Readers write: March 16, 2015 issue

March 11, 2015 | Viewpoints | Volume 19 Issue 6

Which spirit drives the gay marriage discussion?

Re: “A biblical and better way,” and “It felt like a big deal . . . it was so powerful,” Jan. 19, pages 4 and 13, respectively.

I read Canadian Mennonite from front to back and am often greatly encouraged and blessed by articles that clearly present the truth. I definitely agree with Ronald J. Sider’s feature article.

But I was deeply saddened when reading the report in the same issue of a gay marriage celebration in one of our area church congregations. I am led to ask the question: What are these people trying to prove? Are they not putting God to the test? Is this a case of honouring God or honouring the body?

I read in I Corinthians 6:19-20: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom  you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your body.”

Is this “marriage” fulfilling the desires of the Spirit or the desires of the sinful nature, as spoken of in Romans 8:5-11? I fear that the direction of this whole discussion of human sexuality is driven by the sprit of the age, rather than by the Spirit of God. Is it not time to take to heart the warning of the Book of Jude? Are we seeking acceptance by God or by our society?

I personally found acceptance by God and other believers after I repented of my self-pleasing lifestyle and surrendered my heart and body to Christ. Is it possible that our national and area churches have indeed discovered a more “enlightened” way? I choose to continue to support the “biblical and better way.”

Walter Dirks,  Fort St. John, B.C.

Listen to what our prophets have to say

Re: “A biblical and better way” by Ronald J. Sider, Jan. 19, page 4;, “Stand up for God’s truth” by Steve Hoeppner, Feb. 2, page 15; and “For better or worse we are Pharisees” by Phil Wagler, Feb. 16, page 10.

In our present Mennonite climate, it took great courage on the part of the authors to speak truth to us and it took courage to publish their words.

These three brothers clearly have been raised up as prophets. Prophecy—the ability to speak God’s direct word into a particular time and place—is both a gift and a calling. As such, it stands next in line only to apostleship in the listing in Ephesians 4:11.

The truthfulness of a prophetic word is determined by its adherence to the inspired Scriptures. I believe Sider, Hoeppner and Wagler pass this test and so I urge all of us to pay heed to what they have said to us.

Lawrence E. Burkholder, Gormley, Ont.

Testing of our church needs to lead to repentance

Re: “Stand up for God’s truth,” Feb. 2, page 15.

Yes indeed, what shall we do? The first thing our charismatic brothers and sisters would do is listen to the Holy Spirit. He is speaking through his servants the prophets. A “stunning rebuke” is part of a pro-phetic calling.

Many important conversations have begun regarding gay marriage at this point in history. Most of us believe God is a God of order, and when he created us he gave us the model for what he wanted a family to be. But having said that, I’m reminded of Ecclesiastes 7:13: “Consider the work of God; who can make straight what he has made crooked?”

The commentary on this is from the March 1 reading of “Streams in the Desert”:

“Often God seems to place his children in positions of profound difficulty, leading them into a wedge from which there is no escape; contriving a situation which no human judgment would have permitted, had it been previously consulted. The very cloud conducts them thither. You may be thus involved at this very hour.

“It does seem perplexing and very serious to the last degree, but it is perfectly right. The issue will more than justify him who has brought you hither. It is a platform for the display of his almighty grace and power. . . .”

I know the Almighty contrives situations as a “testing of our faith” (James 1:3). We are thus involved at this very hour. He contrives situations to see what is in our hearts (Deuteronomy 8:16).

When some American preachers “fell” in the 1980s, hate and self-righteousness surfaced. This is what is referred to in Matthew 23:25-26 as cleansing the inside of the cup. The “historic event” of a gay marriage in a Mennonite church may be God’s way of testing our hearts. There are those who will react with or in a negative and self-righteous way.

While this should not happen in a Mennonite church, it has. What shall we do? Yes, repent. We have become self-righteous and there has to be a cleansing. Menno Simons wrote about the importance of discipleship and repentance in the life of the believer.

I, too, am asking you—the community of faith—to prayerfully discern what I have said and am saying: “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” (I John 4:1-3).

Did you “read the Book of Jude”?

Wes Epp, Calgary

There are many ‘faithful responses’ to human sexuality

Re: “Stand up for God’s truth,” Feb. 2, page 15.

Thank you for printing Steve Hoeppner’s column in Canadian Mennonite. Like many from our faith community, he has engaged in a diligent search to find a faithful response to this issue. I recognize that it takes courage to express a conviction that is controversial.

I was taken back to a time when I struggled to gain understanding of, and a faithful approach to, human sexuality. I remember the sense of peace that flowed over me when I recognized that I did not choose my sexuality and that it is the same for others. If different sexualities are a part of God’s good creation, then all who enter into an exclusive covenant to share their lives in an intimate spiritual, physical and emotional union should be affirmed, encouraged and blessed by the church.

Over many years and much reflection, I continue to hold to the understanding I gained, recognizing that there are many who hold to different understandings also gained through diligent searching. Like others, I wish to be faithful.

I humbly acknowledge that mainstream culture is a powerful and often unhealthy influence on all of us, but I also recognize that God speaks to us from places we might not expect. Voices from within the church sometimes lead us astray and voices from outside the church sometimes lead us towards faithfulness.

While this perspective differs from that articulated in article 19 of the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective and is not supported by the Resolution on Human Sexuality affirmed by delegates in 1986, Mennonite Church Canada remains the denomination I feel I belong to because there is so much of what we adhere to and practise that I affirm. I affirm the faithful leadership from our denominational offices as we are called to “continue to dialogue, to discern and to hear from God,” and to “continue to show grace to one another and learn to work through our differences.”

Like Hoeppner, I believe that miracles continue to happen all around us. If we can continue to be in communion, affirm the many things we believe and do in common, respect and even offer grace to each other where we cannot agree, a miracle is already happening.

John Bartel, Lanigan, Sask.

‘Logically’ paganism and Christianity are compatible

Re: “MCC Manitoba stands with Buffalo Gals,” Dec. 15, page 22, and subsequent letters referring to “pagan practices” both online and in print.

In response to recent letters about pagan practices not being compatible with Christianity, “pagan” is often used as a derogatory word for any non-Judeo/Christian/Islamic religion. The position that I have taken is, for me, a logical response to the issues that were raised in Will Braun’s article. My intent is to show that there is an inherent contradiction in stating that paganism is incompatible with Christianity.

Let us set aside previous comments about the common use of the Christmas tree and the Easter bunny, the substitution of the Christian festival of Christmas for the celebration of Saturnalia and winter equinox, and the substitution of Easter for common pagan celebrations of fertility and rebirth at the beginning of the growing season and spring equinox. They took the names of the pagan holidays and gave them Christian names.

Jesus was a Jew. The god-as-man or man-as-god paradigms are considered heretical within Judaism, but match well with the pagan culture in which the early church found fertile ground. Christology echoes many aspects of the pagan cultures that preceded it. The worship of a god-man is a story repeated many times in pagan culture before the story of the life of Jesus.

Let us approach other cultures with the respect and dignity that they deserve. Indigenous culture offers us a deep spiritual connection to this land. Give us eyes that see and ears that hear.

Alfred Rempel, Kitchener, Ont.

Viewpoint column ‘exquisitely crafted’

Re: “God’s design revealed in the cosmos,” Jan. 5, page 14.

I greatly enjoyed John Klassen’s Viewpoint piece. It was exquisitely crafted and bridged the often-contentious gap of creationism vs. evolution. His writing was inclusive and logical, not relying on dogma or debate, and was a joy to read.

Harold Macy, Black Creek, B.C.

Letter writer clarifies what he meant

Re: “Which church is closer to God’s dream for our world?” letter, Feb. 2, page 12.

I recognize that two important editorial jobs are shortening pieces when space is at a premium and helping writers say things better. In making necessary changes to my letter, one of the changes unfortunately changed what I was trying to say.

In the paragraph about a young woman who attempted suicide, the editorial changes had her give up on life because of “unkind comments.” My original did not reference “unkind comments,” but rather statements like the ones made in Saskatoon by pastors and former pastors, among others, about the fact that the church can only be seen as being remotely faithful to Jesus and Scripture if it takes a hardline stand against same-sex relationships.

It is those kinds of statements and that kind of stand by the church—seen often not as unkind but as necessary and even courageous by those responsible for them—that I believe is driving young men and women away from the church and some to attempt suicide.

—Ray Friesen, Swift Current, Sask.

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