February Letters

Responsibility to protect

Re “Can people really change?” (Editorial, January). Restoration of offenders in many instances may mean taking steps to protect them from an environment in which they are likely going to reoffend, or be tempted to. While God’s grace gives second opportunities to offenders, we are not helping the restoration process by placing sex offenders or those with other vices into situations in which they are likely to be tempted. In church ministries, we also have a grave responsibility to protect those who are potential victims of offenders, while we continue to work toward the offenders’ restoration.

WILMER KORNELSON, ABBOTSFORD, B.C. ____________________________________________________________________

Not “either, or”

Re “Infinitely more than animals” (December 2008). Pierre Gilbert states that human beings have either “intrinsic worth and dignity, separate from the rest of creation,” or they are, like animals, “a commodity to be used, exploited and discarded, eliminated when circumstances seem to require it.” Are these really our only options?

I’d like to suggest a third view, one that also recognizes the intrinsic value of animals, and our human imperative as stewards to co-exist responsibly with them. Gilbert’s declaration that Christians must “resist the ever-present forces that threaten to reduce humans to the status of animals,” assumes that all Christians agree with his animals-as-commodities viewpoint. I know from working in the veterinary industry that many Christians do not feel this way and have experienced the joy of animal companionship. Some, unfortunately, keep these relationships a “guilty secret” because of this inherent belief within the Christian community that compassion toward any species other than human is somehow wasted.

I’m not arguing that animals are equal to humans. But what are we scared of? We’re already at the top of the food chain; recognizing the value of animals doesn’t reduce us and shouldn’t threaten us.

ROXANNE WILLEMS SNOPEK, ABBOTSFORD, B.C. ____________________________________________________________________

Humanity not separate

Re “Infinitely more than animals” (December 2008). Pierre Gilbert sets up the question whether we are concerned more about humans or animals. Though I agree with much of what Gilbert says, I come away with the impression that the importance of sustaining the environment has been minimized. I find it interesting that the Scripture he uses for the sanctity of life (Genesis 1:27) is followed with a command to care for creation. A sustainable environment very much promotes the sanctity of life. And if the two issues are strongly interconnected, is it wise to frame the issue as to which is more important?

As we consume more of the earth’s resources, as the population grows, and as the environment depletes, competition for these resources are sure to escalate. This will create a challenge not just to the environment, but to humanity. We are not separate from the ecosystems that sustain us, which God created for our benefit.

TODD FRIESEN, WINNIPEG

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Gluttonous consumption

Re “Do we have too much stuff?” (November 2008). I commend John Longhurst for bringing this topic to the foreground. We do not address this issue of gluttonous consumption enough. As he pointed out, it is an environmental issue; however, it is also an issue of social justice. The fact that there is a demand to build storage spaces for our material overflow while the number of homeless people is rising, especially in Vancouver, is unacceptable. As Christians we have a mandate to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the homeless, and yet we continue to store up more useless things in buildings and lots that could be used for affordable housing. I hope we continue to question our materialistic culture and demand justice for the oppressed.

ERIN PETERS, VANCOUVER

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Further to review

Re. “Letters open window of memory” (Crosscurrents, January). In my travels across Canada, the warm response to the book, Remember Us: Letters from Stalin’s Gulag, and the film, Through the Red Gate, has been very affirming. My purpose for the book and film has been to honour the victims of Stalin’s oppression, and to make the letters available to many more readers. Extensive analysis was not my objective for this book.

The review of the book suggests another reviewer be consulted for “corrections of some of the translations and terms used.” These “corrections” have been challenged by Dr. Tatiana Teslenko, a Russian linguist who assisted me with translation. She argues that it is not possible to “define each word for the reader and supply our present-day, encyclopedic understanding” for terms the letter writers used. In fact, to do so “might actually detract from the authenticity of the story.” Her review is found at www.gulagletters.com and in the December Mennonite Historian.

RUTH DERKSEN SIEMENS, SOUTH SURREY, B.C. ____________________________________________________________________

Misleading illustration

The illustration for the article “Discovering the Magi’s Gifts” (Features, December 2008) is misleading. The wise men never came to the stable. The shepherds worshipped a newborn infant lying in a manger, but the wise men found a “young child” living in a “house” (Matthew 2:11).

HELEN REMPEL, KITCHENER, ONT. ____________________________________________________________________

For the record

Re the Mennonite Central Committee’s participation in the September 25 event that included Iranian president Ahmadinejad [“Mennonite participate in controversial meeting“, People and Events, November 2008]. Our goal was respectful, peacebuilding dialogue, not to honour the president or any other individual. In sharing a meal with such a controversial figure, we drew on Jesus’ command to love our enemies and respond to aggression with positive action (Luke 6:21-36). I encourage review of my address to the guests and the president of Iran on our website at www.mcc.org/Iran/meetings2008/opening.html.

We hear from constituents who support these efforts to build peace and from others who oppose them. We too can be skeptical about the value of these meetings. But face-to-face conversations create space to clarify perspectives and raise hard questions. We believe God calls us to engage with those with whom we disagree.

As an inter-Mennonite relief, development, and peace organization, one of our current program priorities is interfaith bridge-building, along with water and HIV/AIDS projects.

ARLI KLASSEN, MCC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AKRON, PENNSYLVANIA ____________________________________________________________________

Guilt and punishment

I read Marvin Dyck’s “Capital punishment and the letter of James” (Text message, January) with great interest because of my own belief in the sanctity of human life. But I was troubled. While I agreed with his conclusion, I had difficulties with the route he had chosen. There seemed to be some confusion over guilt and punishment. While we are all guilty, the consequences of the sins are not necessarily the same.

It would seem that the apostle Paul sees some hierarchy of sin in 1 Corinthians 6, and in Matthew 7 we are told to remove the log from our eye before we remove the speck from another’s but Jesus doesn’t say we are not to do so. I think the point of the passage from James may be: be aware that you are also guilty of sin and allow this awareness to assist you as you pronounce judgment and punishment if necessary. This will allow any judgment to be humble and aware of one’s own need of grace and forgiveness.

LEN BACHIU SASKATOON

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Double sadness

Re “When leaders disappoint their followers” (Outfront, November). You need to be commended for wrestling with the sad event. Any serious disciple of Jesus will grieve, sorrow, and pray that the failure will lead to constant victory down the road.

Reading the responses [of the various people in the feature] leaves me sad as well. One can easily get the impression that this is too bad but it happens to all of us. Why would Jesus repeatedly challenge “Sin no more” if it is not possible? What Jesus accomplished we can do by taking up our cross and denying ourselves daily.

MAX WOERLEN, FENWICK, ONT. ____________________________________________________________________

One miracle – and waiting for another

Warm greetings from New South Wales, Australia. We have received the MB Herald for 25 years. It has been an inspiration to us in building an Anabaptist/Mennonite witness in eastern Australia.

I grew up in a Mennonite home in the Netherlands and migrated to Australia in 1952. At that time thousands of Dutch people left the Netherlands for countries like Canada, United States, Australia, and New Zealand. We left a war-torn Europe to build a new future in these new lands.

In 1959, during a Billy Graham crusade in Australia, my wife Alice and I both gave our lives to Jesus and became real followers of him. In 1964, on a visit to Holland, we were both baptized in the Mennonite Church.

We returned to Australia and both started to win souls for Jesus – and perhaps start a Mennonite Church? Two visitors from the USA had a great influence in our lives.

The first was Orie Miller. This brother inspired me with a vision to start an Anabaptist outreach here in Australia. He was little in stature, but to me he was a giant for the Lord. Years later Marvin Hein and his wife visited us. He was a member of the Mennonite World Conference and had a church in Kansas. Later, on a visit to United States I was allowed to preach in his [MB] church. I remember it was the biggest church I ever preached in.

Both men inspired Alice and me. Yes, we wanted to build an Anabaptist outreach Down Under.

The November Herald cover stated, “It’s a miracle.” Yes, we believe in miracles. They still happen, even today, in many lives. Over the years, we prayed and believed and in 1978 the Mennonite Church of Hope became a reality, the first Mennonite church in Australia, and the only one recognized by the federal government in Canberra.

After a while we were able to buy an old Methodist Church at Marmong Point. We asked Don Jacobs, another U.S. friend, to come over and it was dedicated to the glory of God. The Church of Hope. A miracle in our eyes.

We did so many things. We taught School Scripture in four local public schools with a team of others. More than 1,000 children heard the gospel every week.

But now I am reaching the age of 80 years and the time has come for us to step back. The question is, who will take over? Who is going to lead this church in the years to come?

Yes, we have members, we have outreach. The church is small but debt-free and well known in the Newcastle area.
We need another miracle. We need a young tent-making pastor couple to come and take over. We are praying for this miracle to happen. On behalf of all of us in the Church of Hope, I ask you to believe and to dream with us. And perhaps the Lord will lead you to answer the call to lead a small group of believers in Australia?

FOPPE BROUWER FENNEL BAY, NEW SOUTH WALES, Australia ____________________________________________________________________

“Strange bedfellows: Anabaptism and the emergent church” by Gareth Brandt (October 2008) has sparked letters and a lively discussion at the Canadian conference online forum. To read or participate, see  www.mbforum.ca/topic/2145.html.

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