Terry Smith: Elsbeth and Balthasar Hubmaier

What was it like for a Christian who defends the state’s use of force to have the force used against him? Or for a wife, after her husband’s imprisonment and torture, to watch as he is burned at the stake? Or, three days later, for her to be tied to a large stone and dropped from a bridge into the Danube River?

The couple was Elsbeth (Elizabeth) and Balthasar Hubmaier.

Christian Neff and Christian Hege sum up Elsbeth’s life, some of it indicated above: “Elsbeth (Elisabeth) Hügeline, the wife of Balthasar Hubmaier, was the daughter of a citizen of Reichenau on Lake Constance, whom he married on 13 January 1525. She was an energetic and courageous woman, who shared the very sad fate of her husband with devoted love and faithfulness. When he was seized and after cruel torture condemned to death, she spoke words of comfort to him. Three days later she also suffered a martyr’s death in Vienna. With a stone tied to her neck she was thrown from the large bridge over the Danube on 13 March 1528, in Vienna.” Her birthdate is not provided.

Balthasar Hubmaier (ca. 1480-1528) was connected with the Peasants’ War in Germany, a popular, short-lived protest against abuses within government and church. People wanted freedom from some taxes; the ability to use the land, water, and forest (and its creatures) for their benefits, not just the social elite’s; and the right to choose their own pastors. It’s suggested that he even assisted in writing a list of the commoners’ demands.

A former priest who held a doctorate in theology, Balthasar was an able theologian who opposed Catholic and Protestant abuses, defended believer’s baptism, and was imprisoned for his views. He did not endure imprisonment and torture well, but who should be surprised at this?

After physical torture he agreed to recant his Anabaptist beliefs, but, when he was to make a public statement before Ulrich Zwingli, he could not do it. He spoke up for believer’s baptism. Zwingli had him taken back to prison where he was stretched on the rack.

Balthasar Hubmaier held that the state was divinely ordained to use force to protect the innocent, that a king could rule better if a Christian, and a Christian could defend others with force. He did not do so in ignorance of other Anabaptists’ positions.

In the same year that the Schleitheim Confession was prepared largely by Michael Sattler and endorsed by others (1527), Balthasar had earlier written a booklet On the Sword in which he challenged non-resistant views among Anabaptists. Because of his views on the use of force, Hubmaier has been set aside in some nonresistant Anabaptist circles and highlighted in some wider circles, including Baptist.

Some people think it is ironic that Balthasar defended the government’s use of force and yet he was tortured by officials. They are confused. What Balthasar defended was good government; what he suffered from was an abuse of government. Both are realities in our world.

Terry M. Smith

Elsbeth suffered equally. Think of her if ever you gaze upon the beautiful waters of the Danube River.

Sources: C. J. Dyck, ed., An Introduction to Mennonite History (Herald Press, rev. 1981); W. Klaassen, Anabaptism: Neither Catholic nor Protestant (Conrad Press, 1981); H. Bender and C. Neff, “Hubmaier, Balthasar” (GAMEO, 1957); C. Neff and C. Hege, “Hügeline, Elsbeth (Elisabeth)” (GAMEO, 1956); H. J. Hillerbrand, The Reformation (Baker, repr. 1987); Southwestern News, Fall 2012 (SBTS); H. W. Pipkin and J. H. Yoder, Balthasar Hubmaier (Herald Press, 1989).

Jocelyn R. Plett: Left and Leaving

There are times when I particularly enjoy my husband Josh. Long talks on the lawn, leisurely kisses after days apart, delighting in something together. In those moments I catch myself thinking, “I’m so glad to enjoy this! I will be sad when it’s over!”

In the midst of these moments I find myself overtaken by nostalgia, a wistfulness that beauty doesn’t last. Yet, thankfully, barring death we’ve got our whole future to spend together enjoying moments like these. Holding them loosely so as not to crush them.

I experience moments of contented panic in my day-to-day life in Madagascar. Now that we’re leaving it makes “Mada-moments” more poignant, painful even.

There is a deep tension between savouring the moment and realizing that it is fleeting. Leaving means sacrificing so many things I’ve come to love: the ability to custom order almost anything to be hand-made by skilled craftspeople, beautiful baskets and other Malagasy made crafts, the climate, cheap tropical fruit, our wonderful church family, a vibrant international community. The list is endless.

Yet these things, this place, is not something I can hold on to. Life happens; change comes. Change is really the only constant in life on earth.

Enjoying God, therefore, is something that I’m finding inexpressibly comforting. Enjoying His Word, resting in His presence, waiting on Him to guide and provide—these things will literally last forever. As much as I enjoy my husband, my children, friends, or places, these things will pass away.

When I steep in the presence of the Almighty, those human feelings of nostalgia make me smile rather than panic, for time with God is unlimited and will become increasingly enjoyable the more I learn about Him.

Uprooting causes me to grasp onto anything familiar that I can bring with me. Sheepishly, I know that no matter how many souvenirs I buy, I can’t bring this life with me to Canada. I’ve taken, therefore, to being thankful for the things that will be constant here, and far away in Canada: Josh, my boys, some furniture, the boys’ Lego, family traditions. And God. No matter what happens in life, no matter what I lose, God never changes. What a comforting thought.

Good-bye is a word that loosens earth’s hold on me. Painful as it is, good-bye cuts the cables that release my boat from the harbour and frees me to float closer to my real home. Good-bye reminds me that the idea that I possess anything is illusionary.

Jocelyn R. Plett

“My dear ones are not mine to have and to hold forever. Earthly relationships are transient. The house we put so much of ourselves into passes from our grasp. The job that identifies us at parties is lost; the skill that was linked with our names diminishes” (Jean Flemming, Pursue the Intentional Life, 174).

This is a hard truth, but an important one if I am to weather life’s losses and leavings. And, frankly, I find it brings the consistency of God into sharper focus.


Jesus Shows a New Way

Easter is the most important and oldest festival for Christians. At Easter we celebrate that after he died on the cross Jesus rose and lives again.

Jesus told his disciples many times he would rise again. And yet when the tomb was empty and the stone rolled away on that first Easter morning they were shocked. Only when he showed the nail prints in his hands did they remember his words. Now they knew he was truly the Son of God.

Before this Jesus was known in many different ways. First, he was the son of the carpenter Joseph (Matthew 13:55). The disciples saw him as their teacher and called him Rabbi. The rulers said he broke the rules. According to them he didn’t wash his hands as much as he should. Instead he said what comes out of your mouth is more important than what goes into your mouth (Matthew 15:11,12,20). This was something new. It didn’t follow the rules.

Jesus did things differently. When he called his disciples to follow him he expected them to leave their fishing boats and their families. To the rich young ruler he said, “Sell all that you have; then come and follow me” (Matthew 19: 21,22).

On the Sabbath he healed the sick and went into the wheat field to pick the ripe grains. He went to eat with Zacchaeus, rather than condemn him.

He raised up people who had already died, like the daughter of Jarius (Mark 5:42) and Lazarus. People were healed just being near him (Luke 8:43,44).

He told stories to teach truth. The story of the Good Samaritan teaches that anyone in need is your neighbour (Luke 10: 30-36).

He did amazing miracles. With five loaves of bread and two fish he fed five thousand people, and filled twelve baskets of leftovers (John 6:9-14).

 The rulers said Jesus was an outlaw breaking all the rules. They were afraid that because of his many followers they would lose control. So they arrested him.

The disciples wanted Jesus to be their king in a new kingdom. They wanted him to replace the Roman rulers who were harsh and treated them unfairly. Jesus was building a kingdom, but not only for now on earth.

Loreena Thiessen

While on earth Jesus taught how people should love and respect each other. His miracles showed his love for the people. They showed God’s power. He died and rose again to show life does not end on earth, his kingdom goes on forever. He came to earth to show a new way. Just like his disciples you find the way by following him. Read John 14:6.

Activity: find the missing words.

  1. Jesus died on a __ __ __ __ __.
  2. On the third day he __ __ __ __.
  3. The __ __ __ __ __ was rolled away.
  4. He showed his __ __ __ __ __ to his disciples.
  5. Jesus said __ __ __ __ __ __ me.
  6. I am the __ __ __ the __ __ __ __ __ and the __ __ __ __.

Rev. John K. Reimer (1919-2016): A Tribute

by Rev. Henry Klassen

Rev. John K. Reimer

Rev. John Reimer was born on Feb. 16, 1919, just after World War I and died on Nov. 3, 2016. Much of his life was spent in dedication to a successful ministry in the E. M. Conference. I had the privilege to learn to know him and to work with him in different stages in his life. In 1945 he married Leona Reimer who played a very important role in John’s ministries over the years.

My first memory of John was when he served with Western Gospel Mission in Saskatchewan from 1946–55. From time to time he would come to our church in Steinbach, where he was also a member, and report on his ministry. As a youth I recognized his passion for the work he did in the public schools, in evangelism, and in establishing churches. Many years later people in the community would still express appreciation for the Reimers’ ministry.

John graduated from Steinbach Bible Institute in 1943. He was one of the first young people from our church to go to Bible School. This pioneer spirit was also evident when he became the first church supported missionary with Western Gospel Mission.

In the early fifties EMC started to have church services in Winnipeg, especially for EMC people working and living in the city. This endeavour developed into an organized EMC church. John became the pastor of the Aberdeen Church in 1955. When I attended Teachers College in 1958–59, I was active in this church. John was an inspiring pastor with a vision for outreach in the poorer areas of the city. He encouraged his church to be involved in the church’s outreach known as Euclid Mission.

John’s interest and commitment to global missions was affirmed by his active participation on the EMC Board of Missions from 1959–64. We were sent to Belize as missionaries during this period. He was an encouraging member of the board. When the BOM decided to hire an executive secretary to do the administrative work, John was chosen to fill this new position. John did a remarkable job during the transition from board member to a hired administrator. In 1973 I was appointed John’s assistant. We had a respectful and good relationship.

I found John as Executive Secretary relating in a caring and thoughtful manner with missionaries. When he visited us in Belize in the Executive Secretary position his interest and support for our involvement was very evident to us. John contributed to the growth of EMC Missions during his term as Executive Secretary from 1969–1977.

John’s heart for missions was evident when he retired from pastoral ministry in Wymark EMC and volunteered to go to Paraguay to pastor a church. After the Reimers left, people in the church often talked about their valued ministry. As a senior he was also appreciated by the EMC missionaries serving in Paraguay.

In my involvement with John over the years I found him deeply committed to prayer and trust in the Lord for guidance and enablement. He was a man of passion for the Lord and His mission.

In his retirement John continued to serve the church as interim pastor at Anola, as a deacon in Steinbach EMC, and in other ministries. He was active in service of his Lord and Saviour as long as God gave him the strength. I am reminded of Paul’s words in 2 Tim. 4:7-8. These words could have been John’s testimony: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return.”

In offering this tribute, Rev. Henry Klassen brings a background of having served as a WGM worker, EMC missionary, Assistant Secretary (1972–77) and Executive Secretary (1977–2000).

World Fellowship Sunday celebrated  not in ‘the absence of challenges,’ but with assurance of victory

by MWC

BOGOTÁ, Colombia–Music from other cultures, Scripture readings on a common theme, shared food and special offerings characterize World Fellowship Sunday, a celebration of Anabaptist family in Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches around the world on Jan. 22, 2017.

The theme of 2017 was “My cry is heard,” reflecting on God’s faithfulness amid hardships in the global displacement crisis and personal challenges in life (Psalm 40:1-10, Gen. 11:1–9, Acts 2:1–18). The worship resources package downloadable at www.mwc-cmm.org/wfs can be used any Sunday of the year to help churches to celebrate the global Anabaptist communion.

“We remember that 500 years ago brave men and women, motivated by the real teachings of Jesus, decided to follow him even though that action cost them their lives, says Oscar Suarez, member of Iglesia Menonita de Ibagué, Colombia.

“It means the breaking of bread in serving and in meeting the needs of others. It doesn’t mean any absence of challenges, but recognizing we are assured of victory with and through God,” says Manjula Roul of Bethel BIC Church, India.

World Fellowship Sunday is about “Encouraging and exhorting the brothers to make decisions that transcend the walls that others want to impose,” for pastor Ofelia García de Pedroza of Chihuahua, Mexico. “In prayer, we lifted up the concerns of our worldwide family of faith, those being persecuted and those discouraged by political events,” says Andrea Lange of an AMG congregation.

“It was good to speak of the reality of refugees,” says pastor Siaka Traoré of the Mennonite church in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, which welcomes those fleeing Mali. The congregation’s celebration of World Fellowship Sunday 29 January 2017 inaugurated a new building. “Our joy was the greater because our new church welcomed seven new people to worship God with us and become members of our community.”

World Fellowship Sunday is “an important event because it says that the teaching of Jesus is the final authority for how Christians live their lives,” says Marvin Dyck, pastor of Crossroads MB Church in Winnipeg, Man. “It’s not about what the government or culture tells people to do. It’s about following Jesus’ teaching and example in the Bible.”

MCC Canada AGM delegates gather under the ‘big tent’

Diverse Anabaptists called to work together to address global needs

by Rachel Bergen

WINNIPEG, Man.—The staff and delegates who make up MCC Canada’s constituent boards gathered at Bethel Mennonite Church in Winnipeg from Sept. 23 to 24, 2016, for the MCC Canada annual general meeting.

For many supporting denominations, MCC is like a big tent, MCC Canada executive director Don Peters said. “It’s the place where the Anabaptist Community works and serves together.”

However, the question on many people’s minds has been can we stay under the tent together? The board decided to use its yearly forum time to facilitate a conversation around the issue.

In this metaphorical tent there are many people with different backgrounds, gifts, challenges and perspectives.

MCC was formed 96 years ago as a cautious contract born of necessity between these divergent, sometimes conflicting groups to help Ukrainian Mennonites caught in the aftermath of the First World War and in the midst of post-revolutionary Russia.

“The magnitude of the suffering and the urgent need for action compelled the groups to collaborate,” Peters quoted from Mennonite Central Committee in Canada: A History by Esther Epp-Tiessen.

In this way, these churches who make up MCC were and are like a stalk of wheat, Mary Anne and Jon Isaak said during a worship session, as they asked participants to strip kernels of wheat from the stalk, grind them in a mortar and pestle and contribute the flour to other ingredients to make bread. Mary Anne is pastor of River East Mennonite Brethren Church in Winnipeg and Jon is director of the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies.

“If we’re separate from each other, we do not serve our purpose to nourish and sustain one another,” Mary Anne said. MCC is one body, but a body of diversity, she added, referring to Romans 14 which participants used as the basis for a Bible study on the Friday.

Although MCC has historically been an organization around which different groups have come together to nourish and sustain others, both the church and MCC are experiencing shifts due to ideological and theological conflicts which threaten both institutions in their present form.

Peters cited MCC’s participation in interfaith dialogue, its work in Palestine and Israel, and the ongoing conversation surrounding inclusion in the church of members who are in committed same-sex relationships as issues which “have the potential to fracture the Anabaptist body in Canada and, potentially, to erode support for MCC,” Peters said.

In the midst of these shifts, suffering persists globally and there continues to be an urgent need for MCC’s relief, development and peace work.

“The reasons for MCC’s coming together still apply today,” Peters said, calling on leaders and members of these groups to put aside their differences for the greater good of humanity. “We want a commitment (from constituent churches) that the needs out there are so great, they compel us to work together to address them,” he added.

During this meeting, participants discussed MCC’s work worldwide, its collaboration with church groups, and the challenges associated. In the afternoon, participants broke into discussion groups to uncover the relevant past lessons from such challenges as the 1979 southeast Asian refugee crisis and the current conflict in Syria and Iraq.

Pam Peters Pries, MCC Canada’s associate program director, reported back on her group’s discussion about how these disasters appeal to one’s humanity, regardless of religious views. “There’s been a tremendous response from a diverse group of people,” she said.

But MCC Canada board chair Peggy Snyder expressed worry people with differences sometimes don’t come together until there is a crisis, rather than addressing problems before they escalate. “How do we address the situation before it becomes a crisis? How do we come together around some of that?” she asked.

At the close of the day, participants were invited to share a message either for MCC or the church regarding “big tent thinking.”

Several participants shared messages to the churches that make up MCC’s constituent base to embrace the diversity within. “We can work together with differences and our diversity can help us see things we wouldn’t see,” MCC Alberta board member Kris Peters said.

Other participants called on the churches to persevere in their work with MCC and to recognize MCC is not meant to be a faith leader, nor to mediate issues of theology, but to continue to carry out its relief, development and peace work.

Coming together to sustain MCC’s work can mean the difference between life and death, peace and violence, justice and injustice. MCC’s work around the world runs the gamut from relief assistance for Syrian refugees, to camps that promote peace in Zambia, to food security projects in Nepal, to advocacy work in Canada and the United States.

MCC works with 528 partners in 54 countries worldwide. In the 2016 fiscal year, MCC spent $110.6 million CAD on 761 projects and affiliated costs and earned $113.7 million through donations, relief sales, Thrift shops, grants, material resources, and other sources

MCC hopes its church owners will continue to walk alongside one another as we continue our relief, development, and peace work in the name of Christ.


Dave Harms: A Story of Entering Pastoral Ministry

by Rev. Dave Harms

I attended Steinbach Bible Institute (now College) in the winters of 1956 to 1958. I graduated in 1958 with a three-year diploma.

In 1960 the Rosenort EMC ministerial needed one more minister to fill the pulpits on Sunday mornings since the group was already ministering in a number of locales. They decided to have a vote in February to elect a minister by ballot.

When the ballots were counted, it was nearly a tie. The brotherhood decided to accept two ministers. This was how I was elected to be a minister.

Not long after this election, the chairman of the Rosenort Missions Committee asked whether Katie and I would consider helping with the church plant in Roseisle. After praying about it and trying to determine God’s will, we said yes.

I, of course, had to be ordained to preach. The date of March 15, 1960, was set for the ordination. That was the first Sunday I was sent to Roseisle to teach the Sunday School class and preach my first message there. I hurried home to take in my ordination service.

After six years I resigned. Katie and I moved to Blumenort. I took two Grade 11 classes at Steinbach Christian High School in the morning; in the afternoons I was an orderly at the Rest Haven Nursing Home in Steinbach.

Before the year was up, leaders from the Roseisle EMC paid us a visit and asked us to come back to serve as pastor again. After praying about it, we decided to go back. We served there for eleven more years. Much credit must go to my brother Henry, who helped with work, a house, and meat in the freezer.

I don’t recall how much the Rosenort Missions Committee paid us for the first five months in 1960, but after a while the Roseisle people started giving me $25 per month for gas. Back then there was no Conference Pastor. There was no sabbatical. There was no salary schedule.

During my time, I was mostly or partly self-supporting. I worked four days a week in house moving with my brother Henry. A couple of years I drove a school bus, and I served as an orderly occasionally at a nursing home in Carmen and at the hospital in Morden. For the final two years of my service at Roseisle, I received $250 per month from the church.

How did I manage to do this? The Lord was with us, and we did with less than people do today. Times were not easy for many people back then, not just for a pastor and his family.

After I left, the position has been mostly full-time, a salary has been provided within the EMC scale, and a house has been provided as a manse.

Katie got sick and passed away before I resigned from the pastorate in 1978. I was burned out.

The Lord was good to me, and I met Fran. We were married seven months after.

We stayed in Roseisle one more year, but not as pastor. I worked again for my brother Henry for that year. We then decided that I would take a two-year refresher course at SBC. Fran got a job as the Dean of Women. She had good experience for it, having served as Dean of Women at Bethany Bible Institute. In 1982 I graduated with a Bachelor of Religious Studies.

When the two years of studies were up, we went to Camp Arnes for four years. Then I came to Rest Haven Nursing Home in Steinbach, for the first five years as a chaplain/maintenance person and then eight years as a chaplain only. Fran went back to serve as a librarian and a secretary at Steinbach Christian High School.

Fran and I were part of committee that started Stony Brook Fellowship. I have been recognized as a minister in SBF, but am now retired.