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Could be the Spirit

I was pleased to participate in the recent study conference on Christology in Saskatoon. I heard consistent reflection that the discussion was going in the direction of atonement rather than sticking to Christology. We were reminded several times throughout the conference that one way the Spirit is heard is through the community of assembled believers. I think I took part in much that concerned Christology and don’t come away disappointed in that regard. I’m wondering, however, if we might appreciate the discussion around atonement as the Spirit’s leading, rather than being frustrated by it.



Feels like a witch hunt

Re “Mennonites accused of discrediting Israel” (People & Events, October). I wonder if fellow Mennonite Brethren felt the way I did when they read this article? I was shocked at first, and had such a sick feeling inside, not just my stomach, but my heart. For Dexter Van Zile, a Christian analyst, to title his discourse “Key Mennonite Institutions Against Israel” is so all-encompassing, and truthfully it hurts.

We do more for foreign aid and peace than any other Christian organization. We are instructed to pray for Israel and we do. And we pray for Palestinians in this ongoing conflict. We pray for peace and work toward it. We are known throughout the world as peacemakers.

I know I am using old-fashioned words when I say that I feel like Dexter Van Zile is on a witch hunt against the Mennonites. I am sure if he digs deep enough into Mennonite history he will find that our efforts focus on mediation and not on majorities and minorities.



Part of the problem

Re “Mennonites accused of discrediting Israel” (People & Events, October). It’s a pity you didn’t mention the key evidence from Dexter van Zile’s report. He doesn’t just claim that Mennonite Central Committee and Christian Peacemaker Teams are anti-Israel, he backs it up with examples of how those organizations courted Iranian president Ahmadinejad and used soft language to refrain from accusing Hamas of terrorist acts even after Hamas claimed credit for them.

By MCC’s own testimony, as reported in your article, “MCC does not take a stance on whether a two-state or a single joint Israeli-Palestinian state is the right solution.” Since either of these alternatives would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state, that’s like saying we don’t care whether you use a bomb or a bulldozer, as long as the house falls down.

Any just solution in the Middle East must begin with Israel being a Jewish state with internationally recognized and secured borders. Neither MCC nor Christian Peacemaker Teams are working toward that end, and by their support for those who oppose it they have made themselves part of the problem.



Keep picking sides

The article on Mennonites and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (“Mennonites accused of discrediting Israel,” October) reveals the complexity of peacemaking. In the case of this article, MCC’s peace work actually led to conflict – accusations of political bias and impracticality from other Christians. By illustrating how peacemaking offers no guarantees, this article raises an important question regarding the practice of peacemaking. Quite simply, does peacemaking pick sides?

I’m no expert on Middle Eastern politics and I realize the issue of securing peace is extremely complex on many levels. But the reality is, MCC’s mission is to actively seek peace for all people, not political goodwill for nation-states. If caring for the innocent victims of violence is picking sides, well, so be it. I don’t think it’s our Christian responsibility to achieve political harmony at the expense of justice for the citizens of any given country. In fact, even Jesus picked sides in the face of injustice – “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

Keep picking sides, MCC, and may God use you to bring peace to our broken world.



Why this symbolism?

Why is Mennonite Central Committee using Soviet-style symbolism (red flag with backward letters) to promote Peace Sunday? (People and Events, October). Too many people, including many Mennonites, suffered and died under similar symbols. What’s next? Swastikas?



Yes, men cry

“Men do not cry” is not true and should never be said, as at some point in life even a man should cry. One day at 17, I was so burdened with my sin I spent all afternoon sobbing until I accepted the Lord Jesus that evening.

While ministering at the Terrace (B.C.) Gospel Mission I could not help but cry after the folks had left. I was left alone knowing that a part of the congregation, good singers, would leave the group and go on their own.

As if today, I can see myself standing and weeping after we had come from visiting our only daughter bent on going the wrong way. (She did turn to the good later.)

Our youngest son had come over to visit. I went downstairs with him to say goodbye. Instead of a hug, he looked me in the face and said, “We are going to divorce.” We knew about their marriage troubles, but this news shot me like a bullet. I have not been the same since. Do men cry?



Far from NT reality

I wasn’t aware myself until more recently that the word “pastor” is only used once in the New Testament and even in that one place (Ephesians 4:11) is a kind of mistranslation. The Greek word used there, poimenos, appears 35 times in the NT and is rightly translated as “shepherd” 34 times and only in this one instance as “pastor.” Pastor, as we know, is the Latin word for shepherd.

Some would say that’s no big issue; we could just call our “pastors” shepherds. It doesn’t make any difference what we call them, does it? But in his speech to the elders of the house churches in Ephesus, Paul makes clear that it is “elders” who shepherd the little flocks of God’s people: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God” (Acts 20:28).

Again, that’s no problem, we can call them elders instead of shepherds. But that also is not so simple. In the NT it’s quite clear that spiritual elders in a flock of Christ’s disciples are (1) always spoken of as multiple, (2) are co-equal (Jesus says in Mark 10:43 there is to be no form of hierarchy among his followers), and (3) are always homegrown.

There is no example in the New Testament of what we today have come to call a “pastor,” especially a “senior pastor.” I’ll never forget how this idea shocked me when I first reflected on it. Examples of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers abound, but not of a pastor.

Maybe a clue is found in the fact that there is nothing in the whole New Testament quite like what we have come to call a typical MB church. I can hear someone saying, “Now you’re going too far!” But it’s hard to get around the fact that the only kind of church in the NT is the “church that meets in the house of…..” That’s mentioned specifically five times and is implied throughout. All the house churches in Ephesus together make up the church of Ephesus, and the same goes for Jerusalem and Corinth and Rome and the region called Galatia. (It’s not as if we haven’t known all along that there were no church buildings in the first three centuries.)

How is it that we have moved so far away from the New Testament reality? The next question would be: does it make any difference? I’ve checked these biblical facts out with a few MB New Testament scholars but I would be interested to know what some of my fellow MB Herald readers make of this.

Herb Klassen


The origins question

Re Diethard Schuender’s “Stumbling blocks to witness” (Letters, Sept.) and his view that the creation-evolution debate is detracting from the central task of evangelism. Christian workers have to inform themselves to deal properly with the origins question. Unbelievers are fully entitled to ask: “If the Bible doesn’t speak clear truth in the early chapters, then when does it start telling the truth?” It is the evolutionary worldview that is a serious “stumbling block” to conversion for many people, not the fact that creationists are working hard to provide good quality answers to this essentially godless phil-osophy. The issue is not what God could or might have done, but what he said he did do.



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