War Tax

“In one week in Vietnam I went into five villages and saw about 900 dead people. I don’t want to be part of this. I want to be part of a movement that says no to that.”

Brian Willson
author, activist, Vietnam veteran

What would you do
if someone came to your door
with a cup in hand
asking for a contribution
to help buy guns
to kill a group of people
they didn’t like?

  — Wally Nelson

wartax1 wartax2wartax4

Thoughts?

Where do you stand?

Were we wrong to fight the British for our freedom?

Should we have allowed the south to separate and keep their slaves?

Hitler?

Communism?

Terrorists?

Where do you stand?

Manure Spreaders

A friend told me a great story today.  Let me paraphrase:

I was born into an Amish family.  My dad needed a new manure spreader for the farm but he couldn’t find any with steel wheels.  He searched and searched but he couldn’t find one.  He finally bought one with rubber wheels and used it for a couple years with no issues.  One day, a man came and told him where he could get one with steel wheels.  He was happy with the one he had and chose not to change.

The Bishop soon came by for a visit and told dad that he had to change to steel wheels or leave the church.  Dad replied “My relationship with God isn’t based on manure spreaders.”  That’s when we left the Amish Church and became Mennonites!

With all the changes affecting the church today, what is your relationship built on?

148

 

Open Letter to Mennonite Family

An open letter to the Mennonite family

Nov 14, 2014 by ,

Print Friendly

We are Richard and Jewel (Wenger) Showalter. As church planters, missionaries, educators, mission administrators, parents and now grandparents, we have walked as part of the Mennonite family throughout our lives.

We love the Mennonite church and the broader body of Jesus Christ. Our lifelong passion has been to reach out to those who do not yet know Jesus. During the past 30 years, we have been privileged to do this in friendship with churches both in North America and around the world.

Now in North America the church is engaged in a wide-spread discussion which ranges through many denominations. Is homosexual practice part of God’s good creation or is it sin? Should same-sex covenantal unions now be included in our definition of Christian marriage?

Especially after reading Chester and Sara Jane Wenger’s eloquent appeal to change the church’s approach to same-sex covenantal unions, we are also moved to write to the church. We would love to agree with them because they are beloved elders (Jewel’s parents) and we want to walk in step with them. We resonate deeply with their call for compassionate, embracing love for all those in the LGBTQ community. We affirm that embrace.

See also “Lancaster Conference Terminates Minister’s Credentials.”

We are grieved with our many sins of self-righteousness, judgmentalism, homophobia and lack of compassionate love in the body of Christ for those with same-sex attraction.

But we believe homosexual actions are sinful and we should not attempt to craft a more inclusive definition of Christian marriage.

“Sin” is not a popular topic, and we all struggle with temptations. But we must go to war with them. Jesus loves us so deeply he died for our sins — our greed, violence, homophobia, pride, self-righteousness, all of them. God knows each of our particular vulnerabilities — different for every one of us. He longs to root out sins that take root so deeply within us that we accept them as part of our identity.

We know that Jesus himself was tempted in “every way” like us. Yet he was without sin (Heb. 4:15).

Now Jesus walks with us to overcome, to “find mercy and grace in our time of need.” He gave us the scriptures as a life-giving message from heaven. His love is both enormously kind and incredibly tough and transformative. True love cannot affirm what God does not, yet Jesus always meets us where we are.

We have been members of West End Mennonite Fellowship in Lancaster, Pa., for many years. We love to read its mission statement written in bold letters on the wall of a former bar, “We welcome all people into a safe and healing community in which we grow to be more like Jesus and join him in extending his kingdom to the world.” Yes, “all people.” Yes, “like Jesus.”

When the early Anabaptists debated believers’ baptism or participation in war with those who would later burn them at the stake, their persistent plea was, “Show us from the scriptures.”

We appeal to those who promote a redefinition of Christian marriage — “Show us from the scriptures.”

We don’t wish to be divisive or to split the church. We don’t wish to cause pain and rejection. We do not support discrimination or violence against people because of their sexual orientation or practice. But we do wish to be faithful to the word of God.

While some point to issues such as slavery, the role of women, divorce and remarriage, and circumcision as ones on which the church has changed its mind, we see in the scriptures new vectors on these subjects in the example of Jesus and the early church.

Slaves are urged to obey their masters, but also to seek their freedom. Women are told to be quiet in the church, but also to pray and prophesy. God hates divorce, yet “because of unfaithfulness” divorce and remarriage were permitted. Both Old and New Testaments point toward obedience and “circumcision of the heart” as being more important than a circumcision in the flesh. The church has followed these vectors.

But we do not see new directions in relation to sexual sin and marriage relationships. Here the New Testament teachings are even more radical and prohibitive than they were in the context of Old Testament culture. “Don’t even look at a woman to lust after her . . . ” “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.” “Run away from all sexual sins.”

Though it would be much easier to flow with the seemingly irresistible current in contemporary western culture on this issue, we appeal, please “show us from the scriptures” where this is God’s ideal and intent since the creation of the world.

On what do we as Christians base our ethics? Many westerners since the 1960s have appealed to love, kindness and compassion. But was it kind and loving of Paul to discipline a church member on grounds of immorality (I Cor. 5)? Not unless we have a Biblical understanding of sin. Please “show us from the scriptures” where same-sex behavior is not understood to be sinful and under God’s judgment. Show us where same-sex unions are part of God’s creation ideals for marriage. Jesus quoted Genesis that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife . . . ” (Matt. 19).

Daniel was a man who stood alone in worship of the one true God in the face of the surrounding culture’s gods. Let us not bow our knees to an ethic of “kindness” and “love” outside the word of God. If the scriptures are to be trusted at all, God’s love is both kinder and tougher than many of our human understandings of it.

Kindness and love are nearly universal human values. We are privileged to have many kind and loving Muslim, Buddhist and secular friends. We talk freely about our beliefs, our similarities and differences. But we don’t assume that we are all part of the same worshiping community. We base our beliefs on different foundations, different authorities and a different relationship to Jesus.

Menno Simons’ favorite verse was, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11).

The Mennonite church in Ethiopia chose this verse to shape its name, “the Christ Foundation Church.” We think it is significant that they and the majority of the church in the Global South do not appear to follow the Western church in raising this issue. Let’s not be afraid to test our theological questions in the global hermeneutical community.

Jesus said, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me . . . ” (Matt. 10:37). “Who is my mother and who are my brothers? . . . whoever does the will of my Father in heaven . . . ” (Matt. 12:48-50).

Jesus calls us to honor him above self, family, clan, tribe and nation. May it be so for us as a church!

Jewel and Richard Showalter are lifelong missionaries and members at West End Mennonite Fellowship in Lancaster, Pa.

Shared from: http://mennoworld.org/2014/11/14/to-our-beloved-mennonite-family/

Veteran’s Day

Dear Mennonites,

Today is Veteran’s Day.  I thought I would remind you since there are very few Mennonite veterans.  It’s a day to celebrate and thank those who have served in our armed forces to protect our country and freedom.  While you may not agree with that you are benefiting from the freedom that they fight for.  I’m not judging you because you don’t believe in war.  I’m just encouraging you to be thankful and to pray not only for peace but for those who fight for our peace.  Be thankful today for the peace that we have.

veteran

Eye for an Eye

Matthew 5:38-40 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.

What would happen if we applied this to our country?

What would have happened if we took this approach after 9/11?

Is that God would have wanted?

Does this even apply to a country?

 

An open letter

An open letter to my beloved church

Wenger Chester
11.6. 2014 Written By: Chester Wenger

I am profoundly reluctant to write this letter because I know there are those it will wound deeply. But I have also come to the conviction that I can no longer hide the light the Lord has lit within me, under a bushel. I want to share with you what the Lord has been telling me and my dear life companion.

First, a defense of my ministry—if you will allow me to paraphrase the words of the Apostle Paul from Philippians 3:4ff.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:

• Baptized into a Virginia Conference Mennonite Church as a young boy, youngest son of a Mennonite evangelist and second president of Eastern Mennonite Seminary (now EMU), AD Wenger.

• Mothered by a diligent student and teacher of the Scriptures, the oldest daughter of a Lancaster Mennonite Conference bishop and faithful to her Church in every way.

• At the request of Lancaster Mennonite Conference ordained in 1949, by Virginia Mennonite Conference for mission work in Ethiopia.

• Appointed by Eastern Mennonite Mission Board of Lancaster Conference as the Educational Director for the Mennonite Mission in Ethiopia.

• Founded and taught Bible in the Bible Academy of Nazareth Ethiopia which was established to train potential leaders for the budding Meserete Kristos Church.

• First elected chairman of Ethiopia’s Meserete Kristos Church, now the largest Mennonite church in the world.

• Happily turned the MKC chairmanship over to an Ethiopian who later was chosen and served as president of Mennonite World Conference.

• Began and taught in various educational programs in Lancaster Conference that were centered on Bible teaching (e.g. Keystone Bible Institutes, Paul Timothy Program).

• Former director of Home Missions of Eastern Mennonite Missions.

• Former pastor and still a member in good standing of Blossom Hill Mennonite Church, a thriving congregation of many young adults and young families.

• Lifelong student of the Bible and when it comes to quoting scripture passages I would be ready to compete with any one.

• Father of 8 children (one deceased) all of whom love the Lord and serve his Kingdom.

• Pleaded for patience when my congregation decided to leave Lancaster Conference over the women’s leadership issue to join Atlantic Coast Mennonite Conference.

• When it comes to my desire to be faithful to the laws of God and to walk uprightly with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, my children and many, many Ethiopian and US witnesses will vouch for my integrity.

My life has been filled with much joy seeing God at work in numerous settings. God’s grace has been shown daily on my behalf. But as the Apostle Paul has said so well, “whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.”

So, with all of the above acknowledged, what is the light I’ve been hiding under the bushel?

• When our gay young adult son about 35 years ago was excommunicated from the Mennonite Church by a church leader, without any conversation with him or his parents, my wife and I grieved deeply.

• For many years, in the company of other grieving parents of homosexual persons, we have told our stories, read and reread the Scriptures. Most striking to us is that God, who created the world, who gave us Eden, also gives us the “leaves of the tree for the healing of the nations.”

• The world we live in is no longer the idyllic Eden. It is a broken, complex, messy, violent and yet wonderful world. God’s mercy-filled grace infuses our broken world with a goodness that keeps surprising us with joy—and healing. God’s grace also calls us to faithfully love God and neighbor above all else.

• The church we belong to has the power to bind and loose. Today’s church, much like the early Christians, has the Spirit-given power to rethink whether or not “circumcision” will continue to define who is in and who is out.

• Because of the brokenness of all sexualities that abuse, lust, access pornography, have sex with unmarried partners of the same or the other gender—because of this brokenness, the church must rise up to reclaim a godly and wholesome sexuality:
-a godly sexuality that is wholesome because it is covenanted, accountable to and blessed within the church (not left to fend for itself outside the church);
-a godly sexuality that is wholesome because it calls every one to recommit our bodies (whether heterosexual or homosexual) to be temples of the Holy Spirit, seeking first the Kingdom of God and covenanting to follow Jesus every day.

• When my wife and I read the Bible with today’s fractured, anxious church in mind, we ask, what is Jesus calling us to do with those sons and daughters who are among the most despised people in the world—in all races and communities?

• What would Jesus do with our sons and daughters who are bullied, homeless, sexually abused, and driven to suicide at far higher rates than our heterosexual children?

• We know from Deuteronomy that eunuchs were a sexual minority, loathed and considered unacceptable for admission to the “assembly of the Lord” and yet in Isaiah 56 the Lord says: “Do not let the eunuch say, ‘I am just a dry tree.’…. I will give them a name better than sons and daughters….for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples….”

• My dear wife Sara Jane and I love all of our children. We give thanks for the remarkable Kingdom work each of them is doing. We know that several of our children believe that the church should not endorse same sex marriage. And several of our children believe that same sex marriage is a faithful and godly choice when blessed by the church.

• While the tension around this issue is painful in our family, we continue to love each other, to sing, pray and play together. Our children all honor us with deep devotion and faithful care—and genuinely enjoy each other.

• My wife and I are devoted to our Lord, with a firm commitment to the authority of the Scriptures. We strive to be faithfully obedient to Jesus.

• We invite the church to courageously stake out new territory, much as the early church did. We invite the church to embrace the missional opportunity to extend the church’s blessing of marriage to our homosexual children who desire to live in accountable, covenanted ways.

• We know that while many of us hear different things from the Scriptures, God’s deepest desire, as made known in Jesus Christ, is “to seek and to save that which was lost.” We believe this is an opportune moment for the church to boldly proclaim a pastoral, grace-filled readiness to include both homosexuals and heterosexuals within the blessing of a marriage covenant designed to be wholesome and God-honoring.

This is the light that has been burning more and more brightly under my bushel, and I am now prepared finally, as a 96-year old, still zealous missionary, to let it shine. So…

• When the laws of Pennsylvania changed in July, our gay son and his committed partner of twenty-seven years went immediately to apply for a marriage license. Subsequently they asked me if I would marry them. I happily agreed. We held a private ceremony with only six persons present. Our son and his partner are members of an Episcopal Church, but they chose my wife and me to share with them in this holy covenant of marriage.

Read more: https://themennonite.org/opinion/open-letter-beloved-church/