OCTOBER 2021 MBHERALD.COM
Sixty years of sharing the life & story of the Mennonite Brethren in Canada
Surviving the grand ‘sort’ A response to the explosive migration of believers VOLUME 60, NO. 10
K E E P I N G J E S U S I N T H E C O N V E R S AT I O N ANABAPTISTS AND BIBLICAL INERRANCY C C M B C E X E C U T I V E B O A R D U P D AT E
Q: How do you speak well about marriage with your neighbours, knowing that marriage can be difficult? A: Check out the Faith and Life online pamphlets about marriage and family. www.mennonitebrethren.ca/ nflt-resources
Mennonite Brethren Herald Digest is digitally published monthly by the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, primarily for the use of its members, to build a Canadian MB community of faith. We seek to 1) share the life and story of the church by nurturing relationships among members and engaging in dialogue and reflection; 2) teach and equip for ministry by reflecting MB theology, values, and heritage, and by sharing the good news; 3) enable communication by serving conference ministries and informing our members about the church and the world. However, the opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of the church as a whole.
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From the editor
ou can smell the new asphalt that just went down at the nearby school before you’re near enough to see it. The smell of hot tar brings me back to elementary school: the tire swing in the schoolyard, the crunch of the small grey pebbles underfoot. As kids, we would spend hours a day on the play structure, wildly jumping off the highest point top the stones below, then back up the ladder to do it again. One time I landed wrong, spraining my ankle. I dragged myself across the road back home, convinced I’d never walk again. A week later, I was back at it, risking life and limb like some pint-sized stunt performer. Was I fearless or foolish? You tell me. Now my every action is motivated by fear. At least it seems that way most days. Like you, I am climbing out from the rubble of the global pandemic, the undercurrent of my anxiety and burnout brought uncomfortably close to the surface. Add to that a steep increase in my screentime. The collective socialpolitical zeitgeist—the internet—has way more influence over me than I’m comfortable admitting. Where do you find yourself today? Are you running full sprint away from the last year and a half, or are you still in recovery? How about your church? “The season” (as I’ve come to call it) not only takes its toll on us as individuals, but it affects us corporately as a body of believers. In our cover story (page 10), regular contributor Phil Gunther counsels church leaders juggling tensions, conflict and congregants on the move. New columnist Bonita Eby (page 7) speaks to the hurting individual, linking neuroscience and stress responses to uncover paths to recover. This may be the first time we’ve used the word “amygdala” in the pages of the MB Herald. Pierre Gilbert returns with a deep dive into the inerrancy of Scripture on page 13. CCMBC Executive Board moderator Ron Penner provides a Conference update on page 17. Suppose you are still on the fence about whether or not you should attend next month’s EQUIP Mini webinar (the answer is yes, you should.). I encourage you to read our interview with keynote speaker, Dr. David Fitch, (page 8) “Keeping Jesus in the conversation.” In this season of thanksgiving, I sign off with gratitude to everyone who makes the MB Herald Digest possible, including you, the reader. Thank you for reading our stories, for offering critique and encouragement. And thank you for your honesty and vulnerability as you offer up your story to share with others. Hang in there,
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MB HERALD COLUMNIST PENS AUTO B IOG R APH Y Former MB Herald contributor Elmer Thiessen’s autobiography is set for release this fall. Thiessen describes his journey from humble beginnings in a small Mennonite village in Saskatchewan to international recognition as a Christian philosopher. He recounts his experience of some harsh blows in early life, his battles with self-doubt, his delight in finding a wonderful wife, and the joys of raising a family. Memorable international experiences are described, including a one-year honeymoon in Germany, a sabbatical in Oxford, and teaching stints in Lithuania and Ethiopia. Stumbling Heavenward traces the author’s struggles with reconciling faith and reason and navigating the sometimes complex politics of a secular college and the church. A concluding chapter reflects on lessons learned about life and love, caring and not caring, and searching for truth with humility. “Elmer Thiessen has influenced thousands of students over the course of almost four decades at Medicine Hat College. He has also impacted scholars around the world through his research and teaching. It was a privilege to be his student, an honour to be his friend, and a pleasure to read his life story.” — The Honourable Dallas K. Miller, Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench, Lethbridge, Alberta
CCMBC appoints interim NFLT director Effective October 1, 2021, Ken Esau will serve CCMBC in the interim role of National Faith and Life (NFLT) director. Ken commits to a six-month term while current NFLT director Ingrid Reichard is on a leave of absence. Ken has been teaching Bible and theology at Columbia Bible College for over 30 years and considers himself blessed to be doing “his dream job” all this time. He is particularly passionate about how our theological understandings of Jesus and the gospel impact how we live out discipleship and mission in our world. Ken also serves on the BCMB Pastoral Ministries Committee and as the BC Representative to the NFLT. He and Karen are parents of three adult children spread out between BC, Alberta, and Ontario. Ken is a member of The Life Centre, an intentionally intercultural worshipping community in Abbotsford.
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94% Person of Faith
When asked how closely they identify with the following eight descriptors, 458 MB survey respondents connected strongly (94%) with being a ‘Person of Faith.’ When it came to the tenants of our MB identity, ‘Evangelical’ scored 57%, and ‘Anabaptist’ came in at 67%.
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“GO, SIT IN YOUR CELL, AND YOUR CELL WILL TEACH YOU EVERYTHING.” n March 2020, during the first pandemic lockdown, I found myself teaching from home (on Zoom), and feeling alone, adrift, and angry. A week or two later, I had a conversation with my seminary colleagues. It was my first conversation about the pandemic in the light of scripture and theology. That conversation renewed my hope; my co-workers reminded me that the core of Christian faithfulness was unchanged by the pandemic. Jesus was still calling us to care for the least, work as slaves of Christ, support those in our households, and so on. These constants were a gift I needed. Another constant was the calling to remain in a conversational relationship with God. Over the next five months, during which I spent many hours working from a basement spare room, I more frequently took time to close the door, quiet my soul, and listen for God. (Those experiences remind me of Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 6:5-6.) This experience also gave meaning to a sentence I’d read often, and usually found puzzling and intriguing. A little more than 300 years after Jesus’ resurrection, a violent bandit named Moses had a radical conversion to Christ. An African, Moses became a prophetic spiritual leader for a group of men in Egypt who devoted themselves to serving Christ through prayer and self-denial (i.e. one of the early monastic communities). Abba Moses once said, “Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.” Not only was my little room becoming that kind of cell, but I was also beginning to pause at other times and places to quiet myself and turn my attention to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Since then, I’ve been back at CMU, teaching classes in person (with masks and physical distancing) and Zoom. I still try to carve out space for noticing God (helped along the way by visits with my spiritual director). However, in the activities of daily life—amplified by uncertainties in politics, work, family, and the latest pandemic restrictions—I’ve found it harder to carve out a cell of attentiveness to God. Today, I’m praying that the words of the song “There is a quiet place” (by Ralph Carmichael) will become more constant in my life, so that I will live out of the cell where God speaks. I invite you to join me by listening to Take 6 sing that song, and then being quiet with God for a few minutes. I wonder how your cell and mine might teach us. P.S. For another angle on Abba Moses’ sentence about the cell, check out this article by a contemporary Canadian.
A N D R E W DYC K ,
Assistant Professor of Christian Spirituality and Pastoral Ministry at Canadian Mennonite University, teaches primarily in CMU’s seminary programs. He and Martha belong to Westwood Community Church and the Winnipeg Imago Dei group.
It is no secret that stress levels have increased significantly since the pandemic began. Leaders, in particular, are experiencing higher levels of stress instigated by new challenges posed by restrictions, digitalization, and change management. They seek to understand how to put their hearts and souls into the roles they feel called to while staying engaged with their families and friends. God created our bodies with a built-in stress response activation uit. It is called the amygdala, a part of the brain located in our brainstem. Here is a quick lesson in neuro-anatomy 101.
Simply speaking, your brain contains two major sections: 1. The frontal lobe is located at the top, front of your brain, beneath your forehead. Its functions include higher thinking, problem-solving, empathy, and executive function. 2. The brainstem, which contains a tiny but powerful segment called the amygdala. Stress triggers the amygdala, which overrides your rational frontal lobe through a cascade of hormonal reactions, putting you in survival mode, presenting three basic response options: fight, flight, or freeze. This response can lead to chronic stress with unhealthy consequences when triggered often and over significant periods. God has also provided methods for overcoming the stressors. The following are three sequential means for overcoming the effects of stress.
Resilient Leadership NEUROSCIENCE HACKS FOR STRESS MANAGEMENT
THREE STEPS FOR MANAGING STRESS
1. Recognize stress. Recognizing stress at the moment is profoundly helpful. Most people don’t notice it until they are already in a spiral of anxiety. Their fight, flight, or freeze response is already fully activated, and their amygdala has hijacked their executive thinking. By getting a handle on WHAT you are experiencing, for example, rapid heartbeat, headache, muscle tension, you can pinpoint WHY you are stressing. 2. Remove the stress. Often, we don’t have control over situations and circumstances. However, we do have the ability to lean upon Jesus and reverse the stress cycle. Our nervous system has an integrated biofeedback mechanism. That means that when we FEEL stressed, our bodies react with a sequence of internal events. On the flip side, if we intentionally have our bodies ACT differently, we feel more relaxed. When we’re stressed, our breathing becomes fast, shallow, and misplaced to our chest. Try slowing your breath, breathing from your diaphragm, relaxing your shoulders, and exhaling slowly. This exercise provides the biofeedback loop with the information it needs to begin calming down. My favourite biofeedback method is reciting Scripture. By mindfully placing our hope in Christ, we access his power and provision while activating rejuvenation. 3. Resilience to stress. The more we practice removing stress, the faster we can do so. Whenever we repeatedly practise something, our brains lay down new pathways that make it easier to do. In other words, by recognizing our stress before it spirals and removing the stress with biofeedback, our resilience increases over time. As we consistently return to the hope we have in Jesus and engage Him with our mind, body, and spirit; we reprogram our stress response.
B O N I TA E B Y
attends and is a former pastor at WMB Church in Waterloo, Ontario. She is a burnout prevention strategist, executive coach, and owner of Breakthrough Personal & Professional Development Inc., specializing in burnout prevention and wellness for organizations and individuals. Connect with Bonita at email@example.com.
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Keeping Jesus in the conversation
David Fitch is the keynote speaker for the EQUIP Mini, virtual study conference taking place November
How to best engage in tough talk accinations. Politics. LGBTQ+. Views of the Bible. These are some of the issues dividing Christians—including Mennonite Brethren—today. The temptation, says David Fitch, is to see the other side as the enemy and to divide into antagonistic sides. “We need to listen to one another and engage charitably with others’ positions,” says Fitch, keynote speaker at the Equip Mini 2021: Engaging in Healthy Conversations Around Difficult Topics in the Church, the November 19-20 event for pastors and church leaders. The goal, he says, should be to “lean in with a posture of humility, expecting that the Spirit has something to teach us. We may not always agree on everything, but we trust that the Spirit will give guidance.” Born in Owen Sound, Ontario, and raised in Hamilton—he’s a bit Tiger Cats fan—Fitch is the B. R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary Chicago, IL and founding pastor of Life on the Vine Christian Community, a missional church in a suburb of that city. When Christians are faced with challenging issues, he says, they should find a way to talk about them. It should be done in a way “where Jesus is the centre and is bringing us clarity and goodness and also challenge and transformation amongst the hurts, the pains and the conflicts,” he says. One of the best ways to do this is through what he calls the “social sacrament”—eating together. “That was one of Christ’s ways to listen, having a meal with the most despised person in the culture,” he says. “He would eat and
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spend time with the hurting and wounded. When we do that, Christ promises to be present among us.” He knows it won’t always be easy; nobody likes conflict. But “conflict is an opportunity for Jesus to work, to move us toward the future,” Fitch says, adding when Christians “listen and hear each other, they can see the power and presence of Christ, how he works to reshape our imagination, heal wounds and restore relationships.” Key to this is how people approach challenging issues. “Sometimes we want to declare who is right and who is wrong before any conversations have even happened,” he says. Christians also need to evaluate how they use the Bible when there is conflict. “We need to read the Bible together, not use it as a blunt instrument to win an argument,” he says. At the same time this is taking place, the church is finding itself in the context of wider shifts in culture in North America that have occurred over the past 50 or so years. For a long time, Christians were used to “being in power, being respected, not being challenged,” he says. “But the rug has completely been pulled out from under our feet.” That included having the larger culture reflect their beliefs and values, he says, noting there was a time in the U.S. and Canada when the church “enforced Christian morality on TV, movies, music, medicine, education, and politics.” That’s not the case today; for many older Christians, this has led to anxiety and uncertainty. “It’s a foreign world for them,” he says.
“We need to read the Bible together, not use it as a blunt instrument to win an argument.” – David Fitch
But for their children and grandchildren who grew up in this new world, this is their reality—and it is leading to conflict and misunderstanding. “Younger Christians were raised in a different culture, they have a different framework,” he says of how older and younger people often see issues differently. When church leaders won’t allow discussion about issues that concern younger people, or that are settled for them—things like LGBTQ+ or social justice—they can become “disillusioned and walk away from the church,” he says. For Fitch, that would be a huge loss. What’s needed, he says, are leaders who will listen and help the church through the various challenges and conflicts.
Fortunately, he says, those leaders are emerging. “There are new leaders asking how we can follow Jesus in a whole way of life that engages the world,” he says. “That’s the future of the church.” Cost of Equip, which is sponsored by the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, is $39. For more information, or to register, visit equip.mennonitebrethren.ca
is a freelance writer in Winnipeg.
Engaging Healthy Conversations Around Difficult Topics in the Church
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Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Philippians 1:27 “We are not the church of anything other than Jesus Christ!” Dr. Ed Stetzer 10
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EXIT As a young disciple of Jesus,
I lived in B.C.’s Fraser Valley in the 1970’s and 80’s. At that time there seemed to be a church on every corner; a faith community from almost every denomination. The spiritual ‘buffet’ included a dramatic spectrum of worship styles and theological bents. The ecclesiastical options seemed endless. Church-hopping or church-shopping was just a part of doing spiritual ‘business’ in B.C.’s Bible belt. At times, pastors would vent frustration from the pulpit toward believers bouncing from church to church chasing after the spiritual high flavour-of-the-month, and at the same time would praise those who did not succumb to the temptations of lively choruses, loud preachers or hyper spirit-filled encounters. In my experience, most of the migration of believers between churches resulted from dissatisfaction with lifeless worship experiences and ministry mired in exclusive faith traditions fused with Mennonite culture. While there were some who changed faith communities because of irreconcilable confessional differences, those were few. Forty years later, many disciples in Canadian evangelical churches are again sorting themselves into faith communities primarily aligning themselves, not according to worship style preferences, cultural or traditional values or even confession of faith matters, but rather in relation to a specific ideology, political posture or philosophical leaning. The
reasons for church member migration seems to have expanded. As Dorothy from the classic movie The Wizard of Oz said, “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” American social commentator Dr. Ed Stetzer calls the season we are in “the great cultural convulsion” which, based on historical patterns, he predicts will last from three to five years.1 Many Christians in the pew, or those at the receiving end of a livestream, are religiously keeping track of every utterance from the church’s stage. It seems that in 2021 every word from pastors or church lead team members is noted, scrutinized and weighed, less for biblical correctness or doctrinal integrity than as mentioned earlier, whether or not it matches a specific ideology, political posture or philosophical leaning. Pastors are either affirmed or denounced on their public messaging around racism, racial injustice (Black Lives Matter and All Children Matter movements), LGBTQ2+ pride, climate change, COVID, health restrictions, vaccines, vaccine passports and the social gospel. Something as simple as mask wearing has become an ideological statement rather than a health choice. Some see the naming of George Floyd or Indigenous Peoples in a worship service being a litmus test as to whether a church is relevant and compassionate. Dr. Stetzer
1 See newchurches.com podcasts 607, 609, 611 with Daniel Im and Ed Stetzer The Great Sort.
comments, “Everything is weaponized today.”2 No matter what a pastor says, some bridges will be burned and others built. Followers of Jesus are moving to churches that cater to their personal flavour of social and cultural convictions. For the first time in church history, many believers feel it is of utmost importance to have what they hear on Sunday mornings match what they consume from social media during the rest of the week. Based upon the information from current Christian social commentators, on average, at least a third of every evangelical church’s community will migrate to another faith body in 2021.3 This does not include those who abandon church fellowship and participation all-together. One can see why alarm bells are ringing within the church! The present resettlement of believers is seen by some of these same popular voices as a harbinger of a greater ecclesiastical migration and exodus. There is a strong sense that ideological polarization w ill intensif y while forbearance and grace evaporate. The bottom line is that a significant migration is underway as Christians look for faith communities that align with their way of thinking on current issues. Some will leave your church, some will come. How is the church to respond? I have been asking the churches under my care not to panic, not to make 2 Ibid. 3 Ibid.
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significant ministry course corrections and to be kind to those who leave and those who come. For those who wish more depth of counsel, I offer the following: Stay on mission – keep the main thing the main thing. Churches that survive the grand ‘sort’ will need to be all in on the mission (Matthew 28:19-20). People will always join and leave a specific faith community; however, the church’s advancement of the gospel must prevail. The Body of Christ cannot lose sight of its reason for existence, which is not to make people happy and comfortable, or to extol specific ideological or political mantras, but rather to worship God and equip believers to make disciples. Remain anchored to Scripture – it is the reliable authority for faith and life. It is only God’s Word, as illuminated by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers, which truly helps the church navigate matters of greatest import. Scripture provides counsel to all issues presently faced in the church and in culture. Whether its racism, relationship to authority, allegiances or simply how we treat people who think differently than we do, God’s Word has wisdom to offer. It is the lamp for our feet and light for our path (Psalm 119:105). Build the future with those who stay – the committed bring stability. The church should not build its future on the dissatisfied who have arrived at the doorstep after exiting their previous faith community because the pastor said something they didn’t like or didn’t say something they felt needed to be pontificated. The disgruntled have chosen your community because they heard a message that matched their current perspectives, or saw a demonstration of actions that they considered biblically essential. It is
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only a matter of time before their worldview and faith-view will collide with yours and they will once again move on . Yes, be kind to those who have joined your community, but strategy-wise, move forward investing in those who stayed. Construct robust boundaries – telegraphing what will and will not be tolerated. Surviving the grand ‘sort’ will require the church to have well-defined mission and ministry values. Both must be public and oft communicated publicly. The DNA of the church must be displayed on the stage, on the website and in whatever forms of communication are employed. Any person church-shopping should leave a corporate gathering knowing why that church exists and how its membership and adherents are expected to function together. These will serve as robust boundaries; a bulwark against those who wish to import their philosophical or ideological convictions into your endeavours. Serve the community in love – listen, learn and lean-in. In this time of the grand ‘sort,’ the church that survives and thrives will be one that is intent on community engagement – listening, learning and leaning in. Now is not the time for the church to build defensive walls, but to break down destructive barriers. It is not about abandoning truth, but about speaking truth in love through caring relationships. This is not about compromising biblical convictions, but about coming alongside those who are broken over what they see unfolding in their community, among friends and in their places of work. The grand ‘sort’ is not a reality in churches alone. It is springing up in families, in the office and in neighbourhoods. The church desperately needs the message of reconciliation, peace and restoration.
Devote yourselves to prayer – ultimately, it is God who fixes things. Oswald Chambers said, “Prayer does not equip us for greater works— prayer is the greater work.” Prayer attunes the church’s work to the mind of Christ; it is a fundamental means by which we hear from the Spirit of God. Prayer keeps the church focused on the mission, empowers the church for mission and guides the church in mission. In a time when our world seems upside-down – convulsing as Stetzer calls it – the church needs to immerse itself in prayer. God isn’t asking the church to figure it all out, he is calling the church to seek him in it all. It is only fitting and wise to earnestly lift our appeals to the Heavenly Father, asking for help navigating the earthly philosophical, political and ideological tempests that have found their way into the church. Long ago I heard Christian author Charles Colson speak on hope. What was memorable for me was his declaration that the hope of the world is the church. The hope entrusted to the church is the gospel. May nothing distract us from living out and proclaiming this good news.
R E V. P H I L I P A . G U N T H E R
is director of ministry for the Saskatchewan Conference of MB Churches
What’s Next? In the November issue of the MB Herald Digest, Rev. Gunther speaks specifically to Christian leaders facing a season of titanic challenges in LEADERS: Stay Calm and Carry On.
ANABAPTISTS AND BIBLICAL INERRANCY
THE WRITTEN WORD VERSUS THE LIVING WORD Can I be an Anabaptist and believe in the inerrancy of the Bible? While I have been a proud member of the Mennonite Brethren (MB) family since 1984, I no longer count the number of times I have heard colleagues, friends, and various leaders confidently state that biblical inerrancy is “not our thing.” The simplest rationale I have heard appeals to the specious argument that the word itself is not found in the Bible. The more sophisticated version of this argument says that the Bible makes no such claims for itself. In a recent sermon, a well-known MB leader challenged the doctrine by claiming that it is contingent on a “modern” definition of what an error is. An ominous sounding claim, but one with which I suspect Isaiah, Paul, Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, to name just a few, would take issue. Some also reject the doctrine as a way to distinguish themselves from American evangelical conservatives and their political agenda. During the 2019 MB study conference in Waterloo (ON), Professor Tim Geddert made an unexpectedly vigorous case against using the word inerrancy by pointing out some of the difficulties inherent to the position it represents. What he failed to note is that one could raise the same questions with inspiration or infallibility, terms the MB confession of faith includes. The popular Meeting House pastor, Bruxy Cavey, stipulates that while Anabaptists tend to avoid inerrancy to describe Scripture, the term can and should enthusiastically be used to describe Jesus, the living Word of God.1 If I understand correctly, it appears the major objection to the doctrine of inerrancy resides in the distinction between the
written Word of God and the living Word of God, Jesus, who is the one in whom resides final authority. Geddert writes: “We declare that the Scriptures are authoritative, but what we really mean is that the authority of God, the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, is exercised, among other means [my emphasis], through the Scriptures that bear witness to Jesus.”2 I must admit to some surprise at the energy expanded by so many Anabaptists to undermine the notion that the Bible may in fact be free of error, which is all inerrancy means. At the risk of being accused of throwing a live red herring on the table, if we only expanded a small part of that energy to affirming the infinite and intrinsic value of unborn children, who knows the kind of impact we could have in terms of saving real lives and elevating the sanctity of motherhood and the dignity of women. But this is for another article. Until recently, I did not feel the necessity to publicly respond to
2 Tim Geddert, “The Authoritative Function of Scripture,” Direction 49 (2020): 164.
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Everything we know and believe about Jesus, including his attitude towards Scripture, we know from the canonical Scriptures themselves. I am not aware of any other verifiable source of knowledge that we can access to discern what Jesus’ position on this or any other issue might be.
challenges to the doctrine of inerrancy, but a couple of recent incidents made me reconsider. In a course I taught last semester, War and Divine Violence in the Bible, I discovered that for many students, the obvious solution to the theological dilemma that represents God’s involvement in war in the Old Testament (and parts of the New) was to view it as the type of cultural accommodation one can expect in such historical documents. Just for the record, I tend to shy away from such ready-made explanations as they fail to take into consideration the utmost respect Jesus exhibited for the Old Testament and the God of the Old Testament. The other trigger occurred when I attended a webinar organized by ETEQ3 featuring none other than the renowned European theologian and biblical scholar, Henri Blocher, who gave an extraordinary lecture on the role of the theologian in the 21st Century. During the Q&A, one participant asked whether there was still value in teaching the doctrine of inerrancy. Blocher first noted that, ordinarily, the doctrine of inerrancy need not be given a high profile. To refer to the Bible as God’s inspired Word should be sufficient to establish its authority. He compared the doctrine of inerrancy to a border outpost that is mobilized only when there is the imminent threat of an invasion. I have never hesitated to describe the Bible as God’s inerrant Word of God. But like Blocher and until recently, I had not felt the need to give the doctrine much visibility. But to echo Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” I sense that the day may have come to mobilize the “inerrancy outpost.” To ensure everybody’s blood pressure rises to the appropriate level, let me share my view on what I think is the most appropriate definition of inerrancy. The narrower definition states that
3 ETEQ stands for the École de Théologie Evangélique du Québec, a MB/ Christian Missionary Alliance college affiliated with Université Laval.
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Scripture is free of error in what it teaches. The broader definition, as proposed in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, states that the Bible, in the original autographs, is free of error. Period! This is the definition that, in my opinion, best accounts for the evidence we have and offers the most effective protection against theological compromise: Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God’s saving grace in individual lives.4 When it comes to the nature and authority of Scripture, Geddert observed that we only need to adopt the attitude Jesus himself had towards Scripture. 5 I could not agree more, but we would do well to remember that everything we know and believe about Jesus, including his attitude towards Scripture, we know from the canonical Scriptures themselves. I am not aware of any other verifiable source of knowledge that we can access to discern what Jesus’ position on this or any other issue might be. Since space makes it impossible for me to examine all the evidence that pertains to the nature of Scripture,6 I will focus on the dichotomy many make between the written and the living Word of God. It is this dichotomy that makes it possible for Cavey to proclaim: “We believe in the authoritative,
4 For the whole statement, see https:// www.etsjets.org/files/documents/Chicago_ Statement.pdf. 5 Tim Geddert, “The Authoritative Function of Scripture,” Direction 49 (2020):158. 6 For a helpful survey of the doctrine of inerrancy, including its historical roots, and a succinct summary of the major objections and responses, see Michael Horton, “The Truthfulness of Scripture: Inerrancy,”
inerrant, infallible Word of God – and his name is Jesus.”7 Though this may seem like an unusual starting point, I would like to begin with some observations about the Torah and the Psalms. In Deuteronomy 6:4-5, we have what is known as The Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”8 In this passage, we find the commandment to love (ahav) the “Lord our God.” Considering the importance of this passage, one might expect to find numerous allusions to individuals expressing their love (ahav) for God. While we do find numerous exhortations to love (ahav) the LORD (Exod 20:6; Deut 5:10; 7:9; 10:12; 11:11, 13; Josh 22:5; etc.), there are in fact very few instances where a writer declares his love for God. In the book of Psalms, where one would expect to find such declarations, we only find one. In Psalm 116:1, we read: “I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.” And that is it! Well, not quite. There is another passage (Ps 18:1) where the speaker expresses his love for God, but the psalmist uses the verb rakham rather than the customary word for love (ahav) attested in Deuteronomy 6:5 and elsewhere. This near absence of a subject using the verb ahav to express his love for God is puzzling, especially so in the Psalms. While the psalmist does use the verb ahav to express his love, the object is most often something other than Yahweh. In one instance, it is God’s “house where you live” (Ps 26:8). In all the other passages, the object of the psalmist’s love is either God’s “commands” (Ps 119:47, 48, 127), God’s “law” (Ps 119:97, 113, 163), God’s “statutes” (Ps 119:119, 167), God’s “promises” (Ps 119:140), and God’s “precepts” (Ps 119:159). This substitution of God’s law for the person of God is fascinating. It is as if loving the Torah is equated to loving God. While some might wish to construe this as a form of idolatry (bibliolatry), that would be incorrect. There is something else going on. The psalmist was very conscious of the repeated exhortations to loving God found in the Torah. And the ancient Israelites would have immediately noted this stunning substitution. It may well be that by doing so, the psalmist is offering us a profound insight into the divine nature of the written Word, an insight that should keep us from too confidently asserting the clean but perhaps artificial distinction between the written Word and the living Word of God. It is almost as if the psalmist seeks to flag a kind of symbiosis between the written Word and God himself. I am obviously not the first person to signal the human/divine nature of Scripture, but I thought it would be helpful to note it again in this context. The New Testament is no stranger to this extraordinary relationship between the Word and Jesus. In John 1, Jesus is identified 7 https://www.bruxy.com/anabaptism/radical-christians-the-word-ofgod-part-2-of-3-inerrancy/. 8 Unless otherwise indicated, all Bible citations are from the New International Version (2011).
as the Word that was from the very beginning with God. We have here a direct allusion to Jesus as the living Word. In Hebrews 4:12, we have an allusion to the written Word, not as something that is inert and in some sort of dualistic relationship to the living Word, but as a dynamic reality: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul describes the Scriptures as “God-breathed” (theopneustos). Is Paul simply using the expression as a clever rhetorical device to underline the authority of Scripture, or is he perhaps referring to this mysterious quality that the psalmist recognized in the Torah? Didn’t Isaiah allude to that same quality when he wrote: “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11). Matthew 5:18 gives us a profound insight into Jesus’ own attitude towards Scripture: “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” The apostle John echoes this posture towards the revelation he receives from God in Revelation 22:6, 18-19, where he refers to “these words” as “trustworthy and true” and proclaims a curse on those who would add or take away from “the words of the prophecy.” In John 16:13-15, Jesus tells his disciples something remarkable about the revelation they will soon receive: But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD
To proclaim that the Bible is without errors is a foundational statement of principle that is
This passage is extremely important in intended to govern our most terms of clarifying the status of Scripture. Jesus is saying that the authority that is his fundamental attitude towards will be vested in the revelation they will receive from the Holy Spirit. the biblical text. There are two things that we can safely note. First, the sharp distinction many Anabaptist intellectuals make between the written Word and the living Word probably needs to be significantly blunted. As for the concept of inerrancy, I think we are fully justified in applying the word to the written Word as the biblical text. If we approach the well as the living Word. If we believe, as Cavey asserts, that Jesus Bible with the assumption that Scripis the ture is the inspired, authoritative, “authoritative, inerrant, infallible Word of God,” I fail to see why inerrant, and infallible “Word of our those same qualifiers cannot be legitimately applied to the written Lord,” as the great philosopher, Alvin Word of God. Plantinga, often wrote, we will have no This is where the idea of inerrancy as a fortified outpost choice but to give it the benefit of the becomes interesting. It has become remarkably easy for an doubt and work hard at understanding increasing number of Christians to routinely state that the Bible is the biblical text on its own terms. in error when its teachings conflict with the cultural hegemony. As I conclude what represents a plea For instance. Since the theory of evolution clashes with Genfor a renewed belief in the authority of esis 1, the text must therefore be in error. Since Joshua’s portrayal the written word, I want to clarify that of God commanding the Israelites to conquer Canaan collides with I am not advocating for an inclusion of the position that war is always wrong, the book of Joshua must the word inerrancy in the MB confestherefore be in error. Since the creation account’s assertion that sion of faith at this time. I do, however, there are only two sexes, male and female, is clearly in conflict wish to underline that the reference to with the contemporary view of multiple and fluid genders, Genesis the infallibility of Scripture in the Con1 must therefore be in error. Since Paul’s indictment of same-sex fession of faith also flags our belief in an relationships sharply contradicts the contemporary view of the inspired text that is indeed from error. same, Romans 1 must therefore be wrong. And the list goes on. My hope is that this short reflection Normally, our view of the Bible as the inspired Word of God on the doctrine of inerrancy will have should be sufficient to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt. But served to highlight again the extraordithat is unfortunately proving not to be case. To use my earlier metnary human/divine nature of Scripture aphor, the border has been breached. Even in conservative circles, and its authority as we navigate these the doctrine of inspiration is proving to be inadequate to resist the uncertain times. erosion of biblical authority. We now have no choice but to mobilize the outpost and appeal explicitly to the inerrant nature of Scripture both to boost our confidence in Scripture and resist the cultural colonialism we are experiencing. To believe in the inerrancy of Scripture does not eliminate the PIERRE GILBERT difficulties that are inherent to an ancient text.9 To proclaim that is Associate Professor of Bible and the Bible is without errors is a foundational statement of principle Theology at Canadian Mennonite that is intended to govern our most fundamental attitude towards University.
9 The prominent philosopher, J. P. Moreland, offers an excellent reflection on this subject in “The Rationality of Belief in Inerrancy,” Trinity Journal (1986): 75-86 (https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_inerrancy_moreland.html).
M B H E R A L D.C O M
fter a summer of heat, fire, drought, grave-discovery, elections, limited travel, and COVID swings, we are back to the usual cycle of fall: school, church, back to more normal work schedules, and the fall holidays. A new “church year” has begun. In line with providing an opportunity for some rest, typically our conference work “slows down some” with fewer meetings. However, we are now back in gear, and it is time to provide a brief update on “things Canadian Conference.”
June National Assembly Highlights We held our second virtual National Assembly with some 214 delegates and approximately 30 guests. We made key decisions including: approval of General Operating Bylaws, a revision to Confession of Faith Article 8 on Baptism and Membership, approval of a new Mission Statement and the Collaborative Unified Strategic Plan (CUSP), review and approval of Financial Statements as well as the Budget. The overall reports indicate that CCMBC is in a healthier financial and relational position. Click here to view National Assembly reports National Ministry Team Retreat August 24-27, our NMT met face-to-face for the first time in over a year. The focus was on reconnecting, recommitting to our joint Confession and mission, and working on plans to implement the four priorities of our new CUSP: Spiritual Health and Theology, ˚ Leadership ˚ Mission, andDevelopment, ˚ Organizational Health.
Fall 2021 CCMBC EXECUTIVE BOARD UPDATE A document called Operationalizing the CUSP Phase 1 is making its rounds to provincial and agency boards for feedback and will come to the Executive Board for affirmation and approval in November 2021. Click here to view The CUSP Executive Board Meeting Highlights September 9, 2021, the Executive Board launched its work for the coming year, still virtually and now adding members of the NMT as guests. Our key focus points were: the projects and plans from our teams ˚ Collecting and committees for the 2021-2022 year; Doing a Board evaluation; ˚ Establishing priorities for the National ˚ Director and key national office for the year; Scheduling meetings for the coming year; and ˚ Connecting the Multiply Board through its ˚ Chair, Wendiwith Thiessen. Key project priorities for us this year will include: Operationalizing the CUSP, ˚ Preparing Strategic Partnership Agreements ˚ with all partners in the CUSP, MOU’s with our three Partner organi˚ Renewing zations: Legacy, MB Seminary, and Multiply, Strengthening our relationships with Provinces ˚ and Partners, reduction and Reserve-building, ˚ Debt Revising several policy and governance ˚ documents, our Website and Web-presence. ˚ Rebuilding Reviewing our salary and benefits for ˚ CCMBC staff.
MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD
Some other matters we are working on this year include following up on recommendations related to Multiply and preparing resources related to Indigenous Relations. The NFLT recently hired Ken Esau as Interim NFLT Director to provide leadership coverage during Ingrid’s leave. Ken’s start date was October 1, 2021. The Executive Board also looks forward to meeting in person twice this year: November 4-6 in BC, and April 7-9, 2022 in Winnipeg.
K E Y D AT E S Virtual Mini Equip (November 19-20, 2021) Due to Ingrid’s leave, the NFLT has decided to postpone the planned event, but offer a mini-version on the theme: Engaging in Healthy Conversations around Difficult Issues in the Church with keynote speaker, Dr. David Fitch. This event will take place over two days beginning Friday evening with one 90-minute session and Saturday with two 90-minute sessions. Registration and detailed information can be found at equip.mennonitebrethren.ca PCO (Pastor’s Credentialing Orientation) The National Faith & Life Team will be hosting two PCO events this year. October 27-29, 2021, will be an in-person event in St. Catharines, ON. The highlight for this event will be the credentialing of our first seven First Nations pastors and leaders who have completed the First Nations Credentialing Track. A virtual PCO event will take place monthly over the course of four Thursdays beginning on November 4, 2021 and ending February 3, 2022. This event is made available to participants across the country and
may contain a local in-person graduation ceremony hosted by individual provinces. For more information and registration visit pco. mennonitebrethren.ca National Councils This includes Board members from all Provinces, Partner Organizations, and the Executive Board to monitor progress on decisions by the Conference and offer discernment on key decisions and plans as they are prepared for the next National Assembly November 17, 2021 from 6:00 – 8:00 PM CST February 17, 2022 from 6:00 – 8:00 PM CST National Townhalls These are open to our wider Church family as anyone from our churches can attend. The focus is on offering an opportunity to dialogue about key issues, plans, or challenges we face together. January 20, 2022 from 6:00 – 8:00 PM CST April 21, 2022 from 6:00 – 8:00 PM CST Check our website for more details and registration information in the months ahead. National Assembly (June 8-11, 2022) We want to continue to offer our National Assembly as a virtual experience allowing for more participation from church delegates across the country. We are in the process of determining whether an in-person gathering will be possible.
is the Moderator of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches.
CCM BC E XECUTIVE BOARD Officers
Members at Large:
Moderator: Ron Penner
BCMB: Rob Thiessen
National Director: Elton DaSilva
Asst. Moderator: Sharon Simpson
NFLT Director: Ingrid Reichard
Secretary: Reg Toews
Karen Grace Pankratz
ABMB: Paul Loewen
Treasurer: Michael Dick
SKMB: Phil Gunther
Legacy CEO: Jason Krueger
MBCM: Cam Priebe
CFO: Bertha Dyck
ONMB: Ed Willms
Executive Assistant: Kara Friesen
Quebec: Richard Lougheed
AEFMQ: Richard Lougheed
Ontario: Karen West
Rob Dyck (MB Seminary)
MB Seminary: Mark Wessner
Manitoba: Ruth Schellenberg
Ron Willms (Legacy)
Multiply: Lloyd Letkeman
Saskatchewan: Phil Gunther
Dan Guggenheimer (Legacy)
Alberta: Tim Doerksen BC: Sharon Simpson
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Finish lines KAROLYN ANNE TOEWS Karolyn’s early years were filled with regular family gatherings, piano lessons, church activities, and family camping trips. Childhood was full of joy. She graduated from Eden Christian College in Virgil, Ont., in 1985, then went on to university studies in Winnipeg in 1986. Her undergraduate studies in music (ARCT piano), theology, and liberal arts culminated in a Professional Development Plan teacher certification from Simon Fraser University in 1990. This led to a 31-year teaching career in the Abbotsford School District, many of them in Matsqui, B.C., a community that found its way deep into her heart. She embraced kids and the act of discovery and experienced rich friendships with colleagues. Telling stories and inviting imagination were unquenchable passions. Karolyn met Gary in Winnipeg at MB Bible College in 1986. Their common gifts and love of music brought them together. They were married in 1987 in Niagara-onthe-Lake, Ont., and began married life in Abbotsford, B.C., Gary’s hometown. Karolyn embraced motherhood with her whole heart. Easter egg hunts, homemade birthday cakes, and walks at the Mission Abbey marked the rhythm of their
family life. From early childhood, she desired to know and follow the One who made her. Karolyn anchored her life in Jesus. She sought out faith communities where serving and learning went hand in hand. Many pages in her books and Bible display careful notations. Questions. Exclamations. And affirmations. She was a seeker, a thinker, and a lover of truth. She knew God’s love for her was secure. Karolyn was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, beginning a journey that was painful and hard. However, in the midst of this, Karolyn took on a posture of learning and acceptance. She completed her masters degree; she read, reflected, collected sets of her favourite children’s books, and wrote about her faith. She was living in the dying. Karolyn will be remembered for her insatiable passion for teaching, undeniable love of her family, probing love of God, and exuberant delight in nature, learning, and friendship. Birth: January 2, 1966 Birthplace: St. Catharines, Ont. Death: September 7, 2021 Parents: John & Anne Koop Married: Gary Toews, 1987 Family: Gary; children Rachel, Julia, Emily, Josiah (Lily); her mother; sisters Kathryn (David) Balzer; Judith (Jo) Voth; Andrea (J) Janzen; nieces & nephews Church: South Abbotsford (B.C.); Arnold (B.C.) Community; Highland Community, Abbotsford, B.C. Baptism: Orchard Park Bible, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., 1982
MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD
A moment in time
DARTMOUTH , NS, 1989
Sandy Dyck and Kerry Dyck tell the Thanksgiving children story at Cornerstone Community Church (1972-2000). For more information on the history of Cornerstone Community Church, visit cmbs.mennonitebrethren.ca Courtesy of the Mennonite Archival Information Database
M B H E R A L D.C O M
S U B S C R I B E T O M B H E R A L D D I G E S T W W W. M B H E R A L D . C O M / S U B S C R I B E -V I A - E M A I L
Sixty years of sharing the life & story of the Mennonite Brethren in Canada