Maple View insert: Canadian Mennonite responds

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October 18, 2017 | Viewpoints | Volume 21 Issue 20
, Publisher

The Sept. 25 print issue of Canadian Mennonite contained an insert from Maple View Mennonite Church entitled “Honour God with Your Bodies.” Some readers have asked about the rationale for its inclusion, many expressing pain, anger and confusion about its contents, and the fear that it will do further harm to LGBTQ Mennonites who have suffered rejection, shaming and exclusion from the body of faith, and to the church as a whole.

We have been deeply impacted by the stories we have heard. We regret the harm this insert has caused.

We want you to know that the decision to accept this insert was not taken lightly, but in response to the recommendations of the Becoming a Faithful Church (BFC) process.

CM publishes paid “promotional supplements” as an option for companies, organizations and church bodies to present their goods, services or ideas to our readers in the form of an insert that looks and feels different from the magazine. A supplement offers a sponsor control over format, paper stock, and content without the same editorial oversight given to news and viewpoints pages. While these inserts obviously generate revenue, the content must fit our editorial policy. CM has rejected requests when the insert does not, for example, represent a body related closely to the Mennonite church and its mission.

When Maple View Mennonite Church, a member of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, approached CM about having a place to present its conclusions on its three-year participation in the BFC process, this was the vehicle it chose—certainly an unconventional one for a single congregation. This included having it stapled in the centre spread, so it wouldn’t slip out during mailing and could then be easily detached. Our staff was in dialogue with the church over a period of months. Because of the sensitive nature of the topic, we also discussed it with our board and church leaders. Because Maple View is a member of our church body, and the magazine’s stated mission includes helping diverse voices speak to the larger church, the difficult decision was made to allow the church’s statement to appear in a promotional supplement.

We believe making space for this is consistent with the recommendations of the BFC process, as the recently released General Board Confession states: “The General Board decided at the outset, that the process of the BFC should reflect the congregationally based polity of the denomination. This meant that discernment of faithfulness would emerge from the congregations and not only from the academy, advocacy groups, institutional structures or a representative committee. The BFC Task Force was mandated by the General Board, not to do the discerning, but to design a process that would allow all voices in our church to speak, to be heard, and to hear what others were saying.”

CM’s mission is “to educate, inform, inspire and foster dialogue on issues facing Mennonites in Canada . . . .” We recognize that this is a difficult and painful conversation, particularly for those who have experienced it in a deeply personal way, and we need to keep learning how to facilitate it. How do we “allow all” of us to speak, to be heard and to hear?

To read some readers’ letters responding to the insert, go to: www.canadianmennonite.org/readers-write-october-23-2017-issue and www.canadianmennonite.org/stories/readers-write-nov-6-2017-issue

Comments

You should've just left it at "we regret" instead of justifying this terrible mistake. At this time I will be formerly terminating my subscription with Canadian Mennonite. Best of luck.

A paid supplement to CM is not in line with the BFC process. Paid supplements privilege those who can afford to pay for such things and therefore cannot be a forum for equal access or dialogue. Articles and letters in your magazine facilitate dialogue. Commonword is our space for sharing discernment and theological documents and a place where all congregations can contribute equally. This decision by CM was so far away from the spirit of BFC and not at all in the spirit of ongoing dialogue that I call for CM to both recognize this and make a full and unqualified apology for its error in judgment on this.

Dear friends,

I was deeply grieved by Canadian Mennonite's decision to include the insert and I continue to be deeply grieved by this response. The idea that we need to "allow all" to speak does not take into account the power differential in this situation. I know Canadian Mennonite strives to be a middle ground for the spectrum of viewpoints that exist within Mennonite Church Canada, but as those who study conflict resolution know, mediation is not appropriate in cases of power imbalance or abuse. Sometimes it is necessary to take a stand for justice. To not publish the insert surely would have upset the folks at Mapleview but it would not have directly attacked and hurt the very essence of particular individuals as this insert has done. Whether in the body of the magazine or as a paid insert, the impact was the same: anyone reading the magazine was forced to encounter these oppressive words. I believe that a very honest apology and steps towards reparation will be needed before Canadian Mennonite can feel like a safe space for those in the LGBTQ+ community and those who love and celebrate them. If you feel that taking a stand is not possible at this time, then I would request that you please stop publishing any content on this issue.

Sincerely,

Jessica Reesor Rempel

Thank you for your response Jessica. These are the thoughts and feelings I was having and you were able to articulate very eloquently.

There is no way this should have been printed.

Jared Redekop

Beautifully said, Jessica. That is exactly what I'd say, just more eloquently spoken.

I'm sorry to say that so much harm has come to the Mennonite community (yes, YOUR community. All of you. You ALL know someone who identifies as, or loves someone who is LGBTQ, whether you yourself know it or not. This IS your congregation) recently and I am heartbroken over the events that have transpired. This insert, and the CM's "apology" have brought shame to us Mennonites. I have so many big feelings right now, and am having a hard time expressing them to the extent to which I feel them while still being appropriate for this forum. I am horrified, deeply ashamed, full of rage, heartbroken, mournful, defeated.... and I am "just" an ally; I'm not even personally hurt by this.

We must LISTEN. Listen to those who identify as LGBTQ. Listen to our neighbours, our sisters and brothers in Christ. Listen to their pain, and for the love of God, let us have some COMPASSION. If you really look at the scriptures, Jesus would have wanted at LEAST that.

Jessica, well articulated. You've put your finger on a crucial aspect: the differential or power imbalance between LGBTQ+ individuals who have been persecuted and demeaned for centuries, and the powerful church communities that have historically abetted that persecution. Human dignity is not up for debate: we have no responsibility to listen to or provide a megaphone to those who advocate beliefs that undermine the worth of others.

Perhaps at the very start of the BFC process you could justify sharing this type of view, as you did in many letters to the editor. However we ended the BFC process with a thoughtful, difficult discussion at MC Canada Assembly in Saskatoon last summer. There we "agreed to disagree" to some degree and we voted as a national body to allow for congregations to hear what the Holy Spirit was saying to them as they felt led in a very different view than those expressed in the Mapleview insert. Many were hurt in the process, MC Canada Executive Board apologized to the LGBTQ+ community but we were moving forward carefully to a new understanding.
By publishing the insert you allowed one congregation to give a slap in the face to the whole BFC process, the discernment of many congregations and a decision at a National Assembly. Mapleview shouldn't have sent this to you because of all the hurt it causes the LGBTQ+ community, their families and their friends, but you shouldn't have published it because of the result of the BFC process that you are well aware of. The timing of its publication is not justifiable and certainly not by pointing to the BFC process! Please take another look and admit it was a regrettable mistake.

It has bothered me from the beginning of the BFC process that LGBTQ Mennonites have been left out of the conversation. This is similar to the Maple View insert. As a Gay Mennonite I feel that the Canadian Mennonite is not listening to LGBT Mennonites. I am tired of feeling anxiety when I look through the Mennonite knowing I will stumble upon an opinion or insert that shames, excludes, and others me. This is not a debate for us, this is our lives. You are publishing and talking about us without understanding or listening to us. So please listen!

I believe it's becoming powerfully evident how far the editorial integrity of this magazine has indeed fallen when it is said to be a "difficult decision" for the editorial staff to allow a supplement that is perfectly in line with orthodox Christian belief on sexuality. Not only is Maple View's theology reflecting Christian teaching throughout most of the world today and the past 2000 years, but it's also still the stated belief of MC Canada's Confession of Faith. It is only very recently (2016) that this orthodoxy has been challenged by a relatively tiny minority who arrogantly believe they know better than God(!) and the historic cloud of Christian witnesses about what constitutes marriage and healthy human sexuality.

The only grieving that should occur over this issue is that the majority of Mennonite leaders are not willing to take a gracious, yet firm stand for biblical truth, like Maple View Church.

There was quite a bit more in the statement than a particular stance on marriage, and much of it is deeply questionable.

No one 2000 years ago was proclaiming "our bodily genetic code, has been ravaged by sin and the fall." Maple View has offered a statement that makes claims that are not present in the Bible, not present in the Confession of Faith, and would have been equally foreign to both my Mennonite great-grandparents and the Biblical authors.

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