Mennonites Walk Barton’s Bridge

Ruth Haley Barton, founder of The Transforming Centre[1], was trained at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation which teaches: “This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality … It is no accident that the most active frontier between Christian and Eastern religions today is between contemplative Christian monks and their Eastern equivalents.” —Tilden Edwards, Shalem Founder[2]

Barton, who could not find peace or direction in her Baptist roots or through reading the Bible and praying, found fulfillment through spiritual direction. Now she incorporates a blend of Eastern and Roman Catholic contemplative spirituality and monastic practices in her retreats and books on practicing the presence of God in the silence and sacred rhythms of prayer. Lately she has been very instrumental in leading entire Protestant and Anabaptist church congregations and their leaders into these same practices through spiritual direction and discernment seminars.

This year, the Mennonites have once again[3] brought in Ruth Haley Barton to help them make decisions in the silence regarding some very important upcoming issues that include LGBTQ and anti-Israel BDS resolutions. How tragic to see an entire church delegation over looking all that is necessary in their discernment process (the Bible), thereby shunning to declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) in seeking guidance from an apprentice of Thomas Merton and Tilden Edwards. Surely Menno Simons is rolling over in his grave.

“But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:4

Here are two articles for the remnant to read and pray about…

CLC discerns delegate agenda and offers counsel to Executive Board
Posted on March 30, 2015
NORTH NEWTON, Kan.—“We are here and we’ve been gathered by God, and the truth is gathered, too,” said Chuck Neufeld, conference minister for Illinois Mennonite Conference, during a plenary session at the March 26–28 meeting of Mennonite Church USA’s Constituency Leaders Council (CLC) in North Newton, Kan.
CLC members spent time in prayer and worship; received input from Ruth Haley Barton on tools for discerning God’s will for the church; and offered counsel to the Resolutions Committee and Executive Board (EB) of Mennonite Church USA on churchwide statements to bring before the Delegate Assembly in Kansas City, Mo., this summer.
Neufeld’s reflections, offered after a half hour of silent discernment and prayer, were joined by those of other CLC members who called for mutual forbearance and care across the church in the midst of disagreements on how LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) individuals should be allowed to participate in Mennonite Church USA. Marco Güete, conference minister for Southeast Mennonite Conference, closed the sharing time with observations from his long career in the Mennonite Church, saying, “My reflection to God during this time was, ‘I love your imperfect church. Thank you for this opportunity to be a part of it.’”

More here:
http://mennoniteusa.org/news/clc-discerns-delegate-agenda-and-offers-counsel-to-executive-board/

Discerning spirit
God’s will can be found, even in when we disagree
Apr 13, 2015 by Paul Schrag

The rest of the world makes decisions, but the church discerns. If that were just a choice of words, it wouldn’t be important. But Ruth Haley Barton believes the difference goes much deeper. To discern is to find the will of God.
“Christian leaders have an idea that their decision-making should be somehow different from the rest of the world,” Barton said in a presentation to the Mennonite Church USA Constituency Leaders Council on March 26 at Bethel College in North Newton, Kan. “But sometimes we reduce that to just having a prayer and devotions at the beginning of the meeting.”
Discernment is more than a nod to God.
At a time when MC USA is experiencing conflict over same-sex relationships and church polity, Barton’s message was timely. Though she spoke to leaders dealing with major issues, her ideas apply to every Christian and to all of life.
Barton is a teacher and writer about Christian formation and church leadership at the Transforming Center in Wheaton, Ill., who will speak to delegates at the MC USA convention in Kansas City in July.
She defines discernment as “the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and the activity of God in both the ordinary moments and the larger decisions of our lives.”
Discernment is the habit of noticing where God is at work and how God is speaking. Barton believes it is possible, in any situation, to “have a sense of whether God is at work or the Evil One is at work.” This needs to happen even in the interior world of our own thoughts and motives. 1 John 4:1 advises us to “test the spirits.” Are we willing to test our own spirit?
To do this, we need to listen to God in solitude and silence.
“Many of us are trying to give spiritual leadership without having much of a spiritual life,” Barton said. We must not let our busyness — even our Christian busyness — keep us from being aware of what is going on in our own soul. We need to be quiet and hear the voice of God as distinct from our own voice.
To whom does God give the spiritual gift of discernment? To those who are on a spiritual journey, Barton says. To those who let God transform them into a better version of themselves.

More here:
http://mennoworld.org/2015/04/13/editorial/discerning-spirit/

________

Endnotes:

1] (www.transformingcenter.org)
2] Ruth Haley Barton, Contemplative Prayer, 
and the Spiritual Formation Movement
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/ruthhaleybarton.htm
3] Ruth Haley Barton Trains Mennonites to Discern in The Silence
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/ruth-haley-barton-trains-mennonites-to-discern-in-the-silence/

The Thin Place Trend Continues

The contemplative trend continues to surface in Mennonite publications, as recently shown by a two part article called Moving thinward[1] in the Canadian Mennonite by Troy Watson[2]. It’s about ‘thin places,’ believed by some to be places where we can feel God’s presence more readily because the barrier between the spiritual realm and the material is thinner than in other places. Another article about ‘thin places’ was recently published in the MB Herald, called Find Yourself a Thin Place this Christmas[3].

Could this growing interest in Celtic spirituality and thin places be the fruit of a concern back in 2007 about Lilly Endowment grants that were being given to congregations and their pastors? These grants for pastors to go on sabbaticals with contemplative/emerging overtones have been as recent as 2012.

“. . . according to the Lilly Endowment document that lists the winners of the 2012 grants, pastors will:

. . . seek to regain spiritual vitality through the ancient Christian practice of walking as pilgrims in several countries—the path of Jesus in Israel, the path of the Exodus, some or all of the 500-mile Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) in Spain, the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul in Greece, Turkey and Italy—and making retreats in Benedictine monasteries, walking the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, and living in sacred space on the Isle of Iona and other Celtic spiritual destinations.

Winners represent various denominations including Southern Baptist, Independent, Presbyterian, Reformed, Episcopal, United Methodist, Lutheran, Nazarene, Evangelical Free, and Mennonite.”

SOURCE: Question to the Editor: What’s Up with Lilly Endowment – Funding Pastoral Sabbaticals with a Contemplative Agenda
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=11280

Whether or not Troy Watson’s recent visit to the contemplative community of Iona was due to a grant, he writes that he’s always been drawn to environments that evoke ‘a sense of sacred space.’ In part two of Moving Thinward he says that “…for Abraham, Jacob and their descendants, Bethel was a thin place” and of Mount Sinai, “This mountain was clearly a very thin place.”

Are there such places to be found today? We know from the Bible that the holy place (the temple) was the only place on the entire earth that God dwelt after sin and death entered the word and man was separated from God. Sacrifices ceased in the Temple in Jerusalem when it was destroyed in 70 AD, but access to the Holy of Holies, where God met man, was already no longer available by then because Jesus was the final sacrifice, once and for all, and the veil to the Holy of Holies was torn.

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” Hebrews 10:19,20

Because Jesus is the only way to enter God’s presence, any so called sacred space we now make or attempt to find in order to enter that realm is idolatry. There can be no places on earth where the veil between us and God’s presence is ‘thinner.’ Where ever there are efforts to find thin places where God meets man, such as the contemplatives making their sacred spiritual spaces to sense God’s presence, or the practice of the presence of God through prayer techniques – it is idolatry. The God of the universe already made a way to dwell within each believer, by the power of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent after His ascension. Those who believe are now called the temple of the Holy Spirit. No place on earth is worth making the effort to find. He lives in us. Praise the Name of the LORD!

Endnote:

1] This is part one:

Moving thinward (Pt. 1)
By Troy Watson
Feb 25, 2015
Viewpoints
I’ve always been intrigued with “thin places” long before I ever heard the term “thin place.”
Since childhood, I’ve been curiously drawn to old churches, temples, cathedrals, monasteries, ruins, holy sites, natural “wonders,” remote wilderness, solitary night skies—anywhere that evokes a sense of sacred space. Part of the appeal has been the beauty and mystery I so often find in these environments, but occasionally I’ve been so overwhelmed by divine energy in these places it was as if I’d stumbled upon holy ground.
I’m not the only one. Countless people have experienced God in places like these. Sometimes in exactly the same place.
Almost two years ago, I had the privilege of visiting the Island of Iona. Iona has long been considered a thin place by people from various religious and spiritual backgrounds. . .
*More here:
http://www.canadianmennonite.org/stories/moving-thinward-pt-1

Here is part two:

Moving thinward (Pt. 2)
By Troy Watson
Mar 25, 2015
(Volume 19 Issue 7 Canadian Mennonite):
http://www.canadianmennonite.org/stories/moving-thinward-pt-2

2] Troy Watson is pastor of Avon Mennonite Church (www.avonmennonite.com/troywatson.htm) in Stratford, Ontario. He is the founder of the Quest Christian Community (www.questchristiancommunity.ca), an alternative faith community in St. Catharines, ON. (a Mennonite Church of Eastern Canada affiliated initiative) whose aim is ‘Christ Consciousness.’ Pastor Watson recently reviewed The Naked Now, a book by Franciscan priest Richard Rohr that explores the lost tradition of mystical Christianity. Of this book, Watson said “I highly recommend this book to anyone who has been reading spiritual authors such as Eckhart Tolle.” (See: http://www.mcec.ca/content/naked-now-richard-rohr)

3] Find Yourself a Thin Place this Christmas
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/should-you-find-yourself-a-thin-place-this-christmas/

*Photo of Altar in The Chapel The Chapel at Iona Abbey by James Denham

Unity or Tolerance or Repentance?

Has the Mennonite Church USA chosen unity or tolerance or repentance?

MC USA council endorses unity statement
Among three proposed resolutions on sexuality, leaders state their preference
Mar 30, 2015 by Paul Schrag, Mennonite World Review

NORTH NEWTON, Kan. — Conservative, progressive or a call for unity and tolerance?
That was the question for the Mennonite Church USA Constituency Leaders Council as its members weighed three proposed resolutions on sexuality and church polity.
They chose the call for unity and tolerance.
Meeting March 26-28 at Bethel College, the CLC endorsed a resolution to extend “grace, love and forbearance toward conferences, congregations and pastors in our body who, in different ways, seek to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ on matters related to same-sex covenanted unions.”

More here:

http://mennoworld.org/2015/03/30/news/mc-usa-council-endorses-unity-statement/

The council also discussed several other resolutions, with two-thirds favoring an anti-Israel resolution that calls “Israel’s occupation of Palestine sinful and advocates withdrawing investments from corporations that profit from the occupation and violence in Israel-Palestine.”

Also of interest is this Mennonite Op article:

Opinion: Christ-centered unity is still possible
Jesus wants witnesses to him, not coercers of others

Mar 30, 2015 by John M. Miller
Mennonite Church USA faces the pivotal question of what unites us and what divides. The dominant issue in our time is acceptance of gay and lesbian people in the church.
http://mennoworld.org/2015/03/30/latest-issue/opinion-christ-centered-unity-is-still-possible/

*It might be noteworthy that the MCUSA appears to be following in the footsteps of the Presbyterian Church USA:

Apostate Presbyterians Vote to Allow Homosexual ‘Marriages’ by 3-1 Ratio
http://christiannews.net/2014/06/19/apostate-presbyterians-vote-to-allow-homosexual-marriages-by-3-1-ratio/

THE ROLE OF ANTISEMITISM IN THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (USA)’S DECISION TO SUPPORT
http://www.bdsinthepews.org/role-of-antisemitism-in-the-presbyterian-vote-for-divestment.html

__________

Related:

WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE ADVOCATES
by BEN SHAPIRO March 30, 2015
http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/03/30/whats-next-for-the-same-sex-marriage-advocates/

Inside the Evangelical Fight Over Gay Marriage
by Denny Burk January 16, 2015
http://www.dennyburk.com/inside-the-evangelical-fight-over-gay-marriage/

The New Inclusive Mennonites
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/the-new-inclusive-mennonites-2/

Saskatoon Gay Couple 1st to be Married in Mennonite Church
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/saskatoon-gay-couple-1st-to-be-married-in-mennonite-church/

Menno Monday

“I say, If any one would hear the voice of the devil, he need not go far; alas! he can hear him every where. All who speak lies, speak of the devil. In the beginning he spoke through the serpent; in Israel through the false prophets, and now through his preachers, in order to deceive the people of the world, and divert them from the truth, that they never can be saved.
Since then, that from the beginning he has been, and still is a lying spirit, an adversary of God, a falsifier of the Scriptures, and a murderer of souls, and will eternally be such, who can neither teach nor endure any thing good, because he is by nature unclean, a liar, and a deceiver, always the enemy of every thing that is good, we will therefore stop our ears, through God’s grace, and not hear such blasphemous speaking; turn our backs upon the devil, with all his lying preachers, as the Scriptures teach; and we will sincerely believe the Scriptures, which direct us to Christ to hear him. Christ directs us to his disciples, and they direct us to such teachers who are blameless in doctrine and life, as related. May the merciful and gracious Lord eternally preserve all the pious hearts against this Herodian generation, and against the devil’s preachers, Amen.”

-Menno Simons
COUNTER ARGUMENTS OF BABYLON AND ITS BUILDERS, WITH THEIR REPLICATIONS.
http://www.mennosimons.net/ft015-counterarguments.html

What does meditation, Jungian psychology and the labyrinth have to do with the Mennonite Brethren?

Can nice people who create beautiful music be sincerely deceived and lead other well meaning people astray? When reading about the following retreat which is taking place today, keep in mind that this ‘Christian mystic’ is one of the retreat leaders at the Mark Centre which is affiliated with the Mennonite Brethren Conference of BC.

Saturday, March 28 Soul Care Day Retreat
Soul Care Day Retreat – with a theme of Receiving Forgiveness for self and Extending Forgiveness to others
When we can receive love and forgiveness in greater measure for ourselves,we are able to extend that in greater measures to those around us. Aligning with Love is a way to guide us into a deeper journey of forgiveness in our lives. Forgiveness is a key to bring greater transformation in all our relationships.
A full day of care for the soul – for 12 women.
Our day will be a flow of group time and personal time, including lunch and snacks.
Group times will include music meditation, stories, forgiveness teaching and meditation, poetry and sharing together.
In your free time you can choose to rest, do journaling meditations that will be available for you, walk the outdoor labyrinth, or sit at an art/icon station.
$85 for the day. If finances are a difficulty, please indicate what you are able to afford on your registration. Please pay $25 registration down below to reserve your spot and the remainding $60 upon arrival by check/cash/credit.
 Cathy AJ Hardy is a Christian mystic and the retreat will hold elements of Jungian psychology, Celtic Christianity, poetry, and art. Cathy has been leading retreats with the Mark Centre in Abbotsford, MCC in Abbotsford, and at the Westminster Abbey in Mission. She also leads day retreats through her home. She is a singer-songwriter, poet, and retreat facilitator.
(cathyajhardy.com/events/saturday-march-28-soul-care-day-retreat/)

What does Christian mysticism, meditation, Jungian psychology and the labyrinth have to do with the Mennonite Brethren? Biblically and theologically, these have absolutely no place in any Christian ministry. This information has been posted simply to create awareness in the hearts of the remnant of believers within the Mennonite Brethren denomination. Pray for those who have taken the contemplative path. The teachings of contemplative spirituality seem inviting, but are leading many astray.

Note: The goal and strategy of the (Mennonite Brethren affiliated) Mark Centre is serve thousands who will inspire millions to embrace a lifestyle of contemplative listening to God. Those who want to learn more about the Mark Centre or the labyrinth may use the search box on this blog to find previous posts.

RELATED:

The Mark Centre and Silent Prayer – Strategy to Affect Millions
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/the-mark-centre-and-silent-prayer/

What is Jungian analytic psychology, and is it biblical?
http://www.gotquestions.org/Jungian-analytic-psychology.html

Carl G. Jung
 Man of Science or Modern Shaman?
http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/08/nathan/jung.htm

LABYRINTHS, Prayer Paths That Promote the Occult
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/labyrinth.htm

What is Christian mysticism?
http://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-mysticism.html

The Good Old Black and White Days

For today’s modern Mennonites who are interested in seeing their heritage in the good old black and white days . . .

New online Mennonite photo database “shows the future of community archives”
Monday, March 2, 2015

After two years of design and development, the Mennonite Archival Image Database (MAID) goes live for public use today at archives.mhsc.ca. Currently MAID holds over 80,000 descriptions of photos and over 9,000 images. These number will be expanding, explains Laureen Harder-Gissing of the Mennonite Archives of Ontario. “The technology provided by MAID is energizing our partner archives to digitize our photo collections. Having all our photos searchable through one source will be a boon for genealogists, historians, and anyone interested in finding out more about Mennonite and Canadian history. Local communities across Canada will also find their histories represented.”

The on-line solution is a project of the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada and includes Mennonite archival partners in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario.

SOURCE:
https://uwaterloo.ca/mennonite-archives-ontario/news/new-online-mennonite-photo-database-shows-future-community

*Discover photographs of Mennonite life in Canada and around the world @
Mennonite Archival Image Database
MAID

http://archives.mhsc.ca/

From buttons to bonnets to LGBTQ

Menno Simons rolls over in his grave and gasps, “How did we get here?”

“Since the first Mennonites arrived in America from Germany in 1683, the denomination has gone through many schisms, often over issues of tradition and modernity. At one time, it was buttons vs. eyehooks on blouses, and whether women should have to wear bonnets; more recently, it’s been women’s leadership in the church and acceptance of those who identify as LGBTQ. Each time a split happens, a new version of the faith is created, while an older version is preserved as if in amber—even now, many people associate Mennonites with anachronisms like horses and buggies, when in reality, this kind of traditional lifestyle is only followed by roughly 13,000 American adults, called Old-Order Mennonites. (People often confuse Mennonites with the Amish, too; although both groups are part of the Anabaptist tradition, meaning that they baptize believers as adults rather than infants, Mennonites were historically followers of Menno Simons, a 16th-century preacher.)
Now, Mennonites are wrestling with the same questions faced by other churches across the country, made all the more complicated by their heritage: How should the faithful balance tradition and modern life? How should scripture inform people’s understandings of same-sex relationships? And when members of a denomination disagree, how should they find their way forward?”

SOURCE (for research purposes):
Gay and Mennonite
They vote on everything. They’re committed to peace. Can a church that defines itself by harmony survive dissonance over homosexuality?
Emma Green
MARCH 18, 2015
http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/03/gay-and-mennonite/388060/

RELATED:

The New Inclusive Mennonites
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/the-new-inclusive-mennonites-2/

Is Positive Biblical?
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/is-positive-biblical-2/