Of all the current global conflicts, none seems as intractable as the Israeli-Palestinian one, pitting an occupier government against its occupied residents. The dire situation was recognized at Assembly 2016 in Saskatoon this past summer, when a resolution was passed to support the “boycott, divestment, sanctions” (BDS) movement as a way of taking the “few remaining options to end the occupation and facilitate a just peace with the Palestinian people.”
We are pleased to announce that the family of the late Ted Friesen, the first publisher of The Canadian Mennonite, has agreed to set up—and seed with a $50,000 gift—a fundraising initiative that we are calling the Ted Friesen Legacy Fund. We hope that it will serve as an incentive for others to follow suit in giving major gifts to financially stabilize the 63-year-old publication during an uncertain time of changing denominational structures.
We will miss her and her passion for justice as a young mother trying to make sense of the complexities of our world in the 21st century. Katie Doke Sawatzky wrote her last New Order Voice column in our September 12 issue as she embarks on full-time studies in journalism.
On his Aug. 11, 2016, podcast, journalist Malcolm Gladwell used the concept of “generous orthodoxy” to frame the story of Chester Wenger. It’s a positive approach to faith that is gaining ground among Mennonites.
Gladwell, a best-selling author whose “Revisionist History” podcast tops the iTunes chart, interviewed the 98-year-old retired minister about officiating at his son’s wedding—and setting off ripples across Mennonite Church U.S.A.
It’s been a couple years now, but the experience stands out in my mind as if it were yesterday.
Engin Sezen, executive director of the Waterloo, Ont., Intercultural Dialogue Institute, invited my wife Marlene and me to share a meal with his and his brother’s families after dusk during Ramadan.
In reflecting on Assembly 2016 in Saskatoon, one thing is certain: We are entering a period of uncertainty in the life of Mennonite Church Canada and its area churches. The most hopeful sign in this state of affairs is that the delegates had enough faith in our leaders to begin a new process with few specifics.
“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our harps” (Psalm 137: 1-2).
These familiar words from the Psalmist, cited by Cindy Wallace as she opened the worship of Assembly 2016 in Saskatoon, persisted as a lament throughout the five-day event that brought together more than 500 delegates and congregants from across Canada.
What will be the tenor of the conversation at Assembly 2016 in Saskatoon? Writing this 12 days before more than 500 delegates and denominational leaders gather to consider multiple heavy issues, we can only imagine.
We expect a lot from our pastors, especially the part-time ones who are forced to be bi-vocational. They speak candidly about their roles and their congregation’s expectations in this issue beginning on page 4, as interviewed by our Saskatchewan correspondent, Donna Schulz.
Prospects for an intense conversation on several issues appear to be gaining traction for our upcoming assembly in Saskatoon in July.
The agenda features the conclusion of the Being a Faithful Church (BFC) process after seven years of discernment. And many delegates will come with serious questions about the Future Directions Task Force recommendations. The conversation at the area church level has already been rigorous around these recommendations, sent out to the congregations with only a six-month window for discernment.
She is more than my spouse and partner of 54 years. She was my soul mate; the person whose love and devotion never faltered; the one to whom I turned for counsel, for wisdom and for comfort.
The draw to our Anabaptist/Mennonite theology just keeps happening.
First, it was Stuart Murray, the British-born Baptist who, with many in his network, found a “home” in the Anabaptist fold. He has set up the Anabaptist Network to make a centre for seekers in many communions in the United Kingdom. (See more about Murray’s vision: “Holding out hope for the post-Christendom church.”)
Two articles in this issue point to a shift in our Anabaptist/Mennonite thinking about both our mission in international witness and our place in the government arena.
“Toss aside western church culture and rhetoric,” Deborah Froese, the director of Mennonite Church Canada’s news service, opens her “What’s up with Mennos and mission?” feature on page 4, quoting Witness worker Daniel Pantoja, who ministers with his wife Joji in the Philippines.
“Those of us who discovered Anabaptism experienced this encounter, as I did, as a homecoming,” wrote Stuart Murray in his now-famous book in our circles, The Naked Anabaptist (2010). “Here were other Christians who shared our convictions about discipleship, community, peace and mission.”
“Canadian Mennonite provides a vital service by keeping the congregations informed on church life issues and trends. It has a good balance on raising cutting edge questions.”
Come with us as we look into the future ten years from now (2026), if the recommendations of the Future Directions Task Force are followed in their present form. Regional clusters of congregations have been asked to pick up the functions of Mennonite Church Canada which was disbanded in 2018.
The clusters were handed the roles of global witness, faith formation and developing their own worship resources. An executive minister was appointed to assist and manage these roles.
With the Being a Faithful Church (BFC) process, congregations across Canada were wisely and prudently given seven years to discern the important issues confronting them in an increasingly post-Christendom era of the 21st century: multiculturalism, the state of our peace and justice beliefs and practices, and sexuality, to name the high-profile ones.
“We know that the North American context and culture, and Christianity within it, is in the midst of immense change. Conversations with and feedback from hundreds of our constituents across Canada these past two years shows broad understanding that old assumptions about the place of church in society have changed.”
The year was 587 BC. Our spiritual ancestors, the Israelites, were deported to Babylon, where they felt like refugees in a foreign land. Their place of worship, the temple, had been destroyed. They sat by the rivers of Babylon. . .and wept. (Psalm 137:1). They were dispirited and tempted to think Yahweh had deserted them.
Sexual misconduct cases by our pastors are difficult to process. These stories, numbering three in the last two years in congregations across Canada, are even harder to report in our publication.
They are stories of abusing power, of crossing boundaries, of letting down congregations and trusting congregants, of creating victims all around—not only of accusers, but of the perpetrators’ family and network of friends, destroying reputations and legacies—especially in the recent case of a long-deceased Ontario pastor.
Every year at Remembrance Day and Peace Sunday, Canadian Mennonites are torn between honouring those who lost their lives through war and entering into a ritual that celebrates violence as a way of resolving international conflict. In doing one, do we negate the other?
The year was 1963. D.W. Friesen and Sons of Altona, Man., publishers of 10-year-old The Canadian Mennonite were struggling to keep the first English-language, inter-Mennonite publication financially afloat. The conferences were slow to accept this new communication venture, which had the purpose of “serving the interest of all the groups for the purpose of bringing them closer to each other so that their respective contributions might complement each other,” as described by Ted Friesen at the 1999 annual meeting of The Canadian Mennonite.