Women also willing before
Re “Ordination of two women revives discussion” (May). The phrase “women [are] now willing to accept expanding roles in kingdom ministry” struck me as simply not accurate. This implies that only recently have women been willing to accept expanding ministry roles in the church. It dishonours the many women in the past who were also willing to accept ministry roles in the church but had doors closed to them.
As a student at MB Biblical Seminary in the mid-1980s, I met many women who were called by God to minister in the church, affirmed by their local congregations, and encouraged to attend seminary. While some women found employment in an MB church, others had to leave if they wanted to be employed in pastoral work, not because there were no positions available, but because most churches wouldn’t hire a woman in a pastoral role.
I have spoken with women who have dealt with the pain of being told the MB church could not affirm their pastoral and teaching gifts. I sometimes wonder if the MB church doesn’t have an obligation to publicly apologize for the pain it caused the many women who were called and equipped by God to minister in their churches but who were told to move along and minister somewhere else.
Only Jesus Christ, as head of the church, has ultimate authority and leadership in our churches, not any particular man or woman. All men and women are commanded to follow Jesus in humility, as students at the feet of the master, and all men and women are asked by God to be obedient to his call. Maybe some day the church will stop futile arguments about who is entitled to have power and authority in the church. Maybe some day, all people in the MB church will have their God-given gifts for ministry publicly affirmed.
Name Withheld By Request
Why disparage humanism?
Re “We are a biblical people” (Intersection, May). Thank you to James Toews for the clarity in his article, tracing our MB identity back to our biblicist ancestors. He traced the distinction they made between Sola Scriptura and, dare I say, a broader reading of the Bible by the Apostolic Church.
I suggest, however, that the leap from there to disparaging comments about humanism and secularism was a bit hasty. The black eye is not warranted and I hope Toews continues to elaborate. We live in an explosive environment where religious extremists outshout each other or engage in gloomy sectarian debates. I think we can do better.
Imagine yourself in jail in Serbia, where virtually everyone is enrolled in the Christian Orthodox Church. You might find yourself praying that your captor is not only a Christian, but also a humanist.
Back at home, think streetside benches, cheerful customers, free concerts in the park, slaves freed and remunerated. Call it humanism or secularism if you wish. I for one am grateful for all those things that make our lives more liveable.
North Vancouver, B.C.
A mishmash of influences
I’ve watched with interest as pieces trumpeting MB distinctives have appeared in the MB Herald. Several authors have stated their reservations about adopting “non-MB” theologies and ideas (particularly Reformed ones) into our denomination. There was the editorial in response to the Culture, Gospel, and Church study conference (Dec.), a fee letters [February, March] in response to that conference, and then James Toews’ column in April. It was particularly that last article that got me thinking.
There’s a feeling in all those pieces that we shouldn’t allow Reformed ecclesiology to influence us too strongly because it’s radically different from MB ecclesiology. There is no such thing as MB ecclesiology! As far as I’ve experienced it, MB ecclesiology is all over the map. There are many ways MBs have borrowed heavily from Reformed perspectives on the church (e.g. the influence of pietism in Russia and evangelicalism in North America).
These writers also bemoaned the influence of “outside speakers/thinkers” on our denomination. Since when did learning from other Christians and engaging in dialogue across perspectives become a bad thing? Let’s face it, beyond our Confession of Faith, there is very little MB identity apart from our shared history.
Mennonite Brethren is not a theological tradition; we are a denomination influenced by many theological traditions. Our Anabaptist roots and our Russian heritage have influenced us importantly, but theologically and ecclesiologically we are a mishmash of influences. The huge influence of evangelicalism, the training of our leaders in diverse institutions, the influence of Barth on many Mennonite theologians, and the lack of an identifiable MB theological tradition all make it difficult to define our distinctiveness from a theological and ecclesiological perspective.
Some day, all the answers
Re “Dying at an increasingly rapid pace” by Marvin Hein (April). What a wonderful article! As a former fellow student and conference brother of Marvin, the article didn’t surprise me. No deep theology or Christian philosophy, but practical and to the point, frank, but always permeated with a deep faith in a loving God. This was Marvin.
Quite true, the whole idea of dying can never be one of knowing exactly how it’s all going to end. God alone knows and in his wisdom, holds this for us to experience in our own unique way. However, with the Lord’s help, we can bring our lives to an end with confidence and fortitude!
This is how I want to look at my future too. As Marvin says, “By the time you read these lines, I will have all the answers to all the questions you might ever ask.” I think I know where he’ll be getting them. This is what we can all look forward to as we hold on to our faith. May God give us all the same deep love and faith in the Christian future. We shall meet together and praise God for it all.
On another subject: the May earthquake in Sichuan province, China. My wife Margaret and I taught in Nanchong, China, some years ago. Our hearts go out to our former friends in Sichuan province. We hope and pray that many Canadians will express their deep concerns, especially to fellow Christians who may have encountered losses.
[Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) reports that together with Mennonite Partners in China (MPC) they are supporting relief efforts in China following the devastating May 12 earthquake. The organizations are providing $100,000 to churches in Sichuan and the Amity Foundation, a Chinese humanitarian organization, to purchase and distribute food, medicine, and temporary shelter materials to those affected by the quake.—eds.]