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Opinions are road to irrelevancy

Re “My church is doing something right” (Letters, May). Had Mr. Regier stated that Northview’s “sole rule for matters of faith and practice is its interpretation of Scripture,” I would have been less offended by his proffered views.

Throughout the centuries, we have shifted in our views of church discipline, our relationship to the secular world, etc. Past and present views were and are “rooted” in Scripture. While we give lip service to the concept of the unchanging Christ, our mindset of who and what Christ is has certainly changed and will doubtless continue to undergo transformation.

Taken to its extreme, Mr. Regier’s opinion would have us believe Paul would encourage women missionaries to evangelize to their hearts’ content, but when the converted established a “church,” said missionaries would remain silent, be non-contributors in matters of faith and practice, and disavow any thought of church leadership.

This indeed was a new thought to me: If Mr. Regier’s opinions are representative of Northview Community Church, Paul’s instruction “that women are neither to teach nor to have authority over men but to keep silent” can be interpreted as essentially declaring women persona non grata when leadership positions are contemplated, thereby reinforcing the myth that, based on their gender, women are unequal to men.

This is a road to irrelevancy.

C. Peter Neufeld
St. Catharines, Ont.

Much to learn about community hermeneutic

As someone originally from outside the Mennonite Brethren movement, and having studied it a bit at an inter-denominational seminary, the concept of a community hermeneutic stirred my curiosity. Because it has some biblical precedence, this method of church governance appealed to me. As a leader in another denomination, I yearned for consensus in the decision-making process. Yet, I wondered, “Is this approach even possible? Are MBs too idealistic?”

Thanks for the wonderful articles in the Herald (May) in this regard. The various authors explain this approach quite well. As someone now within the MB church, I can testify to the practicality of this methodology. It is refreshing to see agreement and true unity within the body of Christ.

I wonder, however, if Brad Sumner’s article (“Work Ahead”) muddies the process. It seems to me the researching of an issue should involve more than just the community’s theological opinion. From my limited involvement with the MB church, it often appears the laity tend to focus on local consensus without seeking input from those outside the denomination. Any extracurricular research seems to be the business of the pastor only.

I would encourage all church leaders to amass information not only from the Bible and the local congregation, but from officials who are both inside and outside our denomination. Church history is a vast topic; surely we can benefit also from those who have a different hermeneutic than we do. Even though we might have a prophetic role within Christendom, there’s still much to learn from orthodoxy at large.

Derek Lehman
Manitou, Man.

Response to “Much to learn about community hermeneutic”

I heartily agree with brother Lehman’s appeal to both church history as well as those with experience and leadership outside Canadian Protestant evangelical circles. In our own exercise at Jericho Ridge Community Church, we found both sources challenged our assumptions and our practices. (There is, after all, nothing new under the sun.)

While it can be helpful to embrace the input of Christian history and various traditions, it is also helpful to make a clear distinction between a custom – done in accordance with precedent – and a tradition – that which accompanies the actions (see Diana Butler Bass, The Practicing Congregation, 39). Customs can and should change while traditions are theologically deeper, wider, and richer. My sense is that our brother is appealing to us to consider the latter, and I heartily commend him for it.

Brad Sumner
Pastor, Jericho Ridge Community Church

Langley, B.C.

Listen carefully to the Spirit

Judging by the number of letters and a note from the editor discussing the role of women in ministry (May), it is taking a long time to “hear what the Spirit has to say to the churches.”

The comments suggest not enough credence is given to the fact that the greatest truths to be derived from Scripture are via enlightenment by the Spirit as opposed to literal reading of the text – not unlike beholding the beauty of a rose as opposed to reading a description of it. Literal reading is trying to behold from the outside in, rather than from the inside out, and it leads to waiting to hear from the Spirit to confirm what we have already concluded. Not referring firstly to the law written on our hearts, we may lean toward creating new stone tablets of doctrine that tend to be unyielding to the voice of the Spirit.

Literal reading caused Old Testament prophets to be understood as forecasting an earthly kingdom Messiah – so people rejected him when he came. Dominantly literal reading can, as it has throughout history, justify jihad and cruelties like slavery. It is possible, even, to read the written account of the crucifixion and resurrection, and miss the resurrection of our souls.

It is true that literal reading translates into fixed doctrine more easily and establishes institutional distinctiveness and structure, but it may also translate into missing the essence of God.

It is very probable that hearing what the Spirit has to say, given a blank slate, would quickly reveal that, for God, in whose eyes all are equal, silent women in Paul’s society were as acceptable as women in ministry can be in today’s society.

Jake Janzen

Abbotsford, B.C.

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