Readers write: November 9, 2020 issue

November 4, 2020 | Opinion | Volume 24 Issue 23
Various Contributors |
(Graphic by Betty Avery)

Columnist has ‘a gift’
Re:Two stories clamour to be shared” column by Ed Olfert, Oct. 12, page 10.

Ed is the current pastor of Grace Mennonite Church in Prince Albert, Sask.

During the strict coronavirus lockdown here in Nashville Tenn., during March to July, I would spend Sunday mornings viewing online services from my local Lutheran church in Mount Juliet and Grace Chapel in Franklin, and then my mom would forward the Sunday message from Ed Olfert, who pastors Grace Mennonite Church in Prince Albert Sask.

Somehow, amidst the excellent sermons and messages of faith, hope, and love of these southern churches, Ed had a way of sharing a message through a story or childhood memory of someone that had moved him, and he shared it in a way that moved everyone reading it. The message was the story and the story was the message. To me, it was amazing .

Thanks, Ed. I offer the words of Robert De Niro to Billy Crystal in the movie Analyze This: “You’ve got a gift, my friend.”
—Rod w Janzen (online comment)


Copyright compensation must be ‘reasonable and fair’ for users
Re:Copyright matters” feature, Sept. 28, page 4.

This article does an excellent job of examining various perspectives around copyright and religious organizations. I particularly appreciate the careful attention that is given to providing fair and equitable financial and social compensation for creators and artists.

However, I would also recommend that religious organizations pay equal attention to what is reasonable and fair for users of copyright materials. Balance is an important part of the Copyright Act. The Supreme Court emphasizes that “dissemination of works is also one of the Act’s purposes, which means that dissemination, too, with or without creativity, is in the public interest.”

Religious organizations receive very few mentions in the Canadian Copyright Act, and the sections where religious organizations are mentioned have not been updated to reflect the current digital era. This is unsurprising, as the financial interests surrounding copyright and religious institutions are limited in comparison to other sectors (for example, education).

Rather than interpret these omissions in a way that is fearful and unreasonably deferential to copyright holders and copyright collectives, I would encourage churches to think critically about the fairness and unfairness of particular use cases. I would also encourage churches to think through the costs and benefits of adopting copyright policies that entail unreasonable administrative burdens.

Canadian court decisions regarding the interpretation of copyright law are rightly attentive to the public interest and common practice. For example, many of the educational uses that are permitted in the current Canadian Copyright Act were not defined or delineated in previous copyright legislation. I would encourage churches to interpret current copyright legislation thoughtfully, and with equal attention to the rights of copyright holders and the users of copyright materials.
—Michelle Swab (online comment)


Voices Together creates online resource for dealing with controversial hymns
Re:Accusations should not keep hymns out of Voices Together” letter, Sept. 28, page 7.

We grieve the loss of David Haas’s songs. We recognize ways that God’s Spirit has worked through this composer’s gifts at the same time that Haas stands credibly accused of having done harm to many people. We urge individuals and communities to continue conversations about these complicated issues, including how the Psalms influence our faith and how we can support survivors of abuse.

We have created an online resource, “Show strength: How to respond when worship materials are implicated in abuse” (, to begin to address some of these questions and to encourage communities to continue these discussions.
—Bradley Kauffman, Elkhart, Ind.
The writer is the general editor of the new Voices Together hymnal published by MennoMedia.


Age plays a part in determining who’s responsible for sexual sins
One aspect of disagreement in attempts to redress historic injustices—bringing charges of abuse against a now dead pastor, for example—lies in divergent views on personal and social respon-sibility. Older Mennonites tend to see sin as an individual matter between or among individuals and God, and sometimes the community. Younger people, under 55 or so, are more likely to view sexual misconduct as a social or systemic issue.

Since the 1960s, Marxist-inspired analyses of sexual relations have become ubiquitous, such that they are frequently assumed subconsciously. Thus, social problems are seen as by-products of the capitalist economy and the resulting social inequalities, such as patriarchy. Formerly, the focus was on the individual, the family or the church to address or redress sexual sins. Now it is on social structures and power centres.

Hence, there is an increased impetus to target “old dead white men” as perpetrators. And with this comes an imperative to change power structures and to redistribute power and influence.

These divergent views do not, in themselves, determine the rights and wrongs of specific cases, but, as assumptions, they are likely to influence opinion and action. They may help to explain why older Mennonites are likely to differ from younger ones on this and similar issues.
—Kevin McCabe, St. Catharines, Ont.
The writer attends Grace Mennonite Church, St. Catharines.

(Graphic by Betty Avery)

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