Readers write: March 2, 2015 issue

February 25, 2015 | Viewpoints | Volume 19 Issue 5

‘A biblical and better way’ is neither

Re: “A biblical and better way,” Jan. 19, page 4.

I was saddened and disappointed with Ronald J. Sider’s feature article. I have much respect for what he has done for the church over his career, but sadly he seems to have abandoned the Anabaptist Mennonite approach to discerning God’s truth.

In my view, it is not about interpreting certain Greek words or even about the “trajectory of Scripture.” It has been, and will always be, about groups of believers struggling together to rediscover what it means to follow Christ in our time and age. And from where I sit on the pew, we are ready to embrace and fully welcome people of all walks of life, whether heterosexual, homosexual or something in between.

Loving God and neighbour as ourselves demands nothing less.

David Neufeld, Winnipeg

‘Getting real’ on the subject of sex

Re: “A biblical and better way,” Jan. 19, page 4.

In his article advocating upholding the “biblical teaching about homosexuality,” writer Ronald J. Sider states, “Surely we can ask the Holy Spirit to show us how to teach and nurture biblical sexual practice without marginalizing and driving away from Christ those who struggle with biblical norms.”

While there is very much of merit that is worthy of consideration in Sider’s article, I find his portrayal of the Holy Spirit, who has apparently been withholding counsel on this important matter because of not having received sufficient requests, to be wanting.

Let’s be sure we’re “getting real” on this subject. Can readers even begin to wrap their heads around how much suffering the sexual orientation/preference issue has engendered over two millennia? And yet, despite the sincere prayers born of so many heart-rending situations over so many years, we still find ourselves not having the clear answers and direction we’ve been needing. That’s right, after 2,000 years of prayer, sermons, and the seeking of truth at monasteries, seminaries and Bible colleges, here we are in 2015 without answers we can agree upon to settle our debate. And if we will agree—and hopefully we will—that there are plenty of good, sincere Christians on both sides of the related issues, does it mean the Holy Spirit has not deemed it important enough to give us answers that we can understand with sufficient clarity for us to reach agreement?   

It can all make one wonder if perhaps the sexual orientation/practice questions—in particular, how we respond to them and those affected by them—might be more important than the actual answers. Might not this situation we find ourselves in suggest that our concept of God could use a little bit of tweaking at this point in the church’s history?

At the very least, we need to be sincerely seeking out and, with as much empathy as possible, listening to voices of those within the gay community. I wonder what the Holy Spirit, with a power and motivation founded in true caring and compassion, might be saying to some of them, as they would also be seeking with sincerity and integrity.

Ron Hiller, Kitchener, Ont.

Gay wedding, biblical exposition prove we’re in ‘interesting times’

Re: “It felt like a big deal . . . it was so powerful,” Jan. 19, page 13.

I really enjoyed the coverage of Craig Friesen and Matthew Wiens’s wedding. It is encouraging to see events like this receiving positive coverage, as it clearly demonstrates the capacity of people to listen, reflect and ultimately change the way they think.

I found it interesting to read Ronald J. Sider’s feature article, “A biblical and better way,” in the same issue.

Interesting times, no doubt!

Charlie Smith, Allan, Sask.

Present age has turned to ‘the culture of this world’

Re: “It felt like a big deal . . . it was so powerful,” Jan. 19, page 13.

The 1986 Saskatoon resolution on sexuality, “to remain in loving dialogue with homosexuals,” has actually happened for the whole world to see on TV that the Mennonite church is beginning to slip from its one foundation and adopting the culture of society.

While some churches are getting bigger, taking a firm stand on sin and proclaiming the good news of salvation by satellite or the Internet to the unevangelized world of the 10/40 window, other churches are doubting, debating and dividing over the interpretation of sin and God’s Word.

The fact of the matter is that Jesus came into the world to change people’s lives. His first message was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:1). To repent means to think differently about God, self and your future destiny.

Praise God that the people of the last two millennia have accepted the provision, principles and promises of God’s Word: salvation in Jesus Christ alone.

Why then should our present age turn to the culture of this world and its hopeless destiny? It is Satan’s method of destroying what God has instituted: marriage, home and family.

Chuck Swindoll’s advice would be: Adjust to the times without altering the Word.

C. Neil Klassen, Rosemary, Alta.

Our children are always worth keeping

Re: “Being a Faithful Church” conversations on sexuality in Canadian Mennonite over the past year.

As a social worker with a children’s mental health agency in northwestern Ontario, the best part of my week often includes co-leading a group for lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer youth. The group recently identified that they need to talk about religion, and what to do when their own parents or churches are not able to accept them as they are. I know that this is very painful terrain for the families and youth who are in the middle of it. I am sad to say that some of these youth have already been kicked out of their home communities and churches.

My own solution was to leave the Mennonite church at a very young age, and to try to find alternative places where two or three of us were gathered together learning what it means to love our neighbour, expanding our own understanding of who our neighbour is, working towards social justice for all, caring for the environment and feeding the poor. On this journey there were times when I felt that my own small lesbian community or other survivors of violence against women were my church. There are times right now when I feel like this small group of young people who call themselves “The Other Ten Percent” are my church.

My own hope for the future is that our youth will be able to stay where they are, and not have to leave their own homes or faith communities to “be who they are.” Today I am struggling to find a way to present the story of organized religion—in all of its disorganized chaos—to a small group of kids who have been adversely affected or placed at higher risk due to the decisions or indecisions of their churches.

To be honest, I am not sure how to help them “retell” this story in a good way, so please continue to fight with each other over this issue, since our children are always worth keeping.

Betsy Martin, Kaministiquia, Ont.

Bible written without an understanding of genetics

Much was written in Canadian Mennonite in January about the gay community and marriage.

It reminds me of a time 25 years ago when we left a mainline denomination because we objected to gay ministers in the pulpit. A quarter-century later, after a personal tragedy and better understanding of genetics, that decision doesn’t seem so black and white anymore.

It has come to my attention that nearly everyone quotes the Bible as the authority to deal with moral issues, without acknowledging that the Bible was written in a different culture by people who lacked the understanding of genetics. Slavery was accepted as morally acceptable by Paul, but few of us would agree with Paul’s assessment today.

Each time a child is born, due to a fluke of nature, it may be mentally or physically disabled or brilliant. That then leads me to theorize that those professing to be gay may have an inherited abnormality. I have observed that our physical anatomy by nature intended male and female to be together in a conjugal relationship and not those of the same sex.

But although outer appearance indicates a definite gender, the inner workings of the mind may not. An unbreakable bond can develop between people of the same sex, but it can hardly be called a marriage. Those who differ with that opinion have every right to call it marriage, providing they reciprocate to others to disagree.

In the world to come, male and female will become the bride of Christ, where gender and sex no longer matter. May it come before people leave one denomi-nation to voice their displeasure, only to discover the same issue plagues the next denomination.

Frank Hiemstra, Stratford, Ont.

MCC provides anti-abuse network in three provinces

Re: “An ‘experiment in sexuality gone wrong” and “Intimacy is not an invitation to abuse,” Jan. 5, pages 4 and 34, respectively.

Both articles speak about the deep, long-lasting and far-reaching impact of sexual abuse, and they speak to a survivor’s need for safe places to heal from the experience of abuse.

They also highlight the important role of the church in teaching people about abuse. The Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Abuse Response and Prevention Network fully agrees with Rachel Bergen that, “when there aren’t spaces to seek support, the harm persists.”

In order for healing to happen, we need to acknowledge that abuse is occurring in our churches, and to heed Paul’s exhortation to “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. . . . Everything exposed by the light becomes visible” (Ephesians 5:11, 13).

It is for this reason that MCC has programs with a specific focus on abuse. These programs educate and equip, as well as provide safe spaces and support for Mennonite families and churches whose members are grappling with abuse.

For information on MCC programs and resources addressing abuse, visit, contact your local MCC office or directly contact the programs listed below.

Elsie Goerzen
End Abuse, MCC B.C.

Eileen Henderson
Abuse Response and Prevention, MCC Manitoba

Virginia Froese
Sexual Misconduct and Abuse Resource Response Team, MCC Ontario

Stephen Siemens
Circles of Care, MCC Ontario

Yoder wrongdoing can’t be ‘fixed from the grave’

Re: “An ‘experiment’ in sexuality gone wrong,” Jan. 5, page 4.

Long-time CBC personality Jian Ghomeshi faces charges of sexual harassment and sexual assault, while 30 years ago in the Mennonite realm intellectual John Howard Yoder faced charges of skillfully convincing women to participate in various sexual experiments.

The radio and TV host was a brilliant and beloved star in promoting the CBC, while the seminary faculty member, brilliant thinker and writer was a beloved star Bible professor who promoted what is now Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary.

For the influential Ghomeshi, the initial CBC enquiry of sexual misconduct was glossed over. For Yoder, who had become widely known, the Anabaptist system to thoroughly investigate and stop his wrongful behaviour failed.

The judicial system will hear the Ghomeshi case and decide on the consequences, if any. In the case of Yoder, now deceased, his controversial thinking and abuse of women can never be settled. You cannot fix it from the grave.

LeEtta Erb, Ste. Agathe, Man.

Former prof sings the praises of pensions

Re: “Do not store up treasures in pensions,” Jan. 5, page 28, and “Holy recklessness,” Jan. 19, page 21.

I greatly appreciate Will Braun’s sensitive reflections on our society’s trend to identify life’s fulfillment with financial security in retirement, often in the form of pension fund investments. Should followers of Jesus not be risk-takers, investing in the greater treasures of the kingdom of God? But how?

His respectful treatment of the matter, however, cannot avoid casting a negative light on the Mennonite Church Canada pension plan and the “financial elders of the church” (Braun’s aptly chosen term) who devised it. As an employee of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada (now MC Canada) during my long teaching career at Canadian Mennonite University and Canadian Mennonite Brethren College, I was enrolled in the conference’s pension plan in 1973, and when I retired in 1997, I became a beneficiary of it.

How grateful I was when I learned that the financial administration of the conference had worked with energy, expertise and care to provide for our family’s future while I had concentrated on other things. Although close-knit early Anabaptist, Amish and Hutterite communities may have handled their members’ needs in an “in-house fashion,” I saw in the work of our financial elders a true Christian care and provision for the poor—to which I would belong without pension—a care appropriately adapted to our time.

I was also grateful that the Canadian Government had made me contribute for decades to the Canada Pension Plan and had used some of the taxes paid by me and others to establish the Old Age Security (OAS) provision. Given these three sources of income and some very modest savings, Mary and I have been able to continue our lower-middle-class lifestyle for almost 18 years now. We were also able to be of help to our children when needed, contribute to the work of the church and support some charities.

By keeping his income, and therefore his taxes and investments, low, Braun may soothe his conscience regarding investment in undesirable causes. But has he considered that he would thereby also contribute minimally, or not at all, to the safety provisions from which all Canadians benefit in the form of OAS, medical care, social assistance, affordable education and more?

Waldemar Janzen, Winnipeg

Like a little knowledge, ‘holy recklessness’ is a dangerous thing

Re: “Holy recklessness,” Jan. 19, page 21.

While I appreciate a good old-fashioned pillory of big business and materialism, Will Braun’s column proves that a “little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

First, “socially responsible investment” is a hopelessly nuanced and complex concept. As an example, Blackberry, in addition to providing good jobs to thousands of Canadians, provides a portable platform for reading the very ideas espoused by Braun, thus saving thousands of trees that otherwise would have been cut down for the paper version of the very magazine he writes in.

Second, it is a noble notion for an emotionally, physically and mentally healthy employee to work only enough to provide a current hand-to-mouth existence. Eventually, however, age catches up with everyone and we all will become less and less productive. If we are super lucky, our children and our grandchildren will come to our assistance, but if we don’t have any of either, the “treasures” we have stored up here on earth will be required to prevent us from becoming a burden on the collective community.

Third, from 1987-89 I served as a full-time volunteer with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) at a youth group home in Warburg, Alta., receiving a stipend of $50 per month. I was dimly aware then, and am more acutely aware now, that my “sacrifice” to take the pious non-materialistic high road was only possible because of thousands of generous donors to the MCC mission, donors who earned more than they maybe needed for the moment, but who could have used their excess for many things other than the idealistic journeys of me and hundreds of other MCC volunteers and employees.

This principle applies to Braun and the rest of the staff at Canadian Mennonite and Mennonite Church Canada. I suspect most readers highly value the ability to share with thousands of people the faith-based ideals and ideas contained within this magazine. We must never forget, however, that this expression and sharing is a luxury afforded to our collective community by the generous donations of Mennonites who work hard to provide for themselves and their community, who run ethical businesses that treat their employees and the environment fairly and responsibly, and who spread the word of Christ through faithful living at their employment at Suncor, Talisman or BMO. Please do not pillory us, because at the end of the day we all need grace and we all need each other.

Ron Toews, Brandon, Man.

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