AUGUST 2022 MBHERALD.COM
More than sixty years of sharing the life & story of the Mennonite Brethren in Canada
Abortion, the image of God, and faithful witness for Jesus MB Confession of Faith Article 14. The Sanctity of Human Life By Ken Esau
VO LU M E 61 , N O. 8 SEARCHING FOR SEBASTIAN T H E WA K E I M A K E P R AY E R S AT U R AT I O N
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.
Digest AU G U S T 202 2 | VO LU M E 61 , N O. 8 EDITORIAL OFFICE 1310 Taylor Avenue Winnipeg, Manitoba R3M 3Z6 Phone: 204-669-6575 Toll-free in Canada: 888-669-6575 MBHERALD@MBCHURCHES.CA W W W. M B H ER ALD.CO M
LEADING QUIETLY Jason Krueger
SEARCHING FOR SEBASTIAN Israel Chavez
“I’M SORRY” Rev. Philip Gunther
CHOOSING MOTHERHOOD Leanne Bellamy
The Mennonite Brethren Herald is a publication of
CANADIAN CONFERENCE OF MENNONITE BRETHREN CHURCHES
CONFÉRENCE DES ÉGLISE DES FRÈRES MENNONITES
“ANY CHANCE YOU MIGHT BE EXPECTING A GOLDFISH?” Pierre and Monika Gilbert ABORTION, THE IMAGE OF GOD, AND FAITHFUL WITNESS FOR JESUS Ken Esau A MATTER OF LOVE Stephanie Christianson
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Sharing the life and story of Mennonite Brethren in Canada
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From the editor ur family enjoys camping; we try to get away a few times every summer, four humans and two dogs crammed into a ten-foot tent trailer. You'll have to believe me; it's better than it sounds. When we settle to sleep, we often hear the conversations of other campers— sometimes murmurs around a campfire, occasionally rowdy shenanigans. The lake amplifies sounds, and so does open space, voices bouncing off the trees and making their way back to us. We witness this same effect online. I can't think of a more perilous place to discuss theology than on social media. Still, today, these platforms are all but impossible to avoid. It wasn't that long ago that we as a denomination would gather in person to discuss topics of theology and interpret scripture as a community. But in what seems like a blink of an eye, that was stripped away from us. We are only now beginning to re-orientate ourselves to being in person. To fill the void, we replaced our gatherings—our encircled campfires—with the echo chamber of social media. Social networks have been around for some time, but we doubled down with little else available. So it is with some caution that MB Herald Digest presents four articles on abortion in this issue. This topic has been widely debated, most recently on the heels of the US Supreme Court decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, removing federal protection of abortion.
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However, we don't back down from voicing our convictions based on the word of God given to us through the life of Jesus Christ. I encourage you to read all four articles carefully, as they offer a breadth of perspective and thoughtful scripture reflection. I sincerely thank Leanne, Pierre, Monika, Ken, and Stephanie for contributing. At over thirty pages, August is our biggest issue since going digital. We may soon need to remove the 'Digest' from our name. I hope you've made room for MB Herald on your summer reading list. I also ask that if you feel led to respond to any of our content, you reach out to us and let us know your thoughts. If you're enjoying MB Herald, please forward it to a friend and ask them to subscribe using one of the options peppered throughout the magazine. As always, my gratitude to this month's contributors and advertisers. And especially to you, reader, for supporting and sharing the life and story of the Mennonite Brethren in Canada. With respect,
MB Herald Digest is produced for you. These are your stories from the Mennonite Brethren community and we want a variety of voices to be heard. Tell us what stories and topics you want to read about by sending us a message here.
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Jim Bell, incoming CCMBC Legacy Fund Inc. CFO,
CCMBC Legacy Fund appoints new CFO I’m pleased to announce the appointment of Jim Bell as CFO of CCMBC Legacy Fund, its subsidiaries, and CCMBC, effective September 1, 2022. The search committee is grateful for your prayer support. We believe the Lord has led us to Jim as the right individual to enhance and provide financial oversight to positively impact the ministry of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. Jim succeeds Bertha Dyck, retiring on October 15, 2022, after faithfully serving our MB family for 32 years. Jim most recently served as CEO of Siloam Mission and is the former President/ COO/VP Finance & Administration of Winnipeg Football Club. Jim is a CPA/CGA and earned a Bachelor of Commerce (Hons) from the University of Manitoba. Jim resides in Winnipeg and is an active member of Eastview Community Church. Jim writes, “As a servant leader, I place significant emphasis on building solid relationships with all stakeholders and staff. I look forward to serving alongside our conference leadership, serving our MB family, and glorifying our Lord.” Please join me in welcoming Jim as CFO, and I invite you to support him in prayer as he begins his ministry in our MB family. MICHAEL DICK,
Board Chair of CCMBC Legacy Fund Inc.
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CCMBC LEGACY SEEKS A RECEPTIONIST & FA C I L I T I E S C O O R D I N AT O R
CCMBC Legacy Fund Inc. (Legacy), an associated charity of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (CCMBC), is seeking a fulltime Receptionist/Facilities Coordinator for all ministry partner agencies at 1310 Taylor Avenue in Winnipeg. See the full employment listing here
Transition in CCMBC National Faith and Life leadership CCMBC would like to announce that Ingrid Reichard is no longer the Director of the National Faith and Life Team (NFLT). Ingrid has served our conference over a number of years and in several capacities: MB Seminary Board Member, then as Director of our National Faith and Life Team. During that time, she helped us develop a strong team of provincial and “at large” reps, coordinate policies and procedures, revise a Confession of Faith article, and run several national study events. Over the past year or so, while Ingrid has been on leave, the role of NFL Director has been filled in an interim capacity by CBC faculty member, Ken Esau. Elton Da Silva, CCMBC National Director and colleague reflects, “I want to personally thank Ingrid for her many valuable contributions to our family of churches, particularly her care and oversight of our confessional agreements. I pray God’s grace and wisdom as she takes on new challenges and opportunities.” We thank Ingrid for her contribution to our larger family and wish her well.
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Leading quietly BY JASON KRUEGER
like to think leaders are loud and bold. We see leaders as those who take charge of a situation and are quick to make decisions. They are placed in positions of power where everyone can see their talents. But when we look at our leader, Christ Jesus, he does not fit the description. Jesus did not announce himself or stand on a podium, he washed the feet of others and left the crowds to pray in private. Jesus was a servant leader. Jesus says in Matthew 20:26-28, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The good news is servant leadership does not require any special skill or talent, it simply requires you offer what you have. Jason Krueger recognized this “servant leader” quality in his younger brother, a story he told at his 2018 graduation from Guelph’s Leadership program. Jason’s brother and parents were in the audience but were unaware of what Jason was going to share in honour of him.
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“Jim’s congenital condition is mostly hidden from plain sight. Partially obscured is the fact that he is also a leader. He volunteers selflessly and cares for others in a way that I have seldom observed.”
The following story from my first residential week illustrates a number of leadership constructs that became even more meaningful to me during the Leadership program. In one of our papers, we were asked to reflect upon and write about our learnings this first week that most profoundly changed our understanding of leadership. My younger brother Jim was blessed with a congenital condition called Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum, or “ACC”. The corpus callosum is the largest connective pathway between the left and right hemispheres in the brain. In order to process information, coordinate movement, or think about complex information, the hemispheres need to communicate. It’s not the only pathway, but it is the most important one. Jim doesn’t have a corpus callosum. Behavioral characteristics of ACC include:
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Delays in attaining developmental milestones including walking, talking, and reading; Poor motor coordination; Difficulties on multidimensional tasks; Challenges with social interactions; Atypical sensitivity to particular sensory cues.
Medicine has made many advancements in the last 47 years, but when he was a baby, the doctors told mom and dad they believed Jim would never speak, would not see, would not walk, nor be able to feed himself. As the years passed, mom and dad were determined to see Jim succeed to the best of his potential. When Jim was 16, the support of numerous specialists at The Alberta Children’s Hospital was ending. In the final report from this group, the physician who spoke on their behalf said that had it not been for the love and support of his parents, Jim would not have reached such a high level of functioning.
Jim received his high school equivalency diploma when he was 18. Jim’s congenital condition is mostly hidden from plain sight. Partially obscured is the fact that he is also a leader. He volunteers selflessly and cares for others in a way that I have seldom observed. He has poured his time into organizations including STARS Air Ambulance, The Salvation Army, Alberta Children’s Hospital, and The Foothills Hospital where alone he has given more than 5,000 hours. At present he volunteers at an adult supportive living facility by sharing tea and conversing with residents. His is a life of service to others. He gives the ethic of time and demonstrates empathy. He has a massive "third ear," the ear of empathy. Sometimes leadership is not readily apparent. He leads quietly. It is my qualified opinion that although Jim was diagnosed with Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum, he also presents as Servus Ducis – the servant leader. Isn’t it amazing that in spite of what he does not possess, he is able to be a leader with what he does possess? Isn’t it amazing that through determination, compassion, commitment, and love, my parents were able to lead Jim towards success? Believe me – I have always known who my brother is, but it was through the purposeful act of reflection that I first understood him to be a leader. I encourage you to pour into others’ lives, and to make use of what you have been given. Jim lives a life of quiet servant leadership. He doesn't mope over the things he cannot do, he gives where he can with what he has. That is a lesson we could all learn. Use the tools you already have and lead where God has placed you. JASON KRUEGER
is the president and CEO of CCMBC Legacy Fund Inc. and CCMBC Investments Ltd.
MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD
SEARCHING FOR SEBASTIAN A L E T T E R F R O M F AT H E R T O S O N BY I S R A E L C H AV E Z
knew you were out there somewhere, mi hijo (my son). I just had to find you. How could I give up? God never gave up looking for me. When God first spoke to us about B Y Ryou— E V. P H I L I P this child we were meant to find—your mother and I understood that adoption is very close to the heart of our God. He is the God of orphans and widows and the poor, you know. When she was young, your mother even imagined adopting a child from every nation in the world. It was a beautiful dream. When we first married, we asked God to lead us in the journey of becoming a family. After one year, he spoke to us from the Bible through a letter written by a man named Paul. He wrote that we who belong to Jesus are all adopted, brought into sonship through the Holy Spirit. That word “adoption” stayed in our heads. We knew that God was calling us to search for you. The search was exciting, difficult, and sometimes a little scary. We did not know even what you looked like, or what your name was. What color were your eyes? Who
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were your friends? How old were you? So many unknowns. We could not do this alone; we needed others to help us, and God provided many kind and wise people to guide our A . G Usteps. NTHER There were our missionary friends, Dallas and Terra, who had already adopted two children. They gave us a whole binder of things to learn—it was a little overwhelming! There was this course we had to take, studying hard so that we would be good parents. It was intense and we were worried we would not pass. There was so much paperwork, and we grew tired and discouraged. But there was our church and our families reminding us that God was leading us and that we should not give up. There was this lady named Paola, a psychologist who helped us prepare to become a family. And then there was Nora, from Family Services, who helped us find you at long last. So many cities, so many states—we had searched everywhere— and in the end it turned out that you were living only two blocks from our house! For five years, just around the corner. The time came to meet you face-to-face.
You would laugh, mi hijo, if you had seen us getting ready that day. Your mother spent hours choosing her clothing, styling her hair, and I spent hours picking out a special toy. What would a five-year-old like? I imagined playing with you, and I rehearsed what I would say to you. I did not want you to feel afraid, but to feel loved, wanted. Is this how God wants us to feel, I wondered, when he meets with us? I think so. At the orphanage, we waited, we prayed, we fidgeted, and then there you were, walking through the doorway. That face, that smile! Our hearts were pounding. We said hello and began to play together. Did you notice my tears? I could not stop them, the whole time that we were playing. Something woke up inside of me. I thought to myself, I will care for him, protect him, and love him forever. Afterward, it was hard to leave you, but we came back to the orphanage the next day, and the next. Day after day, until you were familiar with us. Then came the day when you were asked, would you like to have a sleepover with Israel and Sandra? Your eyes shone as you nodded, yes. We made pizza together and ate popcorn in our pajamas. Do you remember? After we put you to bed, your mother and I stayed awake all night, in case you might be afraid. When we heard you cry in the wee hours of the morning, we rushed into your room. We held you close and cried with you. You are not alone, we told you. We will never leave you. I think you believed us, because
some days later at the orphanage, when you were asked if you would like us to be your parents, there was no hesitation. You flung yourself at me. I hugged you tight, and said your name over and over: Sebastian, Sebastian. Suddenly you pulled away. That is not my name, you told me. Don’t call me that! We were surprised. Then you said, My name is mi hijo. Yes, mi hijo—my son. That is your name.
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are serving with Multiply at the Matthew Training Center in Guadalajara, Mexico. Sandra, from Canada, has been serving in Mexico since 2007. Several years ago, she met Israel who was the pastor of RETO Pinar Church in Guadalajara. The couple married two years ago and now pastor and serve together.
P R AY Please pray for Israel and Sandra as they welcome Sebastian into their lives. Ask God to bless this new family with an abundance of his love, goodness, and grace. To stay current with prayer requests from Multiply’s workers all over the world, subscribe to the Daily Prayer Guide at multiply.net/dpg
“My heart is so full. I want God to bless every single person who touched this house. We just love and appreciate everything that God has done. We love you all so much.” — HERMAN SHIMPOCK
You can be the hands and feet of Jesus for disaster survivors by volunteering or donating to MDS! www.mds.org | 800-241-8111
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Pope Francis addresses a “deplorable evil.” B Y R E V. P H I L I P A . G U N T H E R
“ I E X P R E S S M Y D E E P S H A M E A N D S O R R OW. . . I H U M B LY B E G F O R F O R G I V E N E S S . ” POPE FRANCIS
Historic. A beginning. A day to listen. An act of repentance. An apology heard around the world. Profound and personal. These are a sample of the sentiments used to describe Pope Francis’ apology to First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples on July 25th in Maskwacis, Alberta. Maskwacis is the site of the former Ermineskin Residential School. The pope spent six days in Canada. The last papal visit took place in 1984 (Pope John Paul II). Chief Wilton Littlechild started the opening event by stating, “Your holiness, welcome to our land.” In his address, Pope Francis shared that he came with a “deep sense of pain and remorse.”
“ SO MANY OF US ARE SO H E ARTB ROKEN .” M AV I S J O H N S O N , R E S I D E N T I A L S C H O O L S U RV I VO R
The pontiff, appearing frail and somber, told listeners that the church kneels before God seeking forgiveness for, “a disastrous error… incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus.” Pope Francis was unequivocal in describing the role of many Catholics in residential schools as being a source of great harm and abuse; this was not the way of Jesus. “ I FO RG IV E YO U.” M A RY N O R T H W E S T, R E S I D E N T I A L S C H O O L S U RV I VO R
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A striking moment of the visit was the pope’s return of the children’s moccasins made and given to him by Marie-Ann Day months earlier. They were given to the pope at the Vatican. It was there that the pope was personally invited to come to Canada and ask forgiveness for the church’s efforts to destroy the culture of the First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples. On that earlier visit he was asked by Day to return the moccasins when he came to Canada. Although for a notable number the pope’s apology was a healing experience, one should be cognizant that the response to the pope’s visit and words was dramatically mixed. Some called it a heartfelt effort at reconciliation, others a disingenuous and hypocritical spectacle of a toxic religious institution. The Pope’s failure to renounce the Doctrine of Discovery and Terra Nullius, his unwillingness to give authorities information on suspected sexual offenders under his oversight, and the failure to acknowledge the culpability of the Catholic Church as an institution, being evidence of the latter. Where there is unanimous agreement is that this apology is just the beginning of a pathway to reconciliation. Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation Chief Tony Alexis summed it up best when he remarked, “You can’t just say I’m sorry and walk away. There has to be effort. There has to be work and more meaningful action behind it.” “ EVERY SURVIVOR WILL CHOOSE HOW THEY FEEL A B O U T T H E A P O L O G Y.” A FN R EG I O NA L CH I E F CI N DY WOO D H O US E
In the evening of the same day, during his visit at Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in Edmonton, Pope Francis preached, “Reconciliation is a gift from the Lord Jesus. …Jesus’ reconciliation came through the cross (tree of life)…Peace is found at the cross…The church is the living body of reconciliation – a house of
so sorry reconciliation.” Hearing the pope’s sermon, former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Phil Fontaine, commented, “We will never reach reconciliation without forgiveness.” Governor General of Canada Mary Simon added, “Reconciliation is a grace that must be earned through continuous hard work and understanding; it is our sacred responsibility.” “OUR OWN EFFORTS ARE NOT ENOUGH; WE N EED GOD’ S G R ACE .” POPE FRANCIS
For the Mennonite Brethren faith community in Canada, the pope’s “penitential pilgrimage” is a moment in history that we need to treat with humility and open hearts. There is something here that we need to hear about suffering, generational pain, forgiveness, and reconciliation. In the September issue of MB Herald Digest, more space will be given to a variety of voices. They will speak to Pope Francis’ pilgrimage, his words and the responses that have arisen among the First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples. Commentary is also expected regarding the Mennonite Brethren church’s current opportunity to weigh our own need for reconciliation with our indigenous neighbours. We will be asked to wrestle with questions like: What is the Holy Spirit saying to us as a denomination? What is the Holy Spirit saying to us as disciples of Jesus? How can the gospel speak into this event? The unwavering confession of the Mennonite Brethren is that the gospel – Jesus himself – is the only true, complete and lasting means of reconciliation between all peoples (Ephesians 2).
the pope said, “im sorry i sent a uselss sack of scallop potatoes.” he said indian agents would give daddy a roll of twine, a box of shells and whiskey. the spirits crawled inside my daddy and never left. he sent blankets and my babies died. he sent wooden sticks with a dead man to hang around my neck. he said if i prayed to you, jesus, ate your body, drank your blood, threw out my bannock, lived on my knees counting stones, i’d never be without my family... POEM BY LOUISE BERNICE HALFE C A N A D A’ S I N D I G E N O U S PA R L I A M E N TA R Y P O E T L A U R E AT E
“J E S U S L E A D S U S F R O M F A I L U R E TO HOPE AN D H E ALING .” POPE FRANCIS, SAINT ANNE DE BEAUPRE BASILICA
In 2014, our denominational Executive Director Willy Reimer signed onto a joint Statement of Anabaptist Leaders following the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This timely and compelling document read in part, “We commit ourselves to walk with you, listening and learning together as we journey to a healthier and more just tomorrow.” For now, let me leave you with Chief George Arcand Jr.’s appeal to all citizens of Canada after the pope’s address, “Keep our people in your hearts and in your prayers.” At the very least, we as the people of Jesus can honour this petition.
“ W E R EG R E T O U R PA R T I N T H E A S S I M I L AT I O N P R O C E S S .” 2 0 1 4 S TAT E M E N T O F A N A B A P T I S T L E A D E R S
R E V. P H I L I P A . G U N T H E R
Saskatchewan Director of Ministry
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Choosing motherhood The sacrifice of honouring life By Leanne Bellamy
ifteen years ago, a friend sent me an email with these lines from Isaiah 54: “you will forget the shame of your youth… For your Maker is your husband.” I am sending this to all of my friends who are single moms, she wrote. What do you think of it? Her email made me angry with God. I was weary, struggling to build my life again, to get an education, and to fit in with the childless young adults or the married mothers at the church we were attending. And my family was still broken. My children needed a father and I needed to be loved and while God’s promises to Israel were profound in their cosmic stature, they seemed impossibly removed from the mundane difficulties of loneliness and poverty and shame that came with single-parenting. I never wanted to be a mother, much less a single one. My own mother had nurtured me in a sense of shame, which for several years I misinterpreted as a strength, at the thought of resembling or aspiring to anything traditionally feminine. Both my parents, who never could agree on much, treated “girl things” as either uninteresting, or worse, shallow and devious, a message that was
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reinforced by the infamous “girl politics” at school and the general ethos of lower working-class prairie culture, where a girl could earn respect with her fists if she wasn’t as quick with her tongue. Ripening sexuality offered another kind of power, alluring but conflicted by its own disgraces. Beauty was admired but could also invite vicious attacks. Boys attended to girls whose looks, dress, and confidence suggested sexual availability, but used and mocked those who made too good on that promise. Movies and magazines encouraged emulation of impossible female perfection, contributing to a nagging sense of one’s unique and innate
My own mother had nurtured me in a sense of shame, which for several years i misinterpreted as a strength, at the thought of resembling or aspiring to anything traditionally feminine.
inadequacy. Sex education presumed promiscuity while wagging its finger at those of us who followed the advice. And always there lurked the spectre of the teenage pregnancy, girls swollen from their mistakes and facing certain diminishment of their prospects as successful persons. Banished from the carnival of a secular nineties adolescence, they disappeared into parents’ basements and dropped out or left for schools that could accommodate their “circumstances.” The general consensus, congruent with the greater cultural sense that female empowerment was something to be pursued outside of the home, was that their decision to keep the baby was an admirable but tragic one. The word abortion wasn’t shouted so loudly then. It was uttered when necessary, low like the names of the swollen girls, but understood to be the least desirable of the better options: condoms, birth control, the morning-after pill. Girls who failed to keep themselves out of trouble by these methods could reclaim their lives if it was allowed by their parents and if they could make up their minds before the window of choosing was shuttered. No one discussed what would happen afterward if you chose an abortion. It wasn’t something you advertised. I was twenty, flirting with a severe and worsening drug and alcohol habit, glorying in a romance that was yet to darken into abuse, and enrolled in my first year of university when the predictable finally happened. Returning to school was an attempt, after nearly a decade of partying and broken relationships, to get my life moving in a forward direction. Along with a distain for feminine women (by which I meant women who regularly wore high heels, fought one another with words, and wanted nothing more interesting than to marry and raise children), I had entered adulthood with a deep respect for “the educated,” and school seemed like the best way to lift myself out of the past and beyond the stifling opportunities otherwise available to women. Pregnancy threatened to ruin everything. When I told my parents, they were supportive, promising to provide as best they could or to pay for an abortion or even drive me to a different province where I would have more time to make up my mind. My boyfriend promised to marry me if I kepy the baby and to leave me if I didn’t. But everyone was clear - the final decision was mine. The choice, as I understood it, was between my life and the life of the baby that I couldn’t yet even feel inside of me. I remember lying on my back testing my belly with my fingers, trying to feel this alien thing I knew was inside of me and straining to persuade myself of what I had been assured: this is not yet a baby. Abortion is not murder. You can stop this from happening to you. You can do what you want to do.
I didn’t understand it then, but to choose whether to abort turns on a certain question of freedom: am I free to serve myself, to choose what I want without committing myself to some greater reality that transcends my personal desires? Or is my freedom a kind of consent, a decision to partner with the reality of either life or death, and to give myself, who I will become, over to its consequences? Laying there, with my fingers pressed against my skin, a voice chimed in my heart, calm and clear as anything I have ever heard out loud: it is a human being and if you kill it, you will not be forgiven. I knew with certainty this was God and that He was telling me the truth. The words were gentle but they cut deep to the heart of what it means to be and act in the universe. They terrified me. And I knew, however reluctantly, that I must lay down my own life to honour the life inside of me. For a long time afterwards, things were as bad as everyone had promised. I learned I was carrying twins, I had to drop out of school, and I couldn’t work. When the nurse tried to hand me my son after the delivery, I refused to look at him for fear that what I was feeling would somehow imprint on him. The emotional abuse, which began before the twins were born, escalated in the weeks and months afterwards, and shattered my confidence as a mother and as a person. I was alone with the babies most of the time, rarely eating or sleeping, unable to produce enough milk, unequipped to deal with my
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Am I free to serve myself, to choose what I want without committing myself to some greater reality that transcends my personal desires? Or is my freedom a kind of consent, a decision to partner with the reality of either life or death, and to give myself, who I will become, over to its consequences?
daughter’s colic and constant crying. I thought about killing them, and then about killing myself. My parents supported us financially and sometimes emotionally, but as the months dragged on, I couldn’t see any possibility of hope or joy in the life I had chosen for us. I genuinely wondered if we would survive. And yet, even in those early days, God was using motherhood to nurture changes in me I never knew I needed. A local church offered parenting classes for new mothers that included coffee, adult conversation, and a blessed hour of free childcare. The classes taught me about relational and personal boundaries and the purpose of parental discipline. I began to attend to the inner lives of my children and later, recognize the abuse and ask their father to leave, which he did. Beating addiction requires that you care about something more than you care about getting high. When the twins were about two years old, I had a nightmare too horrid to describe. I saw the evil my choices were letting into their lives and woke up so shaken I determined to quit everything completely; soon after we began attending the church regularly and meeting with a spiritual mentor. I learned that I didn’t do real intimacy very well. But I would need to learn if I was going to be a good mother to my children. I began with training myself, standing over their cribs at night while they were sleeping and saying “I love you” out loud until, one day, I could finally say it without embarrassment. We say it easily now, to one another and all the time. It is a simple, profound joy. My daughter was a beautiful little girl, rough and tumble like me but also elegant, musical, and sensitive. One afternoon I was watching her twirl in a little pink dress in front of the mirror and realized that femininity isn’t imposed on girls but a gift given to us by God that she needed me to respect and nurture in her. As we grew together, I learned to see and respect it in the women who became my friends and, eventually, in myself. My son taught me there are limits to what I can do on my own as a woman. I am more masculine than many, but I saw in him a need for a hero and a friend only a man, a father, could provide. For both of them I had to learn to surrender my fears and needs for protection to our heavenly Father. However fierce the motherly instincts I had discovered were, I just couldn’t be everything they needed on my own. I was angry when I received that email from my friend, but I had come too far with God, with who he was shaping me to be, to turn back. I flung that anger at God in prayer and surrendered,
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with great difficulty, all the newly-awakened hopes and desires for a whole and holy family and life. Three months later, I met the man I would marry. There is a lot more I could share, about marriage and more children, about graduate school and accepting a faculty position at a tiny, unassuming Bible college that has none of the flash of the big universities but is a Christ-centred, servant-hearted, and fulfilling place I have learned to love. About losing a child. None of these things were a guarantee when I chose not to abort my babies, and that choice certainly has not preserved me from suffering. But none of it would have been possible if I had clung to my hopes for a life I thought I could build on my own. Everything good in my life now, my family, career, my comfort in grief, and the most difficult, transformative, fulfilling experience I have ever known, to become and be mother, is a consequence of my decision to partner with life over death. I no longer believe I would have been outside of God’s forgiveness if I had made a different decision. But I have learned enough about myself to know I would almost certainly have been outside my own. And that would have been death for me, and for the life God has formed for me. Choosing motherhood is not a zero-sum game, where if the baby wins, the mother loses everything or at least the best of what she could have had. Choosing motherhood is to embrace the call to give yourself away, to participate in the greatest love there is, and in so doing receive yourself back again, fully, wonderfully, in all the plans that God has made. LEANNE BELLAMY
is an instructor of Communication and Christian Literature at Horizon College and Seminary.
“Any chance you might be expecting a goldfish?” The image of God and the sanctity of human life By Pierre and Monika Gilbert
hen our daughter-in-law announced she was pregnant, it never occurred to anyone to ask whether our son and his wife might possibly be expecting a goldfish. We all knew it would be a boy or a girl, because the genetic information supplied at conception was human, and in nine months’ time, it would produce a bouncy little baby as surely as the sun rises in the east. On May 2, a leaked US Supreme Court draft majority opinion revealed that there was real possibility that the court might strike down the infamous 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal in the United States. On June 24, the US high court officially announced that the 1973 decision was indeed repealed. Not surprisingly, the left’s response has and continues to be swift, hysterical, and uncompromising.
When we learned of the Court’s decision, my wife and I were overcome with joy and gratefulness. We praised God, not only for the judicial integrity shown by the justices but most of all for the hundreds of thousands of lives who will be spared in the years to come. This is truly one of most significant decisions made by the Court in the last fifty years. Because of the extraordinary culture influence America still has, there is no telling how this decision will impact the rest of the world. Is this a sign of a reversal of the culture of death we have been witnessing since the ‘60s? Let’s pray and hope it will be. Why does such a demonstrably evil procedure (if you are not convinced it is, take a minute to imagine yourself about to be torn apart by a giant suction device) receive such zealous, near-religious devotion from so many
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people? While we must confess our inability invisible; unworthy even of a little wooden to fully answer this question, let’s see if we display tucked in a forgotten corner of the can take a stab at it. museum. We are referring to the unborn. Modern science reveals that what is in the In North America, those who have the miswomb is anything but a clump of cells. From fortune of being in the womb face an extremely the moment of conception, the few cells that precarious situation. In 1988, the Supreme have been miraculously infused with life conCourt of Canada removed all restrictions on tain the information abortion. Since then, nearly needed to produce a fully three million infants have developed baby. What many been terminated. In Amerpeople punctiliously call a ica, a little over 60 million If the lives of those we can see fetus is infinitely more than unborn babies have been and hear can so readily be a lump of flesh. Whether discarded since Roe v. Wade. they realize it or not, those In 2018, for example, the US eliminated, how much more who say otherwise do so for reported about 3,800,000 easily must it be for those who births. In the same year, reasons that are entirely remain unseen and unheard. nearly 900,000 abortions ideological. There are essentially were performed. That works two ways of looking at out to about 19 percent of human beings. There are children in utero being terthose who view men and women as having minated in those twelve months. intrinsic worth and dignity. They see humans Globally, abortions are performed on a as infinitely beyond and above nature, and scale that defies imagination. In China, offithey view the three-pound brain as the greatcial data put the number of abortions at around est asset on earth. This is a supremely beautiful 330 million (most of them girls) since the oneand world-changing idea, but historically child policy was enacted in 1978. Worldwide, about forty million abortions are performed speaking, a minority position that is unique each year. That may not seem like much as a to the Judeo-Christian worldview. percentage of the world’s population; but, to In contrast, there are those who see humans as parasites to be eradicated and put it into perspective, historians estimate humanity as an out-of-control evolutionary that about sixty million people were killed accident. At best, it is viewed as a commodity during World War II. Why do we deplore the latter number but ignore the former? to be used, exploited, and discarded when cirIf the lives of those we can see and hear cumstances require it. This, sadly, has been the default position throughout history. can so readily be eliminated, how much more The latter view sees no meaningful diseasily must it be for those who remain unseen tinction between humans and animals. It’s and unheard. To declare that all lives matter is easy to say but much harder to believe and all one and the same. If history teaches us anypractice. And that is because there is always thing, it is that human beings are the most th a “good” reason to sacrifice some lives to the expendable commodity there is. In the 20 ruling gods of the times. Ideology will trump century alone, about 100 million people were human life every time. killed because some leaders had a utopian There is only one BIG IDEA that guaranvision of the future. If implementing their great socialist vision required the death of tees the intrinsic worth and dignity of all tens of millions of men, women, and children, human beings. The BIG IDEA is the concept of so be it; the price of doing business. the image of God. The notion of the image of We in the West are of course above all that. God is one of the most formidable concepts to War is something that belongs to a barbaric ever appear in human history. The BIG IDEA era that we have left behind. We are very proud arose in one place and one place only: the Jewof our human rights legacy. Winnipeg is home ish Torah, and more specifically the Genesis creation text. to a museum devoted to the enshrinement of human rights. A praiseworthy achievement The most foundational affirmation of the of course, but in the end, perhaps somewhat sanctity of human life is found in Genesis 1:27: overstated. There is one class of human beings “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and that is absent from the museum and remains
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female he created them.1 only to God himself. It is so unprecedented and innovative that The incarnation of Jesus Christ represents it represents one of the most amazing proofs the most dramatic statement pertaining to of the divine origin of the text. With this in human dignity: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us (Jn. 1:14). mind, there are a couple of extraordinary concepts we must highlight. By becoming one of us, Christ brought First, the text does not suggest, as might infinite resolution to the notion of the image of be expected, that the image of God only applied God. When Christ became human, he transto the Hebrews; the declaration is universal. posed the concept of human dignity to an Second, the text does not say that the image infinite scale that now compels us to extend its full weight to all stages of God characterizes males of human existence. only. It unabashedly includes women. For a text that is For it was you who often accused of being patriformed my inward parts; Whether a person is a one-day archal, this is absolutely you knit me together in my old embryo or a comatose stunning. The Torah attrimother’s womb. 95-year old woman is irrelebutes this, the greatest of all I praise you, for I am human characteristics, to fearfully and wonderfully vant. Every single human both men and women. made. Wonderful are your being is endowed with intrinThe expression does not works; that I know very sic worth and dignity simply well. My frame was not primarily allude to divine attributes individual men hidden from you, when I on account of being human. and women may or may not was being made in secret, have; the image qualifies intricately woven in the humanity as a whole. It is depths of the earth. Your the human species that is eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the created in God’s image. The exceptional status days that were formed for me, when none of and protection that the “image” confers on all them as yet existed (Ps. 139:13-16). human beings (Genesis 9:6) is not contingent on whether any one individual displays those moral characteristics that have traditionally been associated with the image of God. Individual men and women benefit from PIERRE GILBERT this special status simply by virtue of belongis associate professor of Bible and Theology ing to the human race. Whether a person is a at Canadian Mennonite University. one-day old embryo or a comatose 95-year old woman is irrelevant. Every single human being MONIKA GILBERT is endowed with intrinsic worth and dignity is a retired assistant teacher and happy simply on account of being human. mother of three children and two grandchildren. The psalmist echoes the same truth in Psalm 8:4-5: “… what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. This text, written centuries before the rise of modern science, speaks more truthfully about the fact of our humanity than the average biology textbook. It consigns the human race to the highest position in the cosmos, next This article is the result of a joint effort of adaptation of two
1 Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New Revised Standard Version (1989).
previously published articles authored by Pierre Gilbert: 1) “Life Before Birth: Reconsidering the Status of the Unborn,” NFLT Pamphlet Series, CCMBC; 2) “On the Relationship between Biblical and Systematic Theology.” In Direction 49 (2020):178-193.
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Abortion, the image of God, and faithful witness for Jesus MB Confession of Faith Article 14. The Sanctity of Human Life By Ken Esau
We believe that all human life belongs to God. Each person is created in the image of God and ought to be celebrated and nurtured. Because God is Creator, the author and giver of life, we oppose all actions and attitudes which devalue human life. The unborn, disabled, poor, aging, and dying are particularly vulnerable to such injustices. Christ calls the people of all nations to care for the defenseless. God values human life highly. Ultimate decisions regarding life and death belong to God. Therefore, we hold that procedures designed to take life, including abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide, are an affront to God’s sovereignty. We esteem the life-sustaining findings of medical science, but recognize that there are limits to the value of seeking to sustain life indefinitely. In all complex ethical decisions regarding life and death, we seek to offer hope and healing, support and counsel in the context of the Christian community.
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don’t know of any words more inflammatory in public discourse today than those of “abortion,” “right to life,” and “pro-choice.” It is with great hesitation and a lot of humility that I want to pen a few reflections here on these topics which have recently taken over the news. (As a man, I want to express even more humility since I cannot truly understand women’s experiences and suffering as they face unwanted pregnancies. I hope that my tone and heart here point toward love, compassion, encouragement, blessing, and faithful witness to Jesus.) It is important to explain my presuppositions on these topics prior to engaging with them. Those who do not share these presuppositions will, obviously, find my reflections puzzling and odd. First, I believe that for disciples of Jesus, our ethical reflection is to be founded on something more than
personal wisdom, medical or scientific knowledge, or Fifth, when it comes to ethics, the normal order and an innate sense of what seems to us fair, loving, and/ priority for followers of Jesus is to invite others to become or just. For this reason, we should always be drawn disciples of Jesus who then embrace Kingdom ethics, back to Scripture—although I am very aware that we rather than imposing Kingdom ethics on non-Kingdom all read Scripture with different and imperfect lenses. citizens. We are not here to lecture the world about ethWe need the Holy Spirit to illuminate Scripture and we ics—and even less to “condemn” the world (cf. John 3:17). need the larger Christian community (MB and beyond) However, there are times when we must speak up in to be our discernment circle as we draw conclusions order to provide a voice for those most vulnerable who have no voice at all. about how Scripture applies to life. Sixth, followers of Jesus are called to live by both Second, I believe that our Triune God, Father, Son, humility and conviction. We declare what we believe and Holy Spirit, is a God of love, life, beauty, harmony, to be true, but we also listen carefully to others, weighand shalom (namely, wholeness with God, others, creation, and self)—while at the same ing their conclusions and their time, God actively opposes evil, wickarguments to see what insights they can provide us. However, we are not edness, and the powers of darkness There are times when we “blown here and there by every wind which come to “steal, kill, and destroy” (cf. John 10:10). The Divine of teaching” (Ephesians 4:14) but have must speak up in order to Creator, Redeemer, and King shows bedrock convictions that guide us. provide a voice for those up and works for his Kingdom purSo, from these presuppositions, most vulnerable who have I come to this contentious topic. We poses in both of these ways. This means that God deeply loves us, but are trying to navigate, from a biblino voice at all. this love can challenge, confront, and cal and theological foundation, how followers of Jesus should live in relaredirect us (and others) away from what we prefer and value for our own tion to medical procedures commonly lives. This also means that seeking available to end unwanted pregnanGod’s path here will likely involve suffering and sacricies. While the ending of an unborn child’s life without fice for all people involved, but it will also produce true human intervention is called a “miscarriage,” active love, life, beauty, harmony, and shalom. human intervention in this process is called “abortion” Third, God cares deeply about human suffering of or the “termination of a pregnancy.” Unwanted pregall kinds and often relieves human suffering (physical, nancies could result from the unexpected timing of the spiritual, emotional, etc.), but God also calls us as dispregnancy, the special needs of the unborn child, and ciples of Jesus regularly to walk into and through this a variety of other factors in the lives of the mother, suffering (cf. Romans 5:3, 8:17; 1 Peter 4:16). God’s love father, and/or extended family. Other unwanted pregis a costly love that suffers. Jesus’ love led him to suffer nancies will result from complex and surely traumatic faithfully on our and the world’s behalf. Loving in the situations of abuse, rape, adultery, incest, and so on. way of Jesus will lead us into unavoidable suffering. C.S. All of these will have different levels of emotional, relaLewis has said it well: “Love anything, and your heart tional, and even physical impact on the mother. In rare will certainly be wrung and possibly broken…. The only situations, medical professionals face the situation of choosing between the life of the mother and the life of place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe the unborn child. In these situations, decisions about from all the dangers…of love is Hell” (The Four Loves). We will need much wisdom to discern between sufferterminating a pregnancy result from something other ing that we should rightfully seek to avoid (and to than an unwanted pregnancy—and Christians (along with all the other people involved) face the impossible attempt to relieve in the lives of others), and the necessary suffering that love requires of us and others. dilemma of trying to honour the sanctity of life for both Fourth, followers of Jesus model Jesus most effecthe mother and the unborn child. So, what can we say tively when they intentionally invite the filling of the in terms of God’s perspective on human efforts to delibHoly Spirit. While this filling certainly is demonstrated erately end a pregnancy? by the gifts of the Holy Spirit (see Romans 12:6-8; 1 CorThere are many ethical issues that the Bible clearly inthians 12:4-11; 12:28), it is more powerfully addresses with straight-forward verses (e.g., adultery, demonstrated by words and actions in alignment with coveting, etc.). There are other ethical issues that we the fruit of the Holy Spirit: “love [agape], joy, peace, must depend on guidance based on theological themes. patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, In the case of abortion procedures, there are no and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Whatever we say straight-forward verses that provide us with exact clarand do in relation to these big questions, it must be ity about God’s will in every situation—there are no clear consistent with the fruit of the Holy Spirit. verses about teen or even pre-teen girl pregnancies, or
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about pregnancies resulting from rape, medical distress or equal freedoms but by all sharing the obligations of of the mother, profound health challenges of the unborn justice. While some claim that unlimited access to aborchild, and so on. Even though we may wish for simple tion is essentially a justice issue (understood as this clarity about abortion, we must acknowledge that we procedure being equally accessible to all), for abortion need Holy Spirit wisdom especially to be “just” in the biblical sense of in this moment. justice, it must move all involved The only specific biblical descripcloser to shalom. Justice cannot be tion of something even looking like at the expense of the most vulneraWhere humans give up a human effort to end a pregnancy ble, but justice obligates all those with hope and see no future, comes from Numbers 5:11-31. This more resources and power than the God often brings hope text describes the strange case where unborn child (viz., mother, father, a pregnant woman suspected of adulfamily, community) to step in to conand healing. tery is given bitter water to drink by tribute to mutual flourishing in the the priest. The bitter water was to prodirection of shalom. Justice means duce a miscarriage if the woman was that those with resources must sacadulterous but would have no effect if the woman was rificially seek the well-being of those who lack them. innocent of adultery. We must assume that the bitter Terminating the life of those without a voice can hardly water was not an abortion agent or else every woman be celebrated as an act of justice. given the water would have miscarried and been labeled Third, our loving Creator God has endowed all an adulterer. The water was, presumably, only bitter in humans with the status of imago dei (divine image taste and it would have no effect unless God intervened bearers) which involves capacities, responsibilities, and miraculously to produce the miscarriage. This text is blessings unique to human beings. While it is unclear when in the human journey from conception to birth, not about humans actively terminating unwanted pregthis valuable status becomes its full reality, there are nancies but about how Old Testament priests could deal multiple times in Scripture when it is clear that God wisely and justly with women accused of adultery by declares the unborn child as “you” (e.g., Jeremiah 1:5; husbands who lacked evidence for such a serious charge. cf. Psalm 139:13-16) implying that there is no disconBiblical guidance required nect between the “you” prior to birth and the “you” What theological guidance does the Bible provide to post-birth. The Bible does not identify the pre-birth guide us in relation to modern attempts to terminate “you” with the mother—but rather with the later fully pregnancies? There are several clear theological truths formed “you.” While the Bible does not describe this we find in Scripture (and in Article 14 of our Confesscientific detail, we know that the fertilized egg inside the mother is more than just a part of her body. This sion of Faith) that have relevance for this question. fertilized egg has a genetic makeup different from the First, our loving Creator God gives life, owns life, and sustains life. All humans are stewards of life, and mother. The fertilized egg will soon have a beating heart are answerable to God for their lives, their bodies, and separate from the heart of the mother. The fertilized all they have. Humans have the responsibility to stewegg is not the mother nor is it the father. It is a new ard everything in light of God. People are first called to entity separate and distinct from both. While the Bible love God with all of their being and from that centre, does not refer to the developing egg with the words are invited to love themselves rightly, love others rightly, imago dei, the close continuity with the imago dei child and love creation rightly. The implication here in relait is becoming, endows the developing egg with protion to abortion is that all discussion about reproductive found value as well. Even from this short theological reading, it would rights, reproductive freedoms, and terminating pregnancies must be subordinated to questions about what seem that human efforts to terminate pregnancies must God is doing and giving in terms of life, love, and faithface squarely questions about how humans are called ful stewardship. All discipleship ethics begin not with to participate with God in the formation of new human me—but with bowing in worship and seeking first God’s image bearers; what true justice looks like for all Kingdom and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33). involved; and what it means for mothers to carry in Second, our loving Creator God cares deeply about their wombs developing fertilized eggs that are dependent yet separate from the mother herself. true justice and living in a way faithful to God’s jusWe must also acknowledge that we do not always tice (cf. Micah 6:8). Biblical justice involves the actions of making things right for all involved. Justice produces know what true love and justice look like in cases where shalom where all humans and all creation work together there is a great conflict between the well-being of the mother and the well-being of the unborn child. Espefor mutual flourishing in a way which brings glory to cially in cases of high-risk pregnancies and traumatic God. Biblical justice is not defined simply by equal rights
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conceptions (e.g., rape, abuse, incest), the balance of vulnerability between the mother and the unborn child will be much different than in most other situations. Much godly wisdom will be needed to discern what love, life, and true justice looks like in these moments— but we also believe that our loving Creator God can bring beauty out of ashes (cf. Isaiah 61:3). Where humans give up hope and see no future, God often brings hope and healing. In the biblical story, children are the very embodiment of hope. If the preceding sketch of a theology related to terminating pregnancy is faithful to Scripture, there are implications for our local church families. Whatever the circumstances surrounding a child’s conception, suffering love calls church families to care for mothers in sacrificial and tangible ways. Whatever the circumstances surrounding a child’s conception, this love calls church families to care for newborn children with celebratory welcome rather than stigma. There are no “illegitimate children” born in our world, only beautiful and profoundly valuable image bearers created by God with a calling to worship and serve God with their whole being. Whatever the circumstances surrounding a child’s conception, the church family must participate in the work of justice and shalom especially when there is no one else to stand in the gap. Whatever the circumstances of a child’s conception, suffering love must value the well-being of all participants. The church community faithful to the way of Jesus must embody this love.
The embodied Kingdom Community
Now, it is clear that all of this talk of biblical justice, suffering love, and holistic shalom will make little sense to those outside of our church family. The New Testament focuses on the Church as the embodied Kingdom Community, worshipping King Jesus, and living out God’s Kingdom way in the world. Jesus doesn’t spend much time telling Rome how to run its empire. However, in Canada, we have some level of ability to influence the laws and processes in our larger world. While political transformation of Canada should never be our Christian hope for how God’s Kingdom comes, we do not shy away from being a prophetic voice for the well-being of all—especially the vulnerable in our world. If we ignore the vulnerable, we are accomplices in their harm. There is no question that the unborn are in the category of the vulnerable—but it will be hard to bear faithful witness for them if we have not also recognized our lack of suffering love and advocacy for women who experience profound vulnerability and harm at the hands of others. We must repent (and this means actually turning in a new direction) if we hope to speak with integrity on this question. If we are wanting mothers to make their own well-being secondary in order to ensure the ongoing life of the vulnerable unborn
child, we must also be willing to put our well-being aside and stand with those who are paying a high price. How can we communicate and demonstrate this commitment much more effectively in our world? Speaking to secular government about this topic and to individuals/groups who do not share our commitment to Jesus will be most effective when we use discourse that is understandable to our audience (“justice for mother and for child” rather than “abortion is murder”). Quoting Bible verses, using inflammatory language, or yelling slogans most often ends conversation rather than invites people into deeper conversation and change. Change comes by means of the Holy Spirit inviting and convicting. Our discourse needs to be consistent with the methods of the Holy Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22-23). In addition, law making in a pluralistic society is most often about compromises between competing perspectives. While Christians believe behaviours like adultery or pornography are contrary to God’s will, we do not really expect Canada to make laws to make these illegal. We do, however, hope Canada will bring in laws to limit their worst forms (e.g., child pornography). Because Canadian law is at best a “compromise” in relation to Kingdom ethics, the best possible outcome of our witness to the state is that Canada would put some sort of limits on abortion availability rather than outlaw the practice entirely. But we must also go on record to support governmental actions that protect women and children against sexual violence, abuse, and so on. And we must also be people who live out God’s compassion in our local communities. We as Christians cannot be single-agenda people since our convictions about the sanctity of life have implications for all the vulnerable in our world and not simply the unborn. Kingdom living in the way of Jesus is not something that can be imposed on the world by coercion or political power. Kingdom living is animated and empowered by the Holy Spirit and lived not simply in light of the realities of our present age but in light of what Jesus is bringing with his final and beautiful return. This is why it is so challenging to communicate effectively to our world our desire to love mothers well and love unborn children well. If we manage to win some political victory without winning people over to join with us in our love for both the mother and the unborn child, it will be an empty victory and a shortlived moment in our cultural narrative.
is the Interim National Faith and Life Director and is on leave from Columbia Bible College where he has been teaching Bible and theology for 31 years. He and Karen are members of the The Life Centre in Abbotsford, B.C.
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A matter of love Reframing abortion By Stephanie Christianson n the aftermath of the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision to reverse Roe vs. Wade, abortion has been reignited as the socially and politically charged issue that it is, and likely always will be. I do not think that adding my voice to the chorus of social media posts, news reports, protest signs, and political statements will put this issue to rest. Part of me wonders if it is even wise to write down my thoughts on a topic such as this. How can I properly express all that is in my mind and heart with the nuance such a divisive and complex topic requires? Yet, I am compelled by two things: to “love the Lord [my] God with all [my] heart and with all [my] soul and with all [my] mind” and to
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“love [my] neighbor as [myself]” (Matthew 22:37, 39 NIV). My prayer is that this short glimpse into my mind and heart will reverberate with these two most holy callings. For you to feel loved by me as you read this, you need to know the space I inhabit. As a new mom to an infant son, I’ve experienced what many women have experienced—a positive pregnancy test, multiple pre-natal checkups and ultrasounds, the marathon that is labour and delivery, and the final push that brought my son from my body into this world. On the other hand, I have not experienced what many women experience—the thought of raising a baby on my own, crippling poverty, sexual assault that results in a pregnancy, or a devastating prenatal diagnosis.
Each woman who has received a positive pregnancy test has her own story, whether ultimately deciding to raise the child, place the child for adoption, or have an abortion. I do not speak for you here, sister, but I hope that we can parse out some of this issue together, even if we land on different sides. So, imagine me offering you a cup of tea, and let’s sit down on my deck and talk.
As a disciple of Jesus, my vocation is to love God. Easy, right? Well, it turns out that in the hurricane of life, what it means to love God can easily become unclear, and if not unclear, then sometimes downright difficult. I won't go into the biblical theological case for the sanctity of life here,
A baby changes everything. But I humbly submit that an abortion cannot be an option because of our discipleship to Jesus. God values all life, and I must too, no matter what this does to me.
since it has already been addressed by other writers. I agree with Article 14 in the MB Confession of Faith that affirms the sanctity of life—all life— whether wanted or unwanted. From the moment of conception, each person is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), worthy of love, honour, respect, and above all, life. In her insightful book Love Thy Body, Nancy Pearcey uncovers the logic underlying many critical ethical issues today. There has been a divorce between the body and the person.1 Simply put, our culture no longer equates being a human with being a person. Personhood comes later—an acquired “skill.” Hence, the embryo is indeed a human but not yet a person until “it” acquires some set of criteria (which no one agrees upon) that move “it” from mere humanhood to personhood, such as self-awareness, self-control, or communication.2 Let’s follow the logic to its conclusion. If a human is not a person until “it” achieves some arbitrary set of criteria, what groups of people might be made vulnerable by such a claim? 1 Nancy R. Pearcey. Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2018. Page 14. 2 Nancy R. Pearcey. Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2018. Pages 47-53.
One scenario is “after-birth abortion,” or, more honestly, infanticide: newborns are not yet persons as defined above, thus they have no right to life.3 To love God, I must value all human life, and acknowledge that all human life is indeed personal, regardless of gestational age, gender, race, or ability. And here’s where showing our love for God through discipleship gets sticky: valuing human life like that will not always be easy. Sometimes, it will throw everything we know into upheaval. Since having my son, my life has drastically changed. On the whole, it has absolutely changed for the better—I love my little boy with a kind of love I didn’t know existed before becoming his mom. He enriches my life immensely, and I am in awe of everything he does. This isn’t to say that there haven’t been difficult times. There has been a stark realization that I am not my own. My time, my sleep, my body, my wants, my career— all these things now have to be sifted through the “mom equation.” What he needs come first, and I come
3 Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva. “After-Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?” Journal of Medial Ethics 39 (2013): 261-63. Quoted in Nancy R. Pearcey. Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2018. Page 57.
second. Sometimes I think about my life before and I wonder why I didn’t realize how much freedom I had. A baby changes everything. But I humbly submit that an abortion cannot be an option because of our discipleship to Jesus. God values all life, and I must too, no matter what this does to me. The life of a disciple is one of surrendering one’s own will to Jesus and what he would have us do. Jesus doesn’t pull any punches; there is a cost to discipleship: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:3435). And maybe, just maybe, in the sacrifice of surrender to the way of Jesus, we might find something even greater than that which we were so desperately trying to hold on to. There is space for holy imagination here.
Loving My Neighbour
Loving God is not complete without loving my neighbour. Just as we are called to value life in all forms, we are also called to love our neighbours, whoever they are. Neighbour #1 is that person on social media who makes you grit your teeth in anger for their outlandish opinion, whatever side of the political spectrum they happen to occupy. In a world of digital communication,
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Loving God is not complete without loving my neighbour. Just as we are called to value life in all forms, we are also called to love our neighbours, whoever they are.
it is so easy to tear into your opponent (whom, I might add, is made in the image of God). My firm belief is that social media is not the place to comment on these complicated, nuanced topics. When you have to look another person in the eye and acknowledge their flesh and blood— their image of God-ness—I pray we will be less inclined to devolve into straw man arguments, personal attacks, and cancellation. Neighbour #2 is a woman who has had an abortion, recently or years ago. If you are reading this, and this is you, if we were visiting on my deck together, I’d invite you to tell me your story. I would try to ask thoughtful questions, cry with you if that’s what was needed, and look into your eyes, full of the image of God that they are. Our church communities must offer themselves as a place of healing, forgiveness, and restoration, rather than places of judgment and silence. And while some things in the past cannot be changed, we serve a God who is so incredibly good that we are often only scratching the surface of his scandalous mercy. Neighbour #3 is a woman who is in a difficult situation, for whatever reason, and is contemplating an abortion as a solution to that difficulty. If you are reading this, and this is you, if we were visiting on my deck together, I’d invite you to tell me your story. All of it—whatever it involves. It all starts with taking time to listen, before jumping in with our opinions and arguments. Once we hear another’s story, a key question is “what do
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you need to carry this baby to term?” Do you need rides to your prenatal appointments? Do you need a place to live? Do you need help finding a new job with a higher income? Do you need help navigating the adoption process? Will you need childcare after the baby is born? Can I pay for your counselling sessions? Can I cook your meals (whatever you are craving—pickles and ice cream are on the table!)? This is where our discipleship requires us to put our money where our mouth is, for “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17). I have not answered all the questions that could be asked, nor have I considered all the data or all the stories. I have likely offended someone—and I hope you can still see the image of God in me. As we interact with our friends, families, and neighbours, and as we engage in the political sphere, may our eyes be invigorated by the Holy Spirit, to see new ways of hearing, helping, and caring for women who are facing difficult circumstances. And maybe, just maybe, we will be surprised by the beauty that comes from the most broken of places.
is Adjunct Faculty Advisor and an instructor at Horizon College and Seminary in Saskatoon, SK (currently on maternity leave). She serves on an advisor for SKMB’s Faith and Life Team.
W E WA N T TO H E A R F RO M YO U Did reading these stories leave you feeling encouraged, inquisitive, or confused on a topic? We encourage our readers to share their thoughts, questions, and opinions through comments or a letter to the editor. You may even find your words in a future issue of the MB Herald Digest. We welcome our readers' expressions of agreement or questions related to MB Herald content, but we reserve the right to limit the publication of letters to those which reflect respectful interaction with our contributors. That is also part of what we believe 'imago dei' must mean.
R E T U R N S T R O K E : E S S AY S & M E M O I R BY DO R A D U ECK With the release of Return Stroke, author Dora Dueck adds the non-fiction genre of memoir to her impressive list of publications. In her writing career, Dueck has focused mostly on fiction (four books), preferring “made up” stories to explore faith and the truth about real things like suffering, secrets, and shame. However, in Return Stroke, a reference to a lightning strike’s enormous electrical discharge to the earth and the subsequent flash of light that illuminates the surrounding space, she harnesses the dynamics of lightning to explore her life story. It’s a dialogue. “When I send inquiry into my past, it sends something back to me.” Return Stroke is a collection of personal essays in the first half of the book and a memoir in the second half. In the essays, one of which includes a harrowing encounter with lightning, Dueck reflects on her life experiences and engages a wide range of ideas that they illuminate—the art of writing, motherhood, the death of a spouse, the ethics of biography, a child’s coming-out. In the memoir section, she recounts the adventure of leaving Canada to live In Paraguay in the 1980s. She and their young children accompany her husband for his community development assignment with Indigenous peoples. The experience provides an opportunity for her to connect with her husband’s family of origin and to appreciate life in the Paraguayan Mennonite colonies. In both the essays and the memoir, Dueck offers readers space to lift their eyes from the text occasionally and to contemplate some aspect of their own lives. Like lightning’s return stroke, she models how readers can process their experiences and derive insights to illuminate next steps. “How wonderful,” she says, that our “bits of existence, no matter how ordinary, are available for further contemplation—seeing patterns, facing into inevitable death, enjoying the playful circularity of then and now.” Dueck’s writing is crisp and sparkling, each sentence wellcrafted, inviting readers to embrace change in their own lives. Changing one’s mind need not be feared. “The essence of life is change—sometimes difficult, sometimes joyous, sometimes chosen, sometimes uninvited—whatever name one may use for change, the very process of living creates a story full of plot.” Return Stroke is a powerful book for people of faith, especially those in the second half of life, who are looking for a companion with whom to process their own life story.
keeper of the Mennonite Brethren archives in Winnipeg
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A key element in developing an effective disciple-making strategy Imagine what your church community could look like five years from now. Now focus your thoughts on how your church has grown incredibly in prayer. People are setting aside time each day to pray. They’re worshipping God throughout the day. You see small groups and ministry teams making prayer a central part of their meeting times. You see a church where God is doing amazing things as he responds to the prayers of his people. Sound exciting? How might we realize this kind of vision? In my online MB Seminary course called Missional Discipleship, I suggest that prayer saturation is the first—and arguably the most important—of 11 essential disciple-making elements. Let me suggest several ways that we can strengthen prayer in our churches.
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First, we need to enlarge people’s vision for prayer. Preaching and teaching on prayer certainly helps. In addition, we can inspire others by telling them about some of the spiritual revivals that have happened over the past 300 years (for starters, they could watch The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening video by Dr. J. Edwin Orr). Knowing how God has responded to concerted, extraordinary prayer in the recent past can inspire us to pray today in focused and persistent ways. Another way to saturate your church with prayer is to equip people to pray. Most Christians know how to ask God for stuff. But do we truly practice thankfulness, confession, and adoration of God? Do we realize deep down that the goal is not just to pray for a set period each day (as good as that is), but to develop a lifestyle of prayer—an ongoing dependence on him? We can teach about prayer through sermons and workshops, but there is nothing quite like combining training with practice. One of the most powerful equipping times I experienced on a church leadership team was when we went on a two-day prayer retreat. We all read a book on
weeks previously about her recent cancer diagnosis. After our prayer team prayed for her, the woman felt that God had healed her. Her doctor wasn’t so sure, and he tried to convince her that the first test was conclusive. After she pleaded with him, the doctor finally authorized another test. The new test result revealed that the woman was cancer-free! You can imagine how the congregation responded to this obvious answer to prayer. As we see God work, we’ll be more likely to believe that he can do immeasurably more that we could ever ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). Finally, I encourage you to be bold in taking next steps. Pastor Chris, a church planter in Toronto, sensed that God wanted his church to have dedicated prayer groups praying every day of the week. He knew there would be opposition, so he tried to dismiss the growing conviction in his spirit. Finally, he realized that he had to obey the voice of the Lord. Within two months, they had 10 prayer groups that covered every day of the week! Here’s what Pastor Chris said seven months into their church’s prayer venture: “These days we pray for everything in a bold expectant way. And God has answered so many prayers. At the same time, the spiritual warfare continues to ramp up. But we are not discouraged or deterred. In fact, I think we are slowly developing an audaciousness to our faith in prayer. It’s been a long journey but a fruitful one. So, we are still praying. We don’t know what else to do anymore. That’s a good thing!” I am so encouraged by Pastor Chris and his church. God loves it when we spend time with him in meaningful prayer and he moves in response to the prayers of his people. In the words of E.M. Bounds, “What the Church needs today is not new organizations or more and novel methods, but people whom the Holy Spirit can use—people of prayer, people mighty in prayer” (E.M. Bounds, paraphrased). Saturating your church in prayer is a key strategy for helping your church reach its full disciple-making potential.
“THESE DAYS WE PRAY FOR EVERYTHING IN A BOLD EXPECTANT WAY. AND GOD HAS ANSWERED SO MANY PRAYERS. prayer prior to the retreat, took in some training sessions during the retreat, and then spent time in prayer. It was powerful! Another strategy is to simply build on what is already happening in prayer. For example, when I was co-chair of our church board, we extended our dedicated prayer times and incorporated prayer throughout our business discussions. This small change had considerable impact. Life groups and ministry groups provide an excellent forum for strengthening prayer in your church. Inspire your leaders with a big vision for prayer! Train them and give them solid prayer resources. When leaders really pray, others will follow their example. I think it’s also helpful to periodically incorporate prayer initiatives that rally people to pray. Make the most of people’s willingness to commit to something significant for a short period of time. For example, some churches will organize a day or week of prayer where people sign up to pray at different times. One year, our church did 40 days of prayer during Lent where people were encouraged to pray for specific aspects of the church each day. I’ve often challenged groups to pray for five unsaved people for five days a week for five weeks. These kinds of short prayer initiatives get people praying and, in the process, help them develop a stronger habit of prayer. In our high-tech age, we’d be crazy not to maximize technology and social media as ways to mobilize people to strengthen their prayer lives. I’ll sometimes post prayer requests on Facebook and I know that within minutes, I’ll have an army of prayer warriors joining me in whatever battle I’m facing. Small groups can create private Facebook groups, use apps that have good group chats (like WhatsApp), or capitalize on other messaging platforms to promote prayer in their groups. For many churches, it’s also helpful to grow a vital Sunday morning prayer ministry. When this is in place, God will often reveal himself in amazing ways. For example, at our former church, we often had an open mic sharing time during our worship services. One Sunday, a woman shared how she had gone up for prayer during our post-service prayer ministry a few
R A N D Y W O L L F, P H D
is Academic Dean and Associate Professor of Leadership and Practical Theology at MB Seminary and the author of Maximum Discipleship in the Church. His course, Missional Discipleship, is available fully online beginning August 29.
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Resilient Leadership LEADING THROUGH THE TRAUMA OF COVID PA R T FO U R I N A FO U R - PA R T S E R I E S
his is the fourth and final article in the Leading through the trauma of COVID series. Today’s article will look at five factors that created stress during the pandemic and how we can help those we lead process them with practical applications for post-traumatic growth.
FIVE STRESS FACTORS AND PR ACTICAL RESPONSES
1. Autonomy // We all experienced a lack of control throughout the pandemic. We were no longer able to gather as a community like normal. We could not frequent most stores, small businesses and restaurants. We found empty shelves where toilet paper was usually stacked to the ceiling. Perhaps most challenging was the inability to gather in person for relationship and worship. For leaders, this was especially painful. Not only did we experience the restrictions, but we also dealt with others’ demands to rebel against them. We were hit hard from multiple directions, thereby reducing what control we did have. Responses a) Make things as predictable as possible. Our congregations and communities have been through tremendous change. As leaders, we can create an environment of safety through stability. Communicate well and often, and always connect decisions with vision. b) Invite others into decision-making processes. Listen well and authentically acknowledge input even if it is not the direction you choose to go. Build and model a culture of caring, empathy and respect. 2. Reward // Many leaders lost a sense of our work’s extrinsic and intrinsic rewards during the pandemic. We spent less if any time with our co-workers and those we serve. Some lost their jobs, including their mone-
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tary and benefits rewards. Most leaders find great intrinsic reward from knowing we make a difference in others’ lives. When we were no longer able to gather, and when we experienced derision and conflict when we did, it removed a significant motivating factor. We also lost the relational and emotional feedback that naturally occurs when speaking to a crowd rather than a camera. We struggled with lost collaboration and vision casting as we spent our time responding to constant change and crises. Responses a) Celebrate every win. Break goals into smaller targets and take joy from each accomplishment. Acknowledge participation, offer praise, and be grateful for everyone involved. b) Report regularly on how you are accomplishing your mission, vision and values through story-telling in person, in emails and newsletters, and on social media. c) Thank your staff and volunteers every chance you get. Make sure to acknowledge all participants and not only the visible leader. 3. Connection // A lack of connection may be the most obvious challenge we faced throughout the pandemic. Many people experienced tremendous isolation and a loss of relationships, whether due to restrictions, conflict, sickness or even death. While some suffered mentally and emotionally from a physical disconnection from people, others felt disconnected from God. Leaders struggled with how to create meaningful relationships with those they could not see face to face. We asked hard questions about what community means and how we understand the theology of gathering. Responses a) Respect one another’s boundaries. We are in a fragile time of reentering into community, and we must take into consideration other’s physical and psychological safety. Model and
communicate empathy and respect for others. b) Create simpler models for discipleship. Meet in smaller groups that invite everyone’s participation. Do everything necessary to make people feel safe and secure. Create communities around core discipleship principles rather than just curriculum. c) Embrace the great outdoors. In cities and towns across the country, we’ve seen people enjoying nature more than any other time in our generation. Parks, green spaces and nature preserves have become places for social gatherings and connecting spirituality with creation. Consider how the communities you lead may gather outdoors ongoing. 4. Equity // No matter who we are or where we come from, we’ve all felt at times throughout the pandemic that something isn’t fair. No one has felt this more than those outside of the dominant culture. Unfortunately, those on the margins have suffered more than most. Many leaders have felt their role was no longer fair. What was expected of them was not what they signed up for. Many leaders have left. Many who remain are struggling. Our communities have struggled too. Parents with young children may not have been able to participate as they wish due to childcare responsibilities. Others who care for vulnerable elders and those with disabilities stayed away to remain healthy and available to help. Responses a) Create opportunities where everyone can participate in one way or another. That may mean providing volunteer roles that can take place in small groups or individually away from the larger group. Remember, everyone has a story that we likely don’t fully understand. b) Be cognizant of offering opportunities regardless of ethnicity. This may be a highly-held value, but it’s essential to live it out authentically in ways that work for those not of the dominant culture. Consider the timing of events and whether children can be involved. Consider
culture-specific language and whether the type of music played is welcoming. c) Recognize unfair expectations of singles and people without children. Do you expect more from those without families and make assumptions about the time they have to give? d) Create participation opportunities for people regardless of where they are on their faith journey. 4. Values // One of the main reasons why so much conflict took place during the pandemic was that people found their personal values in conflict with the values of those making decisions. We experienced the same mandates differently based on our own insights, experiences, traumas, triggers and beliefs. We understood the meaning behind national, provincial and community decisions based on our history. As leaders, we’ve had to navigate values conflicts more than others simply because we not only received mandates but created them for others. And, of course, our decisions may have rubbed up against the values of those we lead. Responses a) Communicate with authenticity and humility. Choose to name the elephants in the room. Often as leaders, we either wish to sweep awkward issues under the rug and just move on or name the elephant in the room so starkly that we make people uncomfortable. Openly speak about what it was like to make hard decisions to the best of your ability that may have hurt others. Offer a ceremonial time for repentance, forgiveness and choosing to move forward together. b) Get back to basics speaking about who God is and who you are in Him. Teach about your mission, vision and values and how they provide a helpful grid for living life amid conflicting values. c) Review your decision-making protocols and create policies around how to make decisions in times of crisis for the future.
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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. Connect with Bonita at email@example.com.
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ROBERT (BOB) JACOB HIEBERT
Bob grew up on farms near Killarney and Fork River, Manitoba. When Bob was 17, the family moved to B.C.’s Fraser Valley. He met the love of his life, Johanna Friesen, in the spring of 1949, and they were married on Christmas Day that year. Early in their life together, Bob and Jo responded to the love and grace of God and put their trust in Jesus as Saviour and Lord. They were baptized Sept. 19, 1955, into East Aldergrove MB Church, Abbotsford, B.C. In 1956, Bob suffered significant injuries in an accident while working at a lumber yard in Abbotsford. Following many months of recuperation, he trained as a barber and worked in that business for 16 years, while he and Jo also engaged in mixed farming on a small acreage. In early 1974, Bob’s longstanding dream of farming full time became a reality when he and Jo bought into a grain and beef cattle operation near the hamlet of New Norway, Alta. There they became members of Highland Park Evangelical Free Church. After 12 enjoyable years in Alberta, they sold and moved to a hobby farm near Armstrong, B.C., returning to fellowship within the MB
ALLAN LABUN Allan was known for his deep faith and resolute reliance on God. He became a well-loved pastor in the Mennonite Brethren church and was a blessing to many people. The community at North Kildonan MB Church called him to the ministry where he served as assistant pastor. They encouraged him to go to Mennonite Brethren Seminary in Fresno, Cal. Later, North Kildonan started Mclvor MB Church with Allan as founding pastor. Throughout his time as pastor, he was excited and humbled to see God at work creating a spirit of love and cooperation. His love for McIvor and the people there was an important factor in his life. After McIvor, he spent 7 years at Kitchener MB Church and was interim pastor in many churches after his retirement. He put into practice the advice he got from J. B. Toews that the most important part of being a pastor was to “love the people.” Parallel with pastoral ministry, Allan was actively involved with the Mennonite Brethren conferences at the provincial and national levels. He loved their motto “Working together to do what we cannot do alone.” Here he worked tirelessly over the years as moderator, on the Committee of Reference and Counsel, the Ministers and Deacons Committee, the Board of Spiritual and Social Concerns, and later the Board of Faith and Life. He considered it a privilege to work with the gifted servants of the Lord doing God’s
conference at Armstrong Bible Chapel. In 2007, they made their way back to Abbotsford to live in retirement, becoming members of Bakerview MB Church. Bob died after suffering a stroke in March 2022. Bob’s life was characterized by unwavering trust in God, involvement in the ministry of the church — teaching Sunday school and leading small groups, serving on church councils, and assuming leadership — love for his family, enduring friendships, and community involvement. He also delighted in the beauty of God’s creation and enjoyed camping, fishing, and travelling with Jo throughout Canada and beyond to places such as Alaska, Hawaii, Israel, and Greece. Birth: March 19, 1928 Birthplace: Winnipeg Parents: Johann & Aganeta Hiebert Married: Johanna Friesen, Dec. 25, 1949 Family: Johanna; children Robert (Karen), Susan Krause (Rick), Daniel (Dorothea); 6 grandchildren; 6 greatgrandchildren; sister Violet Sawatsky Church: Armstrong (B.C.) Bible Chapel; Bakerview MB, Abbotsford, B.C. Baptism: Sept. 19, 1955, East Aldergrove MB (now Ross Road), Abbotsford, B.C.
work in their corner of God’s kingdom. Allan’s was a life well lived. How can one describe his character? “For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). Birth: September 18, 1935 Birthplace: Plum Coulee, Man. Death: May 17, 2022 Parents: John & Anna Labun Married: Irene, Apr. 24, 1965 [d. Apr. 23, 2016] Family: children Theresa (James), Donna (Scott), Jon (Nina); grandchildren Anna, Jordan, Willem (Danielle), Micah, Marcus, Georgia; siblings Norman (Marilyn), Don (Kathy), Peter (Vi), Kathy (Dave) Church: North Kildonan MB, McIvor Avenue MB, Jubilee Mennonite, Winnipeg; Kitchener (Ont.) MB Baptism: Kronsgart (Man.) MB Church, 1950
O B I T UA R I E S H AV E LO N G B E E N A VA LU E D PA R T O F THE MB HER ALD. FROM THE FUNER AL BULLETINS , EU LO G I E S , A N D N E WS PA P E R O B I T UA R I E S YO U SEND, OUR EDITORS CRAFT LIFE STORIES OF OUR MEMBERS TO INSPIRE AND ENCOURAGE OUR R E A D E R S , C R E AT I N G A M E M O R I A L O F M B S A I N T S . CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT AN OBITUARY
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THE WAKE I MAKE
A S S E S S I N G T H E ‘ WAV E S ’ M Y W O R D S A N D D E E D S C R E AT E B Y R E V. P H I L I P A . G U N T H E R “ E AC H O N E S H O U LD TE S T TH E I R OW N AC TI O N S .” G A L AT I A N S 6 : 4 A , N I V “ T H E U N E X A M I N E D L I F E I S N O T W O R T H L I V I N G … K N O W T H Y S E L F. ” S O C R AT E S
still remember learning how to waterski on Cultus Lake, B.C. It was both thrilling and terrifying – thrilling as I glided on the water behind the ski boat and over its wake, terrifying as my brother increased the boat’s speed testing how long I could stay on the skis. I didn’t, for long. The same experience repeated itself many years later when I went tubing on the same lake. My kids, spurred on by my brother, wanted to see dad get airborne. After a few sharp turns, my tube was zooming onto the wake and then flying into the air without me. As I travel through this life, like my brother’s ski boat, I am keenly aware that my words and deeds leave a wake, a wave, a ‘Wake’ [noun]: The testimony, a tangible witness of my characpath or course of ter. Our wakes can be such a blessing to God anything that has and others, but sadly, at times our wakes passed or preceded. impact those around us in hurtful ways. Careless or unkind words or actions arising from pride, bitterness or selfish motives, can create a destructive wake. Indeed, such wakes can be a force to be reckoned with. I hear the words of American rapper Ice Cube buzzing around in my mind, “You better check yourself before you wreck yourself.” The wake caused by motorized boats of any kind can result in shore erosion as well as damage to vegetation that grows on or near it. Boaters rarely, if ever, think about this type of negative impact their wakes may cause. Unless they pause to reflect upon the impact of their boat’s wake, the damage continues, and they are blissfully unaware. In a similar manner, so often, unless we as disciples reflect upon the wakes we make as we live out our faith, there may be harm we
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are creating, are ignorant of, and thus not redeeming. God sees my wake. What must he think? What causes him to lament? In what does he rejoice? What will reap his discipline and what, his blessing? As disciples of Jesus, we want to live Christ-like lives, but on this side of heaven, we routinely create ungodly wakes. To prevent such a wake, Scripture counsels: “The prudent carefully consider their ways” ˚ Proverbs 14:15b NLT yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. ˚ “Examine Test yourselves…” 2 Corinthians 13:5a NLT us test and examine our ways. Let us turn ˚ “…let back to the LORD.” Lamentations 3:40 NLT Also, we can ask God to keep us from creating harmful wakes: me on trial, LORD, and cross examine me. ˚ “Put Test my motives and my heart.” Psalm 26:2 NLT me, God, and know my heart; test me and ˚ “Search know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24 NIV I appreciate the wisdom of past saints who responded to their own wakes in redeeming ways as they lived for Jesus in their time and space. For example, the book Spiritual Exercises has been formative for those seeking self-understanding about how their lives are touching others. This ancient work is a compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices penned by St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), a Spanish priest. A little background. Ignatius was the founder of the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits. It was said that Ignatius prayed up to seven hours a day. Spiritual Exercises
“ O G O D , L E T M E K N O W M Y S E L F. L E T M E K N O W Y O U . ” S T. A U G U S T I N E O F H I P P O
is intended to be a means of helping saints deepen their relationship with God and understand how they are living out their faith in the daily grid of life. The Prayer of Examen is one of these spiritual exercises. For me, the longer I walk with Jesus, the more meaningful this kind of prayer becomes. It is part of my training in godliness (1 Timothy 4:80), that is, “Devotion to God which results in a life that is pleasing to him.” In the Prayer of Examen I am invited to journey inward, carefully using several spiritual movements including welcoming God’s presence, thanksgiving, personal reflection and responding to all that the Holy Spirit has revealed to me about my faith walk and what it produces. Two questions from the Prayer of Examen which speak deeply to my heart are: “Spirit of God, reveal to me how I lived this day?” and “Spirit of God, what would you have me do with what you have revealed?” Here are significant questions that hold me accountable for the wake I create every day through my words and deeds. They are a spiritual reality check on my character and soul. My form of the Prayer of Examen is simply a practical means to hold myself to account as a disciple of Jesus. It is a practice that explores how I live out a day – a kind of spiritual debrief so-to-speak. The transformative power of Holy Spirit is integral to this redeeming practice because doing this in our own strength tends to become self-serving and self-defeating. I must routinely remind myself of Richard J. Foster’s wisdom in his poignant work Prayer – Finding The Heart’s True Home. Foster pens, “…if we are the lone examiners of our heart, a thousand justifications will arise to declare our innocence.” The sanctifying work of the Spirit brings the nature of my wake to my attention. He helps me realize how the waves that my words and deeds stir up in the lives of others. It is the Spirit who moves my heart to the place of confession and repentance. It is the Spirit who empowers me to godliness, transforming my behaviour going forward. It is the Spirit who reminds me of the teaching and example of Jesus and calls me to walk like him in life. A sobering word of counsel; there is a temptation for destructive self-flagellation. I, for one, am proficient at beating myself up. Satan can really use this tactic against me. Again, Foster counsels that Spirit led self-examination is a “scrutiny of love.” Also, I need to remember that there is nothing I discover in my wake that is beyond the grace and forgiveness of God in Christ Jesus (1 John 1:9). Furthermore,
I need to be careful not to devolve reflecting circumspectly about my day’s wake into something solely about me. This practice needs to be a love response. A response of thankfulness for the gospel, for grace, for God’s love and blessing. It needs to be part of my desire to live honorably before God – to be godly. There is so much more than can be penned on this matter of knowing, understanding and constructively responding to the wakes we make, but for now may we all find a substantive and meaningful spiritual practice that allows us to see, understand and weigh our wakes – the daily waves our words and deeds create. May the Holy Spirit give us the humility to acknowledge and give thanks for the right and God-pleasing elements of our wakes and the courage to address those elements that hurt others, displease God, and diminish our witness of Jesus.
FR AMING A SPIRITUAL PR ACTICE:
9 Humble yourself and ask the Spirit to help you reflect upon the daily wake you make. 9 Recognize that at times our wake does not please God. 9 Confess, repent, seek forgiveness and make things right where needed. 9 Ask the Holy Spirit’s help to give you wisdom so that tomorrow’s wake will better honour God
REFLEC TIVE QU E S TIO NS TO WEIG H T H E D AY ’ S W A K E : 9 What was my first thought of the day? What were my first words? 9 What was my heart’s posture as I started the day? Ended the day? 9 What space did I make for God? 9 What did Scripture reveal today? 9 How would I describe my private/public behaviour today? 9 How would I describe my conversations with others? 9 Who did I treat in an unkind manner? 9 What am I thankful for about this day? 9 What did I do or say that encouraged others and built them up? 9 Where did I see the grace of God today? Was I a channel for it? 9 What “do-overs” am I wishing for? 9 What do I need to make right? 9 What was my witness of the gospel like today? 9 What have I learned that will help me to foster godliness tomorrow?
R E V. P H I L I P A . G U N T H E R
Saskatchewan Director of Ministry
MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD
A moment in time
WINNIPEG , MANITOBA
The Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies (est. 1969) seeks to collect, preserve, and make accessible textual materials, photos, sound and moving images that document the life of the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Church and its members. Since 2005, the CMBS archiving service is located on the main floor of the church’s national office at 1310 Taylor Ave. in Winnipeg. Photos of the reading room and vault taken by Conrad Stoesz. CMBS is open to the public on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 8:30 am-4:30 pm (Central Standard Time), closed statutory holidays and Easter Monday. Courtesy of the Mennonite Archival Information Database
M B H E R A L D.C O M
Abortion, the image of God, and faithful witness for Jesus MB Confession of Faith Article 14. The Sanctity of Human Life By Ken Esau
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