Readers write: December 12, 2016 issue

December 7, 2016 | Viewpoints | Volume 20 Issue 24

Is the Doctrine of Discovery yesterday’s news?

Re: “Discovering humility” column, Sept. 26, page 7.

It seems Pope Paul III may have spoken to the Doctrine of Discovery already, in his 1537 papal encyclical:

“We define and declare . . . that, notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect” (bit.ly/sublimus-dei).

Russel Snyder-Penner (online comment)

 

What is happening in our church institutions?

Re: “When your services are no longer required,” Aug. 29, page 4.

Aside from Mennonite Church Canada’s desire to solve its problems by devolving its mandate to individual congregations and area churches, does our walk into the unknown future wilderness require that we treat our staff like insects to be stepped on? There is no justification at all to use that demonic corporate model on staff of any church organization. While Elsie Rempel reports that there has been some redress, her dismissal still happened.

I cannot justify any financial support to any of the Mennonite institutions that I have been supporting for years, separate from my congregational giving. Canadian Mennonite and a local organization are notable exceptions. The magazine has worked diligently at keeping dialogue open on the difficult issues that are of national and international importance to the Mennonite church. Thanks to the magazine, the Future Directions Task Force process has a chance of showing some wisdom as it progresses.

Enclosed with this letter is a $2,000 cheque that I cannot send to my previous Mennonite charities until they apologize for their treatment of staff in an un-Christian manner and put policies in place for staff terminations that are in keeping with Christian values, not legal or corporate values.

There was a slogan years ago that asked, “What would Jesus do?” This is actually a good measure of how we should act in our treatment of others in any context. Likewise, the Golden Rule: “Do unto others . . . .”

Tim Sauer, Kitchener, Ont.

 

MCC urged to open its doors to people in same-sex relationships

I recently learned that certain aspects of the human resources policies of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) are undergoing review. Of particular interest to me is the policy that stipulates MCC workers must agree that while serving they will only engage in sexual activity within committed heterosexual relationships. In my opinion, this exclusionary policy must change so that MCC can open its doors to people in same-sex relationships.

I have articulated this concern since the first time I accepted a service term with MCC more than 15 years ago. I believe that many others within MCC’s constituency share my concern. It is past time for MCC to facilitate an open dialogue with its constituency on this policy.

I have heard several people put forth the argument that opening such a dialogue would not only cause division, but could also impact MCC’s revenue if churches opposed to same-sex relationships withdraw support.

While I fully expect the dialogue will not be easy, I believe that silent adherence to the status quo holds just as much potential danger for MCC. More Mennonites are engaging in productive dialogue on the full inclusion of people in same-sex relationships in our churches and organizations. Increasing numbers of people across generations are openly questioning whether exclusionary policies and practices are truly reflective of our faith-calling as Anabaptists.

While putting its collective head in the sand on this issue may seem like a safe option for MCC, I would warn against this approach. As our Anabaptist community evolves, MCC must remain open, thoughtful and engaged. Otherwise, this important Mennonite institution risks becoming stagnant and brittle at best—or out of touch and irrelevant at worst.

Scott Morton Ninomiya, Kitchener, Ont.

 

Another former MCC staffer tells of dismissal woes

Re: “Former MCC personnel ‘suffer silently’ ” letter, Oct. 24, page 9.

I, too, would like to shed some light on dismissal practices by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC); in my case, it was MCC Ontario. I believe I was lied to and lied about when I was dismissed without warning and “without cause” 10 years ago.

MCC Ontario had reasonable policies in place for involuntary termination. The problem is that another section of the policy states that, in its discretion, MCC may terminate the worker’s employment “without completing any part of the above procedures or any other problem-solving or mediation procedures.”

MCC is good at teaching restorative justice and equity training, but its own practices leave the worker powerless and without recourse, because, as I learned, even Human Resources is mandated to support management, leaving no one to support the worker.

In mediation two years later I was told that I was fired because of fear, but that I had done nothing to create that fear and had done nothing wrong. But because of supervisors’ fears, I was denied support and due process, and was left to bleed. Because of fear, those in power chose to hang onto that power and use it to impose control, rather than include me in making decisions about my life.

On top of all this, the executive director at the time of my dismissal had the audacity to claim that she would make sure that neither I nor my wife—who was not an employee—would ever have a chance to work for MCC again. She later had to retract her statement.

To me, this is abuse of power. And I’ve still had no apology or offer of restoration.

Don Procter, Belgrave, Ont.

 

MCC staffing approaches are ‘the antithesis of peace’

Re: “When your services are no longer required” feature, Aug. 9, page 4, and “Former MCC personnel ‘suffer silently’ ” letter, Oct. 24, page 9.

Both of these items sadden me, not only because letter writer Wayne Northey is a friend, but because of what these stories say about Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and our church agencies. The approaches described in Henry Neufeld’s feature and Wayne’s letter are the antithesis of peace, and violate one of MCC’s most foundational values.

Jesus said that the essence of what rulers do is lord it over their subjects and that they are considered great men for this reason. He then said that this does not describe the way things are done in the kingdom of God.

MCC claims to be an agency committed to peace, and in many ways this claim has some authenticity. For example, Wayne’s many years of faithful service in the restorative justice field. And Menno Klassen’s invaluable, long-term service with indigenous people in B.C. After Menno was terminated by MCC B.C., there was a retirement party for him organized by indigenous people to show their profound respect for him. While many of his MCC colleagues were there out of their admiration for his work, MCC was painfully noticeable by its absence.

I hope that these practices, like the election of Donald Trump in the U.S., don’t tell us more about ourselves than we are willing to admit.

Dave Hubert, Edmonton

 

Outcome of same-sex resolution stacked in favour of progressives

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

I take issue with the editorial and want to present another side.

To quote the result of the vote at the Saskatoon assembly is a poor choice at best. It did not reflect the membership of Mennonite Church Canada. Our church, a large congregation of more than 400 members, had exactly two delegates there. Because of distance and expense, many churches only sent a few delegates, and then had them report when they got back.

Churches located near assembly venues often send their maximum number of delegates. It could very well be that close to 50 percent of delegates came from the Saskatoon area. If this was the situation—and we know from reports published in Canadian Mennonite that the area is fertile ground for LGBTQ activity—we can see the possibility that the assembly was stacked in favour of the Being a Faithful Church 7 resolution.

What is more, we know that most “progressive changes” are pushed by educated members living in the university towns like Waterloo, Ont., and Winnipeg. But since when has education become equivalent to wisdom and faithfulness to the Bible? Did Jesus reveal himself to the Pharisees and Sadducees, or to fishermen and social outcasts?

We need to remember that most rural churches are fairly conservative and will continue in the teachings of their elders. Very seldom will a farmer get up in front of a large assembly and defend his principles. But a flamboyant speaker with a good education can sway the vote in favour of his convictions. Isn’t that what politics is all about?

And remember, the assembly was held at the height of farming season, a time when most educators have their extended vacations.

Isaak Eitzen, St. Catharines, Ont.

 

B.C. pastors seeking to break away should be ‘denounced’

The Nov. 7 “No more closed doors” editorial inspired me to make an exception to my rule of not writing letters to the editor.

Congratulations to Dick Benner for promoting openness in all of our discussions. Having served on municipal council and in senior management positions in the public sector for many years, I am in agreement with his statement that municipal meetings must be open to the public except for a limited number of topics that are specified by law.

The recent Mennonite Church B.C. pastors-only meeting did not meet the standards for openness that are required of municipal governments. In the meeting some pastors attempted to persuade others to move in a direction that is contrary to the path chosen by a clear majority of the voting delegates at Assembly 2016.

Shortly after the pastors-only meeting there was another meeting purportedly for congregational representatives. At the start of this meeting, the same pastors were given time to express their views before the other participants entered into roundtable discussions.

Both meetings were contrary to the long-established tradition of democratic governance in our congregations and area churches, and also to the Anabaptist principle of the priesthood of all believers. For a select few to meet behind closed doors to discuss a matter of great importance to all of us is a regrettable practice that should never be repeated.

What we have within MC B.C. is a group of pastors acting as self-appointed—not elected—leaders who are trying to persuade the rest of us to separate from MC Canada. This group does not deserve our support. It is up to the elected representatives of congregations to denounce the group’s message and the methods employed by them.

Jake Thiessen, Kelowna, B.C.

 

BDS, interfaith dialogue both needed now

Re: “A better way than BDS?” letter, Nov. 21, 2016, page. 10.

Russel Synder-Penner writes of his concerns regarding the boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) movement. Unfortunately, his remarks are misleading in a number of areas. While he acknowledges that Palestinians have been oppressed, he states that Israelis fear for their lives. What this fails to note is that approximately seven times as many Palestinians as Israelis have died in this struggle since 2000.

One of the temptations we should avoid in trying to understand the problem is that of false equivalence. This is not a disagreement between two equal parties. Israel has all the power and the Palestinians have none.

Certainly we should continue dialogue with the Canadian Jewish community, but such dialogue should not be conditional on us postponing action on BDS to an indeterminate future moment. This is especially true considering that the oppression of Palestinians to which Snyder-Penner refers continues unabated in times of such dialogue.

Finally, he assumes that in our summer resolution, Mennonite Church Canada was standing up for Palestinians and against Israel. He refers to a cultural boycott, which I struggle to find reference to in the resolution, and he summarizes the effort as “Christians shunning Jews.”

What he fails to realize is that the call for a just peace is as much for the sake of Israel as it is for the Palestinians. Christians can be a friend to Israel and Palestine, support BDS and maintain dialogue with all associated groups at the same time without falling into the 2,000-year history of Christian anti-Semitism.

I call on our congregations and our MC Canada leadership to implement the divestment decision and to advocate sanctions while, at the same time, forming relationships with Canadian Jewish and Palestinian communities, neighbourhood synagogues and mosques.  

Ramon Rempel, Winnipeg

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