Letters July / August 2016
Amputation on the body?
I have a concern that stems from many MB events I have attended. Specifically, at the last Alberta provincial conference, a leader gave statistics about the number of Christians in Canada that excluded the majority of the body of Christ. It’s like we are standing up there and saying to our lower torso, “You’re not part of my body.” It’s not biblical to do this.
I also heard a leader from the stage say that evangelical churches are the only churches where the gospel is proclaimed and Scripture is read. This is not a true statement. Every church in Canada reads the Bible in their services. The Lord’s Supper is served in every single church in Canada. Who are we to say that Jesus is not present at those tables?
When people make statements like these from the platform at MB conferences, what kind of witness is this to newcomers to the church, to people who are not Christian? They come into the church and see the church gnawing on its hands, or trying to saw off its legs. Rather than being a good news message that draws people to Jesus, it turns people away from the church.
The evangelical church is just one part of the body of Christ. I hope I can hear that said from the platform at Gathering 2016 in Toronto.
Divide or talk
We are a complicated bunch of people living in a complicated time. It can be hard work hanging out together. Frankly, sometimes being part of this family feels like it isn’t worth the effort.
Scripture reminds us that there are seasons to talk and seasons to be silent. Seasons to tear down and seasons to mend. And to paraphrase a modern poet, there are seasons to hold ’em and fold ’em; seasons to walk away and seasons to run.
I don’t know what season it is, but I think we need to talk. Not just at each other but to each other. We need to carefully explain what is bothering us. We need to explain this not just to the people we already agree with, but to those who don’t understand us at all.
And we need to listen. Not for errors, but to what the people we disagree with are actually trying to say.
Why bother? Why not let the emerging fault lines run their course? Schisms happen – MBs ourselves were born out of one.
Talking and listening to each other will be hard work. Will it be worth it? I don’t know, but I can’t imagine that not trying would be right.
MB church is not safe
I followed with great interest the study conference that the MB conference had on God, Sex and the Church. I was excited to see that you were having this conversation; however, I quickly realized that this was not a dialogue but a monologue. It was in actuality a study of how to maintain your current theological position albeit more graciously. While this perhaps is a kind of harm reduction, it is not a study in the truest sense of the word.
I grew up in the MB church. You nurtured my faith and called me to ministry. However, when I worked as a youth pastor, the MB church was not a safe environment for youth to come out. Even though I was a safe person, youth saw me through the lens of the MB church’s condemnation of homosexuality. This pains me: some of these youth, now adults, have come out to me and I get angry knowing that I could have walked that journey with them, were it not for views on homosexuality they assumed were my own. I also could not explore my own thinking very openly in the MB church. This was hard.
Dear MB church, your conversation around the gay Christians in your midst is disheartening.
All members are ready for mission
I grew up in a Mennonite Brethren church in southern Manitoba. We enjoyed going to church with our friends, loving the hymns that we learned to sing in four-part harmony. We heard the true message of salvation often. In my teenage years, I accepted Christ as my Saviour and was baptized and joined the church.
But I did have a problem. The word “brethren” was something that I, as a woman, could not relate to, and it has bothered me for the past 60 years. Some probably think “Mennonite Brethren” is some kind of men’s club.
The Bible tells us that God created men and women equally in his image. Nowhere does it say that men are smarter or more capable than women. That idea likely came from the non-Christian Greeks much later in history.
Will the Mennonite Brethren church acknowledge the women in our churches who are very capable of ministering – and drop the name Brethren?
Despite the name, I am delighted that women are treated with respect, and serve our Lord in all capacities in the church I attend.
The C2C Network is very busy with winning “all of Canada” for Christ, which is wonderful! But it is important to utilize all the members (women and men) in our churches in Canada to bring their neighbours to Christ right where they live. May God help us all to that end.
Time to cross boundaries
Re “Research addresses ‘silent exodus’” (Crosscurrents, January/February 2016). Where or what is a Canadian church these days? By silo-ing “ethnic” communities like the Chinese, we insult them when we assume they want to go to a ghetto church, as if they aren’t “real” Canadians. (Are the “white” churches filled with the “real” Canadians?) Meanwhile, out in the secular world, there is much more successful integration, more respect for diversity. Incidentally, there are many ethnic ghettos of white people, but we call these “community” churches. Canada needs to depart from this “ethnic” model of church growth – it’s lazy, short sighted and un-biblical. The early church crossed ethnic boundaries and was brave and courageous, modelling love and excellence.
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