A flourishing life Kristal Toews VOLUME 62, NO. 5 PRESS ON WHEN ANXIETY TAKES ROOT NEW INTRODUCTION TO THE MB CONFESSION OF FAITH PUBLISHED Digest MAY 2023 MBHERALD.COM More than sixty years of sharing the life & story of the Mennonite Brethren in Canada
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
NATIONAL FAITH AND LIFE TEAM
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.
When anxiety takes root
MAY, 2023 | VOLUME 62, NO. 5
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Sharing the life and story of Mennonite Brethren in Canada
Q&R CORNER Ken Esau
PRESS ON Mark JH Klassen
WHEN ANXIETY TAKES ROOT
HOLY SPIRIT—FILL US WITH YOUR PATIENCE!
1 MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD APRIL 2023
From the editor A
s a member of the Mennonite Brethren community, a few things are essential to living out our faith. Firstly, we must prioritize our relationship with God above all else. This means praying, reading the Bible, and seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit in every aspect of our lives.
Secondly, we must prioritize our relationships with others. This includes our family, friends, fellow believers, and those outside of our community. We are called to love our neighbours as ourselves, which means intentionally building relationships with those around us.
Finally, we must prioritize our commitment to living out our faith in practical ways. This means serving others, seeking justice and peace, and being good stewards of the resources God has given us.
As Mennonite Brethren, we have a rich heritage of faith and practice that can help guide us in living out these priorities. However, we must also be willing to adapt and change as needed to effectively share the love and grace of Jesus with those around us.
Let us commit ourselves to these priorities, and may God use us to be a light in the world around us.
Wait! The above was “written” by an artificial intelligence (AI) assistant. With a simple prompt, “Write an editorial for a Mennonite Brethren magazine,” a bot spit out five complete paragraphs that tie together and tell a story (of sorts). It was almost inspiring and challenging, even if it didn’t present anything new to chew on.
AI is a convenient tool, but where is its heart and soul? Let’s hope we never find out.
This little exercise teaches me that one must actively participate in gospel witness, pouring one’s whole self into the challenge and call of Christ. It’s too easy to phone it in: I’ve done it from the platform while leading worship on numerous occasions.
Do we shy away from doing hard things? Afraid of asking difficult questions and engaging in tough decisions? You may have noticed that MB Herald Digest has been digging deeper into theological subject matter that we may have ignored in years past. It’s about time we do so. It’s our responsibility. The following articles continue in that direction. Please read carefully and with discernment. How do these words sit with you? What can you add to the conversations?
To borrow from my AI friend...Let us commit ourselves to these priorities, and may God use us to be a light in the world around us.
CARSON SAMSON Communications director
We sent Brian Cooper some of the comments we received about his article “All in the Family?” and he kindly gave us responses. We’re happy to share them with you.
L FROM THE MB HERALD WEBSITE: I appreciate your call to not “anathematize those who differ.” I’m curious, would you consider your affirming Anglican Church of Canada friends [I mentioned them in an earlier response] to be false teachers?
BC: Insofar as any of my Christian friends might teach what I am convinced is theologically false, I suppose I would have to confess that they are false teachers, by definition. It is not an appellation I would throw about casually. It is, however, something that is a necessary corollary of truth. If there is such a thing as truth, then there have to be some things that are false. Or else nothing is true. It also does not necessarily mean the end of the friendship. But it would affect our ability to have Christian fellowship.
2 MBHERALD.COM MAY 2023
G FROM FACEBOOK:
My daughter is part of the LGBTQ+ community, she is also Mennonite. She loves Jesus with all her heart and walks as close to him as you or I. Jesus would call her his sister according to Matthew 3, yet you are throwing her out of the church.
Jesus calls us to love and not to judge; the MB church seems to have that backwards. The fact is Jesus called us to love one another and never said a thing about LGBTQ+.
BC: I don’t know your daughter, so I cannot speak to her level of commitment to Jesus. But here is what I do know about discipleship according to Jesus’ own words. Jesus’ call to follow him necessitates a total commitment to Jesus’ lordship. This means absolute allegiance – absolute obedience -- ahead of loyalty to parents, siblings, or one’s own interests or feelings (Matthew 10:37-38).
Luke 14:26-27 puts matters slightly differently to make the point. Luke uses comparative language to indicate the radical nature of the commitment to Jesus. Compared to the commitment to Christ, relationships to others (even oneself) seem like hatred.
This means that everything is negotiable in light of the call to follow Jesus. One’s career, family, sexuality – everything. Coupled with the way Jesus affirmed the sexual ethics in the Torah, it is easy to understand what is required.
Of course, no one meets this standard. We are all in need of God’s grace. But that does not mean that the ethics of discipleship are optional in any area, for anyone.
I am not sure who is throwing your daughter, or any other LGBTQ+ person, out of the church. The invitation to participate in the life of the community remains. The demands of covenanting into the body in membership are an obstacle for some, for different reasons. Each person has issues to surrender in order to follow fully. Sexuality is just one kind of issue.
To hold a high standard for membership is a reflection of Jesus’ high call to discipleship. To discern that some are not prepared to commit is not judgment. Rather, it is discernment. Judgment condemns and makes decisions that are for God alone to make. Discernment differentiates in a way that Christians are called to do, in not only self-evaluation but also in mutual exhortation. It is sometimes hard, but it is necessary.
D FROM FACEBOOK: I’ve done the theological work here, and so did my late husband, and others in our community, and I continue to “do theology.” To be judged on “faithfulness” if we disagree simply closes the conversational door.
BC: Christians are called to discern, together, the implications of Christian faith for words, thoughts, and actions. This is what I mean when I talk about doing theology. At times, we are going to disagree about certain things. That should not surprise us.
Christians living in community are called to rigorous self-examination intended to help us remain faithfully committed to the life, teaching, and example of Jesus Christ. This is what it means to be in the faith (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:5-6). We are also called to lovingly examine one another for the same purpose, assuredly because we know we cannot rely completely on our own self-assessments.
Paul spoke with great candour about others, and sometimes, rather than calling people back to faithfulness, he advised believers to allow some people to experience the consequences of their faithlessness. He mentioned the immoral brother who he commanded to be expelled in 1 Corinthians 5. He also mentioned unrepentant people in 2 Corinthians 12:21, going on to advise in 13:2 that he would not spare them.
But Paul is not talking about condemning people to eternal punishment. 1 Corinthians 5:5, talking about the immoral brother to be expelled (v. 13), talks about what expulsion actually entails. The Corinthian believers are called to “hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”
Even measures seen as harsh, judgmental, or exclusionary are intended to be redemptive. Allowing a beloved person to experience the consequences of personal decisions is a loving act when it is accompanied by an open invitation to turn away from sinful behaviour and return to fellowship.
But people who turn away need to want to return. And, sadly, sometimes conversations that can facilitate a return to fellowship cannot happen. In such situations, we simply commend people into the care of our loving heavenly Father.
4 MBHERALD.COM MAY 2023 You can now earn 5.40%* on your RRSP, TFSA or Cash Account with CCMBC Investments *per annum. Rate in effect January 1, 2023 to June 30, 2023. Subject to change. CCMBC Investments offers RRSP/ RRIF’s, TFSA’s and Cash Accounts. When you invest with CCMBC Investments, you get: • Competitive and steady interest rates • No fees • No terms (not locked-in) • Faith-based investing www.ccmbclegacyfund.com INVESTING IN KINGDOM GROWTH TOGETHER 1-877-437-7103 (mention: “CCMBC”) capstoneassets.ca email@example.com Disclaimer: The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and is not an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any securities in any province of Canada, and may not be relied upon in connection with the purchase or sale of any securities. If you are interested in investing in CCMBC Investments Ltd. please contact Capstone Asset Management at 1-855-437-7103 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To make an investment or to open a new account, please contact:
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Q&R corner provides responses to questions that readers may have about CCMBC and its work collaborating with provincial MB conferences in areas of spiritual health and theology, leadership development, mission, and organizational health in order to achieve the overall mission: “To cultivate a community and culture of healthy disciple-making churches and ministries, faithfully joining Jesus in his mission.” If you would like to contribute a question, please send it to email@example.com
Please note that we will not be using your name in the MB Herald Digest in order to respect those who prefer anonymity. There may not be space to respond to every question—and sometimes we might not really have the ability or authority to respond to some questions (for example, those that relate more directly to one of our provincial MB conferences or to a local church leadership). We apologize in advance if we are unable to publish a response to your specific question.
I have a few lesbian co-workers who are married or about to get married. I don’t feel I can invite them to church, since they would not be able to participate fully in our congregation should they ever be interested in joining. Many same sex couples have children. I struggle with the thought that in our MB churches, these individuals would have to dissolve their family units to be part of our church family. I don’t think it’s right to say that these families can join and remain in their family units so long as they commit to remain celibate — we wouldn’t put that burden and stress on a heterosexual couple. Whether their same-sex sexual attraction is Godsanctioned or not, it is still very real and would set couples up for failure and shame if they had to remain celibate while still living together. What are your thoughts on how to include same sex families in church fellowship?
6 MBHERALD.COM MAY 2023 SPIRITUAL HEALTH AND THEOLOGY
THANKS, E., FOR THIS CHALLENGING QUESTION.
My response here is only a small part of what could be said. You have not mentioned whether your coworkers identify as followers of Jesus or whether they are part of a church community already. I will answer your question as if they do not claim this—while knowing that I might be wrong. (Sorry if that is the case. If your coworkers do identify as followers of Jesus and are looking for a warm and supportive church community to encourage them in their present marital and familial life, then I may respond somewhat differently in light of that new information.)
I sense two parts to your question: First, you express significant hesitation about what your invitation to church could mean for your co-workers if they come to the point of wanting to join your church. (I will assume that you mean they become Christ followers and then want to join your church—again sorry if my assumptions are incorrect.) I certainly can empathize with your hesitations but here are a few thoughts that come to mind based on the New Testament:
˚ No perceived obstacles about the implications of a positive response to Jesus should stop us from inviting people to Jesus and the Kingdom community (the church—local and universal). Jesus does not tell his followers to be selective in their making of disciples. All peoples, all nations, all individuals are to be invited (cf. Matthew 28:19). Jesus expects us to live out what I would call a “universal invitation.”
˚ Significant personal life and relational disruption should be an expected part of what it means to respond to Jesus and become a disciple of Jesus. Simon and Peter had to leave their “nets”— their vocations and economic security—to follow Jesus. James and John had to leave their boat and their father (their family connection) to follow Jesus. Zacchaeus, the wealthy Jewish tax collector in Luke 19, responded to Jesus by dramatically changing the normal patterns in his economic life. The woman caught in adultery was told by Jesus to “leave your life of sin” (John 8:11). The rich young ruler, on the other hand, was unwilling to accept this level of personal life disruption and went away “deeply dismayed” and “grieving” because he “owned much property” (Mark 10:22 NASB). Becoming a follower of Jesus is a big deal— and disruption should be expected.
˚ Jesus and the now and not-yet Kingdom are of such value that personal disruption, sacrifice, or even the loss of one’s own life pale in comparison (cf. Philippians 1:21). Jesus’ disciples left their families, their occupations, their wealth, and all that was familiar—because of the treasure of the Kingdom (Luke 12:33). The Kingdom is a treasure
or a one-of-a-kind pearl worth selling everything for (cf. Matthew 13:44-46)—if we do not believe that it is actually worth all of this disruption, then we shouldn’t be having this conversation at all. Our task is to invite all people to this incomparable Kingdom life with Jesus, rather than stay quiet because we worry that the cost will be too high for them.
˚ We can’t know exactly what Jesus will call each person to in terms of personal life disruptions and the timing of those disruptions—especially when a person is in a complex marital/familial situation where there are significant commitments and responsibilities involved. Not everyone will have to “sell everything and follow me.” Not everyone will have to “leave their boat and their father.” We must trust that Jesus will do good in the lives of your friends if one or more of them responds to Jesus’ call. We have a God who can take very challenging situations and point them in the direction of life and beauty and freedom. In addition, the Holy Spirit promises your local church wisdom as they are called to walk with new believers on their discipleship journey (cf. Matthew 16:19).
OUR TASK IS TO INVITE ALL PEOPLE TO THIS INCOMPARABLE KINGDOM LIFE WITH JESUS, RATHER THAN STAY QUIET BECAUSE WE WORRY THAT THE COST WILL BE TOO HIGH FOR THEM.
The second part of your question is about how to include same sex families in church fellowship. I’m not sure exactly what you are meaning by the word “include” but here are my reflections about how I see the word being used within our family. Based on what I think is New Testament teaching and modeling, the local church should show hospitality and compassion to all people as part of our call to “love our neighbours”—but offer family inclusion to all those who respond to the invitation to become baptized disciples of Jesus, and who embrace and desire to live out the mission and theological/ethical commitments of that local church. If this is the kind of “inclusion” you
SPIRITUAL HEALTH AND THEOLOGY 7 MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD MAY 2023
are asking about, then if one of your co-workers presently in a same sex family relationship becomes a disciple of Jesus and wants to walk the path of discipleship within your church, your church should absolutely celebrate what God has done in the life of that person. Then your church should ensure that they are included, given a true sense of belonging, offered community as they discern together what faithful discipleship could look like, and invited to participate as a full member of the family. Invite, celebrate, pray for, and walk the discipleship journey together would be the short answer about inclusion of any new believer.
But I hear people using the word “include” (or “inclusive”) to mean something else entirely— unconditional inclusion of all people as a social justice action in response to harm and marginalization. The inclusion motto is “You Belong Here!” Unconditional inclusion of all people regardless of their self-chosen identities, life choices, and so on has become one of the pillars of what I would call “secular religion” (and it certainly is a religion with beliefs that cannot be questioned and threats of severe sanctions on those who live in conflict with the beliefs). Secular religion seems to believe that humans through political actions and policies can create the “Kingdom” where everyone lives in peace, love, and justice—and unconditional inclusion is a key component of this “gospel.” Many Christians and churches are racing to adopt this unconditional inclusion part of secular religion and slapping a Jesus fish symbol on it. (Some would even claim that this unconditional inclusion is at the heart of Anabaptism and “peace,” citing Palmer Becker’s third Anabaptist essential of “reconciliation.”)
But Jesus’ path to reconciliation and the Kingdom was not by means of unconditional inclusion but by means of hospitality and an unconditional invitation to forgiveness, worship, and discipleship within the new community. Jesus threw out a wide invitation—eating with a surprising collection of people (e.g., tax collectors, “sinners,” Pharisees) and offering bread and fish to the multitudes. But only those who responded to Jesus’ “follow me” invitation ever became “included” in his community. By eating with all these people, Jesus’ life modeled universal invitation not universal inclusion. Only the Lord’s Supper represented family inclusion. (Judas at the last supper is not an argument for universal inclusion but a warning that even a close family member can “kiss Jesus and walk away.”)
The rich young ruler might be a posterchild for Jesus’ universal invitation preceding the
“welcome-to-the-family” inclusion. Jesus invited him (I trust with love and hospitality) but there was a significant high bar for family inclusion, so the man “went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property” (Matt 19:22). Jesus did not follow the “belonging comes first” idea, and Jesus did not run after him when the man turned away from Jesus’ invitation. (See John 6:24-70 for more of Jesus’ model of invitation before family inclusion.)
Wide unconditional inclusion (which is really only possible if one embraces some version of universalism) may have the appearance of being loving to those who walk in our doors and to those pressuring us toward this posture—but it is not fundamentally truthful about God or about Jesus’ own model lived out while he was on earth. Unconditional inclusion is also not faithful to the model of the Early Church. Paul’s letters to each local church assume that the hearers are converted disciples of Jesus (e.g., Rom 7:4; 1 Cor 5:11).
An alternative argument in favour of unconditional inclusion/family belonging is that the church must practice this as the best missiological strategy with the hope that this belonging and inclusion will eventually lead to believing and faith (and presumably behaving at some point). The motto here could be—“belonging comes first.” The idea is that by having few or no family inclusion limits, people will be so taken by the unconditional grace of the community that they will eventually be drawn to faith, the embrace of the local church’s mission, and our theological/ethical commitments. The jury is still out whether this strategy will lead to people converting to Jesus, pursuing Kingdom discipleship, and eventually embracing our missional and theological/ethical convictions. The other possible outcome is that the full church inclusion and participation of individuals who are not yet disciples of Jesus and/or not interested in embracing the theological/ethical convictions of that family will eventually undermine both the mission and the theological/ethical convictions of that church. I would suggest that the latter is more likely.
I do hope that all of our MB churches are places where every person—especially those marginalized in our communities—experiences gracious hospitality and a universal invitation to Jesus, the Kingdom, and the Kingdom community (the church). Then, my prayer is that every person who responds to that amazing invitation and desires to embrace the mission and the convictions of that church—will be included fully in the family as that person walks through whatever life disruptions that discipleship to Jesus will inevitably bring.
Thanks again for your great question. My prayers are with you as you reflect on what Jesus is calling you to as you show Jesus’ love to your co-workers.
— Ken Esau (National Faith & Life Director)
8 MBHERALD.COM MAY 2023 SPIRITUAL HEALTH AND THEOLOGY
BY MARK JH KLASSEN
e felt very restless,” said Rick and Karen Sawatzky as they looked to the future.
In the summer of 2022, Rick was sixty-three years old, and Karen was sixty-two. The couple, both teachers by profession, lived in Winkler, Manitoba. In recent years, while semi-retired, they had taken a variety of short-term job opportunities that always seemed to be available. But this year was different.
“This year, there was nothing on the horizon,” said Karen, “and it was unsettling. We told each other that we wanted purpose in life even though we were at the end of our careers. We didn’t want to miss God’s call on our lives.”
“I just wanted to be obedient,” said Rick. “We knew we couldn’t have a relationship with Christ unless we were willing to follow him every day of our lives, even in our sixties.”
So, as they looked to the future, the couple asked God a simple question, “Is there anything you want us to do?”
In the past, at that time of year, Rick and Karen would get a call from Ewald Unrau with Multiply and they would talk about various projects and opportunities to give. “But this year, I phoned Ewald,” said Rick, “and we talked about our restlessness, and I asked him if there was anything that we could do through Multiply in Europe.”
Ewald was intrigued. He told Rick that the next step would be to talk to Multiply’s Regional Mobilizers in Central Canada, Lloyd and Carol Letkeman. He also told Rick that Lloyd just happened to be in Winkler that weekend on a rare visit to their church and that they should introduce themselves. As well, he mentioned that Johann Matthies, the European Mission Director, who lived in Germany, just happened to be in Winnipeg for meetings. The timing of all this, Ewald noted, seemed to be more than a coincidence.
The following Monday, Rick and Karen met with Lloyd and Carol and Johann Matthies in a coffee shop in Winnipeg. They talked for two hours about service opportunities in Europe. “By the end of our conversation,” Karen said, “they were ready to move forward, and we were eager to see what was next.”
At that meeting in late August, Lloyd and Carol told Rick and Karen that their next step would be something called FOCUS Internship, a nine-month training experience toward long-term ministry, which could possibly include a service component in Europe. The FOCUS training was scheduled to start in three weeks at Fort Garry MB Church in Winnipeg.
In the midst of these rapidly unfolding events, God spoke clearly to the couple from a verse in the Book of Revelation (3:7-8): “These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can
MISSION 9 MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD MAY 2023
open... See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.”
“It was a bit scary and sudden,” said Rick, “because we still had so many questions, but there were also too many coincidences. Doors were opening and we just kept walking through them.”
Three weeks later, Rick and Karen arrived at Fort Garry for FOCUS Internship training. Even as they drove into the parking lot of the church, they felt the weight of their decision and they wondered if they would fit in with the younger participants. “Honestly,” said Rick, “it felt like we were arriving at a youth night.”
During one of the most stretching times at FOCUS, Karen was feeling very weary. “We were driving down Henderson Highway on our way to Fort Garry,” she said, “and I looked over and saw this little wooden sign that said, Press on, and immediately I thought of the verse in Philippians where Paul writes, ‘I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’ And I thought, oh, that’s interesting.”
On their drive home that same day, Karen saw another sign just like the first in a completely different location. The next day, on a walk by the river, she ventured off the path and made her way through the trees. On the limb of a tree, seemingly out of sight, there was another sign and the message again, staring her in the face, Press on.
That same day, Rick was in the city and saw some graffiti art on the side of a building. In the midst of the artwork was a simple message, Press on. He took a photo so he could show it to Karen when he got home.
“Literally, everywhere we turned,” said Karen, “we saw that message. We knew God was speaking to us. Then, a few days later, in our FOCUS Bible reading, we read Hosea 6:3, ‘Oh that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him.’ We knew we needed to press on to know him and obey him.”
Rick explained how community life at FOCUS training made adapting to everything easier. “The teaching was amazing, and the fellowship was deep. Our fellow interns were all very accepting. Lloyd and Carol, and Johann and the Multiply team in Europe, have all been so supportive and flexible. In fact, everyone in Multiply has been amazing and helpful.”
It was Johann who initially pitched the idea of them going to Lithuania for their assignment as FOCUS Interns. “We trusted his judgment,” said Rick. “Johann knew of a number of possible locations in Europe, but that one seemed to suit us best.”
It was not an easy transition to Lithuania. “When we arrived,” said Rick, “we were very aware of how different everything was there. We had left the safety and familiarity of our little city on the prairies.”
However, Rick and Karen adapted, and before long they were thriving in Lithuania, investing in local churches, encouraging leaders, and building friendships. Their hosts in the country are Gediminas and Kristina Dailyde, Multiply workers and church planters in Vilnius.
“Gedas and Kristina have been fantastic,” said Karen, “and so have Pastor Arturas and his wife, Vita, and their congregation. We appreciate them so much.”
According to Rick and Karen, these churches were both hospitable and spiritually vibrant. “We have really seen the Spirit of God at work among them,” said Karen, “and we feel so privileged to be a small part of that. We have been inspired by their love and devotion to God.”
During the past few weeks, God has opened many more doors of service for the Sawatzkys in Lithuania. “You know, we came here to serve, and to see where we could fit in during our time here,” said Rick, “but whatever we’ve given here among these people has been overshadowed by what we’ve received from them.”
By the end of April, their assignment in Lithuania will be complete, and Rick and Karen will return to Canada for their FOCUS debrief, which will wrap up in early May. The couple will have much to process at that time about the past year’s journey and about future ministry opportunities. Whatever they face, however, they will remember God’s clear message to them to press on.
Is God calling you to explore your calling to long-term ministry? To learn more about the FOCUS Internship, go to multiply.net/focus
MARK JH KLASSEN
is a writer with Multiply and a member of Yarrow MB Church (BC).
This article was previously published in Witness, Multiply’s quarterly magazine. To read other stories from the latest edition, go to multiply.net/witness or subscribe at multiply.net/subscribe
10 MBHERALD.COM MAY 2023 MISSION
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BY NATHAN ENSZ
13 MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD MAY 2023 anxiety
This article was originally published on March 1, 2023 in Christian Leader Magazine.
In the fall of 2019, my church offered a five-week home group study on the topic of anxiety. Little did we know just how vital these small groups would prove as 2020 rolled around the corner. To this day, I keep a handwritten note identifying three areas that stirred a sense of anxiety within me. The note serves as a reminder of God’s faithfulness.
Although I wouldn’t define myself as an anxious person, I realize as I walk through life the opportunity for anxiety can grow within me. Webster’s dictionary defines anxiety as, “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating and increased pulse rate).” The reality of anxiety exists; I have experienced its impact. I have also walked with friends, family and church members who feel its negative impact on their life.
The Scripture passage our home groups examined was Philippians 4:4-7: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Together we gleaned these four helpful observations.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Rejoicing doesn’t come easily when anxiety takes root. As a matter of fact, rejoicing often disappears when anxiety grows.
One needs to ask why the apostle Paul places this directive just prior to addressing anxiety. No matter how unnatural rejoicing feels in the midst of anxiety, remembering to put into practice what is best helps in the battle, even when emotions tell us otherwise. Feelings need not guide a person flooded by anxious thoughts. If guided by emotion, rejoicing would seldom occur.
Since Scripture calls for rejoicing, one must heed this piece of instruction. Understanding the apostle Paul wrote these words from a prison cell cements the idea that even when life remains uncertain, rejoicing is an option worth taking. God lessens anxiety when adhering to
this command. Could it actually work?
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. The Greek word epieikes provides some difficulty when translating into English. For this reason, a variety of words occur. NIV uses the word “gentleness,” ESV “reasonableness,” NASB “gentle spirit,” HCSB “graciousness” and ASV “forbearance.” The nuances of each of these words paint parts of a picture conveying a gracious and gentle spirit.
As rejoicing in difficulty seems out of place, gentleness may also seem odd. Yet, what if this precisely shows the passages’ intent? Doesn’t it make sense that God sees deep into our greatest need? Should it come as any surprise that we often cannot comprehend what God reveals?
In this verse, a gracious spirit points a person’s focus outward on others; anxiety moves it inward on self. Remember the rest of this verse: a gracious gentle spirit keeps in mind the nearness of the Lord. A twofold implication follows. First, the Lord’s return is near. Soon that which breeds anxiety will no longer reign. Second, the Lord’s very presence is near. Even though life circumstances seem to produce anxiousness, the presence of the Lord never ceases.
Which implication is correct? How about both! Both are backed by Scripture and provide direction and comfort. Perhaps the apostle Paul intended to leave a sense of vagueness around the Lord’s nearness to allow the reader to realize both assurances.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. As the heart of these verses emerge, perhaps it doesn’t settle easily. “Do not be anxious about anything.” How can this happen? Can the apostle Paul just command anxiety obsolete? Does this passage think that people flooded with anxiety can turn it off and on, like a light switch?
14 MBHERALD.COM MAY 2023
While Paul’s admonition may seem oversimplified, I believe his straightforwardness is needed. Notice he says not to be anxious about anything. This communicates that all anxiety points to something within us that needs adjustment. Certain anxieties should not be deemed as sensible while other anxieties thought of as shameful. Paul lays it out saying that all anxiety needs addressing.
When plagued by anxiety, this passage teaches prayer, petition and thanksgiving. Elsewhere, Paul tells believers in Thessalonica to “pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17). Keeping these words in mind, what often brings anxiety becomes items of prayer. If a relationship spawns anxiety, pray about it. If concern over the future generates anxious thoughts, pray. If financial obligations set off anxiety, take it to God in prayer. Praying does not negate appropriately acting to combat that which stirs anxiety, but it does set a tone for how to move forward.
Petition and thanksgiving ought to mark the prayer of an anxious person. As seen in Jesus’ example of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8), petitions and requests make their way to God. His teaching serves as a reminder that petitions don’t stop with one prayer. Even when it seems God isn’t answering, continue on. The parable affirms a loving heavenly Father who sees that justice eventually occur (vv. 8).
Thankfulness gets lumped in with prayers and petitions. This unnatural response draws attention back to the apostle Paul’s directive to rejoice always. While thankfulness and rejoicing are difficult disciplines to practice when anxious thoughts flood our souls, does it not stand to reason that God knows it is part of the remedy? Intentionally choosing thankfulness redirects focus.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Those flooded with anxiety long for God’s peace. How does this come? The apostle Paul makes it clear that one cannot explain or comprehend God’s divine work. It “transcends all understanding.” Although difficult to explain, God’s peace is able to meet and overtakes a flood of anxious thoughts. It comes through rejoicing, practicing a gentle and gracious spirit, remembering the nearness of the Lord and choosing to bathe problems with prayer, petition and thankfulness. What an unusual, yet intentional way to overcome anxiety!
Hear my heart and know I understand and believe the role medicine, counseling and other interventions play for those struggling with severe and crippling anxiety. I desire to emphasize the words of God. Scripture’s way of addressing anxiety may make us scratch our head, but can we trust God that his method is part of the remedy?
I should point out one further thing in regard to the note I wrote myself in 2019. The list I developed has become irrelevant. The stressors in my life have become obsolete as resolution has come to each point of anxiety. Issues come and go. My response can remain steadfast, grounded in rejoicing, a gracious spirit and prayer.
NATHAN ENSZ has been in ministry since 2000 and currently serves as lead pastor at Kingwood Bible Church in Salem, Oregon. He is a graduate of Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon, and a master of arts in ministry, leadership and culture from Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary.
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No matter how unnatural rejoicing feels in the midst of anxiety, remembering to put into practice what is best helps in the battle, even when emotions tell us otherwise.
A flourishing life Standing on the shoulders…
BY KAREN ESAU
Kristal Toews grew up immersed in the Mennonite Brethren theological and cultural heritage. Three of her grandparents came from Mennonite colonies in Russia, and emigrated from there in the 1920s. Most of these grandparents became leaders in MB institutions. Her own parents were missionaries with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Nepal, when she was a child. Later, they moved back to Canada and settled in the Bradner area in BC. She grew up attending Bakerview MB Church where her parents were involved in teaching and music. She attended a public elementary school, then went to Mennonite Educational Institute Secondary, the University of the
Fraser Valley, and then Simon Fraser University for her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. She continued her academic studies at Regent College at UBC, where she achieved a Master of Arts in Theological Studies with a Biblical Studies Concentration.
Journey to a cliff
Her own spiritual journey began when she was young. Kristal remembers praying to receive Jesus at six years old, responding to the example of God’s great love expressed in John 3:16. At her public elementary school, she found few that shared her belief in Jesus or who attended church at all, so she rarely spoke to others of her faith. When she started attending MEI in
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Women in ministry KRISTAL TOEWS
grade 8, she experienced a new freedom to express her beliefs. Her faith awakened and she felt God’s presence around her when she prayed and also as she observed nature and the beauty of spring blooming around her. The next year, the feelings waned and she struggled to believe that she was forgiven, or that God was near at all. Throughout her teen years, she slowly learned that her faith needed to be founded on the truths proclaimed in scripture, rather than on her changeable feelings.
After she graduated, Kristal went on a French immersion trip. Here, surrounded once again by unbelievers, she came to a crisis. Was she a Christian or not? Would she just blend in and go along with the crowd, or would she stand up for her faith? What would standing up for her faith look like? One night, she saw the choice as a cliff in front of her. Either she could throw herself off —and abandon her faith—or she could stay and cling to God on the cliff. She chose to stay with God. This was a pivotal moment in her life. From here she committed to unashamedly live out her faith, walking it out alongside people who had many different beliefs. She still had her struggles through university, but when she felt discouraged, her husband would remind her to get up and get together with her Christian community, and so she did. She learned to lean into God in the doubts, instead of distancing herself from him. This lesson became harder later on through financial struggles, relational challenges, and most poignantly, with the birth of a stillborn child. She spent some time navigating the ensuing grief and pondering questions about God’s ability to heal, and the nature of God’s goodness. Once again, she made it through, intact in her faith in a loving God. She saw God redeeming these trials for his glory and for her own good. She has no doubt that these struggles through weakness and hardship have strengthened her ministry to many others today.
It was at Bakerview that she began honing her leadership skills in her early 20s and into her 30s. Here, she served as a youth leader for four years, and shared a one-year interim Youth pastor role with her husband, Bob. She also served on the church council as a Member at Large, and began leading the women’s Bible study, with a leadership role in women’s ministry for several years.
She began to attend Northview in the fall of 2008, and joined the staff as Administrative Assistant in Women’s ministry in 2009. It was then that she began her master’s studies and was promoted to Director of Women’s Ministry in 2011 and then Pastor of Women (2012-2018) and is presently the Pastor of Discipleship. In the larger MB Conference, Kristal served as an MC
and taught at several national study conferences and now serves on the National Faith and Life Team (NFLT) as a Member at Large.
Throughout her various roles, Kristal observed how God used many ordinary means to train her for the ministry he was calling her to. God gave her a love for teaching and language. Her English degree developed her ability to carefully observe the details of a literary text, and she started using this skill to study and teach the Bible. She realized how God used her volunteer positions to train her for her future vocation. She acknowledges that through all of the highs and lows of her time serving God, that only He deserves the glory for any ministry “success” she has been a part of. “We are completely dependent upon the work of his Spirit in our lives and the lives of those we are ministering to for the growth of his church.” Through all of this, her love to train and teach has only grown, as has her joy in seeing some of those she’s trained go on to serve in other churches and institutions.
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One night, [Kristal] saw the choice as a cliff in front of her. Either she could throw herself off—and abandon her faith—or she could stay and cling to God on the cliff.
A Woman in leadership
While Kristal attended Bakerview Church, she didn’t recall any women leading in a paid staff position, so assumed that there would be no vocational role there for her either. Later, in the early 2000s Bakerview staff took part in discussions around an MB study conference and officially moved to a more egalitarian stance, though this change did not immediately result in new paid staff roles for women. On the other hand, pastors and congregants consistently recognized Kristal’s gifting and encouraged her to step into volunteer leadership positions. These leadership opportunities with youth and women helped her recognize that God had gifted her for church ministry and was giving her experience to grow and explore these skills.
When Kristal’s family moved to Northview Church and she was invited to join the staff there, Northview was entering a time of discernment about their position on women in ministry. The elders and some staff members entered a year-long study process together, considering key texts and different interpretative approaches. After a year-long study, Northview’s elders affirmed that it would be a complementarian church that trains, equips and empowers women for all vocational and lay ministry positions in the church with the exception of the elder and lead pastor roles. Kristal benefitted from this decision immediately, as they paid for half of her tuition costs as she worked towards her Master’s degree at Regent.
Not done with her own research yet, Kristal continued to look into the subject of women in ministry leadership while at Regent College. She dove into feminist theology and studied a wide variety of views for her papers, distilling from them what would become her own stance. During this time of personal questioning and processing, she appreciated the trust and freedom Northview’s Senior Leadership Team extended to her as she continued to teach and lead there. She came to understand and respect the egalitarian perspective, knowing many who have arrived at this conviction from a careful study of the Scripture. But in the end, as a result of her own studies, she found herself aligned, theologically, with Northview’s expression of complementarianism.
Over her fifteen years of ministry there, she has seen all that Northview has done to equip her and many other women for ministry leadership, sending women to many learning and training opportunities such as conferences (Evangelical Theological Society, Charles Simeon Trust Workshops on Biblical Exposition, Gospel Coalition and Lifeway Women’s Conference) and offering both graduate and undergraduate level training programs. Kristal taught and trained students in the Immerse classes—Northview’s own fully-funded, accredited, 4-year Masters of Divinity program from
which two women have already graduated, with one more almost done and more working their way through the program. Dozens of women have already come through their Ministry Apprentice Program (MAP), a one-year internship. All of this training has enabled these women to provide training in lay-leader preaching/teaching cohorts for male and female lay-leaders in the congregation. They also mentor and support women leaders in other churches, and help run a 3-day regional Women of the Word Biblical Exposition workshop, in conjunction with St John’s Vancouver and Christ City Church, usually involving 60-80 women from the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. Kristal also greatly appreciates the opportunity to regularly take part in Northview’s sermon preview and reviews, giving and receiving critique together with the teaching pastors and Immerse students there. She is excited that their vision keeps growing and that they continue to expand their leadership training opportunities.
Vision for growth in the conference
Kristal’s vision for the Canadian MB family of churches is that we would seek a renewed intimacy in our relationship with God through worship and prayer. She prays for a recommitment to the Scriptures by “knowing, meditating on, studying and living our lives in light of God’s trinitarian revelation of Himself, and his plans and purposes for humanity.” She is convinced that it is only when we are committed to living as the Lord designed us to live, in dependence and submission to him and in loving relationship with others, that we can truly flourish as humans. She also encourages a renewed commitment to making disciples, following evangelism with teaching people to obey all that Jesus commanded. Finally, as she herself experienced, she would like to see a renewed commitment to equipping women and men for the work of both lay and vocational leadership.
In the end, Kristal values her experiences and training at Bakerview and at Northview, and the caring men and women who were always there to urge her to take leadership roles. Even more importantly they also encouraged her to deepen her dedication to follow Jesus--that the journey of discipleship to Jesus is key to becoming a thoughtful and impassioned preacher and teacher. She has now had many opportunities to teach and lead at Northview and beyond and she is flourishing in these roles.
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KAREN ESAU is a freelance writer and artist from British Columbia
Moments in prayer HOLY SPIRIT—FILL US WITH YOUR PATIENCE!
“THE LORD IS NOT SLOW TO FULFILL HIS PROMISE AS SOME COUNT SLOWNESS, BUT IS PATIENT TOWARD YOU, NOT WISHING THAT ANY SHOULD PERISH, BUT THAT ALL SHOULD REACH REPENTANCE.” (2 PETER 3:9)
“THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE ….” (GALATIANS 5:22A)
“LOVE IS PATIENT AND KIND; LOVE DOES NOT ENVY OR BOAST; IT IS NOT ARROGANT OR RUDE.” (1 CORINTHIANS 13:4-5A)
“REJOICE IN HOPE, BE PATIENT IN TRIBULATION, BE CONSTANT IN PRAYER.” (ROMANS 12:12)
“...WALK IN A MANNER WORTHY OF THE CALLING TO WHICH YOU HAVE BEEN CALLED, WITH ALL HUMILITY AND GENTLENESS, WITH PATIENCE , BEARING WITH ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE, EAGER TO MAINTAIN THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT IN THE BOND OF PEACE.” (EPHESIANS 4:2-3)
ur May prayer focus is inviting and seeking the Holy Spirit to fill us with Patience. This is the fourth quality in the fruit of the Spirit list we find in Galatians 5. I often think of patience as a virtue which helps people not become restless or annoyed when they face slowdowns or delays: driving in traffic jams, standing in Costco line-ups, walking beside an elderly friend, or helping a child learn to read. While this is one definition of patience, the Old Testament concept of patience is deeper: patience is about being long suffering or slow to anger (’ārēk in Hebrew). The New Testament (Greek) equivalents (makrothumia and hupomonē) “speak of the ability to take a great deal of punishment from evil people or circumstances without losing one’s temper, without becoming irritated and angry, or without taking vengeance. It includes the capacity to bear pain or trials without complaint, to forbear under severe provocation, and to have the self-control that keeps one from acting rashly even though suffering opposition or adversity” (Carpenter and Comfort, Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words, 357). Wow! We definitely need the Holy Spirit’s help to be filled with this sort of patience.
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Patience is first and foremost, an attribute of God. In the Old Testament, God introduces himself to Moses as one who is slow to anger (Exodus 34:6). As the story of Israel unfolds, it becomes evident that God’s patience with people is the key to their salvation and survival (see Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3). Without it they (and we) would be lost. Paul warns that we should not presume on the “riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience” (Romans 2:4), and Peter adds, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Because the LORD is patient to us, we are called to be patient towards others. We are to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:1b-2, see also 1 Thessalonians 5:14 and Colossians 3:12-17).
Also, because the LORD is patiently working out his plan of salvation, we are called to patiently endure hardship that we experience here on earth, and patiently serve the Lord. Paul exhorts: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12, see also 2 Corinth ans 1:6, 2 Timothy 2:24, Colossians 1:11, Revelation 1:9, 2:2-3, 2:19, 3:10). James adds: “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until itreceives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand…. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:7-11, see also Luke 8:15, Romans 8;25, 2 Timothy 4:2, Hebrews 6:12).
The LORD’s patience towards you: He was patient with you before you began following Jesus and is patient with you now as you imperfectly follow Jesus! Ask the Spirit to fill you with gratitude for the LORD’s patience. The call to be patient with others: Who is the Spirit prompting you to extend patience to? The call to be patient in suffering. What can the Spirit help you to patiently endure?
PRAY WORDS OF INVITATION AND WELCOME TO THE HOLY SPIRIT FOR YOUR OWN HEART:
˚ Welcome Holy Spirit! Come and Fill Me Today!
˚ Welcome Holy Spirit! Overwhelm me with gratefulness for the patience shown towards me.
˚ Welcome Holy Spirit! Teach me to be patient with (person).
˚ Welcome Holy Spirit! Help me to patiently endure (situation).
PRAY WORDS OF INVITATION AND WELCOME FOR THE CHURCH:
˚ Welcome Holy Spirit! Overwhelm us with gratefulness for the patience you show towards us as a church community!
˚ Welcome Holy Spirit! Teach us to be patient with one another as we seek to be a community which reflects the LORD’s patience for us.
˚ Welcome Holy Spirit! Help us to patiently endure (situation) which we are facing as a church community.
KRISTAL TOEWS is the Pastor of Discipleship at Northview community Church in Abbostford, BC. She also serves as a Member at Large on the CCMBC National Faith & LifeTeam.
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NEW INTRODUCTION TO THE MB CONFESSION OF FAITH
The National Faith and Life Team (NFLT) is tasked with providing resources related to the MB Confession of Faith. These resources are to clarify our Confession of Faith, but the larger goal is to encourage greater spiritual health and theology in our MB family. Without a shared understanding of our MB Confession of Faith—its vision and unifying purpose—local churches and leaders could easily move in directions further and further away from our MB missional DNA.
As part of that task, the NFLT have approved in principle a significantly revised introduction that replaces the existing “Nature and Function of the Confession of Faith” document. This new introduction responds to common questions that have emerged within our Canadian MB family that have not been addressed clearly elsewhere.
This is the third and final part in our series looking at key sections of this new introduction here in the Herald with the hope that it will be read widely.
The full version is posted online here
If you have feedback and/or questions related to this revised “Introduction to the MB Confession of Faith,” please send them to email@example.com
Thank you for your participation in this project.
CCMBC National Faith & Life Director
“INTRODUCTION TO THE MB CONFESSION OF FAITH (2023)”
7. If all MBs are expected to affirm and actively support the Confession of Faith, how could the Confession of Faith ever change?
The MB Confession of Faith is open to occasional revision as is demonstrated by the revision of Article 8 approved in 2021. Revision to an article in the Confession of Faith can be undertaken for one or more of the following reasons:
1. We believe that the older language needs updating in order to clarify the original intention of an article as understood when approved in 1999/2021.
2. We believe that something needs to be added to a specific article in order to address a new situation facing our MB family today.
3. We believe that a present article does not faithfully express biblical teaching. It is not incompatible for MB churches and/or leaders to affirm and actively support the Confession of Faith while at the same time expressing a desire for our larger MB family to explore the possible revision of an article. MB church members should express this to their own church leadership while MB churches and leaders should express this directly to their provincial Faith and Life Team.
The Canadian Conference National Faith and Life Team (NFLT) is the group that gathers feedback and suggestions that relate to the MB Confession of Faith. They are the body that initiates the review of an article of the Confession of Faith. We do recognize that our Confession is not “infallible,” so we desire to be open to God leading us toward greater faithfulness and better understanding in our convictions. This process of review and possible revision offers individuals and churches an opportunity to participate in prayer, careful biblical study, and discernment together across our national family. Any changes made must be done with “uncompromising obedience to the Word of God.” Changes to our Confession need approval through our larger national family of churches. We do not change or revise the Confession of Faith without a significant and lengthy process of prayerful discernment, biblical study, and community engagement.
8. What role does “community discernment” and/or a “community hermeneutic” play in developing and/or revising the Confession of Faith?
The MB church, as part of the larger Anabaptist tradition, intentionally practices a community approach to discerning what God is speaking to us (Matthew 18:18-20). This approach manifests itself in two ways. In cases when an individual or a local church senses a word from the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:29) or is asking God for direction in their circumstances, we call them to invite others to discern with them what God is saying. We refer to this process as community discernment when each individual and/or church prayerfully invites others to listen with them to the Holy Spirit on these questions. The goal is to
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clarify next steps based on the wisdom that they’ve heard. But community discernment, as helpful as it is for application questions, is NOT an adequate foundation for establishing our shared theological and ethical convictions.
When it comes to our shared theological and ethical convictions as expressed in the MB Confession of Faith, we move beyond community discernment to a process commonly referred to as a community hermeneutic. Hermeneutics is the term used for the careful interpretation and application of Scripture. A community hermeneutic in relation to our MB Confession of Faith involves a group of duly recognized representatives from our MB churches across the country who turn their minds and hearts toward the careful study of Scripture in order to discern theological and ethical convictions for the larger family. While this group process involves prayer and careful discernment, a community hermeneutic is specifically focused on the study of Scripture. This community study of Scripture is designed to produce Scripturally-faithful theological and ethical convictions which are tested widely and then affirmed by delegates from the larger Canadian MB family. This is how the present MB Confession of Faith was formed. The MB Confession of Faith represents the conclusions that grew out of our community hermeneutic.
The model of the Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15), where a gathered group of leaders and local believers came together to discern how the gospel should be received by Gentiles, provides a concrete example of how our larger national church family can listen to the Word and the Spirit in the face of a new theological question. This was neither a democratic process favouring the majority, nor a forced harmonizing of all views. However, in the end, it is an example of healthy consensus-building around a shared understanding of Scripture, where in order to reflect the unity of the Holy Spirit, some must have willingly chosen to affirm and support the decision even though they may not have fully agreed with the decision (Ephesians 4:1-3; Colossians 3:14-16).
Since the expression of theological and ethical convictions in our MB Confession of Faith is a Canada-wide MB responsibility, our community hermeneutic is practiced
necessarily by representatives from this national family. This means that the Confession of Faith is not revised simply because a local church (or even a group of local churches) has discerned together a different conviction. Because a local church is only one part of the MB family, it is inadequate to represent the fulness of a community hermeneutic when it comes to theological and ethical convictions for our whole national family. Local churches are welcome to participate in the process of Confession revision by sending delegates as part of the community hermeneutic process (see FAQ #7).
9. Are all articles in the Confession of Faith equally important or essential?
Mennonite Brethren have rejected the idea that the MB Confession has two tiers with some articles containing “essentials” and others “non-essentials.” Nevertheless, some of the 18 articles in the Confession of Faith may be more foundational than others (compare the articles about “Salvation” and “Stewardship”) while other articles address issues that flow out of previous articles (see “Creation and Humanity” and “The Sanctity of Human Life”). However, each article expresses Mennonite Brethren convictions regarding what the Bible says about a particular topic and it is included specifically because of its importance in the Scriptures and in the life of the church. If something is included in the Confession, this is already a declaration that we understand that to be essential. We believe that both theological convictions and ethical convictions are “essential” to faithfulness to Jesus and thus to our Mennonite Brethren identity….
This community study of Scripture is designed to produce Scripturally-faithful theological and ethical convictions which are tested widely and then affirmed by delegates from the larger Canadian MB family.
Isaiah 5:1-2 describes a vineyard that has all the essential foundational ingredients (viz., excellent hillside, fertile soil, choicest vines) but it “yielded only bad fruit” (v.2). That vineyard was destined for destruction (vv.5-6) not because of its lack of essential ingredients but because of the bad fruit that was produced. The ingredients and the fruit that those ingredients produced were both “essential.” We do not believe that we can separate an essential theological core (Articles 1-9; 17-18) from non-essential and non-prescriptive ethical fruit (Articles 10-16). We understand our Confession of Faith as having 18 articles deeply interconnected with each other, designed to work together to produce the healthy fruit of a faithful MB church family participating in God’s great redemption story.
10. Why can’t we have a shorter and less specific Confession of Faith that gives space for greater diversity in our family and breaks down barriers with non-MB churches?
Canadian Mennonite Brethren believe that the combination of theological and ethical convictions represented in our MB Confession of Faith is a valuable treasure that describes the
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centredness that Jesus is calling us to. Our Confession is a unified whole expressing what we believe about this theological centre and what it looks like to move toward this centre in day- to-day life. Limiting our Confession of Faith to only a few general theological and ethical convictions in order to ensure that there is room for increased diversity in our family is a misunderstanding of our Anabaptist commitment that true theology must be lived out day-to-day and impact every area of our lives. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) models for us this deep connection between theology and ethics. A very diverse MB family that shares only some short universally agreed on confessional affirmations has little to guide the preaching, teaching, and mission within our MB family; little to contribute to the larger Christian family; and little to anchor us as a denominational entity. We recognize that having a detailed and prescriptive collection of theological and ethical convictions will inevitably lead to some individuals, leaders, and/or churches stepping away from and/or losing their affiliation with our MB family because they cannot actively affirm and support these shared convictions. Shortening our Confession of Faith to a few “core” items and/or changing our expectations about what affirmation and support for the Confession of Faith means would certainly make more space for diverse voices within our family. But if our MB Confession is faithful in its description of what the Bible teaches, then it provides an accurate picture and a road map about what it means to follow Jesus and be the kind of people of God we believe Jesus is calling us to be. Making more space for diversity in conflict with these convictions would be a move away from rather than closer to our understanding of this centre.
In terms of other Christian denominations, we both humbly affirm and deeply cherish the theological and ethical convictions that we believe the Holy Spirit has led us to, while respecting and valuing these other denominational families. We trust that God is working through other denominational families for God’s larger mission in the world. Without ignoring or downplaying our own convictions, we want to partner well with Christian disciples from many other denominational families as we together proclaim and live out the gospel in our communities. But we do not expect them to rewrite their
convictions to include only those that we share with them. We welcome these other groups to live faithfully to their convictions as we seek to live faithfully to ours. We believe that the people of God are strengthened rather than hindered when each group shares with the larger family the insights and gifts the Holy Spirit has entrusted to them.
11. Can a local MB church create their own Confession of Faith, adopt another Confession of Faith, and/or become affiliated with some other network or organization?
Since the MB Confession is a central part of our mutual covenant of commitment in our MB church family and an expression of our shared identity, it is essential that each local MB church affirm, support, and prioritize our Confession. In practice, this means that the MB Confession should guide theological/ethical teaching and congregational practice at the local church level. The MB Confession should be utilized in the hiring of staff, selection of leaders, and welcoming of new members. A local MB church’s affiliation with the larger provincial and Canadian MB family, along with the MB Confession of Faith (Summary and Full Edition) should be highlighted and accessible on the church’s website for those seeking clarity about the fundamental convictions guiding the church.
It should be clear that the MB Confession of Faith remains the primary statement of biblical convictions for the local MB church. Local churches should avoid creating their own confessions of faith even if based on the layout of the MB Confession, since this fails to honour the shared origins and affiliation represented by the MB Confession.
Since the MB Confession of Faith does not clarify all theological, ethical, and/or church polity matters, local MB churches may want to express some additional commitments for themselves in particular areas. A local MB church may also want to express affiliation with another Christian network or organization. As long as these additional commitments and affiliations are not in conflict with the theological, ethical, and polity convictions articulated in the MB Confession of Faith, this is not a departure from one’s covenant with the larger MB family. However, it should be clear that the MB Confession of Faith remains the primary statement of biblical convictions for the local MB church. Local churches should avoid creating their own confessions of faith even if based on the layout of the MB Confession, since this fails to honour the shared origins and affiliation represented by the MB Confession. It would be best to express any additional local church theological, ethical, and polity commitments separately from the MB Confession of Faith.
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A NON-ANXIOUS PRESENCE: HOW A CHANGING AND COMPLEX WORLD WILL CREATE A REMNANT OF RENEWED CHRISTIAN LEADERS
BY MARK SAYERS
205 PAGES, PUBLISHED BY MOODY PUBLISHERS (CHICAGO) IN 2022. SOFT-COVER AVAILABLE THROUGH ALIBRIS AND AMAZON
REVIEWED BY HAROLD JANTZ
A friend recommended this book by the evangelical church leader Mark Sayers to me and I picked it up soon after. I was happy I did. Sayers is the senior leader of the Red Church of Melbourne, Australia, and co-founder of Ueber Ministries, a resourcing ministry for church leaders.
Sayers is concerned about the impact of the culture on the church and how Christians might be better equipped to live out their faith in a world of high anxiety. Hence the title, a non-anxious presence (it is all lower case). He has done a great deal of helpful reading and shares perspectives that many will find helpful.
One of his observations comes out of the work of the Jewish rabbi and scholar, Edwin Friedmann, who writes about the loss of legitimacy for institutions. He writes that institutions and structures in society “are there to absorb anxiety.” But if persons no longer trust schools, the medical system, the police, local governments, perhaps national governments, where do they go with their concerns? Compound that with concerns about global warming, vexatious social issues, war in Ukraine, etc., anxiety can become acute indeed.
In Christian church settings, Sayers says that many leaders and pastors have embraced an approach to church leadership that goes something like this: determine your goal, study the most efficient path to reach it, break it into tasks, delegate the tasks to persons with the right skills, set up good supervision, and
work with expectation of reaching the goal. It is an approach used by the military, business, government and even by many in their personal lives. There is nothing especially Christian or spiritual about it and, indeed, it often works. But writes Sayers, “Yet these things work against the practice of faith.”
In fact, we are learning that while we may have planned and organized to the last detail, the solutions of the past and the assumptions that were stable earlier, suddenly may not work. Covid strikes, a war breaks out, a hurricane devastates our region, the government no longer feels like an ally.
Sayers says that “Christian leadership [means] leading people into growth so they can grow into Christlikeness. Growth, moreover, involves understanding that discomfort and pain are part of life and can be used by God to grow us.” One of the images Sayers uses in his book is the story of the aftermath of the enormous volcanic explosion of Mount Krakatoa in 1883, which destroyed the larger part of an Indonesian island and affected the climate of the entire globe. The island became a grey zone. Yet four years later, scientists found “rampant growth” there. We too often find ourselves in grey zones, perhaps increasingly, but growth can follow.
Sayers purpose with a non-anxious presence is to help churches and their leaders respond to such situations from a vantagepoint of faith in a God who is there to accompany and guide us. This involves a keen awareness of the environment in which we find ourselves, choosing reality over ideology, orienting ourselves by what he terms “a heavenly reality,” and embracing humility. His approach places high value on the small. “In a complex world, small things can have a significant impact,” he writes. It’s the story of David and Goliath repeated.
“David in his earthly weakness, held a decisive asymmetry,” writes Sayers, and won his battle. Today’s Christians can possess it too and be “a non-anxious presence” in their world.
24 MBHERALD.COM MAY 2023
ELVIRA (HARDER) DYCK
Elvira’s was one of the first Mennonite families to farm in Yarrow’s reclaimed lakebed. Before she entered Kindergarten, the doctor discovered she had a weak heart (probably from rheumatic fever) and discouraged her parents from exposing her to the exertion of school; she proved everyone wrong. With persistence and God’s help, she overcame, later enduring heart attacks and open-heart surgery, to live to 93. At evangelistic services in Yarrow MB Church, Elvira received Jesus at 8 and was baptized at 12. At the end of high school, Elvira met John from Manitoba. They were married Sept. 24, 1950. Elvira worked as a seamstress and supported John by keeping house, helping shingle the roof, and encouraging his formal education, which led them into full-time church ministry, mainly with youth. Elvira loved leading women’s Bible studies at Union Gospel Mission, women’s ministry at Culloden Church, and a ladies’ choir at Clearbrook Church. She was well-known for hospitality: one year she fed 1,000 visitors! When all four children, Marilyn, Elizabeth, Edward, and Robert, learned to play piano, Elvira refreshed her own musical skills. She sewed all their clothes and took them berry picking, gardened and canned, cared for her aging mother and aunts, welcomed a refugee from Vietnam,
LILLIAN L. DYCK
Lillian died peacefully at Freeport Hospital on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022, to be with her Lord and Saviour. A loving mother, grandmother, greatgrandmother, and sister, Lillian was predeceased by her beloved husband of 68 years Peter Dyck in 2019, her son at birth, son-in-law Albert Friesen, her parents Nicholas and Louise Fehderau, her siblings Harold Fehderau and Elenore Neufeld-Fast, and brother-in-law Jake Willms. Lillian offered a wonderful example to her family of Christian service, both in the church and in her community. Kitchener MB Church (KMB) appreciated all the ways Lillian contributed musically –initially accompanying the church choir in 1947 and then serving on the piano and organ at church services, weddings, and funerals for more than 50 years. Lillian volunteered for many years at KMB’s Vacation Bible School and at Mennonite Central Committee’s Ten Thousand Villages in Kitchener. Throughout her life, Lillian cherished good friendships and nurtured them. Lillian’s quiet-and-
cleaned doctors’ offices for grocery money, and hosted birthday parties and Christmas dinners. In retirement, John and Elvira travelled to Germany, Egypt, and Israel, across Canada and the U.S., and on Christian service trips to Lithuania and California. In addition to babysitting daily, every week Elvira welcomed the grandchildren for games and ice cream while their parents attended Bible studies. If the parents returned too early, the children pretended to sleep in a bid to stay later. There were also sleepovers at the cabin, visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus (who resembled Grandma), and Sunday dinners. Elvira’s last phase of ministry was a small sealed unit of dementia patients. She never hesitated to stroke someone’s face or hand and say, “I love you. We’ll always be friends, right?” Hers was a life of selfless love that did not bring lasting fame or fortune, but by those she touched, she will never be forgotten.
Birth: September 27, 1929
Birthplace: Yarrow, B.C.
Death: December 23, 2022
Parents: Heinrich & Erna Harder
Married: John Dyck, September 24, 1950
Family: children Marilyn (Harry) Schroeder, Elizabeth (Dale) Parberry, Edward (Linda), Robert (Shannon); 10 grandchildren; 7 great-grandchildren
Church: Clearbrook, Abbotsford, B.C.
steadfast faith in God shaped her own life and influenced the lives of those around her in so many wonderful ways. Her family experienced her daily prayers and is forever grateful for the way she cared for them her entire life, demonstrating her close walk with God as her Lord and Saviour. God has blessed her family over the past 91 years with this woman, Lillian L. Dyck. And now their Heavenly Father takes pleasure in having Lillian join him in her new eternal home.
Birth: February 18, 1931
Birthplace: Kitchener, Ont.
Death: December 15, 2022
Parents: Nicholas & Louise Fehderau
Married: Peter Dyck, September 16, 1950 [d. 2019]
Family: children Dianne Friesen, Randy (Ruth), Jamie VanDyck; grandchildren Dana (Joel) Crawford, Jared Friesen, Jeremy (Lisa) Dueck, Karalyn (Aaron) Smits; greatgrandchildren Cadence, Kirsten, Ethan, Tristan, Carter, Kinsley; sister Rita Willms; sister-in-law Nancy Fehderau, brother-in-law Neil Fast
Church: Kitchener (Ont.) MB.
Baptism: Aug. 4, 1946
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DOROTHY (BERGMANN) REMPEL
Dorothy’s parents emigrated from Ukraine to Dundurn, Sask., in 1924, and in 1937, welcomed Dorothy, the youngest of 4 (including Henry who died in infancy). Dorothy’s early years were carefree, despite the family’s financial struggles. In 1945, they bought a dairy farm in Chilliwack, B.C. Dorothy and her sisters Anita and Ruth did their share of milking. Saturday mornings were for German school, where her instructor Mr. Friesen led her to faith in Jesus. Dorothy grew in faith and life experiences, sometimes inching along; at others, by leaps and bounds; always, God’s grace was sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). Hebrews 13:21 was Dorothy’s baptismal challenge and ongoing desire. Dorothy and Dietrich married in June 1957, in Eden Mennonite Church, Chilliwack. They thanked God for many good years together as a family, which grew to include 4 children and 6 grandchildren. Their oldest child and only son Ken fell to his death at 21 in a climbing accident on Mount Seymour. Their son-in-law died in a farm accident, leaving their oldest daughter with 3 small children. These losses profoundly impacted Dorothy and Dietrich’s lives. The reality of Isaiah 40:31 was tested; as they waited, God supplied their needs. Psalm 46:1, inscribed on Ken’s grave marker, was their comfort in life and death. Dorothy found God gracious through 2 open-heart surgeries and Dietrich’s cancer operation. Forty years of pastoral ministry was both challenging and rewarding, the highlight being their work with Aussiedler in Berlin, Germany, from 1995 to 2000. Dorothy loved learning, praying, and sharing with Clearbrook MB Church. Gently and peacefully, Dorothy took her last breath on earth, Aug. 23, 2022, at 2:12 pm, after 42 days in Good Samaritan Deltaview in Jade Manor.
Birth: November 29, 1937
Death: August 23, 2022
Birthplace: Dundurn, Sask.
Parents: H. H. & Margaret Bergmann
Married: Dietrich Rempel, June 1957
Family: Dietrich, son Ken [d. 1980]; daughters Pearl (John Loewen [d.]), Jolene, Linda; 8 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren
Church: Clearbrook, Abbotsford, B.C.
Baptism: East Chilliwack (B.C.) MB, June 6, 1954
by Philli P A. Gunther
26 MBHERALD.COM MAY 2023
Letters to my Friends Words of Faith, Hope and Encourgement
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A moment in time
27 MENNONITE BRETHREN HERALD MAY 2023
BUHLER (KANSAS), 1999
Small group discussion held during an International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB) summit. Pictured at the left is Juan Miquel Forero.
ICOMB will host their 2023 summit in Abbotsford, BC., May 10-14.
Courtesy of the Mennonite Archival Information Database
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