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The politicizing of CoSA

Editorial | By Dick Benner | Mar 25, 2015

Disturbing and perplexing is the only way to describe the cut in federal funding for a proven program of ex-prisoner rehabilitation called Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA).

Healing the wounded city

Feature | By Derek Cook | Mar 25, 2015

For many people, the Christian faith and poverty are deeply interconnected. Acts of charity are widely viewed as a key aspect of the Christian life, and the church has a long history of providing relief and advocacy for justice for the poor.

Readers write: March 30, 2015 Issue

Viewpoints | By | Mar 25, 2015

‘Well-worn clichés’ can hide the truth

Re: “A father’s struggle with his gay son,” March 2, page 29.

‘They have taken away my Lord’

Viewpoints | By Doug Klassen | Mar 25, 2015

These Easter morning words from Mary (John 20:13b) are prophetic for the church today, a time when we may have lost our bearings in our discipleship-oriented denomination.

Peace themes are an integral part of our congregations. We are deeply involved in reconciliation and advocacy work. We seek to bring justice and relief to others. We quilt, we sew, we feed and we clothe. Some of us call for boycotts, divestments and sanctions of products that contribute to injustice.

Crucial conversations

Viewpoints | By Melissa Miller | Mar 25, 2015

My ears perked up at a recent seminar when a leader began to speak about crucial conversations. He defined such conversations as ones whose stakes are high, opinions vary and emotions run strong. I was even more eager to hear how he successfully led his extended family in a process related to his aging father.

Why should I give to your church?

Viewpoints | By Mike Strathdee | Mar 25, 2015

Helping people give money away over the past 15 years has been a tremendously rewarding part of my work at Mennonite Foundation of Canada.

Many of these generous people are from the “builder generation” (born in or before 1945). The builders I’ve spoken with give generously, value church institutions and trust the people who run them.

It’s time for a vote

Viewpoints | By Russel Snyder-Penner | Mar 25, 2015

“I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16).

Moving thinward (Pt. 2)

Viewpoints | By Troy Watson | Mar 25, 2015

So what does the Bible say about thin places?

Interestingly enough, in our Scriptures the human story begins in a thin place: the Garden of Eden. Regardless of one’s theology, and whether one believes the Garden of Eden is literal or symbolic, the narrative is clearly describing a thin place where humans experienced intimate and immediate fellowship with God, where the holy and human mingled. The story goes on to tell us that human beings were expelled from this special place after the Fall, when humanity chose to follow the way of evil, instead of God’s way.

Finding a place to belong

Lynn Schulze

God at work in the World | By Dick Benner | Mar 25, 2015

Their stories are heart-rending, but their hopes are high. Navigating Canada’s increasingly complex immigration system wears them down, but their resilience still shows.

Listening for nearly two hours in teacher Lynn Schulze’s English-as-a-second-language classroom at Waterloo Collegiate Institute (WCI) to these painful, winding journeys was at once bone-chilling and spine-tingling. They have formed a tight bond in a presentation tour group called Crossing Borders.

‘Our truth has been discovered’

‘We wish it was over,’ says Wilma Derksen, who, along with her husband Cliff, waited 27 years to learn what happened to their daughter. ‘I waffle about a new trial.’ (Photo courtesy of Cliff and Wilma Derksen)

God at work in the Church | By Evelyn Rempel Petkau | Mar 25, 2015

“God has given us a toolkit,” said Wilma Derksen. First it was forgiveness when Wilma and Cliff’s daughter Candace was murdered in 1984. Then it was learning to love when they learned that Mark Edward Grant was arrested and charged with her murder in 2007, and then truth and justice as they sat through his trial in 2011.

More on CoSA funding cuts

God at work in the Church | By Will Braun | Mar 25, 2015

What is CoSA?

Mennonite Central Committee describes CoSA (Circles of Support and Accountability) as “a community-based reintegration program that holds federal inmates with histories of sexual offending accountable for the harm they have caused while supporting them through the reintegration back to community at the end of their sentences.” More information is available at


‘A less safe environment for everybody’

God at work in the Church | By Will Braun | Mar 25, 2015

When a high-risk, low functioning, repeat child abuser was released from prison in the Hamilton, Ont., area in 1994, many locals responded with predictable revulsion. Harry Nigh, a Mennonite pastor, was not among them. He gathered a small group of people who reached out to the man, offering support and accountability. The man never reoffended.

A healing bridge

Since 2004, land and buildings are wasting away on a 90-hectare section of prime real estate in south Winnipeg. Formerly the home of Kapyong Barracks, a military base, ownership of the land is the subject of an ongoing court battle between the Canadian government and seven first nation communities that want to build an urban reserve on the land.

God at work in the Church | By Story and photo by Deborah Froese | Mar 25, 2015

It may not look like much, but the abandoned 90-hectare site of Kapyong Barracks is prime real estate in Winnipeg. It could also be a healing bridge, according to Steve Heinrichs, Mennonite Church Canada’s director of indigenous relations.

The former military base is currently at the centre of ongoing litigation between the federal government and seven first nation communities in Manitoba that want to transform it into an urban reserve.

‘Covenanted around Jesus Christ, not our confession of faith’

Kirsten Hamm-Epp and Jerry Buhler prepare to serve the Lord’s Supper to participants at the Mennonite Church Saskatchewan annual delegate sessions held in Saskatoon recently. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)

God at work in the World | By Donna Schulz | Mar 25, 2015

“We don’t all know God in the same way,” Bruce Jantzen reflected at the recent Mennonite Church Saskatchewan annual delegate sessions, “but that doesn’t change who God is.”

Jantzen, named moderator in January after Gerhard Luitjens resigned, said, “I don’t counsel anything other than that you speak out of your understanding of who God is and who we are as part of God’s family. Respond in [such a way] that we can remain the church of God.”

Decreased giving leads to budget cuts

God at work in the World | By Donna Schulz | Mar 25, 2015

Like her counterparts in other area churches, Ida Buhler has the unenviable task of making budget cuts. At the recent Mennonite Church Saskatchewan annual delegate sessions, the finance chair reported a $40,000 shortfall in church donations to the area church in 2014. However, by using money held in reserve, council was able to come in $10,000 under budget, a feat that likely won’t be repeated. The approved 2015 budget will see projected church donations remain at $260,000.

MC Saskatchewan bids farewell to Jerry Buhler

Jerry Buhler, outgoing area church minister for Mennonite Church Saskatchewan, gets a hug from colleague Kirsten Hamm-Epp, area church youth minister. Buhler served MC Saskatchewan for nine years.

God at work in the World | By Donna Schulz | Mar 25, 2015

With appreciation and affection, participants at Mennonite Church Saskatchewan’s annual delegate sessions said thank you and farewell to Jerry Buhler, who served as area church minister for nine year years. It was clear from the standing ovation he received that he made many friends during that time. An ice cream social on March 13 gave participants opportunity to thank Buhler personally and sign a farewell notebook. During the next day’s session, friends encircled Buhler and his wife Kara, while others lifted hands toward them in a prayer of blessing.

Saskatchewan youth want to be in the loop

SMYO Committee members Zachary Stefaniuk, left, area church youth minister Kirsten Hamm-Epp, Gabby Martin (back to camera) and Hailey Funk discuss proceedings at the MC Saskatchewan annual delegate sessions.

God at work in the World | By Donna Schulz | Mar 25, 2015

“We want a church that is for everyone, and we want to be part of making that happen.” This statement from a Saskatchewan Mennonite Youth Organization (SMYO) report to the Mennonite Church Saskatchewan annual delegate sessions appeared to be borne out by the level of engagement witnessed in members of the SMYO Committee at the March 13 and 14 meetings.

A loss and a disappointment

Plum Coulee Bergthaler Mennonite Church, Man., is no longer a member of either Mennonite Church Manitoba or MC Canada.

God at work in the World | By Evelyn Rempel Petkau | Mar 25, 2015

“Any loss for me is a grief,” said Willard Metzger, executive director of Mennonite Church Canada, in response to the withdrawal of Plum Coulee Bergthaler Mennonite Church from the national church.

The congregation decided at a meeting last November to withdraw its membership from both MC Manitoba and MC Canada, but chose to wait until the new year before sending a letter informing the area and national churches of its intent.

‘Evangelism is dangerous’

Maciel Arias from Toronto New Life Mennonite Church, left, translates for Lili Hurtarte, lay leader at Toronto New Life Mennonite Centre, while Rebecca Yoder Neufeld of First Mennonite, Kitchener, listens with Lucy Roca of the Refuge de Pais congregations in Quebec. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)

God at work in the World | By Dave Rogalsky | Mar 25, 2015

“Evangelism is dangerous,” Sze-Kar Wan said in conclusion of his three-day exegesis of the first three chapters of Galatians at the 2015 Mennonite Church Eastern Canada School for Ministers. “When you evangelize, you include new people in your group and you have to expect change,” he said, noting that it’s possible “the insiders might become marginalized.”

Wan came to this conclusion through careful thinking about what and why Paul wrote this letter to the Gauls living in the northern part of Asia Minor that is now part of present-day Turkey.

Like mother, like daughter

Gerry Loewen manages an MCC thrift shop in Winnipeg. She is the daughter of Selma Loewen, one of the founders of the first MCC thrift shop, in Altona, Man. That shop grew into a network of more than 115 shops in Canada and the United States. (Photo by Meghan Mast)

God at work in Us | By Meghan Mast | Mar 25, 2015

Gerry Loewen runs her fingers along a row of books and moves toward a clothing rack packed with sweaters and cardigans. She is explaining what sort of donations come in to the thrift shop when a customer approaches her. He holds out a business card and tells his story. She listens patiently and, once he’s finished, asks if this is his first time visiting the shop. He answers yes.

“I hope you’ll come back again soon,” she tells him.

Writer engages themes of faith and death

Rudy Wiebe shares themes from his new book, Come Back, with an audience at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C. (Photo by Amy Dueckman)

Artbeat | By Amy Dueckman | Mar 25, 2015

“Faith and death: An evening with Rudy Wiebe” drew an interested crowd to hear the noted Canadian Mennonite author speak at Trinity Western University (TWU) on March 3.

Wiebe read from his latest novel, Come Back, a story in which protagonist Hal Wiens processes the death of his son, who committed suicide decades earlier. That struggle is one Wiebe knows intimately, as his own son committed suicide.

Nerdy fun

Community Mennonite Church face off against East Zorra Mennonite Church at the 2014 Bible quizzing event. (Photo courtesy of Jeramie Raimbault)

Young Voices | By Rachel Bergen | Mar 25, 2015

For about 30 years, youth from several Mennonite Church Eastern Canada congregations in Ontario have looked forward to their annual Bible quizzing event. It’s centred around friendly competition, memorization of minute biblical details and application of biblical principles to everyday life.

Morning prayers at the Y

Retired pastor Erwin Cornelsen, fourth from the right, meets daily with a group of Chinese Christians to sing and pray. (Photo courtesy of Jonas Cornelsen)

Young Voices | By Jonas Cornelsen | Mar 25, 2015

There is a natural dignity in the morning routine of a 95-year-old man living alone. Especially when the routine is based on building friendships across cultures.

At 6:42 a.m., the Langara Family YMCA may be the noisiest spot in South Vancouver. Among the squeaks of gym shoes and hiss of locker room showers, you can even catch a chorus of gospel music—in Mandarin.

‘We’re not strangers anymore’

Emmaus House is an intentional community for university students in Winnipeg made up of 13 people. (Photo courtesy of Emmanus House)

Young Voices | By Aaron Epp | Mar 25, 2015

When Davis Plett was considering moving out of his parents’ home, he wasn’t sure he was ready to be on his own. Moving into a 103-year-old house with 12 other people seemed like a good option.

“The danger of meeting new people and then having the additional risk of living with them excited me,” says Plett, 21, who studies English literature at the University of Winnipeg.

Lament for those ‘suffering in silence’

Basket of cloth strips used to symbolize the victims' pain.  It reads:  “Beloved of God, may you go into the complicated places with courage, for darkness will be conquered by light.  May you go with resolve, for God has gone before you.  May you go with hope, claiming the promise that evil never has the last word.  Amen”  --Photo by Rich Preheim.

News | By Rich Preheim | Mar 24, 2015

For 40 years, women who had been sexually violated by John Howard Yoder were left suffering in silence while the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary professor became one of the most influential theological voices of the 20th century. On March 22, AMBS publicly apologized for long ignoring their cries for justice.