Armstrong (B.C.) Bible Chapel has had its share of troubles; not from outside pressures but from internal strife. We have experienced two significant and hurtful internal battles – in the mid-1980s and in 2005.
Even though we are now a small congregation and few of us experienced the internal strife, we continue to see and feel the fallout from these conflicts. We realized that in order to experience a measure of healing for ourselves and for the many people who left our church but are still hurting, we needed to honestly face and confess the sins of our past. Consequently, we – the present congregation – identified ourselves with the sins of our collective past and repented of them during a worship service on Feb. 13.
We believe that the confession spoken within our church walls needs to be heard beyond them. There are people and pastors within our MB family now living elsewhere who have been hurt by our church. Therefore, we present this public apology to you.
We grieve that Armstrong Bible Chapel has not always stood for what we believe in or acted according to what we value. We desire to more fully be the church Jesus is calling us and preparing us to be. So we now apologize to anyone who has been hurt by our church’s sinful attitude and actions. We also apologize to all for the poor witness we have been at times to the love of God supremely demonstrated in Jesus Christ our Lord. Specifically, we publicly confess the following:
We name the Lord Jesus Christ as the head of our church:
He is our chief leader, our head pastor;
By his grace and purpose we exist;
By his mercy and provision we continue to exist.
We confess that though we are called to speak the truth, we have at times done so without love.
We confess that though we called ourselves a church community, we have at times neglected community while defending the institution.
We confess that though we called each other brothers and sisters, we have at times treated one another like enemies.
We confess that though we called pastors to lead us, we have at times stood against them.
We confess that though we are called to mission, we have at times been more concerned with self-preservation.
We confess that though Jesus placed us in Armstrong to be a light, we have at times been a source of darkness.
We confess that though God instructs us to demonstrate his love, we have at times demonstrated hatred.
We confess that though we are called to be agents of reconciliation and peace, we have at times been agents of discord and rancour.
We confess that though we are called to be holy, we have at times been self-centred and rebelliously sinful.
We confess that as a result of our sins Armstrong Bible Chapel has at times been characterized as divisive and the destroyer of people.
From all this, we humbly and fully repent! We turn from our corporate sins both past and present in order to turn to God in submission. We ask God to forgive us according to his mercy; to restore us according to his grace; and to fill us anew with his love by the Holy Spirit. We ask God to continually transform us to be like Jesus in all things: for the glory of his name, and the renewal of our name – Armstrong Bible Chapel.
We are confident of God’s forgiveness for he has promised that if we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all the wrongs we have done. We ask also for your forgiveness. We invite any individual who has been hurt by our church to contact us so that hopefully we might be reconciled with you.
The congregation of Armstrong Bible Chapel
Do singles matter?
Christian singles are the biggest life-stage group that is overlooked in our MB churches. Trying to find a singles ministry in an MB church in B.C.’s Lower Mainland is like hunting for a needle in a haystack, and when I do find one, it’s a ministry dying a slow death because church leaders don’t see the value in supporting it.
Our MB churches look to meet the needs of a wide variety of people, with the exception of the single Christians in our church families. It is disheartening. I know many Christian singles who have left the church because they felt unloved, like they didn’t matter to their church.
Statistically, singles in their 30s and 40s are fast becoming the dominant population group in Canada. Fewer people are getting married, and when they do, it’s later on in life. Plus, more and more people are getting divorced. Why are MB churches not working to reach out to these people? Do we not matter?
This is a subject that ought to be researched and discussed. Could it start in the MB Herald?
Remembering faithful pastors
I had the privilege of attending the recent Ontario conference’s opening service. The speaker challenged us to “remember.” It got me thinking of the book Leaders Who Shaped Us, edited by Harold Jantz.
Jantz writes about G.W. Peters. His closing sentence reads: “Peters led well and we owe him a great debt of gratitude.” This is so true. When I was a teenager, Brother Peters came to have evangelistic meetings at our church. I made my decision for the Lord that week, but I was too shy to tell Brother Peters that he had helped me find peace. I did, however, write a poem. Years went by until I had the courage to give it to him. He was very pleased.
Thank you to all pastors who so faithfully preach the Word that changes lives (like mine) for eternity.
Refreshed by good rest and rewarding work
I enjoyed your issue on rest and Sabbath (March). It’s interesting to think about the other side of things: too much rest and not enough work. This last winter, I worked as a snow remover. This made for odd working hours – intense periods of being very busy and stretches when I didn’t work at all. After a few days of resting from being up most of the night clearing snow, I was refreshed again, but had nothing to do. I really didn’t enjoy the rest all that much because I didn’t work.
I didn’t have much choice with my working hours this winter, but it really got to me: we won’t enjoy Sabbath rest if we haven’t really worked before the Sabbath. I appreciate being able to work, and working hard, so that I can enjoy time off. I enjoy taking time off, so that when I go back to work, I’m refreshed and can work hard again.
Skeptical about skepticism
Re “The gift of skepticism” (Intersection, March). If I understand skepticism correctly, it is defined by suspicion, cynical inquiry, lack of conviction, and uncertainty. I hesitate to call this a gift of God. It seems to be a rational, human, carnal response.
The Bible speaks of a discerning spirit that enables us to know the signs of the times,
differentiate between good and evil, the promptings of God or our own flesh, giving us a clear-sighted critical perception of what is wise or foolish.
There’s no promise for true skeptics. Children easily believe but may vacillate later because discernment has not been taught or demonstrably practiced, leaving people to the whims and fancy of their leaders – who often can’t discern either.
Bothered by baptisms
I love to read the Herald. I begin by reading the obituaries. I’ve probably done this since the Herald first existed. For my part, the obituaries could carry much more information.
Lately, the wording about baptisms has bothered me. The phrase “baptized into” such-and-such church gives me the idea that the reason for baptism is in order to join the local church. My baptism certainly was not for that reason. I wanted to show that my desire was to die to self and live for God. Therefore I was not baptized into Virgil Mennonite Brethren Church. I was baptized by the leaders of Virgil MB Church, who affirmed my decision.
Talking about being baptized into a church cheapens the meaning of baptism. Does this not bother anyone else?
New Hamburg, Ont.
|Editor’s note: The Herald uses the economical phrase “baptized into” to reflect the language of our Confession of Faith: “baptism is a sign of the believer’s incorporation into the body of Christ as expressed in the local church.” Our wording reflects confessional emphasis on being disciples who actively participate in the life of a specific worshipping community.|
Re “Critic misses mark” (Letters, April). Given the communications I have received concerning my letter in the April issue of the Herald, some clarification is required. First, I state unequivocally that John Howard Yoder advocates Christian pacifism. He affirms its relevance as a norm for individual Christians and for the Christian community, but he does not affirm it as the norm for non-believers or governments.
The question has been raised whether I correctly cited the alleged Yoder statement about the “political irrelevance” of “the consistent Christian pacifist”. The full statement is as follows: “Thus by far the most current interpretation of this problem [the alleged difficulty of Christian pacifists impacting politics] in contemporary American ethical thought is that the consistent Christian pacifist must accept the verdict of political irrelevance.” (The Christian Witness to the State, p. 7) My reading of Yoder’s stance, in this book and elsewhere, is that he basically shares this view, allowing, of course, for a strong verbal witness to those in authority. Even though I believe that Yoder shares this view, I should have provided the full statement and noted that Yoder was describing the larger scene. That was my error. Part of the problem is that Yoder is not always clear in differentiating between his views and those of others. At times, as obviously on page 6 and, I think, also on page 7, he does not start a new paragraph when he introduces his views. This may leave readers guessing.
It has been suggested that Yoder made this statement to posit a stance with which he then disagrees. In my view, the evidence does not support such an interpretation. In fact, I could have cited other statements by Yoder to make my initial point. “Not only conservative Mennonite traditions but also highly respected contemporary thinkers argue, as we noted at the outset, that the commitment to discipleship in nonresistance deprives the Christian of anything relevant to say to responsible social leaders.” (p. 24) That’s similar to my initial quotation. Yoder asserts, further, that “Christian moral judgments are related to regeneration, to forgiveness, to the church, and to the Christian hope in such a way that they cannot have the same relevance outside the circle of faith.” (p. 78)
Given Yoder’s assessment of the political state as “being, in its judicial and police functions, the major incarnation of this channeled evil”, it is not surprising to have him assert “the incompatibility of nonresistance [his stance] with responsibility for the normal processes of government.” (p. 23) Yoder himself emphasizes my interpretation of his view. “We have further observed that the Christian witness does not provide any foundations for government, either practically or philosophically….” (p. 41) Similar statements abound.
A few Herald readers also question my quotation from Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus. I quoted the statement that “Jesus did not provide a social ethic relevant to the continuing life of social communities”. (p. 162) Again, I should have given the larger statement and the background. My error; I abbreviated too much. Yoder was here describing a view that arose in the early Christian church. I was and am under the impression that he agreed with this view but I should have clarified matters.
Here, again, I could have and perhaps should have cited other Yoder statements. I shall cite a few from The Christian Witness to the State. “Christian ethics is for the Christian who – if he will – disposes of the resources of love, repentance, the willingness to sacrifice, and the enabling power of the Holy spirit, within the supportive fellowship of the church. Whether or not, and in what sense, non-Christians or the non-Christian society should love, forgive, and otherwise behave like Christians is a speculative question. The spiritual resources for making such redeemed behavior a real possibility are lacking.” (p. 29) Lest there be any misunderstanding of his views Yoder adds: “We therefore avoid affirming that there is any norm willed by God other than love itself.” (p. 72) “Christian ethics is for Christians.” (p. 28) We also read, “That the state might listen to the Christian message and obey it to the point of ceasing to exist is by definition impossible.”
I thank all readers who took the time to communicate with me.
John H. Redekop