Readers write: October 10, 2016 issue

October 5, 2016 | Viewpoints | Volume 20 Issue 20

‘Affluenza’ should trump ‘gender’ issue for Mennonites

As community-oriented Anabaptists, we should be spending more time on “affluenza” than on the “gender” issue.

Richard Rohr, the contemporary Franciscan monk, said it well: “Living in this consumer-driven world, we are all deeply infected by what some call ‘affluenza,’ a toxic and blinding disease with the basic assumption that more is always better and more of self is always good. It is fair to say that such invisible assumptions of any culture are as toxic and as blinding as the so-called ‘hot sins’ of drunkards and prostitutes, though they are much harder to recognize as ‘sin’ because we are all inside the same agreed-upon bubble.”

Richard Penner, Calgary


Mennonite institutions are playing the ‘name change’ game

Mennonite Savings and Credit Union recently changed its name to Kindred. Mennonite Foundation of Canada is on its way to becoming known as Abundance.

Some Mennonites are disappointed, if not upset, that these well-regarded institutions are forsaking their Mennonite “noms-de-marketplace.”

My support for these name changes is more along the lines of a theological or ecclesiological argument. Outside of congregations and conferences, the word “Mennonite” should be used only when the organization is directly and fully accountable through its governing structure to Mennonite churches. It’s not good enough if all or most of the members and people on the board or in senior leadership are self-identified Mennonites.

Maybe a bunch of Mennonite businesspeople want to band together to help others. Well, Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) already exists. But in my world it should not use the word “Mennonite” because it is not directly church-accountable. Mennonite Central Committee, on the other hand, is without a doubt within the Mennonite church-controlled fold. Both are worthy of support. Only one should use the name.

For better or worse, there is no Mennonite decision-making body that can draw a legal line in the sand on the use of the word “Mennonite.” That’s part of our history of splitting and reforming into various conferences.

The Anglican Church of Canada or the United Church of Canada, as alternative examples, have no such problem. The national bodies control the name and can legally stop any use they see as illegitimate.

To make this stick, Mennonites will just have to preserve their name for church-controlled bodies using nonviolent pressure, while isolating and inviting offenders who inappropriately use the word “Mennonite” to cease and desist. If they don’t change, then prayer for their change of heart will be the last resort.

In the meantime, welcome Kindred and Abundance.

John Siebert, Waterloo, Ont.


Mennonites should speak up about Muslim head coverings

Maybe I’ve missed it in your articles, but it seems to me that Mennonites are uniquely positioned to help Canadians see the wearing of the hijab in a different perspective.

Old Order and Conservative Mennonite women’s coverings may not cover as much as a hijab, but it’s making a similar statement. I’d be interested in hearing more of their stories.

I enjoyed the story that the late Ada Barg of Red Deer, Alta., told me about her time as a young lady when she was Ada Burkholder in nurse’s training at a Toronto hospital. After a month of training, she was told that she would need to wear the traditional  nurse’s cap, instead of her head covering. This had never occurred to her, since the covering was allowed in the Kitchener, Ont., hospital. So, instead of giving in, she quit and her life took her to Alberta, where she trained as a teacher.  

Now, no one would wear that nurse’s cap, so I wonder if 50—or even 10—years from now we will bother discussing the hijab.

Linda Garland, Bluevale, Ont.


‘What Neufeld reports is not new in our Mennonite agencies’

Re: “When your services are no longer required,” Aug. 29, page 4.

Henry Neufeld’s feature is courageous and long overdue. One thing I have learned in senior leadership in Mennonite Central Committee and World Vision international offices over a lifetime of service is that healthy personnel practices are the heartbeat of a healthy organization. I developed personnel policies and aligned them with the national labour codes of Indonesia and Cambodia, and served on the board of a Mennonite school working on conflict-resolution policies.

The dismissals Neufeld reports are inconsistent with conventional labour practices. The pink slip, locked out of office and sent home in a taxi method is akin to a summary dismissal, reserved for only serious offences. The message in these dismissals communicates that the agency has lost faith in personnel with long records of faithfulness, and they no longer can be trusted. Fair and compassionate treatment, transparency, consistency and due process are foundational values in good personnel practices. What Neufeld reports is not new in our Mennonite agencies.

Granted, organizations have good reasons to protect sensitive data and reputations from “vindictive vandalism.” Technologies safeguarding data are available to guard against it. But when trust is compromised, an insidious toxin seeps in. “Will I also be treated that way?” burns into the soul.

How is it that we so easily relinquish our cherished peace and reconciliation values—and tried and tested means to “operationalize” them—when push comes to shove with corporate values and methods? “Humbly arrogant” power and anxiety are toxic to the soul of our cherished organizations. Cannot our agencies be leaders in organizational health?

Allen Harder, Abbotsford, B.C.

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