Readers write: December 11, 2017 issue

December 6, 2017 | Viewpoints | Volume 21 Issue 23
Various Contributors,

More responses to Maple View’s paid supplement on sexuality
Re: "Honour God with Your Bodies” insert, Sept. 25.

As an advocate for respect, diversity and equality, I am deeply disturbed that you would publish this. I hope you are aware that this looks like you support the view that sexual orientation is a choice, and that people who are LGBTQ are broken, sinners and damaged.

It makes me cry to think that a gay person might read this view of religious intolerance. Maple View is certainly right that LGBTQ people are struggling, but it’s because of articles and attitudes like this, not because they are gay. Our LGBTQ youth are committing suicide because of this intolerance, specifically religious intolerance. I don’t see how a church with these views can say they are “walking together in love” with LGBTQ persons.” Is that what Canadian Mennonite is saying as well? 

I understand that we need to be tolerant of the opinions of others, but when they are damaging to a group of people, do we need to make those opinions so public? Could these thoughts not have stayed at Maple View Mennonite Church? 

I want to tell everyone across Canada that God intended gay people to be gay, to marry just like anyone else; that for them marriage is also a “good creation of God”; that people who are gay also feel that marriage is a sacred institution to them as well.
Pearl Barz, Steinbach, Man.

 

We were pleased to find the well-documented and prayerfully developed insert by Maple View Mennonite Church in the Sept. 25 issue of Canadian Mennonite. The timing of this issue coincided with our congregation’s periodic update of the subscription list to CM. Our response: When CM is willing to publish an insert of this nature and calibre, we certainly want to remain on your list.

We were stunned and deeply disturbed by the tone and content in the letters of response in the Oct. 23 issue. Is there no willingness on the part of the LGBTQ people to make room for any other interpretation of this issue? Does the Holy Spirit speak only to the people on one side of this issue?

What most of us non-LGBTQ people want is the same tolerance, acceptance and respect for our convictions that LGBTQ people request, expect and demand for their convictions. Is that request so out of line? 

Wouldn’t it help if Mennonite Church Canada, in its “General Board confession to the LGBCTQ community” (Oct. 9, page 9), would openly admit and include a reference to the hurts of the non-LGBTQ people as well as the hurts of the LGBTQ people?

Wouldn’t it help if we would be more influenced by how the Holy Spirit guides us to respond rather than by who gets hurt, and then gauge our responses to achieve human standards of satisfaction?

These are some questions that we have and would suggest others to consider prayerfully.
Armin and Caroline Ens, Reinland, Man.

 

First of all, I have family members and friends from denominations other than Mennonite who share the perspectives in the paid insert from Maple View Mennonite Church. Over the years I have learned to wear my football helmet to gatherings to protect myself from constantly being beaten on the head with those verses and that specific interpretation of them, so, unconsciously, I found myself reaching for that protective gear once I read page 1 of the insert.

Second, I have been open to other possible interpretations for decades.

Finally, my biggest issue with Maple View, the insert and its content is that they were not honest and open with me. Hidden on page 4 in italic is the acknowledgement, “This statement has been adapted from the Spiritual Heritage Committee of the EFCA.”

Since Maple View’s views are most closely aligned with the views and interpretations of the Spiritual Heritage Committee of the Evangelical Free Church of America, will it stop wavering between two interpretations and declare itself either in accordance with a spiritual heritage statement from Mennonite Church Canada’s Covenant New document, or openly declare full affiliation with the EFCA?
David Ringer, Toronto

The author attends Toronto United Mennonite Church.

 

I am not sure how I missed this paid supplement, but reading the responses in the Oct. 23 issue piqued my curiosity.

I must admit, I was shocked and not shocked. I understand there are still people who interpret the Bible literally. However, I was surprised that Canadian Mennonite chose to include material so judgmental and that flies in the face of known research and data that support the now generally accepted fact that sexual relations outside of what fundamental religions consider acceptable are, in fact, normal. 

If CM needs the money that much, I would be willing to make a donation to keep this type of “information” out of the publication. If the reference statement on human sexuality truly fits the requirements of “educating, informing and inspiring,” then I would suggest publishing it without payment, just like this letter, if you choose to include it in CM.
Charlie Smith, Allan, Sask.

 

A writer implied in Canadian Mennonite that atheism has more to offer than Christianity and said he hoped his children would be atheists (“Father hopes his boys don’t discover faith,” March 31, 2014). In another writer’s opinion, the Bible was at par with Harry Potter; both had some value, but neither one could perform miracles (“Millennials shape their own church,” April 28, 2014).

At the time, I hoped that CM would respond with comments suggesting that Christ has much more to offer than atheism, and that the Bible is infinitely more worthy of our study than Harry Potter.

But when Maple View Mennonite Church spent time as a congregation prayerfully searching Scripture during the Being a Faithful Church process and came up with its response, “Honour God with Your Bodies” in the Sept. 25 issue, it was met with letters of opposition. CM even felt it necessary to distance itself in an apologetic response on page 12 of the Oct. 23 issue: “We regret the harm this insert has caused. We want you to know that the decision to accept this insert was not taken lightly . . . .”

Whether we agree with Maple View is not the issue, but I’m wondering if God views Mennonite Christians and CM as hypocritical and lacking integrity for their responses in one case and lack of them in the others.
Peter Wiebe, Saskatoon

 

When I read Melissa Miller’s “Holy sexuality” column (June 19, page 10), I pondered the title for a long time. I concluded that we need to go back to the creation to get the truest definition. What God created was “very good,” according to Genesis 1:31.

Maple View Mennonite Church’s “Reference statement on human sexuality” (Sept. 25 paid supplement) gives a Bible-based definition of “holy sexuality.” When humans chose to sin, perfection in relationship was spoiled, bringing distortions and perversions in many varieties.

God provided restoration of a relationship with him through Jesus’ death and resurrection—a “new birth” to all who will accept it. The gift of the Holy Spirit, given to all who are born again, enables people to overcome, rather than yield to, temptation, be it envy, malice, greed, gossip or sexual relations, as stated in Romans 1:29; Ephesians 5:3 and Colossians 3:5.

The Maple View statement acknowledges the struggles of LGBTQ people, as well as how the church relates to them redemptively—a work in progress.

Some debunk the philosophy of “love the sinner, hate the sin.” I’m not a Bible scholar, but it seems to me that the narrative of the Bible after the Fall is of God doing exactly that.

Thank you to Canadian Mennonite for giving all in the church a voice.
Rosella Eby, Drake, Sask. 

 

In 1985, I was ordained with the General Conference Mennonite Church. It was a difficult day for me, considering my past. But the Mennonite church was very encouraging and supportive. Not having a Christian background meant that I learned many things from gracious people as I went through life and ministry among the Mennonites.

I have served in various Mennonite churches and conferences over these past 40-plus years. I have seen many changes. Not all I have agreed with, but I have seen how we treated each other with grace in the face of disagreement.

I am saddened how the study material by Maple View Mennonite Church, which has a long history of 158 years of being a Mennonite witness, has brought about such deep rejection of that church’s position on biblical sexuality that agrees with our Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective. The Mennonite church that had so wonderfully accepted me, and encouraged me, is showing itself not to be accepting or encouraging of those who take a position against the current stream of popular opinion that disagrees with our Confession of Faith.

It seems to me that we, as Mennonites, have a responsibility to “agree to disagree, agreeably.” Is this not the essence of what God says in Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”?

While I agree with our Confession of Faith and the Maple View material, I also believe everyone has the right to choose how to live without being harassed or abused, regardless of what is believed. This is not only being Mennonite, as I understand it, but being a biblical Christian, which is the only base for how we should relate to each other.
Tom Warner, Port Rowan, Ont.

The author is pastor of Erie View United Mennonite Church in Port Rowan.

 

Having watched the struggle going on in the Mennonite denomination in which I grew up, and was baptized and married in, I am concerned that no positive response to Maple View’s paid supplement was received, or at least included, in the Oct. 23 issue. I do sincerely appreciate the response by the publisher, though, which was well done.

Many have spoken and written in the same tone expressed in the supplement, and I am grateful for those who support this view. There is no intent to speak disrespectfully of what now has come to be called the LGBTQ community, but to return to the reading of Scripture that has been central to our beliefs.

This is a very divisive matter, and as we see the denomination disintegrate, it will become evident that, had we stuck to the position expressed in the supplement, we might have lost some folk, but likely not entire churches.
John Neufeld, Burlington, Ont.

 

I was surprised and saddened to read the responses to the supplement that Maple View Mennonite Church placed in Canadian Mennonite. We may not agree with what they wrote, but why are we stomping all over them because they choose to believe differently? Is dialogue not about two parties having conversation? It doesn’t mean we have to agree.

For those who are choosing to cancel their subscriptions to CM because of this supplement, I ask why? This is one topic.

And as far as CM apologizing for publishing the supplement, I say there is no need. There are two sides to every story and there is no reason a different view cannot be expressed. Whether we feel the same or not, Maple View has the right to express its concerns. 

It is not the LGBTQ topic that worries me the most, it is the tone of voice that is used when discussing it. This goes for both those for and against this lifestyle. If both sides have prayed and discerned with God on this topic, then can we not listen and discuss it without pointing and shaking our fingers. It’s time for indoor voices; God is listening.
Ruth Bahr, Tavistock, Ont.

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Comments

First of all, English is not my mother tongue, so my expression could be rough and direct. I beg your understanding.

I was very disappointed or more like angry, so I could not finish the reading of the insert. I don't think it's the content that disturbed me because I agree with most of it, even if I think I could be wrong. What bothered me was the tone of the voice which reminded me a Presbyterian church where I was grown up and baptized. The church leaders taught me as if they have known the truth and they used literally interpreted Bible verses to prove they were absolutely right. In spite of all the gentle and polite sentences, I heard the same tone of the voice from the insert.

Anyone could be wrong. It is only God who is absolutely right. This is one big lesson I learned from the BFC studies. That is why we get together and listen each other so we can discern God's voice altogether. Isn't it? What if we get together and speak to each other without listening? Is it possible to listen to others without admitting that she/he could be wrong? Are we ready to be persuaded as much as trying to persuade others? How can we be sure that the conclusion imbeded in our heart or brain is not wrong?

I believe sharing is blessing only when we are humble enough to remember who we are. Otherwise, it could become a weapon to destroy our community. That is what I experienced from churches with too many 100% sure people.

I hope I did not make the same mistake here I mentioned above.

Inspiring....

2017: "Is there no willingness on the part of the LGBTQ people to make room for any other interpretation of this issue [of same-sex marriage]?"

1955: "Is there no willingness on the part of Black people to make room for any other interpretation of this issue [of segregation]?"

1923: "Is there no willingness on the part of the suffragettes to make room for any other interpretation of this issue [of women voting]?"

1855: "Is there no willingness on the part of abolitionists to make room for any other interpretation of this issue [of slavery]?"

No -- there is not.

Response to Mr. Morton

Conflating societal and political realities with church theological interpretation is a contrived parallelism.

It supports a totalism that excludes sincere Christians who do not seek to oppress anyone. The simple conviction is that some of us seek to be obedient to the gospel of Jesus Christ as we know and understand it. If your convictions leave no room for that obedience, then we are at an impasse.

The impasse that you impose has as its logical conclusion that you go your way, and some of us who cannot follow, go another.

Hi, Walter -- Thank you for your response. I would counter that all of the social/political issues in my initial posting were once considered theological issues: historically, scripture has often been used by opponents to civil rights, voting rights, and slavery. It's being used now, by some, in the context of sexual orientation.

I do think that there is an impasse: nothing that people like me say will change the minds of those who endorse the statement from Maple View Church, and nothing they say will change the minds of people like me. Only the passing of time will do so, and I have faith that the change will eventually be away from dusty theological dogma and toward a more accepting and embracing view of all people. After all, we no longer have slavery, women can vote, and civil rights have advanced (though clearly inequities persist). The same will happen (and has happened for most Canadians) with regard to issues pertaining to sexual orientation. Until then, though, I do think that an amicable separation of Mennonite churches -- those that are "affirming" and those that are not -- is the way to go.

I would add that individuals who are opposed to same-sex relationships are free to think what they want in their own minds and hearts. But I don't think they are free to cast judgement on others by putting those thoughts into words, at least not in a public forum. Thoughts are thoughts, but words are a form of action, and actions can cause great harm.

Thank-you for a thoughtful response.

I observe that one of the hallmarks of postmodernity seems to be its making irrelevant in the public fora any convictions but its own. That is, Christianity or Buddhism or Islam are tolerated so long as they are not relevant to persons making economic, political or moral choices. In that, your alignment with the spiritual ideology of this age is nearly perfect.

I also observe that you seem to conflate Christendom with free church or Anabaptist history. That is problematic and simply not in alignment with fact. There are nuances here that are important to distinguish.

And lastly, I do agree that a parting of ways has become inevitable. I observe that some of us wish to use the Bible as the primary reference point for theological reflection, and then engage the social sciences in seeking to be faithful in incarnating the truths we have come to know. Others wish to do theology with the social sciences as the foundation, and, in that, read the Scriptures and come out on very different paths.

I do not seek—neither do I believe that the Maple View supplement and those who find resonance with it seek—to oppress anyone. We do insist on the right to follow our conscience in the private and public spheres of life. If you take that from us by violence or force of law, you persecute us for convictions we cannot set aside. Where does that leave you and I on the inclusion-exclusion axis?

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