Judge and Jury Folks

Smart phones are everywhere…video cameras are everywhere. So…we’re all news filmers?  There’s good in that.  We can catch news happening on the spot.  There’s also bad in it.  We can release a video that shows a part of a story or worse one that is edited to show what we want it show.

Ferguson Missouri 2015 – it appears that a white policeman shoots and kills an innocent black man.  Riots happen.  Obama sends the justice league.  “Got my hands up don’t shoot”.  Everyone yells RACISM and BLACK LIVES MATTER.  Guess what?  The black man turns out to be a thug and is trying to kill the policeman.  Sad thing – that white policeman is still in hiding because of death threats.  Trial by public opinion.  He was guilty for the very beginning.  I understand the racial tension.  I understand a race that feels violated and profiled.  I’ve had to warn my brown sons to be careful – that they are not viewed the same as the rest of their family.  I have also written on white privilege and how I have benefited from it.  I hate bigotry and if there is a bad cop, they need fired.

But…we can’t continue rushing into news stories and judging parties based on videos.  It’s called legal process.  Remember the phrase: Innocent until proven guilty?  Yeah, that’s it.  We all learned it in school.  We always want to go around it when we have  been harmed but boy are we glad to have it when we are wrongly accused.

We are living in extreme tension in our country.  The left and the right.  Whites and black.  Poor and rich.  Those with government aid and those who pay for it.  Muslims/Christians/atheists, the list goes on and it includes police and minorities.  There are problems and we need to address wrongs done but firing off judgmental statements of racism when all the facts aren’t in only helps to stir up anger and division.

You can cloud all this into religious “we are all sinners and have mercy on us” but c’mon – who elected you judge and jury to rule racism based on horrible videos.  Investigate these killings.  Find the truth and rule through the courts.  Stirring emotion at this point is leading to many other innocent people being killed and it will lead to anarchy.  We ALL need to be innocent until proven guilty.  No matter if we are black or white, policeman or citizen on the street.

May God have mercy on us – yes.  Our nation needs to bow and come together in His mercy.  A nation divided will fall.

Lord, when will this stop?

Ervin Stutzman, executive director of Mennonite Church USAErvin Stutzman is executive director for Mennonite Church USA.

I’m writing from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where I’m a guest at Mennonite Church Canada’s biennial assembly. When we gathered on Wednesday evening, we sang, “By the Rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept….” Several times during our assembly, we were encouraged to express lament for some of the things we were experiencing. My laments grew out of the tragic events back home in the Unites States.

I grieve the loss of two black men’s lives by police shooting – Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota. My heart goes out to their families and loved ones, and the communities whose fears of armed police are running at an all-time high.

These shootings carry the ugly marks of racism, a systemic and pervasive sin that runs deep in all parts of our nation. I cry out, “Lord, when will this stop?”

I am deeply disturbed that African American men and women in our churches, neighborhoods and communities – even members of my own staff – regularly face racial profiling. They are less safe than White folks on our sidewalks or streets, when even a routine arrest for an alleged traffic violation can turn into an occasion of confrontation and violence.

We must find ways to heal this wound in our land; we need a radical reorientation to transform suspicion and anger into trust and reconciliation.

As a White person in a position of power in the Mennonite Church, I want to call other White folks in this denomination to pay attention, to make space for the voices calling for justice and change in our midst, and to seek concrete ways to confront racism in our communities, our congregations, and in ourselves.

I grieve too for the police force in Dallas and the people who lost family members in the tragic shooting of police there last Thursday. I echo the words of Byron Pellecer, Associate Conference Minister of the Western District in Texas, who wrote earlier this week:

It is with a heavy heart and much pain that we ask you to pray for the peace and for the welfare of the city of Dallas. What was intended to be a peaceful demonstration in downtown Dallas on Thursday turned into a place of darkness, violence and death. We lament the loss of human lives and repudiate the acts of violence that have filled the streets and neighborhoods across the country. May the light of Christ continue shining through us in the midst of this dark moments in which we live.

Yes, may the light of Christ shine on St. Paul, on Baton Rouge, and on Dallas, and every place where violence has left its ugly stain this week. And may the love of Christ lead us together toward a future free from the sins of racism, oppression and violence.

May God have mercy on us all.

Lord, when will this stop?

africa

Rules and rules

Why can the Amish have scooters with rubber wheels but their buggies, tractors and wagons can’t?

Why is a scooter permitted but a bicycle is not?

Why can they use cell phones but not land lines?

Why are electricity and computers permitted in a business out of necessity?  If they are wrong, aren’t they wrong anywhere?

If driving and owning a car is wrong, why can they ride in one that is driven and owned by someone else?

How does one church make one set of rules while another church makes an entirely different set?

Does any of this make sense and does any of it have anything to do with following God?

menno buggy

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 ,

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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/

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/

Mennonites becoming liberal

When I was a child growing up in the Mennonite faith, I would have described the Mennonite faith as strict, conservative, Republican and blessed with rules.  We couldn’t dance, drink, have sex out of marriage, marry the same sex, get remarried after divorce, have long hair or hang out with anyone who did any of these things.  We looked different and believed different from most of the world.  It was a conservative body of believers.

I now look at the Mennonite faith from the outside and think, “Is this the same faith that I was raised in?”  Almost all of these rules (and several more) have been overturned.   I see a liberal body that is pushing the envelope to be more liberal.   Of course this isn’t ALL Mennonites, but the body in general does not have the same standards that the previous generations did.  This isn’t necessarily wrong – it is just a different stand than before.

So what happened?  Here are a couple of my thoughts.  These are not scientifically proven by any stretch.  They are simply observations.

1) The church has grown from being mainly rural and farmer based to a much higher percentage urban crowd.  This demographic has made a huge change in the personality of the church and has added different races and ethnic inclusion.  Urban crowds tend to be more liberal/progressive while rural crowds tend to be more conservative.

2) The church has expanded it’s base from a family base to a broader individual scope.  It is getting harder to play the Mennonite Game tracking back relations to similar ancestors.  This more independent crowd is less tied in with “old family roots” and has less of the old standards.

3) The political shift is occurring because members are attaching “love and care” scriptures to the political alignment.  The conservatives of the past believed in helping the poor, the widows and orphans but they thought the church was responsible.  They were highly separated from the government and government aid.  The new generations have jumped on the band wagon of other liberals – the government needs to be compassionate and care for everyone.  Republicans are now viewed as hateful, greedy and mean.   Instead of preaching personal responsibility in giving, we are using scripture to push for a softer and gentler government that seems to be more in line with Jesus’ teaching.  Do we want to join Mennonite Disaster Service or have the government help people in need?

4) Through missions, mainly MCC, the church has become more social based.  We care for physical needs.  We are concerned about social justice and the world economy.  We are concerned about  the effects of war on people as we watch people die daily on TV.  The social gospel is spreading and it has a home in man Mennonite circles.  Do we feed people first or teach them about Jesus?

5) The Mennonite colleges have driven to the edge of the cliff on many issues.  Some would say they drove off a long time ago.  A friend recently said “My daughter is going to _________, I hope she stays a Christian.”   This is not surprising seeing how almost all colleges have taken on the progressive side to every issue.   My dad was concerned about me getting spiritually confused at a secular college.  I would say the same today of the Mennonite schools.

6) We are a rebellious people.  Not just Mennonites.  All of us.  We fight against the rules and authorities.  The church says “don’t drink alcohol, it just makes us want to drink more.”  America has survived through rock music, the love generation, Nixon, TMI, terrorists and the internet.  The world is constantly changing and that is forcing the church to change as well.   Last week I pulled into a pizza shop.  There was a buggy sitting outside with a young mother and several young children.  Inside was a young dad getting take out pizza while talking on his cell phone and paying the bill with a credit card!  How does a church control change when we are immersed in the world everyday.

Finally, this is not my father’s church.  It is certainly not my grandfather’s church.  It is the Mennonite church today.  Some will freely join it today because of the changes it is making and some will leave it today because of those same changes.  Right or wrong, the church will continue to change and someday we may not recognize it at all.  The fact is, none of us can blindly sit in any church or denomination for a lifetime and not constantly analyze whether we stand by the cornerstone beliefs.   What was once a cornerstone, might just be thrown out with a whole other belief.

Mennonite

Evil is at our Door

Is this just?  Would you kill to rescue a child that is about to be beheaded for being a Christian?  Women raped.  Men crucified and hung?

When will you take up arms?   It is justified?

I’m not judging.  I’m asking.  How will you pray?  How will you respond?

I won’t post the graphic pictures.  We need to be on our knees . . . evil is at our door.

war

Just War

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
Just War theory (jus bellum iustum) is a doctrine, also referred to as a tradition, of military ethics studied by theologians,ethicistspolicy makers and military leaders. The purpose of the doctrine is to ensure war is morally justifiable through a series of criteria, all of which must be met for a war to be considered just. The criteria are split into two groups: ‘the right to go to war’ (jus ad bellum) and ‘right conduct in war’ (jus in bello). The first concerns the morality of going to war and the second with moral conduct within war.[1] Recently there have been calls for the inclusion of a third category of just war theory – jus post bellum – dealing with the morality of post-war settlement and reconstruction.

Just War theory postulates that war, while very terrible, is not always the worst option. There may be responsibilities so important, atrocities which can be prevented or outcomes so undesirable they justify war.[2]

 

This theory has been a popular in explaining World War Two.  The war was justified for saving the Jews and freedom for all mankind from evil dictators.  Arguably, there have not been any (American) wars since then that fall into that category.

The question for Anabaptists is this: Is ANY war just?  Would you as an Anabaptist fight or kill in any kind situation?  As a youth in MYF we often debated this issue.  We discussed whether we would kill an intruder in our home, an attacker trying to kill our spouse, self defense, etc etc.   Many of my Mennonite friends hunt but would they ever turn their weapons on another human being?

If we are going to open the door for “just” battles, how will we define them?  Protection of children?  Protection from abuse?  Protection for the weak or defenseless?  Protecting another’s freedom?  Protecting religious freedom?

What is your definition?  Do you accept that there are times of “just” violence or will you always turn the other cheek no matter what?   Our ancestors left Europe because of persecution.  What if there are no options for escape in our modern times?

What is your stand in defending those who can’t defend?  How will you carry out Christ’s call in an ever increasing violent world?

soldier