing, timely and beautiful! I was reminded of the St. Francis story, when he was asked what he would do if he knew that he would die the following day, and he replied, “I would finish hoeing my garden.” It seems clear that some of us are blessed with knowing in advance when our “gardening” is done.
—Peter A Dueck, Vancouver. The writer is a member of Peace Church on 52nd in Vancouver.


Pastor dismayed at ‘smug’ COVID-19 letter
Send free copies of CM to Steinbach and Altona” letter, Jan. 4, page 10.

I am dismayed and disappointed by this smug letter to the editor about sending Canadian Mennonite magazines to southern Manitoba as it experienced a significant increase in COVID-19 cases.

I was dismayed and disappointed by CM’s editorial staff for printing it, thus undermining the excellent, nuanced, thoughtful and compassionate journalism done by Nicolien Klassen-Wiebe (“Candles of care for healthcare workers, Dec. 7, 2020, page 16). She worked hard to interview local residents and not resort to stereotypes and potshots, and her work should not be undone by printing a glib, self-righteous letter to the editor from somebody across the country.

And I was dismayed by the letter itself. Jesus told a story about a self-righteous Pharisee who thanked God he wasn’t like that sinner over there, warned us about logs in our own eyes, and taught us that we’re supposed to treat others how we’d like to be treated. 

The letter naively generalizes diverse communities from afar, makes no reference to the herculean and sacrificial work done by our local congregations and health-care staff to help and heal our local communities during a pandemic that has left beloved members of our communities dead, and its sanctimony runs antithetical to much of what makes the Christian faith beautiful.

—Kyle Penner, Steinbach, Man. The writer is associate pastor of Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach.


Mayor responds to erroneous COVID-19 claims
Send free copies of CM to Steinbach and Altona” letter, Jan. 4, page 10.

As mayor of our southern Manitoba community of Altona, I regularly hear from residents drawing my attention to items involving our prairie town. Imagine my surprise, when a lifelong resident directed me to this letter and the comment that Altona was the site of anti-mask protests, and that our patients were in cars and ambulances outside of the hospital.

Please note that is most certainly not the case.

Like communities all across Canada, our COVID-19 battle has not been easy, and there are detractors, but overwhelmingly our residents have supported and practised the public-health directives.

Our health-care facility has not been overrun with COVID-19 patients and, unlike the City of Calgary, where the letter writer resides, the town of Altona has not been the site of any anti-mask demonstrations.

As a former Canadian Mennonite Publishing Service board member, thank you for your ongoing efforts to engage the Canadian Mennonite readership in meaningful and open conversations.
—Al Friesen, Altona, Man.

Online comments related to the John D. Rempel article are now closed. If you wish to respond, send a short letter (maximum of 300 words, addressing the topic, not individuals) to sends e-mail). It will be considered for inclusion in the Readers Write section of the print edition. –Virginia A. Hostetler, Executive Editor

(Graphic by Betty Avery)

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