Readers write: July 6, 2015 issue

June 30, 2015 | Viewpoints | Volume 19 Issue 14

If Christ is not the head, the church suffers dementia

My wife has Alzheimer’s disease and is presently in long-term care. While visiting her I have observed other residents suffering from various forms of dementia and thought of the persons they had likely been before illness robbed them of their ability to think rationally. Some needed help with simple tasks, others would ask the same question repeatedly, all because their brains were no longer controlling their bodies.

The debilitating effects of dementia drew my mind to passages in the Bible that speak of Christ as the head of the church and reminded me of the importance of the head being in control of the body. Ephesians 4:15-16 (NIV) states: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

A body of believers, the local church, may have beautiful facilities and stimulating programs, but if Christ is not directing the program it may have little lasting effect on the membership. The same questions may be asked repeatedly without considering what Christ would answer. To recognize Christ as the leader of the church requires strong, courageous and humble human leadership dedicated to serving and glorifying God.

Christ has built the church into an effective force for God’s kingdom on earth. The limiting factor is the connection between the head and the body and the willingness of the church to follow Christ’s leadership. For the headship of Christ to be an effective reality, every member of the church and every leader must maintain a close personal contact with the head, Christ, with the determination to do his will.

Joseph Voegtlin, Tofield, Alta.

 

‘Absurd’ to think an atheist can be a Mennonite

Re: “Mennonite me,” April 27, page 4.

It is truly unfortunate that Robin Fast has lost his Christian faith. But let’s be serious, it didn’t slip like a blanket off of his shoulders; he made a conscious decision—or, more likely, a thousand  little ones—to reject it, including, perhaps, his decision to spend Sundays “not in church but . . . watching reruns on TV and eating sushi.”

Fast may sentimentally cling to some values, food preferences and familial cultural connections of his past.  However, for him to suggest that because of this he is a Mennonite, despite being an atheist, is nothing less than absurd.

More importantly, it does a great disservice to many people:

  • Martyrs did not endure tongue screws so as to prevent them from sharing cultural tidbits such as recipes for paska, borscht or Easter cheese. Tongue screws were used to keep Mennonites from testifying to their faith as they were led off to be killed, so they couldn’t witness to the surrounding crowds despite their own impending deaths.
  • Mennonite churches that actively reach out to their surrounding communities go to pains to ensure that their churches are open and welcoming to all, not merely to members of a specific cultural group.
  • Many individuals and congregations that do not share the cultural heritage to which Fast refers have chosen to identify with the Mennonite expression of the Christian faith. To them, being Mennonite has everything to do with its deep, rich, historical-yet-modern expression of the Christian faith and has nothing to do with a particular cultural identity.

Peter Wyngaarden, Elmira, Ont.

 

Joke misquoted

Re: “This will lead to dancing,” May 25, page 28.

I find I must respond to Rachel Bergen’s article in which the opening paragraph says, “There’s a running joke in the church that Mennonites don’t dance because it could lead to sex.” In fact the joke is:  “Why don’t Mennonites have sex standing up? Answer: “Because it could lead to dancing.” Now it’s funny!

Lori Klassen, Winnipeg

 

Call for volunteers

Palmer Becker’s article ‘very much needed’

Re: “Mennonite Christians are unique,” by Palmer Becker, May 25, page 4.

Thanks for publishing this article. It should be committed to memory by every Mennonite-Christian to help us in our discussion with our workmates and neighbours in inviting them to encounter the Jesus we follow and believe in. From my experience, we, the lay people of Mennonite Church Canada have very much needed such an expository article.

Referring to ourselves as Mennonite Christians, using Mennonite as the adjective, will help to counter the image of us being primarily a people of a “Mennonite culture,” that is a mixture of Swiss and/or Russian food and customs. And, I hereby challenge our churches, area churches, and MC Canada in particular, to consider a name change to Mennonite-Christian Church Canada. The acronym MCCC will easily distinguish us from our sister organization, the other MCC (Mennonite Central Committee).

I also suggest the addition of “Core Value #4: Compassion” as one that is also the centre of our work, equal to the Core Value # 3 of Reconciliation. We are a people known in North America through our support of the volunteers and staff of MCC, Mennonite Disaster Service and Mennonite Health Societies. We have been taught to follow Christ’s teaching of “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Add to that Jesus’ story of our expected response to His grace to us as outlined in the last part of Matthew 25, along with further exhortations in Romans 13:8; 1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 3:14; 4:20-21; James 2:8, and John 13:34-35; 15:12-13.

So, let’s use the information in this article in our discussions with those who need to hear this unique Mennonite-Christian perspective.

Walter Wiebe
Former Mennonite Church Alberta chair, current MDS volunteer in High River, Alberta

 

Young people say evolutionary theory strengthens faith

While there may be things pulling young people away from the Christian faith in a Mennonite perspective, one of those things is not evolutionary theory, as argued by the writer of a letter in the April 13 Canadian Mennonite (page 12).

For the past few months, we have been discussing science and faith in our senior high Sunday school class at First Mennonite Church in Edmonton. We think that science and religion can work together and that both can be true. This debate is an unfortunate stumbling block that the church as a whole must face.

Young churchgoers have their faith strengthened by learning about evolutionary theories (which are backed by extensive physical science research) and exploring their own reactions. Seeing adult figures in church communities being so rigid and unwilling to question their own institutions is what gives the church a reputation as an anti-intellectual body.

In our view, the Bible is a book of profound meaning as a whole, but particular pieces cannot be narrowly regarded as being of absolute historical or scientific fact. Science in biblical times is not the science of today and all of us benefit from that difference. Science and history and religious thinking and faith can all be used to understand the world and engage it faithfully. John 3:16 and Genesis 1:1 (the two verses mentioned by the letter-writer) are both important truths, but not scientific facts. They need to be considered in association with our contemporary knowledge of the world and not merely as they were understood in the past.

Science versus religion is a sideshow compared to the more important message from Jesus as told in the Bible—to be people of deep love and acceptance.

Alex Neufeldt, Olivia Neufeldt, Darian Wiebe-Neufeld, Tom Buhr, Ayrton Blank, Sabrina Blank, Daniel Prior, Taryn Haluza-Delay, Ethan Haluza-Delay, Kessler Douglas, Liam Kachkar

 

In search of male and female

There are some pretty strong perspectives on the issue of gender. As a Christian I am reluctant to get into this debate because it is so emotionally charged. However, I think it is important for Christians to understand that science confirms that there is no simple dichotomy of male/female. There is a continuum that represents variations on this notion of male and female.

This is a complex subject. It is not a simple matter of XX or XY chromosomes coming into play at the time of conception. This is evident from research findings regarding males with Klinefelter Syndrome or females with Turner Syndrome, the latter having only one X chromosome at conception. It is important that we be both gentle and cautious in this area of discussion.

It is easy to alienate people with our lack of knowledge and dogmatic assertions about sin and the Bible. God’s ways are not always our ways. Perhaps we have to learn to walk humbly and accept the fact that God wants us to embrace mystery. We do not have all the answers.

F. Hawkins, Leamington, Ont.
Dr. Hawkins is a retired professor in social work/social psychology.

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