Robert J. (Jack) Suderman flinches every time I, or anyone representing Canadian Mennonite, uses the word “independent” to describe who we are as a publication. The characterization apparently grates on his pastoral instincts to think, even for a passing moment, that we are not an integral part of the “body of Christ” as it is expressed in the institution of Mennonite Church Canada.
The year was 1953. Mennonites scattered across Canada were a disparate group, having come to this land of freedom in several migrations from Europe, the first of which was of Swiss-German origin from the German Palatinate coming from Pennsylvania and settling in what was to become the Niagara Region of Ontario as early as 1786.
Two stories on sexual abuse have re-emerged recently on the Mennonite scene that call for sober reflection and some self-examination, but not self-obsession. They should be seen, in the present, as “teachable moments” and occasions for healing, rather than harsh judgments on the sins of our fathers.
It is a great experience to be on the board of Canadian Mennonite. On a personal level, it is both fun and interesting. You get to meet other Mennonites from across the country and hear what is going on in their churches. You find that some things between congregations are very similar. You also see that some issues are distinctive because of different social, demographic or economic conditions.
My, what a summer—unexpected flooding in central and southern Alberta, oil rail tankers exploding in Lac-Mégantic, devastating that small rural town in Quebec, record-setting heat waves in several parts of the country.
Catastrophic events like these can lead one to think we are in the midst of some kind of Apocalypse—not only here in Canada, but globally as fires ravage a Bangladesh clothing factory, killing hundreds of unprotected workers; fighting and violence continue to rock two Middle East countries—Syria and Egypt.
In an increasingly polarized culture, we seem to be plagued more and more with labels that define us. Driven by an obsession to organize our society, we put each other into the categories of liberal or conservative, pro-life or pro-choice, fundamentalist or social gospel, traditionalist or progressive, pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian, Oil Patch worker or anti-pipeline crusader. The list goes on.
I turned off the radio en route to my destination at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre, Guelph, Ont. A shooting in Toronto, a bombing in Boston, political chicanery in Ottawa—all were short-circuiting my gradual descent into solace. The noise was drowning my need for silence, a yearning for an uncluttered world.
Recently, our congregation discovered Facebook. “Discovered” isn’t quite the right word, of course, since many of us were already part of the online community reputed to have a mind-boggling billion users around the globe.
But someone started a “secret” Facebook group—meaning it isn’t publicly visible and requires an invitation to join—and it quickly garnered 136 members in a church of 200.
In her “Mennonites have a long history of environmental activism” letter to the editor on page 12, Joanne Moyer questions whether it was fair to hold Menno Simons to account for a lack of concern for climate change and broader concerns of the earth.
“A 16th-century church leader can hardly be expected to comment on a climatic phenomenon that scientists only began to notice several centuries later,” she writes. In an e-mail follow-up conversation with Moyer, I said she reinforced a point that I apparently didn’t develop sufficiently for proper understanding.
“The fossil fuel industry is the richest and most arrogant industry the world has ever seen,” charges Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature, and referenced by Will Braun in our lead feature “Crossing the (pipe) line” on page 4. The five largest oil companies alone made $137 billion in profits last year, according to the Sierra Club.
While I appreciate the widespread support for Canadian Mennonite when we broke the story in our last edition regarding Canada Revenue Agency reminding us about “political partisanship” cited in two editorials and four articles, I want to clarify and correct some misinformation reported by the public media.
I also want to appeal to our readers to refrain from vitriol and name-calling in their responses, despite their strong feelings and deep suspicions regarding the government’s action.