Book Review: People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue

People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue, Preston Sprinkle (Zondervan, 2015). 224 pp. $19. ISBN 9780310519652. Reviewed by Jessica Wichers, BCM chair. 

The Bible is very clear.” When confronted with the hotly debated topic of the Church and homosexuality, evangelicals may be tempted to quote Bible verses and come to hasty conclusions. But do they really know what the Bible says? It’s too important an issue for quick answers.

Preston Sprinkle’s book People to Be Loved is an in-depth biblical analysis of homosexuality, which employs historical context to study scripture passages used to affirm or condemn homosexuality. Sprinkle demonstrates both affirming and non-affirming arguments, making the reader work for the conclusion that marriage was designed to be between a man and a woman.

He then discusses whether same-sex attracted individuals were “born this way” and the factors that contribute. Sprinkle gives stories of people who have gone through the struggles of same-sex attraction. He identifies ways that believers can show love to LGBT individuals, acknowledge their humanity, and make the church a safe place for them to experience the love of Christ. Sprinkle reminds pastors that their pews are filled with more same-sex attracted people than they realize, and they need to choose their words carefully when they teach.

Sprinkle suggests that evangelical believers may need to modify their attitudes about certain things. For instance, same-sex attracted individuals may choose to glorify God by remaining celibate., but the Church tends to overlook unmarried people. An environment that values singles will also be a place where same-sex attracted people may find a chance to thrive.

People to Be Loved is a helpful addition to the conversation about homosexuality and the Church. It is written by a person who upholds marriage to be between a man and a woman (as I do), and I believe the book is a well-balanced exploration of a most urgent and essential topic. It deals thoroughly with what the Bible says about same-sex attraction and marriage in a tone that is engaging, humble, and respectful. It is a recommended read for any believer.

Come Celebrate God’s Work in Nicaragua!

by Ken Zacharias

A total of 33 churches and outreaches—that’s only part of what a half-century of our EMC ministry in Nicaragua has contributed toward! And that’s why the EMC is planning to join the celebration and a learning tour (April 4 to 11, 2017).

EMC Missions began ministry in Nicaragua in 1966 with the efforts of Fred and Doris Friesen. Our sister FIEMN conference, which developed, celebrates its 50th anniversary on April 8, 2017.

Doris Friesen writes, “Can it be that it was 50 years ago that Fred and I did that long trek to Nicaragua, over 5,000 miles by land in our white camper truck, with our two little girls, to a land unknown with only a map and the Holy Spirit as our guide!”

There was “no one at the other end to meet us!” she says. “We were either courageous or fools! But we are never fools when we obey the Lord. And how the Lord blessed us so richly in spite of many difficulties!”

The FIEMN churches and EMC guests will hold a one-day celebration at Camp Maranatha with at least two services and additional prayer services through the night.  As part of the event, the FIEMN and the EMC Board of Missions have approved a special project for Camp Maranatha to help replace 80 bunk beds and 160 mattresses. (This will greatly assist the FIEMN and its retreat ministry.

You are invited to attend this anniversary! It will be inspirational and educational. You will be encouraged in your faith.

The story of the FIEMN is one of planting, political revolution, and growth within one of the poorest countries in Latin America—yet you will hear from believers how Christ has blessed them. 

Lester and Darlene Olfert, former missionaries to Nicaragua, will lead the Learning Tour as it visits FIEMN churches and ministries (April 4-11). You will meet FIEMN committee leaders and pastors, and appreciate the strong faith clearly evident in believers’ lives and in church life.

You will meet Pastor Gerardo Chavarría, FIEMN’s president, and be challenged by his faith story and ministry example. Gerardo pastors the Diriomito congregation. He is one of two Pastoral Supervisors who visits, every three months, the churches for which he is responsible. These churches are located in the mountaineous region east of Managua, Boaco province, where there are bad roads or no roads. No roads means walking or riding a mule. Ever ridden a mule?

Ken Zacharias
Ken Zacharias

Local pastors, visited in different regions, will share how the Lord has blessed them. You will encounter cultural interests—perhaps the Masaya volcano or a coffee plantation. Do you prefer lava or caffeine?

The trip will cost about $1,800, including flights (more exact pricing will follow). For information on the celebration and tour, please contact Diana Peters (dpeters@emconf.ca) or myself (kzacharias@emconf.ca).

EMC Archives gains from partnership with MHC

by Terry M. Smith

Progress made in EMC collection, more needed

WINNIPEG/STEINBACH—New happenings with older items! These are the benefits of the EMC’s partnership with the Mennonite Heritage Centre (MHC) in Winnipeg, Man.

Two recent Plett Foundation grants have allowed work on EMC materials. One grant covered data entry for about half of the EMC materials; more work is needed. A second allowed printed photos to be transferred to a digital format; Emilie Bartel (Kleefeld) was involved with this project.

On Sept. 12, 2015, most of the EMC’s archival holdings were moved from the vault in the EMC’s national office in Steinbach to become part of the collection at MHC in Winnipeg. The EMC Archives Committee, which operates under the Board of Church Ministries, agreed to transfer the storage of the materials, not their ownership. The materials remain within the control of the EMC.

The EMC now has its archival holdings located in a suitable space, one shared with MC Manitoba, the EMMC, and MCC. This makes it easier for wider research purposes.

How has MHC helped the EMC? Director Korey Dyck and archivist Conrad Stoesz helped transfer EMC archives to MHC’s site. MHC has spent more than 300 hours working on EMC material, says Dyck.

The Archives Committee members are Don Kroeker, Loren Koehler, and Glen Klassen. Terry Smith is connected as BCM’s executive secretary. MHC’s key people are director Korey Dyck and curator Conrad Stoesz.

Drought in southern Africa continues to be severe

by CFGB

Has uneven impact on children, people with HIV/AIDS

SOUTHERN AFRICA—The impact of the El Nino-related drought on people living in southern Africa continues to be severe. That is the message being shared by Barbara Macdonald, who directs International Programs for Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB).

Poor harvests and crop failures that have come as a result of the drought have left many people dependent on buying food from their local markets, where high food prices have put pressure on family incomes.

Over half a million children are currently suffering from severe acute malnutrition in seven countries in the region, and over three million have had their access to safe water reduced by the drought.

Also at high risk are people being treated for HIV/AIDS; southern Africa is home to one-third of all people living with HIV/AIDS in the world.

Meanwhile, a World Food Programme survey in the southern Africa country of Zimbabwe found that about 80 percent of households in some regions of the country had either reduced the number of meals they ate each day or the amount of food eaten. Around 6,000 children have dropped out of school due to hunger, or because they need to help their families either by working or by getting water.

The Foodgrains Bank is responding to needs in southern Africa through its member agencies. In Zambia, CFGB member World Renew is responding to the crisis by providing 4,500 families, with a total household population of 31,500, with seven months of emergency food in return for their labour on community projects. This emergency food is helping families survive until they can harvest a crop again. Households that depend on small-scale farming are also receiving seeds to help them re-start production.

Poetry: A Carpenter’s Son

by Eleanor Lee Gustaw

The wonder of Christmas came one eve,

the glory of love in a virgin conceived.

The gift of His coming, the blessing so true,

that came in a manger for me and for you.

The joy that He brings each day to my soul,

hold riches untold that makes my life whole.

A carpenter’s Son, and yet, He is God,

how can I not thank Him, in joy offer laud!

For He is the Saviour so precious to me,

Who taught in the temple and preached on the sea.

Who died on a cross and in victory rose,

a love so adorning it sets each heart free!

That night was the greatest when Christmas was born,

and God became man yet in man He was God.

For the glory He is shall ever live on

because Jesus is Lord and in Him lives this song.

‘Digging for Treasure’ in Jesus’ parables

by MennoMedia

MennoMedia 2017 Bible school curriculum ready for orders

KITCHENER, Ont.—The parables of Jesus contain rich hidden gems. With the theme Digging for Treasure: Parables Revealed, the 2017 Vacation Bible School series from MennoMedia gives children tools to find treasures of God’s kingdom.

“This year’s theme responds to a survey in which people said they would like to study parables during VBS,” writes project director Mary Ann Weber. “The parables reveal things about the kingdom of heaven, about God, and about how much God loves us.”

The five-day curriculum brings children both stories and activities about the sower and the seed, the lost sheep and lost coin, the mustard seed, and others. Through drama, worship, creative activities, and song, children will find the spiritual wealth in these ever-new stories from Jesus.

Children’s booklets, Treasure Map and My Book of Stories, and a CD of energetic worship songs help draw children into exploring the world of Jesus’ stories and teachings. Leader’s guides help teachers lead VBS for children from age 4 through grade 5. Adaptations for grades 6–8 are offered on a resource CD, a new feature in this year’s curriculum.

The CD provides additional helpful tools to publicize VBS, a Bible memory slide show, name tags, and other resources designed to equip leaders in implementing an effective, dynamic VBS program.  Digging for Treasure includes leader’s guides for active response, Bible response, creative response, and worship and drama.

Digging for Treasure may be ordered in an all-in-one boxed set including everything needed for planning and preparation. All items are also available separately. More information is at: http://www.mennomedia.org/vbs.