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

Go from your country

missiontomission

I had a great weekend with missionary friends that are home on furlough.   We attended the global fair with Eastern Mennonite Missions and also their commissioning service on Sunday.  Overall – a win win across the board.

Some thoughts and reflections: As a child, my memories of missionaries are of “old” people coming to our church showing slides of Africa.  The men wore funny “missionary” shirts and they brought hand crafted trinkets from other countries.  I still have some of those trinkets in my house today.  Men are still wearing those “missionary” shirts and the women still wear long colorful dresses in native patterns.  I like them more now as an adult than when I was a child.

Missions is a tough gig.  You need to go to another country and leave your family and friends.  Your children are confused because they don’t know what nationality they are.  Not…

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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

The Funkites

The first Mennonite split in America:

Funkites (1778 to c.1850) were a group of Mennonite (Anabaptist) followers that splintered from mainstream Mennonites as the result of a schism caused by Bishop Christian Funk.

The Funkite congregation formed during the late 18th century when the colonies were building support to separate from English rule. A Mennonite Bishop, Christian Funk of Franconia Township, Pennsylvania, spoke in favor of supporting the movement. Bishop Funk realized that Mennonites as well as other Anabaptist departed Europe due to religious persecution, and he feared that if this new country would fall under European rule that religious persecution would continue. He preached that Mennonites should stand up to support revolution against European rule and dominance. Otherwise everything they gained might be lost. This went against the doctrines held by Mennonites of non-violence, pacifism, and swearing oath of allegiance. Another issue which Funk advocated was the support of the revolutionary war tax. Again this was contrary to Mennonite doctrines[1]

In an effort to break away from English dominance and in supporting religious freedom in the colonies, Bishop Funk stated that Mennonites should pay the war tax. Fellow Bishops tried to change Funk’s mind but failed. Funk’s refusal resulted in being ordered to step down as Bishop. Unable to accept this decision, Funk was excommunicated in 1778. He and approximately 52 of his followers splintered from the main congregation and formed a separate Mennonite group known as Funkites.[2] This was the first schism among the Mennonites in America.[3]

This was quite a serious turning point for the Mennonite religion and culture in the new world. Never before did anything so serious cause a break-up of the church, and among Mennonites who had suffered persecution together in Germany and Switzerland, not too many years earlier.[1]

On Bishop Christian Funk’s death in 1811 the congregation continued to worship in four locations near Evansburg, Lower Providence Township, Pennsylvania until 1850 when the last of the Funkites died out. A memorial to Christian Funk is located at the Funkite Cemetery near Evansburg, Pennsylvania. The cemetery contains 32 markers, the earliest dating from 1815.[4]

*Copied from Wikipedia

Common Definitions

Some definitions (thanks Wikipedia) for commonly used terms in Anabaptist circles:

conscientious objector (CO) is an “individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service”[1] on the grounds of freedom of thought, conscience, and/or religion.[2] In general, conscientious objector status is only considered in the context of military conscription and is not applicable to volunteer military forces.

Pacifism is opposition to war and violence. The word pacifism was coined by the French peace campaigner Émile Arnaud (1864–1921) and adopted by other peace activists at the tenth Universal Peace Congress in Glasgow in 1901.[1  

Pacifist: a person who believes that war and violence are unjustifiable.

Peace is an occurrence of harmony characterized by the lack of violence, conflict behaviors and the freedom from fear of violence. Commonly understood as the absence of hostility and retribution, peace also suggests sincere attempts atreconciliation, the existence of healthy or newly healed interpersonal or international relationships, prosperity in matters of social or economic welfare, the establishment of equality, and a working political order that serves the true interests of all.

Nonresistance (or non-resistance) is generally defined as “the practice or principle of not resisting authority, even when it is unjustly exercised”.[1] At its core is discouragement of, even opposition to, physical resistance to an enemy. It is considered as a form of principled nonviolence or pacifism which rejects all physical violence, whether exercised on individual, group, state or international levels. Practitioners of nonresistance may refuse to retaliate against an opponent or offer any form of self-defense. Nonresistance is often associated with particular religious groups.

teresa