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Emphasis on fasting needed

Re “On the Lent” and “What the wilderness teaches” (Features and Text Message, March). I applaud the Herald for discussing the tradition of Lent. Both writers mistake its history, however, claiming that the observance began in the fourth century. While it is first described as being 40 days long in 325 (the Council of Nicea), this account refers to Lent as a long-familiar practice; it does not establish it. A pre-Easter fast of varying duration is already mentioned by St. Irenaeus in the second century, and by other church fathers throughout the third.

As well, the authors largely ignore what early writers universally identify as Lent’s most crucial aspect: a complete fast from particular foods (especially meat and dairy) and a reduction in the amount of other foods eaten. This fast was universally observed by Christians until the 16th century, and remains so to this day in Eastern Christianity. The point of this rigorous bodily discipline was to restore the disordered relationship between soul and body which they saw as the primary effect of the Fall.

The authors rightly stress the importance of personal reflection and lifestyle change during Lent, but earlier Christians knew that this spiritual labour of reorientation would be only superficial without the joint participation of the body. To our culture, perhaps more crudely materialist than any other in history, the ancient practices of bodily fasting could not be more relevant.

Jonathan Goossen
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia


It’s about time we thought about Sabbath

Re The rest of life (March). My first thought was, “What took you so long?” Our parents knew that rest is essential to our spiritual and physical well-being, and made sure they rested on Sunday. We were only too happy to do the same, as farm work was quite strenuous. Sabbath rest was sometimes taken to extremes (we were not allowed to as much as sew on a button on Sundays), but if it takes physical exhaustion to make our Sundays peaceful again, with little labour on the day of rest, so be it. We’ll all be more productive on the first day back to work, and Monday morning blues will be a thing of the past. Everyone will be happy to get to work again, and there will be more energy for it. There might even be peaceful traffic on our roads!

Could it be that the fourth commandment is just as important as the one about killing or even stealing?

Bertha Klassen
Winnipeg, Man.


Let’s not be swayed by relativism

I grew from the discussion of creation in January’s Herald. It provided for engaging conversations with others and searching out what I believe to be true on the issue of theistic evolution. It is unfortunate that some believers have not handled this issue sensitively. Love and openness toward others are vital to life in the body of Christ.

How exactly God created the world, I don’t think I need to know. My concern is in being swayed by the postmodern waves of our culture that say truth and the Bible are relative. We need to stand firm on the Word as infallible authority. If we start letting our beliefs be influenced by the world (and its science) instead of by God, how long will it be until future generations deny the need for Jesus altogether? My guess: not long.

Rachel Winkler
Steinbach, Man.


Blessed by MB Bible camps

I just received the WE ARE 2011 booklet with the MB Herald. I find it interesting and informative. It is good to be reminded of what we are about.

There is, however, one major omission. We MBs have a number of camps across Canada. No mention is made of them, yet they’re probably the largest source of children and adults coming to faith in Jesus Christ. All our 246 churches benefit from that. Secondly, our camps provide significant leadership training. Many of our leaders today started out spending one or more summers at a Bible camp. I think we have a story to tell about how the Lord has blessed us with so many camps.

Arthur Loewen
Chilliwack, B.C.

The CCMBC communications team responds:

The purpose of WE ARE 2011 is to provide an annual update for the programs and initiatives of the Canadian Conference of MB Churches (CCMBC) – the national level. Camp ministries are the work of our provincial conferences, so their stories are communicated elsewhere.


Better than Facebook

I’ve been a faithful reader of the MB Herald since 1993, when I became a member of a local MB church (Hepburn, Sask.). I love “our” magazine. I appreciate the issues you tackle and conversations you have in it. I think it’s better than Facebook for being in the know. On many occasions the Herald has spoken to something I’ve been thinking about or dealing with in my own life. Thanks for being an encouragement in my faith.

Brian Cool
Harrison Hot Springs, B.C.


Need for clarity

Re “Injustice should not stand” (Letters, March). The 2006 resolution does not grant local churches carte blanche regarding their choice to exclude women in ministry, and it does not negate the 1999 Wichita resolution.

The premise of the 2006 resolution was that local congregations make their decisions regarding women in ministry leadership based upon their missional context. The question in focus is “What practice will advance the gospel?” At issue is mission, not gender. There is no standing conference document, the 2006 resolution or otherwise, that endorses the practice of any church in removing women from an elder board. As a covenant community, Mennonite Brethren have laboured long years through multiple consultations and study conferences to build pathways of ministry for women.

It is my prayer that we continue to call and affirm gifted men and women into ministry leadership.

Ken Peters
Victoria, B.C.

Editor’s note: The full text of all recent Mennonite Brethren resolutions regarding Women in Ministry Leadership can be found on the Canadian conference website (www.mbconf.ca) under Events -> Study Conferences -> 2005 – Women in Ministry Leadership.

In our day there are church contexts where freedom granted to women in ministry and pastoral leadership would impede the gospel in that setting. In such cases, congregations are wise to heed such biblical counsel that restricts women’s leadership involvement. It is hoped that in such contexts, churches will abide by the spirit of the Wichita 1999 Resolution of the General Conference of MB Churches that states:

That women be encouraged to minister in the church in every function other than the lead pastorate. The church is to invite women to exercise leadership on Conference boards, in pastoral staff positions and in our congregations, institutions, and agencies. We ask women to minister as gifted, called and affirmed. We call the church to be increasingly alert to the gifts of women and to become more active in calling them to minister. We further call people in the Spirit of Christ to relate to one another in mutual respect as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Likewise, there are church contexts where the gospel would be impeded if women were not granted the complete freedom to minister the gospel as called, gifted and affirmed, including the role of pastor. Congregations are to celebrate Christ’s gifts of leadership to His church
(Ephesians 4:11–16). The Holy Spirit grants gifts to all believers irrespective of gender for diverse ministries both in the church and in the world (2 Corinthians 3:4–6).

Let it be our choice that this diversity of practice regarding the churches’ freedom to call women into ministry and pastoral leadership will not undermine our unity. This resolution is not prescriptive, but enabling. No member or member church is compelled to act outside its understanding of Scripture on the matter of women in ministry leadership. Rather, let us covenant with one another to offer encouragement, love, prayer and support for each church and its mission “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”


My church is doing something right

Re “Injustice should not stand” (Letters, March). As a longstanding member of Northview, I would just like to say that Toews’ remarks are uncalled for. Northview has made it known time and again that its sole rule for matters of faith and practice is Scripture. The same holds for its position on matters of female leadership in the church.

If Toews’ cry of “injustice” is to hold any weight, one must ask from where he derives his standard of justice. The law of God states that a woman should keep silence in matters of the church and remain in submission (1 Corinthians 14:34), and that women are neither to teach nor to have authority over men, but to maintain silence (1 Timothy 2:11–12). The reasons advanced by this Scripture for such a commandment hearken back to the problem of sin in the story of Adam and Eve. In other words, they hearken to revelation and not some time-bound cultural principle in Paul’s setting in life. Anyone who advocates the breaking of this rule advocates disgraceful behaviour. My suspicion is that Toews is basing his accusation on our culture’s principle
of egalitarianism.

It has never been the Mennonite’s duty to kowtow to the basic principles of this world. Nor has it ever been the mark of a Mennonite to shrink from the irksome, hard, costly, and culturally “irrelevant” sayings of Scripture. I am grateful for Toews’ criticism of my church. Since it is a criticism basically bound up with the heresy of modern feminism, it shows that my church is doing
something right.

Marc Regier
Chilliwack, B.C.


Let’s remain open to God’s Spirit

While the words of the Bible don’t change, our interpretation of Scripture can change over the years. For example, slavery is outlawed in Western societies. Similarly, treating women as second-class citizens is no longer legal in our country. Some of our MB churches still treat women as second-class church members. I encourage male leaders to change their views and accept the priesthood and equality of all believers.

I urge all of us to remain open to the leading of God’s Spirit as we listen to and discuss different interpretations of Scripture.

Abe Friesen
Vancouver, B.C.


BFL restores ordination credential

Re “When leaders disappoint their followers” (Outfront, November 2008) and “A request for forgiveness” (Letters, July 2009)

The Pacific District MB Conference board of faith and life is very pleased to report that Jim Holm’s ordination credential has been fully restored. We rejoice that the restoration process begun 2 1/2 years ago has reached its conclusion with the board unanimously affirming Jim for future ministry among the Mennonite Brethren. We respect Jim for the humble manner in which he has engaged with the Lord and with us during this process. He has accepted responsibility, been open and forthright, been responsive to counsel, and has made his marriage a priority. We also have deep admiration and respect for Shirley and the grace-filled manner in which she has walked with Jim. While the official process with Jim has concluded, we covet ongoing prayers for the Holms and their future ministry among the Mennonite Brethren.

Pacific District Conference
U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches

I am very grateful for the love and support that has been extended to me over these months by the brothers appointed by the board of faith and life. Their gentle spirit, even when confrontation was necessary, and their forgiving encouragement have touched my heart. I am especially thankful to Shirley, who in the midst of deep grief has chosen to forgive and to seek restoration. She is truly a woman of God, and has demonstrated that to me, and to all who have walked with her in these days. Finally, my thanks to all who have reached out to me directly or indirectly with prayers and words of hope.

Jim Holm

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