1. Who in your congregation takes a leadership role in interpreting the Bible? How do they acquire that role? What happens if anyone challenges their interpretation? Who has been most influential in the development of your personal understanding of the Bible?
Reading the Bible for ethics is an act of power. Reading the Bible for ethics is about using the language and images of the Bible to transform ourselves and those around us. It is not the power called control or force.
1. Bruce Hiebert says we will make better ethical decisions if our brains are filled with biblical images. Do you find his arguments convincing? Have we been doing a good job of immersing ourselves in the biblical stories? Have we been filling our minds with too many non-biblical images?
Reading the Bible for ethics is no easy task. It means facing an obscure document held as vital by an older generation, but of increasing irrelevance to a changing world. Or does it?
1. Tom Yoder Neufeld says that teaching and learning are acts of faith, especially when it comes to sacred texts such as the Bible (page 6). What learning or teaching experiences have stretched or deepened your faith? Are there settings that are more effective than a traditional classroom? What factors encourage or hinder us from being eager to learn?
RWM: For much, if not all, of your adult life, you have served as a chaplain, pastor or professor. What—or who—were the influences in your growing-up years that led you to a life of ministry in these ways?
1. How has your community been impacted by the drive for economic development? What has your community lost through development and what has it gained? How are decisions made about when and where development will happen? Is there a role for the church in these decisions?
Clouds hang over the Haisla community of Kitamaat Village, just across Douglas Channel from the proposed site of the Northern Gateway supertanker terminal. (Photo by Will Braun)
I never expected that Enbridge—the Calgary-based pipeline company best known for its contentious Northern Gateway proposal and a nasty spill from one of its U.S. lines in 2010—would push its way so far into my life.
Bryan Born, the new president of Columbia Bible College sees his goal as equipping and encouraging the students to become “fully devoted followers of Jesus,” and that means more than classroom instruction.
In recent decades, young people from the Kalenjin community in the highlands of Kenya have dominated all levels of competitive athletic running events around the world. They have been described as “the fastest people in the world.”
1. Wendy and Phil Reimer describe some instances when God intervened in the lives of Christians. Can you think of similar experiences that you or other Christians have had? Why might they be difficult to talk about?
In my earliest recollection Jacob Janzen was 60-something. He was not the oldest person I knew and rather undistinguished. He came walking tiredly up the sidewalk to the house in his rubber boots and a kepi—the sort of hat factory workers wore in the 60s, not quite a ball cap, but billed with a pill-box sort of shape.
The following articles are from a presentation by Wendy and Phil Dyck at Rockway Mennonite Church several months ago.
1. What are some of your warm “waiting for Christmas” memories? What is it about Advent and Christmas family traditions that make them so special? Do you have negative memories mixed with the nostalgia? What role does gift-giving play in Christmas nostalgia?
In my first year at Canadian Mennonite University, my first year away from home, I kept a running countdown to the Christmas holidays on the whiteboard stuck to my dorm room door. Only 12 days until I fly home, 19 days until Christmas.
Advent means memories, traditions, plans, lists, emotions and thoughts. In my youth in western Canada, growing up in a Mennonite Brethren (MB) community, Advent was a season. It was not marked by a number of Sundays, but by particular songs sung or lessons read.
“O come, O come Emmanuel,” a stock dirge of Advent, comes from a house of pain that once was, still is, and shall be again. The hymn is haunting. (HWB #172)
1. Do you consider yourself as a rational being or more of an emotional being? Do you find others reacting more rationally or more emotionally? In what ways has the Mennonite Church tended to appeal to our heads rather than our hearts? Has this been changing?
After many hours of methodical and systematic doubting of all that he held certain, seventeenth-century French philosopher Rene Descartes came to an astounding conclusion: the only thing that he could know for certain, beyond any reasonable doubt, was that he was a thinking creature.
1. Carol Penner says, “sinning against our neighbours once removed just doesn’t feel so bad.” Do you agree? Who might be a “neighbour once removed”? What might be some examples of sinning against such a neighbour? What is it about injuring someone close at hand that is abhorrent?
When I was little, I remember my dad explaining our relatives to us: “She’s my cousin, twice removed.” It’s an expression that talks about a relationship that is a bit more distant. Today I want to talk about our neighbours, once removed. Why is it easier to hurt people when they are removed from us? What does it mean to be a Christian when so many of our neighbours are once removed?
Church leaders pray for Steve Brnjas and Fanosie Legesse (kneeling) before they began their teaching tour in Ethiopia in May. (Photo courtesy of Fanosie Legesse)
Fanosie Legesse poses with the child hit by their car while travelling in Ethiopia. (Photo courtesy of Fanosie Legesse)
Wanda and Doug Roth Amstutz with (from left) Abigail, Sophia and Amani. (Photo courtesy of Doug Roth Amstutz)
(From left) Doug Roth Amstutz, Tewodros Beyene (MKC Church Chair), Kenna Dula (MKC General Secretary), Wanda Roth Amstutz. (Photo courtesy of Doug Roth Amstutz)
(From left) Yeshiareg Yohannes (MCC Ethiopia office administrator, secretary), Yeshiareg Yohannes (MCC Ethiopia office administrator, secretary), Solomon Teferi (MCC Ethiopia Assistant Program Manager), Don Peters (MCC Canada Executive Director), Mekonnen Dessalegne (Program Manager). (Photo courtesy of Doug Roth Amstutz)
As Fanosie Legesse and Steve Brnjas were driving through a small village in rural Ethiopia, their car slowed to pass through a narrow street when suddenly a boy darted into the car’s path, and was hit. His body flew and landed a few feet away. The driver stopped, though hesitantly, sensing there might be trouble. The passengers got out to see how they could help. It didn’t look good.
1. What has been the history of how a pastor is chosen in your congregation? How many people from your congregation have entered the pastoral ministry? How did the congregation help them develop leadership skills?
When a church is in need of a lead or associate pastor, do they nurture these characteristics in the youth and young adults in their congregation or search for ready-made pastors outside of their congregation? The trend among Mennonite churches is to search for pastors who are educated in seminary or at one of the many Mennonite schools in Canada and abroad.