Readers write: October 26, 2015 issue

October 21, 2015 | Viewpoints | Volume 19 Issue 21

Is it really time for a vote . . . or should we keep talking?

Re: “It’s time for a vote,” March 30, page 14,” and “A historic moment,” Aug. 17, page 2.

Russel Snyder-Penner makes many good points in “It’s time for a vote.” His description of how the roundtable discussion format has hindered conversation is very reflective of my experience. In my congregation, having moved to a roundtable format, it has neutered our conversation, in my view.

I understand the sentiment that it’s time to call for a vote, but as an avid reader of Canadian Mennonite I am also puzzled by the suggestion that we as a congregation actually participated in this Being a Faithful Church process. About 11 years ago our congregation had a conversation on sexuality, after which we understood how wide the range of our views actually was, such that to continue would only have served to polarize us more. Given this reality, what would be the point of a vote? And if we would have one, what would it mean? How would our delegates vote to actually represent us?

I struggle with these big questions as much as anybody, and sometimes I, too, would rather not talk about it. But it seems to me that by remaining in conversation we are actually discerning together.  

I was encouraged by the Aug. 17 editorial that reminded us of Nelson Kraybill’s words: “If Jesus could break bread with Judas, who betrayed him, and wash the feet of Peter, who denied him, perhaps we can remain in loving fellowship even when we do not all agree.”

I take these as prophetic words to give me hope, since this call stands in such sharp contrast to the reality of my actions.

George Goertzen, Richmond, B.C.
George Goertzen is a member of Peace Mennonite Church, Richmond.


Don’t believe or worship ‘balance’

Re: “Christian reflections on balance and the Middle East” and “Beholding the grey area,” Sept. 14, pages 4 and 27, respectively.

I sincerely hope that readers will pay careful attention to these two very relevant and important articles. Beyond the fact that the two complement each other so well is Ramon Rempel’s taking on the issue of “balance” when dealing with the Israel-Palestine conflict.

As one who has studied, served and toured the Middle East, including having lived in both Jerusalem and Beirut, I’ve encountered the topic of balance routinely when students, tourists and service personnel arrive on the scene. “Balance” easily morphs into “neutrality” and “a reluctance to face up to the injustices and imbalances inherent in the conflict.” But, as Rempel says, “I don’t believe in or worship ‘balance’; I follow Christ.”

And I would add: heeding the Old Testament prophets. Balance and neutrality equal assent to the status quo. Thanks to Rempel for tackling this topic in a systematic manner with his six responses to the balance question.

Ken Seitz, Harrisonburg, Va.


Readers disappointed in handling of Vernon Leis matter

Re: “Alleged sexual misconduct against Vernon Leis, deceased pastor,” Sept. 14, page 16.

We are very disappointed in Mennonite Church Eastern Canada with regards to its handling of the Vernon Leis matter. We are sorry for the agony the Leis family is going through.

If the Sept. 10 Waterloo Region Record editorial, “A disservice to a man of faith,” is a gauge of public opinion, there is reason for constituents to have their confidence in MC Eastern Canada misplaced.

Ruth Cahill/Cathi Bender,
Tavistock, Ont.


Editors ‘lack . . . understanding on this issue of clergy sexual abuse’

Re: “Alleged sexual misconduct against Vernon Leis, deceased pastor” and “The Vernon Leis story,” Sept. 14, page 16 and 2, respectively; and “Pastor who died 21 years ago accused of sexual misconduct” and “A disservice to a man of faith,” Waterloo Region Record, Sept. 8 and 10, respectively.

Thank you for covering the Mennonite Church of Eastern Canada’s revelation of allegations against the late Vernon Leis. MC Eastern Canada is setting an important precedent for other churches that refuse to believe victims and protect the vulnerable by revealing perpetrators’ names.

It is disappointing that the editors of The Record and Canadian Mennonite are critical of MC Eastern Canada and the victim for their brave actions. The editors’ comments reveal their lack of understanding on the issue of clergy sexual abuse, and are the kind of statements that make it unsafe for any other victims to come forward. It is common for victims of sexual abuse to not feel safe enough to disclose their story until 20 or 30 years after, or until their perpetrator dies.

In addition, Leis would have been abusing his po-sition of power if the victim were a parishioner in MC Eastern Canada. If this were the case, the question of her consent would be immaterial.

Steve Theisen, Hudson, Iowa
Steve Theisen is the director of the Iowa chapter of the Survivors Network of Abused Priests (SNAP). An identical letter was also received from Kevin O’Connor, Charlottesville, Va.


Better to improve the current foster system than criticize the past

Re: “Mennonites have yet to reckon with their role in ‘sixties scoop,’ ” Sept. 14, page 20.

My parents had two aboriginal boys from a local first nation placed in their foster care in the 1960s. Obviously, they had fallen through the cracks in the traditional extended family system that normally would have absorbed them and cared for them.

I think it was often compassion that drove the “sixties scoop.” The brothers who entered our home when I was a teenager were 6 and 7. They had been neglected and abused, and showed signs of fetal alcohol syndrome, a condition just coming to light way back then. Our parents hoped that if they loved them enough they would thrive.

One became a known aboriginal artist and the other ended up in jail. I wonder what their future would have been if they had stayed in their community. What alternatives were there back then?

Instead of assigning blame to a past that is hard to understand, maybe we should be putting our energy towards changing our current struggling foster system for the better, a system I’m sure we will be analyzing and criticizing in 50 years.

Helen Rose Pauls, Chilliwack, B.C.

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