‘Open invitation’ leaves reader saddened and disturbed
Re: “Come out: An open invitation,” Oct. 13, page 14.
When reading the Oct.13 issue of Canadian Mennonite, I felt sad and disturbed. What is happening in our churches? Are our members also becoming as sex-crazy as society already is? In the beginning, God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.
May the Lord have mercy.
Mary Giesbrecht Friesen, Winnipeg
Atmosphere still ‘poisonous’ for many LGBTQ people and their allies
Re: “Come out: An open invitation,” Oct. 13, page 14.
I appreciate Carl DeGurse’s desire to develop relationships and take the conversation about sexuality beyond theory. Many people’s views, my own among them, have changed and grown as a result of such relationships. At the same time, I don’t think he appreciates just how poisonous the atmosphere is in many communities and churches, both for those who identify as lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer (LGBTQ) and for those who are their allies.
Openly expressing support for LGBTQ identities in our community led to verbal attacks from fellow church members and community members. In one meeting, a person spent a half-hour telling me how I was corrupting children, before “giving” me the verse about those who cause a little one to stumble would be better off being killed. Such violent views are not uncommon.
Christians and Mennonites, in particular, led the charge against Bill 18 here in Manitoba a year ago, a bill—now law—that defines bullying in the school context, and which, among other provisions, requires schools to allow student clubs that aim to promote understanding and awareness of, and respect for, various people, including those of diverse gender identities and sexual orientations.
I am glad to hear that some congregations, and even area churches, have experienced more positive responses, but the coast is not clearing for LGBTQ Mennonites in many churches and communities. In some cases, the Being a Faithful Church process has, in fact, increased the repression and the oppression.
Peter Wohlgemut, Altona, Man.
Does out of the closet mean out of the church?
Re: “The ‘preferred model’ not the reality for all” column by Rudy Peters, Sept 15, page 15.
To be clear, this article is about homosexuality, right? It’s surprising that a column could be written with the intent of addressing homosexuality without actually mentioning the word. The passive style of Peters’ argumentation leaves the reader to infer his intended recommendation. He suggests that church members who join the military are not welcome, but if they repent and choose a path of nonviolence, then they may be accepted back. We can extend this logic to conclude that, according to Peters, if homosexuals choose a life of celibacy, they can also be accepted by the Mennonite church. However, if they want to live in a meaningful same-sex relationship, they’re out.
Mennonites are clearly split on the issue of same-sex relationships, so how do core biblical commandments address this issue? Sexuality is not addressed in the Ten Commandments, and when Jesus was asked which commandment was most important, he said, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,’ and secondly, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ ” This commandment of love was part of Jesus’ revolutionary welcoming message that singlehandedly debunks Peters’ recommendation of exclusion.
The “different way” Jesus asks us to follow is by demonstrating unconditional love to our neighbours, and being in relationship is how humans articulate that love.
Rather than excluding interested church builders, inclusion will ensure the continued relevance and growth of the church while staying in line with Jesus’ core precepts.
Travis Martin, Vancouver
Memories of painful events can make us more empathetic
Re: “Bearing the burden of memory pain,” Sept. 29, page 4.
Henry Neufeld’s discussion is well balanced and very helpful. You can’t forget the bad things, the painful events, the tragedies that have happened in your life, but we need to be reminded that those events need not define who we are, that we need not be trapped as a victim of those painful memories. In fact, those experiences can make us more compassionate, more understanding and more empathetic.
I especially liked the visual image accompanying the article on page 5. Those tiny tacks have imprisoned the heart and leave no room for the heart to grow or move ahead. With the page turn, though, there should have been another image of that heart with the tacks turned and pushed into the surface, a visual illustration of the fact that the memories are still there and are a part of who we are, but they no longer imprison our heart.
Thanks for all the good work!
Joyce Reesor, Corner Brook, N.L.
Termination of Darryl Klassen ‘simply illogical’
Re: “MCC B.C. ‘refocusses’ Aboriginal Neighbours program, releases staff,” Oct. 13, page 6.
As a former employee of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) B.C. and a colleague of Aboriginal Neighbours program coordinator Darryl Klassen, this news makes me both sad and angry. In the 17 years that I worked alongside him, I can confidently say that his work was done with integrity and a profound sensitivity that garnered him respect with indigenous and Mennonite people alike. I know that his absence will be deeply felt. I simply cannot understand how the staff and board at MCC B.C. would choose to release a 24-year veteran of this work, work to which they claim to be committed.
Why would leadership at MCC B.C. even consider applying a settler goals-oriented process to an aboriginal relationship-based program? To do so goes against MCC B.C.’s own stated commitment to “fostering respectful relations and understanding with aboriginal people.”
How does one define “results”? How does one quantify years of patient bridgebuilding? Is the fostering of genuine, meaningful relationships in communities that have experienced deep hurts not a “result”? Does the participation of Mennonites in events as significant as last year’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission not count?
If the leadership of MCC B.C is truly “reaffirming its commitment to indigenous relations,” then how are they going to do this without experienced staff? Why on earth would they fire the very person who has fostered this work and built these relationships for the past 24 years? It is simply illogical. Shouldn’t they be asking him to stay even beyond his retirement to nurture and mentor someone to take his place so that this work can continue seamlessly?
Finally, the fact that there has been no communication with indigenous partners regarding the decision to let Klassen go seems to show little understanding of the nature of indigenous relations work. If MCC B.C leadership does not understand this, then its expressed commitment to this work is nothing more than lip service. The decisions made by board and staff have already cost my friend and colleague his job; to dismiss him one year before retirement is unconscionable. My fear is that these decisions will spell the end of 24 years of work done with integrity by a man who actually did understand the community he served.
Angelika Dawson, Abbotsford, B.C.
Graphic designer offers her thoughts on church communications
Re: “Improving church communications,” Oct. 13, page 10.
I would like to offer my thoughts about hiring and working with graphic designers:
• Communication is the most important part of the project. This seems like a no-brainer, but it is overlooked by people as they rush toward deadlines or have a favourite style. A professional graphic designer will discuss not only your project itself, but your long-term goals, church demographics, the design process, and, of course, money. If you only have $500 to spend on a website, but also want a logo, it might be time to rethink what you need. Even if you hire a self-employed designer and get a non-profit rate, your budget for the project will still restrict what you can achieve. Talk to the designer about budget constraints; he/she is trained to find creative solutions within tight parameters.
• Content definitely needs to be in place. It is difficult for a designer to create a newsletter or brochure when the text is still being written. You can see a proof of the design with fake text in place, but it’s better for you to have your text ready for the designer to use. Content is the most important part of your piece because it, not the background colour, will convey the information to your readers.
• More people, more problems. Getting the entire church to give feedback on a logo is a headache waiting to happen. There will always be people opposed to any design, and it will cost the church to continually make alterations. A better option is to do a survey beforehand of the congregation’s likes, dislikes and hopes for a cohesive visual identity. This is valuable information that helps the designer understand your church. Feedback on design should always be done with a smaller group of people. Again, it’s important to discuss this with the designer at the first meeting.
• Hire a designer whom you trust. When hiring a designer, you hire a person who is trained to find solutions for communications problems. A designer looks at the big picture, not just a single element, and is an invaluable source of information as you cultivate your church’s communications. Think about building trust with this person as you invest your time, expertise and money in each other.
Karen Allen, Winnipeg
Karen Allen operates her own graphic design firm (www.karenallendesign.com).
Unity must not be allowed to hold truth hostage
Re: “What is truth?” feature, Oct. 27, page 4.
Truth is to be distinguished from knowledge, and truth must exist apart from human knowledge for people to be able to know it.
Dave Rogalsky concludes with what he believes to be a truth: “In the postmodern era, many have given up on finding absolute truth,” which is a statement that he believes truth exists in and of itself, and people can seek to find it or know it, but many have given up on finding it.
All truth arises in and from the self-existent, infinite Creator God. He is “the truth.” Jesus Christ identified with this truth when he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
On the other hand, the enemy of God, the devil, is the origin of falsehood: “All of you are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father all of you will do” (John 8:44).
All knowledge of truth arises in and from the self-knowing, infinite Creator God, which is why “[t]he fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).
Therefore, it is extremely important that we come to know the truth. It is only in the knowledge of truth that we are set free from ignorance, darkness and falsehood: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
Willard Metzger, Mennonite Church Canada’s executive director, was wrong when he appealed to us to pursue “a unity that was not based on finding ‘the truth.’ ” Because truth and falsehood are opposites, and knowledge and ignorance are mutually exclusive, it is foolishness to throw out truth and knowledge of the truth for the sake of unity.
“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (II Corinthians 6:14).
When we find ourselves in despair of knowing the truth, as many do today, we find the answer in the work of the Holy Spirit of God in us. “Nevertheless when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth. . .” (John 16:13).
Steve Swires (online comment)
--Posted November 19, 2014