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Time for denomination to seek forgiveness?

Re “Servant leaders; egos altered?” (Editorial, May). David Wiebe admits that his “ego” has been altered through serving the MB conference. Humbling scenarios have caused him to admit his mistakes and become vulnerable to those he is serving. I admire him for this statement.

Even as leaders have egos, so does an entire denomination. People have public images, but so does a church body. This has become increasingly clear to me since the publication of my book You Never Gave Me a Name, in which I refer to the harsh excommunication of a husband and father in the 1940s for non-confessional reasons. He said he couldn’t pay the church levy.

I have since received letters and comments in casual meetings from people whose parents and grandparents were also excommunicated, even for marrying other Mennonites. My father had that experience in Russia when he married my mother, an immersed believer of the Allianz church. A church leader in Kansas mentioned what had happened to him more than 50 years ago when he married outside the church and how it had hurt him. An acquaintance said he and his wife joked – but I sensed his words carried a tinge of bitterness – about whether he (a non-Mennonite) or his wife (a former MB) would make it to heaven.

And so it continues. It makes me believe that there is a much larger group of people out there who may have forgiven but not forgotten. Memories of such experiences of excommunication reside deeply in people’s souls.

Has the time come for Mennonite Brethren as a body to become vulnerable and collectively apologize to those people and their children and grandchildren who carry the memory of these stories for actions taken with good intent but that did irreparable harm? Few of us in our 70s or 80s escaped watching a harsh disciplinary hearing.

At this juncture in our history, is it time to make a new beginning by recognizing that what happened in the past, done with great zeal, was not the best path to build the church? I think it will help repair the image of a church that has at times had boundary maintenance as a strong characteristic rather than love and forgiveness. I have said often that Christ-followers who believe in forgiveness will have many stories of forgiveness in their own story. I want my own story to carry that message.

Katie Funk Wiebe
Wichita, Kan.

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Enjoying the blessings of service

Re “The Harvest is plentiful (and so are the workers)” (Features, April). I appreciated the articles about volunteer service. It was encouraging since I am partially retired and enjoy volunteering.

The following statement caught my attention: “What would happen if we actually began commissioning people…to teach music lessons, to visit people at the hospital, to volunteer at schools?” I have been doing all three of the above activities and the joy and blessings have been numerous.

Lydia Dyck
Steinbach, Man.

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Creationism vs. evolution discussion a waste of time

Re “Responses to Darwin” (Letters, May). Please, please stop publishing letters on creationism vs. evolution. Any meaningful discussion is drowned out in reaction from both sides. At its very best the discussion is ridiculous, at its very worst divisive. Either way it’s a waste of time, energy, and ink that can be put to more useful endeavors, such as a discussion on the best possible tuna salad.

Bob Semple
Waterloo, Ont.

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“Sin no more” still applies

Re “Homosexuality: blending understanding, compassion, and conviction” (Features, June). In Portugal, the government just passed a law that allows gay marriages, so this is something that our Christian community will have to deal with more and more. I like the way Walter Unger clearly talks about how human beings have deviated from the godly purposes of life, but still God loves us when we sin.

I could easily see Jesus approaching gay people and talking about God’s love and forgiveness – the same way we saw him protect the prostitute when she was about to be stoned to death. In that very sensitive moment, Jesus simply said, “Those who never sinned throw the first stone!” That sentence just “killed” any possibility for those who had judged her to go ahead with their task.

In the end, after the “punishers” had left, Jesus asked the woman, “Where are your accusers? No man condemned you?”

She said, “No man, Lord.”

And Jesus replied, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more!”

I think this must be our approach. We must protect, help, teach, but like Unger says, we cannot give a place for indulgence because that’s not what Jesus did. Jesus held the woman accountable.

José Manuel Arrais
Lisboa, Portugal

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