Letters April 2020

So, Who Are We?

by Agatha Rempel, Steinbach, Man.

I am replying to Mervin Dueck’s article about being a Conscientious Objector in our world (Jan. 2020). I, too, have concerns about how our people will be able to use the 1873 document.

How will the government identify us? Will they look at our dress code and lifestyle, or by our membership in a Mennonite church? Where does that leave us? Most of us have assimilated into the general population with our dress code and lifestyle. Others have completely removed the name Mennonite from their churches.

What are we? Who are we? Originally we were a faith group who followed Menno Simons’ teachings. How come those that followed Luther’s teachings did not become a people group called the Lutherans? They kept their ethnicity; we didn’t. How come? Did the Lutherans just stay in Germany? Whereas the Mennonites picked up followers from many ethnic groups, like Ost German, Swiss, Netherlands, Prussia, Nordic, Aryan, Slavic and other areas?

So, who are we? How do we self-identify ourselves? We have become a people group with no homeland. We spoke a common language and had the same religious teachings. We have become a cultural group with many branches. And we are a faith group.

How do we identify ourselves—by our family lineage, our DNA, our mother tongue, our church membership? What happens to the non-Mennonite people who have embraced our Mennonite faith—will the government let them be exempt under the 1873 agreement? What about our Mennonites who are currently working in the military?

I believe that among the military exemptions there is a clause that says a person can object to going to war on religious grounds. This is a clause that the non-Mennonites have used.


Tribal Central Americans and EMC Expertise

by Arlyn van Enns, Colorado Springs, CO

I can’t believe how well-situated the EMC is to be the biggest difference-maker among the Central American First-Nations in over two centuries. Surely we’re soon more than ready to get a few boots on the ground once more; and commence actual outreach ministry in partnership with our dozens of Nicaraguan churches; and begin doing more in Central America than wiring annual project money.

Our Spanish staff apparently finds me a bit peculiar, having never before met a Gringo with a big heart for First Nations. The Holy Spirit has similarly burdened some of them too. To see Spanish hearts beginning to ache for their isolated out-of-sight, out-of-mind countrymen is deeply heartwarming.


A Surprising Lack

by Ron Penner, Winnipeg, Man.

In his recent article in The Messenger entitled What it Means to Read the Bible like the Apostles [Jan.], Layton Friesen does us a service by alerting us to the richness of some of the work and writings of the early church fathers, including in this instance Irenaeus’s work. Similarly, at the EMC convention in Picture Butte, Layton’s use of the Apostles’ Creed gave us this same benefit of learning these ancient faith statements.

What I found surprising is that, both in his preaching and in this article, no mention was made of why we in our churches and Anabaptists historically have been reserved in promoting the use of these creeds in our worship services. The issue is not so much of what is included; rather what is excluded has been the focus of our concern, namely the entire life and teaching of the incarnate Jesus. It must be pointed out that the gap between “born of a virgin Mary” and “suffered under Pontius Pilate” is a leap too big for a true Anabaptist mind to ignore.

Everything Jesus said and did between his birth and death is overlooked and ignored entirely. Discipleship, the following of Jesus’ example and teaching, is central to our faith commitment even though the other tenets of the creeds are useful as well. Our reading of the Bible is also directly involved in taking Jesus’ words seriously and interpreting all of Scripture accordingly.  Richard Rohr, a Catholic theologian, in his recent book, The Universal Christ, recognizes this weakness in the creeds as well and wonders whether the omission of such a central aspect of Jesus’ message is the cause for ”Christianity’s dismal record of imitating Jesus’ actual life and teachings” (p. 104).

Irenaeus’s insights, as well as the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds, are useful summaries of doctrine that the medieval church brought to us. Anabaptists insist, however, that these could be vastly improved by giving more attention to Jesus’ thirty years on earth.

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