Readers write: January 2, 2017 issue

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December 21, 2016 | Viewpoints | Volume 21 Issue 1

‘A timely rebuke’ to MC B.C.’s ‘professional’ church leaders

Re: “No more closed doors” editorial, Nov. 7, 2016, page 2.

Dick Benner hit the nail on the head with that timely rebuke! His emphasis on the fellowship grappling with issues as they emerge lies at the heart of community building. True leadership, in its many forms and from various sources, is resident with the fellowship, and does not necessarily emerge from the “leader designate.” The process of grappling should be the role of every member, hence the need for openness and transparency. I have long felt that we have strayed from doing that essential “building” by hiring “professional” leaders who will do the heavy lifting for the fellowship. This reduces the average congregant to a “going to church on Sunday—I’m too busy for more than that” type of church member.

Fred Wieler, Oakville, Ont.

 

Biblical precedents cited for closed church meetings

Re: “No more closed doors” editorial, Nov. 7, page 2.

Is it appropriate to compare “transparency” in the church with government? We do uphold the ideal of transparency, but there are times we need to trust our leaders, one another and the Holy Spirit.

The reason given for the press not being invited could be valid. Do we look at precedent? The apostles met behind locked closed doors to select Judas’ successor. The Jerusalem council reported on in Acts was seemingly only attended by apostles and elders.

It is my understanding, from talking to our Mennonite Church B.C. executive minister, that there was no contentious discussion or debate in this meeting. Pastors were seated in a circle and simply spoke in turn, as reported by Amy Dueckman in her “Finding a way to be together” article (Oct. 10, 2016, page 13).

I do question whether every MC Canada member needs to know what the pastors said. As Anabaptists, we do believe in a congregational decision-making model, our cherished “priesthood of all believers” ideal. However, if all of that discussion were public, there might be a risk of unnecessary fallout because of readers’ biases, previous feelings, or opinions toward certain pastors or congregations, which would not be good for trust and unity. If congregations and their leaders wish to share their experiences with other congregations and leaders, that might better be a mutual decision between those bodies.

I am not sure that baring the opinions and views of every pastor and congregation member is necessarily what MC Canada had in mind in a resolution that stated, “We recommend that MC Canada and area churches develop ways to hear one another around the implementation of this recommendation.”

Lorne Brandt, Richmond, B.C.

 

MC Canada should retract BDS resolution and apologize to Israel

It was with sadness and dismay that I read and heard about the boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) resolution against Israel that was passed at Assembly 2016 last July in Saskatoon.

Apparently, the resolution was formulated because Arab Christian farmers had complained to Bethlehem Bible College people that the Israeli Water Authority had not supplied sufficient water when it was desperately needed.

To get a clearer picture of the situation, I contacted a Messianic Jewish friend on Mount Carmel. His response: “There has to be a good reason for the water not being supplied.” I also checked some news sources. Amira Hass, a left-wing Jewish author and journalist, wrote on June 21, 2016: “Israel says an intense heat wave combined with Palestinian Water Authority’s refusal to approve additional infrastructure had led to old and limited pipes being unable to transfer all the water needed.”’

The water authority was responsible, not Israel. Moreover, the water authority does not always pay its utility bills. Israel has forgiven these debts a number of times.

The resolution should be retracted, with apologies extended to Israel.

A better resolution would have been: “We, the Conference of Mennonites in Canada, strongly urge the Palestinian Authority to stop inciting violence—stabbing, shooting, vehicle ramming, etc.—against Israeli people; allow Jewish people to pray on the Temple Mount without being stoned or harassed; and remove all false information and hate-filled anti-Jewish language from their school textbooks.”

BDS harms Palestinians just as much as Israelis. One SodaStream factory had to close, and several hundred Palestinians lost their jobs.

Why is Bethlehem Bible College still in that town when most of the Christians have been driven out? Is it because of its well-known anti-Israel rhetoric?

Andrew Sawatzky, Calgary, Alta.

 

Theology is a determinant in the rise—or fall—of the church

One has to wonder how Mennonite Church Canada will absorb “Theology matters,” the title of a recent study  that links patterns of church growth and decline to the kind of theology on offer in individual congregations.

Although the study’s authors surveyed only Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian and United churches in Ontario, their findings may give MC Canada pause as it authorizes its own congregations to unmoor themselves, should they see fit, from those pillars of the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective deemed no longer compatible with a socially progressive agenda.

Such an agenda—what one might designate as the new gospel of social justice—is the principal cause, as the study’s authors point out, for widespread decline in church membership and attendance, even as more scripturally grounded and theologically conservative churches continue to add members, seemingly despite their stubborn biblical literalism.

For those who find in the Bible “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68), such research cannot be surprising. Indeed, they may long have wondered why anyone would surrender the salvific gospel of Christ—and I mean here the uncomfortable gospel that confronts us with the language of sin, judgment and repentance—to a revisionist theology that bends to the ever-shifting winds of our culture.

I suppose the question that MC Canada and its member congregations must ask themselves in this time of theological rift is: What will satisfy the deep yearnings of an eternal soul? Is it the gospel of social justice, liberated from any scriptural, credal or confessional restraints, or is it the good news of a crucified and risen Saviour who delivers us from ourselves into the hands of God the Father?

The answer to this question obviously dictates far more than church membership numbers, but if that is the issue that finally prompts a serious assessment of Mennonite theology, then so be it.

For more on “Theology matters,” visit bit.ly/theology-matters.
Markus Poetzsch, Waterloo, Ont.

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