Readers write: June 20, 2016 issue

June 15, 2016 | Viewpoints | Volume 20 Issue 13

Reading the gospels led reader to ‘faith in a living Christ’

Re: “The Bible is full of shortcomings and biases” letter, May 9, page 10.

As a Christian who is new to the Mennonite church, it has been a wonderful rollercoaster of theological discovery, learning how the early Anabaptists looked into the living Word of God and came away changed in belief and in their daily living, willing to die and even risk the lives of their wives and children for the convictions that stemmed from their prayerful reading of Scripture. I, too, was changed, abandoning my epicurean agnosticism after reading the gospels and coming to faith in a living Christ.

But according to Barry Heinrichs, “the Bible is a collection of stories written by human beings just like us . . . subject to the same shortcomings and biases of any story you or I would write.”

It seems to me that he views the church as a book club. But if this is the case, I can’t for the life of me figure out why he attends. The church would be the oddest book club that has ever been: We only read one book regularly, most people in the book club claim the book was authored by God, we have a bizarre initiation ritual involving a “fake” drowning, and we have a very odd habit of telling members how to behave!

When I believed as Heinrichs did, I wanted nothing at all to do with the world’s oddest book club. But that’s not what I see now. As a Christian, I see human beings gathering together, struggling to understand God through his living Word, and encouraging and helping one another to follow in the footsteps of Christ as disciples on a mission that transcends our own mundane stories and shortcomings.

Nathan Swartz, Clinton, Ont.
Nathan Swartz is an elder of Kingsfield-Clinton Mennonite Church.


Eastern Canada wants to be kept informed, have a say in Future Directions

Re: “Finding God in my neighbourhood,” May 23, page 24.

While capturing well the many inspiring moments at the Mennonite Church Eastern Canada assembly, Dave Rogalsky missed one crucial piece in his reporting on the vote on the Future Directions Task Force proposal. Assembly delegates approved a resolution that called for an opportunity to vote on a proposal that would take into account both the work of the Task Force and the feedback to it. To miss the feedback piece is, in my view, to misrepresent the vote at the area church assembly.

Indeed, for many delegates like myself, approval was contingent on that feedback being taken into account in shaping a more fully developed proposal. We should be grateful to the Task Force for the intense engagement the Future Directions process has provoked on such critically important matters as the relationship between the local congregation and larger church; the nature, content and reach of mission or “witness”; and representation in decision-making at a national level.

With their vote, MC Eastern Canada delegates wanted to make sure that this engagement leaves its mark on any reshaping of MC Canada. They were concerned not only to be “kept informed,” but also to have a say.

Tom Yoder Neufeld, Waterloo, Ont.
Tom Yoder Neufeld is a member of First Mennonite Church, Kitchener, Ont.


Poetry helps writer deal with partner’s dementia

Re: “A living death,” May 23, page 2.

I identified with the pain and grief in Dick Benner’s editorial as I also have a loved one with dementia to whom I’ve been married for 54 years.

There is much misunderstanding about the disease among the general public, and people seem reluctant to learn about it and other mental illnesses. Attitudes have not changed much in more than 50 years, it seems, as I came across an article by Delmar Stahly in the April 5, 1960, Gospel Herald, entitled “Fear of mental illness being dispelled.” He stated that “indications are that a transformation in attitude is in progress.” The progress indeed is slow, as we are still working at it today.

I find that writing helps me cope, so I offer two short poems about dementia:

It is a thief
who steals one piece of my loved one’s brain
and comes back for more at will
with no thought of consequences
or how it hurts his target
or the loved ones around him. In the end it will leave
just an empty shell
curled in a fetal position
waiting to die as he waited to be born.

Alzheimer’s feels like an endless spiralling stream
of fearful anguish
drawn ever downward by the weight
of helplessness and hopelessness
falling towards darkness
despair and loss, ever stealing joy
and magnifying the unknown. Yet occasional flickers of light
flashes of memory
smiles of recognition
spontaneous tender touches
thank you for tasks of care completed
whispered prayers of thanksgiving
send hope rising for hidden blessings
waiting to be received.

Leah Boehm, Kitchener, Ont.


Reader expresses concern for ‘so-called Mennonites’

I am deeply disturbed by the current action and direction the so-called Mennonites—followers of Jesus Christ, our Saviour—are taking, as they fall away from the Holy Bible and go about their own worldly pleasures. We are only transients on God’s earth. The Bible is the most authoritative reference for everyday living and for all occupations of man’s desires and initiatives.

Please, as followers of Christ, read this book without doubt or question. Believe the unseen; it’s all there. It is relevant for today’s society. Trust and obey God’s will and teachings, or suffer the consequences of eternity in hell.

We are now in the end times. There are promises made throughout Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. These promises or prophesies are in motion right now, as I write. Do not tarry. Praise God now.

Hans G. Nickel, Saskatoon


Bible verses, friends and family help youth through depression

Re: “Leaders being equipped to build up the church,” May 23, page 20.

This is such an important topic to me. A couple years ago, when I was 15, I was hospitalized with depression. My youth pastor, mentors and friends were huge supports during that time. Even when I was at my worst, and was super rude and mean, none of my family or friends left my side or stopped praying for me. Because of the way they stood by me, I know that God, who is even stronger than them, will never forsake me.

I’m now in recovery and making good progress with help from my community. I’m even serving as a junior youth mentor! Having my whole youth group behind me, never giving up, some of them even braving the children’s psychiatric hospital, made me want to be there for others in the same way. It was so important for me to have mentors and older girls believing in me.

Volunteering has helped me in my recovery as much as it’s allowed me to help others. Most days it really lifts me up to be like a big sister to the girls, make them smile or laugh, let them know I’m available. They are always on my mind, and I am honoured to walk with them through the crazy years of junior high.

To others dealing with mental illness: Know that you are always loved. I know it sounds clichéd, but God is always there, ready to listen, to be there for you in just the way you need most.

Two verses that really help me through my struggles are Song of Songs 4:7: “You are all together perfect, my darling, there is no flaw in you”; and Romans 8:28: “and we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose.”

It can be hard to imagine when you are in the midst of deep pain, but I am now seeing so much of the good God can work through a dark story. Please know that God can heal and use your story too.

Name withheld by request


Repentance is needed as well as grace

Re: “Assembly: pray for grace” editorial, June 6, page 2.

Thank you for your call to give and receive grace at the Saskatoon assembly. It is an important word to us all. It is also not enough.

Mennonite Church Canada congregations deserve to have some resolution, some movement forward that takes us out of the Being a Faithful Church (BFC) cul-de-sac we find ourselves in, and places us in a path we can embrace with joy and vigour.

The path forward suggested by the BFC Task Force will splinter our communion, mar our collaborative relationships with sister confessions—Mennonite Brethren, Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference, Evangelical Mennonite Conference and Brethren in Christ, among others—and place us in a trajectory where we will be aligning ourselves with those confessions that are currently withering under the hot sun of secularism in Canada.

I suggest we search for a different path. A path to renewal that begins with repentance by all. Grace is not enough. We also need to repent of our self-willed ways that explain away the parts of Scripture we don’t like because it doesn’t fit our ideology, and then pray for grace.

Walter Bergen, Abbotsford, B.C.

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As the MC Canada Assembly draws near, a sense of nervousness about our future together pervades. Anxiety about restructuring is compounded by anxiety about the future with or without LGTBQ inclusion. Both anxiety and stubborn adherence to positions is consuming vitality from our church, and depleting us of our church partners.
Would we not rather choose to be energized by striving together with people of faith across the spectrum on common concerns as the Spirit reveals? We have so much in common, and collectively we could be doing so much if the spirit of exclusion and fear were not the dark cloud hanging over us. If we did an inventory of what connects us, and an inventory of our differences and sources of tensions, we should be surprised by how our connectedness list overwhelms our differences list.
And yet, the strident voices on both sides of LGTBQ inclusion/exclusion in particular, are impatient. Imminent satisfaction is expected, regardless of the Being a Faithful Church process and outcome of seven years of deliberation. We are living in an age of tumultuous social, political and technological change. The Future Directions Task Force is also striving to respond.
At stake are our church and social institutions as we know them. The demanding working out of “our salvation with fear and trembling” in this post-Christendom and post-modern era requires a wise, patient and humble spirit. With patience and wisdom our church survived the fallout of WWII. With patience it is surviving in spite of divorce, abortions, infidelity and caving in to materialism.
A generation ago anticipating a future of women in ministry was divisive. We were patient and today our churches are thriving with women in leadership.
The church thrives when congregations are given space to come to terms with contentious issues at their own pace. Yet today our existence is threatened by our inability to be patient with charting a new course for our national/regional church and for the LGTBQ followers of Christ in our midst. And I’m speaking to the strident voices on both sides.
A win-lose outcome will satisfy the winners and bequeath the next generation a hollowed out church bereft of a passionate mission and vision for the future. Allow the patient majority to mediate and reconcile those from both sides who would be excluded by whatever the outcome of the deliberation will at the Assembly. And give space to all voices, particularly of the generation of upcoming leaders, to weigh in on what our future might look like.
I would propose that we be patient while the upcoming generation of church leadership begins to take the church through this era of tumultuous change. Granted, many of us, including myself, will be stretched and will need to live with a measure of discomfort as we remain open and welcoming to all who seek fellowship and belonging, and discomfort at how our beloved church and social institutions might be impacted and changed. And we may get impatient when congregations evolve at their own pace.
The younger generation is adept and competent to grow the emerging church. We must have faith that what they have been taught and that their love for the church and the scriptures is sufficient. One thing they need is to be given the trust, space and blessing to do the work.
We must have faith that the Spirit is at work regardless. It always has, and always will. The church might even look very different. What will count in the Kingdom of God is our passion for Jesus, for our ministry of reconciliation and for the community of faith.
In the final day, God will not ask us what we believed about LGTBQ, but how we loved. We won’t even be asked how we voted at the Assembly! God will ask, instead, how we embodied the fruits of the Spirit as the church that works out God’s mission of reconciliation, grace and mercy extended to all creation (Col. 1:19-20). Then we have the collective vitality of passion for God’s work to reach into an uncertain future with confidence.

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