0 comment

“Mennonite” has double meaning

Re “What it means to be Mennonite” (Letters, November). George Janzen writes that Mennonite is not an ethnic term because there has never been a “Menno-golia” or “Mennogeria.” However, some ethnic groups didn’t come from a country bearing their name. Concerning ethnic Mennonites, as contrasted with religious Mennonites who have a different ethnicity, many trace their ethnicity back to specific, often largely autonomous, areas of the Ukraine, Russia, Austria, Switzerland, and Poland. Every year hundreds of ethnic Mennonites in the Americas go back to the regions of their roots.

Janzen also claims that instead of calling himself a Mennonite ethnically, he belongs to the Dutch-German-Russian (DGR) ethnic group. This designation is inadequate on at least two grounds. First, its initials designate Mennonites who come from only three countries. It doesn’t include the many thousands of ethnic Mennonites in the Americas who come from Switzerland, Austria, or Poland. Second, to seek to camouflage the name of a globally recognized ethnic group by invoking a new name – DGR – for a segment thereof is akin to saying that people don’t die or pass away, they only “pass,” as many people now put it. Reality is not thereby changed.

Janzen asserts that he became a Mennonite by joining a Mennonite church and would cease being a Mennonite the day he left that church. That description is true of those Mennonite church members who are not also ethnic Mennonites. It’s not true for the rest of us. As one scholar says, “the ethnic community is a community one joins at birth and leaves at death.”

Governments, media, academics, and society generally understand the double meaning of Mennonite, the ethnic and the religious. Unfortunately, not all Mennonites understand this double meaning. The agenda for our time is not to deny reality but to discuss the best way of dealing with it.

John H. Redekop Abbotsford, B.C. ___________________________________________________________________

Don’t paint all emergents with the same brush

Re “Emergents disregard biblical authority” (Letters, November). The letters section of the MB Herald gives us a taste of the diversity of people in our conference. But as much as I enjoy that diversity, there’s also a part that saddens me, namely when diversity ends with division – when someone expresses an either/or, rather than both/and, point of view.

A case in point is Kenneth Affleck’s letter regarding emergents and biblical authority. While it’s good to bring critical thinking to the emergent church (and also to Anabaptism), to make the critical statement that emergent people are not “of the book” is to paint all those who think positively of the emergent movement with the same brush. In essence, Affleck’s either/or statement is a rather harsh judgment.

Is it not possible that someone can be both Anabaptist and emergent? That some who are emergent are “of the book”? If not, I’d suggest we be prepared for an even more divided church. 

Michael Dyck St. Catharines, Ont. ___________________________________________________________________

Embrace our MB name

Re “What’s in a (MB) name?” (Homepage, October). Nearly 20 years ago, co-workers brought me to their MB church. I was amenable to this visit because of, not in spite of, the name. I was raised in another traditional peace church, the Quakers, but since there was no meeting on north Vancouver Island, I let my religious life coast until I came to Black Creek MB.

In these days of homogenized culture, religion seems to be similar to my kids’ “choose your own adventure” books. Sift through the various generic denominations until you find one that fits your lifestyle without having to make too many compromises.  After such a bland diet, many have turned to churches that retain time-honoured beliefs of peace, equality, and social justice.

Don’t fear what we are, embrace it.

Harold Macy Merville, B.C.

Leave a Comment