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Thrilled with progress

You can’t imagine how thrilled I was to read “Love you can taste” (People & Events, August). Back in 1982, when I first came to B.C., I found myself coordinating a women’s centre begun by mostly secular women. I wondered why there were no women’s centres in churches.

Some years later, my heart was gladdened to discover one in a Presbyterian church south of the Fraser. The subsequent MCC B.C. program to end abuse was much strengthened by working with that pastor, Karen McAndless Davis, to provide support groups for women (endabuse@mccbc.com). At one point North Langley Community Church women gave some financial support to their local transition house.

In the meantime, Elvira Corben started the first Open Door Daycare, later expanded through MCC, and the MCC Employment Development program initiated some programs focused on the special needs of single mothers. And now I read that South Abbotsford MB women are cooking for the streetworkers in the community.

My heart is filled with gratitude because back in the 1980s when my husband and I were able to give a bit of support to a streetworker trying to get her children back, she said to us, “I know you accept me, but would your church accept me?” We had to say we weren’t sure. She never worked up the courage to test it.

Bless Norma Neufeld and the women of South Abbotsford MB Church.



Response to Jim Holm

Re “How do we respond?” (Letters, August). The Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches wishes to inform the constituency that it sent a letter to Jim Holm in response to his request for forgiveness in the June 2009 MB Herald. This letter, signed by both the moderator and board of faith and life chair, acknowledged both the courage and humble spirit of our brother in requesting forgiveness, extended our forgiveness, thanked him for his service as MBBS president, and assured him and his wife of our prayers and support for their future journey together.



Workers, not leaders

Thanks to Karla Braun for opening the dialogue about servant development and leadership development, in “Servant development” (Editorial, August). While Tannenbaum and Schmidt published a seminal paper on leadership in the Harvard Business Review in 1958, my recollection is that the emphasis on leadership in evangelical churches in Canada began in the 1970s. Workshops and books on that topic became common. I, among hundreds of others, flocked to Willow Creek and other locales to learn more about it.

In the business and professional fields, distinctions were made among leadership, management, and administration. That was helpful to me as an instructor in that area, but unfortunately, explicit mention was not made of how these three differed from governance in either the church or professional realms. That led to a new set of problems that continue to the present.

Today I occasionally hear young and middle-aged MB church pastors lament that we no longer have great leaders in our denomination. “Where are the Janzs, Ewerts, Toewses, Schmidts, or Peters of the 21st century?” they ask.

The answer may lie in the term we use – that is, leader. Up to the 1960s, MB young people attended Bible schools and colleges for personal spiritual growth and to equip themselves to serve as church workers, not leaders. Areas of church work included teaching Sunday School, directing choirs, organizing youth events, and preaching. From my memory most of the so-called notable MB leaders of the past century were outstanding workers/servants.

Perhaps pastors leave the ministry because leadership is required in churches today but is not mentioned as one of the spiritual gifts in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.



A great tool

Re “A mind for the poor” (Intersection, August). Thanks to James Toews for the inspiration and for making a good point about the usual ways North Americans and Europeans “understand” helping the poor. Most of the time it is just giving money or time, instead of considering other variables that are really more important.

Also good about connecting to MEDA (whose programs “are the best-kept secrets that Mennonites have,” according to the late Milo Shantz), as a great helping tool for people to consider. By the way, we are working on establishing a MEDA chapter in Montreal.



Actions, counteractions

Re “A disconnected family” by H.M.R. Dueck (Viewpoint, August). The question raised was: Why are we so disunited as a conference and as churches? The answer is very simple: every action has a counteraction. (Adam and Eve were the first to discover this.)

The board of faith and life was to be the heart of the conference. What has happened over time? I recall being a member of a church that sent a theological question to this board in the late 1970s. It took numerous study conferences, both at the national and North American level. After some six years of study, the answer came back: “Let each church make its own decision on this particular issue.” Most major questions sent subsequently to this body have come back with a similar answer. Why are we surprised then that in time churches made, and continue to make, their own decisions without recourse to the conference?

It will be nearly impossible to corral local churches back into the conference and its various programs since over time the decision making has been transferred to them, by default of course. Why should a church support a conference’s theological institution whose teaching stance has to be that local churches make their own theological decisions? Why should a local church support the conference’s mission programs when its theological stance may not agree with that taken by the local church? Why should a local church send part of its finances to a central treasury whose programs may not agree with the church’s own defined mission statement?

What have been the consequences of “making your own decisions”? It has encouraged most churches to come up with their own “statements of beliefs.” Out of these statements of belief have grown a local church’s “mission statements” which in turn have determined the use of a local church’s resources, whether they be human or material, without regard to sister churches or the conference.



No resemblance

Re “A disconnected family” (Viewpoint, August). I have been an MB member about 70 years. I have watched the numerous changes that have taken place within the MB church, so that today there is no resemblance to the MB Church of the 1930s and 40s.

The teaching of the Lord’s soon return is practically non-existent in the majority of MB churches, whereas it was the prevailing theme earlier. I asked one pastor why they avoided preaching on the soon return of our Lord. After all, it’s the greatest hope we as Christians have. His answer shocked me: “It’s too controversial.” Why is it controversial?

You very seldom hear a sermon from our pulpits on the topic of sin, the reality of hell or heaven, or even how to conduct ourselves in this modern world so that the non-Christian can differentiate between the Christian and the world.

Where did the plain teaching of the Word, the old familiar Bible stories go? If you care to check, you will find a young generation woefully ignorant of biblical knowledge, and also of our mission program, at home and abroad.

We have substituted sound biblical teaching and actions with programs. What can we do to correct the situation? The answer is simple, but not easy. Preach the Word as it is written. All of it! And pray. Adding more programs is not the answer.



Challenging issues

I congratulate the MB Herald for discussing the challenging issues we face as a denomination. Karla Braun’s editorial (August), points to a solution, not only for the MB conference but even more importantly, for individual congregations, many of which are a microcosm of the condition of the conference. Who can disagree that what is most needed is “a call to be Christ-like servants”?

H.M.R. Dueck’s courageous “A disconnected family” (Viewpoint, August) tells us of the pervasiveness of tattered MB family bonds. Our leaders, Willy Reimer and David Wiebe, are also very upfront with their views and I congratulate their courage for our denominational future.

But a revival will need to start in the trenches, the local church. As in the case of Israel, there is always a faithful remnant. Such stories are also frequently told about MB congregational life in the Herald.



Look at the faces!

Further to “Smad about war” (Crosscurrents, August). Violence causes dehumanization, and, as we all know, a lot of violence is happening in Afghanistan, Iraq, and in many other places on this planet of ours.

Killing people, soldiers or not, can be extremely difficult. A soldier wrote home, “It’s so hard when I am up close. When I see the faces of the people, I can’t bring myself to kill them. But when I am farther away, just shooting artillery shells, then I can do it, as long as I don’t see their faces.” One could say here, “Look at the faces! In the name of God, look at the faces!”


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