April Letters

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No cause for celebration

Re “Breaking down the walls of us and them” (Viewpoint, February). I find the position of Regina Shands Stoltzfus disturbing on more than one point.

First, she adds her voice to the uncritical adulation of Barack Obama on no firmer basis than the colour of his skin and, presumably, his oratorical skills. Those who dig into his record and policies even a little will find that he is a pro-abortion extremist determined to quash all protection for the unborn. Surely this anti-life, anti-family position should give pause to anyone purporting to
follow Christ.

Second, black liberation theology, or any theology that seeks to elevate one people group over another in the church, has no basis in Scripture. The use of such terms as “black church” and “black spirituality” simply perpetuates the “us and them” mentality. God’s Word is emphatically clear that no such distinctions exist in the church (not even male and female!). Such cultural pollution may be impossible to avoid, but does not merit celebration.

Furthermore, Stoltzfus fails to distinguish between mere religious systems destroyed by oppression, and the Christian church, which historically is stimulated by oppression to greater, and healthier, growth. Such growth results from, among other things, obedience to God in loving enemies and praying for persecutors, not from struggling against them.

I learned many years ago that a strong step toward ending abuse in a relationship is to walk away from the role of victim. It takes courage and constant mindfulness, but it can be done, perhaps even on a broader scale.



Cherry-picking Menno

Re “The problem with Anabaptism” (Intersection, February). While I am glad to see more discussion of our theological roots, I was a little disappointed that James Toews repeated the commonly used but abbreviated quotation of Menno Simons regarding “true evangelical faith.” The quote used by Toews (and many others) is a cherry-picked reading of Menno Simons that eliminates other, equally important aspects of true evangelical faith.  Loving action toward others is very important but the social aspects should not outweigh the parts of Simons’ words that deal with discipleship, sanctified living, and sharing the gospel.

From Menno Simons’ work, “Why I Do Not Cease Teaching and Writing” (1539), the full text reads as follows (wikisource.org): For true evangelical faith is of such a nature that it cannot lay
dormant, but manifests itself in all righteousness and works of love; it dies unto flesh and blood; destroys all forbidden lusts and desires; cordially seeks, serves and fears God; clothes the naked; feeds the hungry; consoles the afflicted; shelters the miserable; aids and consoles all the oppressed; returns good for evil; serves those that injure it; prays for those that persecute it; teaches, admonishes, and reproves with the Word of the Lord; seeks that which is lost; binds up that which is wounded; heals that which is diseased and saves that which is sound.




The Regenerate 21-01 initiative uses a lot of vague, nice-sounding language but really has little to say. I have tried to find a plainly-worded explanation of what it is all about, and all I could find in the Canadian conference Ministry Update 2009 (February) was  five bullet points explaining “what this might look like.”

Only two points stand out – “churches actively training and discerning leaders” and the fifth point, “awareness and responsiveness to needs in the community.” I find it telling that this is listed last. Do we need to be pouring efforts into creating an elite leader culture in MB churches while treating real-world problems as an afterthought?

The first-century church had no paid, professional, seminary-educated pastors and staff, nor were followers of The Way interested in a “walk with God” or “Bible-reading, journaling, and open, interactive dialogue.” They lived to help others first, living in a community that supported its members while trying to spread the life-transforming message of Christ to anyone who would listen.

I see little of that radical church reflected in the Regenerate 21-01 initiative, which is so crowded with buzzwords it runs the risk of alienating laity from leaders, and treating the needs of Canadian communities, in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, as an afterthought.



Can’t we expand?

I was impressed with the MBMSI report in the January 2009 issue (Witness). I noted that the budget for this wonderful, holistic ministry has been more or less level for each of the last four years, hovering at about $8 million. Then I see again the Canadian MB conference stewardship advertisement on the [Herald’s] back page.

When I checked with the director of that ministry in Winnipeg, I was informed of total deposits of some $160 million. The US Mennonite Brethren have a similar stewardship program for their constituents with deposits in the same range. It should be noted that the MBMSI budget is shared with American MBs.

When I inquired of an MBMSI staff person what the chances are for tapping that near one-third of a billion dollars to expand its programs, I was told those funds were simply not available.
Wow! Where does MB stewardship factor into this mix? And what is all the rhetoric about “sharing our gifts” with the global MB family? Are we part of the church mix which Richard Hayes describes as “massively failing”?


John Wiebe, chief financial officer of the Canadian Conference of MB Churches replies:

The key word, as noted by Mr. Epp, is “deposits.” These are not monies that can be freely given to ministry purposes – since they do not belong to us. These are funds put on deposit by individuals who expect that we will return them when they ask.

We use this money actively in ministry in several ways. A large part of these funds is outstanding in loans to churches and agencies to help them carry out their ministries. The balance of the funds is invested in such a manner that the principle can be protected and that a reasonable rate of return can be earned to assist the ministry of the Canadian conference and its various agencies.

Instead of “massively failing,” it is because of the 3,300 persons who deposit funds with us that we are able to lend money to churches to help them do ministry and to generate ministry funds from earnings and endowments. We owe these depositors not only their money when they want it, but a huge debt of gratitude for making it available so we can help others as well.

No superhumans for hire

For a number of months, since the possibility of graduation has set in, I have been searching for a job. A ministry job in particular. I’m 24 and I will make big mistakes. Not interested?

Churches do not want young pastors. Even though they’ve sacrificed, taken out large debts, and moved to small towns in a province far away from home, they are still not qualified to have a church mentor them. Professional ministry and the church in general have a warped view of what should be expected in church leaders. Since when are they without need? The superhuman model of the pastor seems to inflate pastoral search teams with the false delusion of hiring the superhuman. Not surprisingly most youth pastors last about 2 years in ministry. Additionally, many people my age are dropping out of church because there are no peers for them in leadership.

When you have a young pastor in the room, remember that you will have to help him. Eventually you will have to turn over the keys to this generation, and if you aren’t going to teach him how to drive the car, he’s probably going to crash.



The editorial “Can people change” (January) sparked a discussion thread in the online forum. To read or participate, visit www.mbforum.ca/topic/2461.html

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