Unanswered Questions

Is it all bad news about the Mennonite Brethren? No, of course not. But as the spotlight has been shone upon the October MB Herald this month here at Menno-lite, there can no longer be any reasonable doubt that contemplative spirituality and Roman Catholic mysticism is rampant within the MB conference, churches and seminary. There were FIVE articles in the last issue alone that were either written about the new ancient spirituality or by those who promote it in some form, not to mention all their links and references to contemplative/emerging church theology or Jesuit spirituality. To see that this is not even being filtered out by the new editor of the MB Herald is very telling. We can only assume that he is either in agreement with contemplative spiritual formation or completely unaware of it. Either way it reveals the broad acceptance of these things by the MB denomination. At the same time, this may be a blessing in disguise, as far more has been uncovered than many of us would have ever known had it all been edited out. We can only hope that a few bold letters to the editor in the next issues will help to awaken those who have dozed off into complacency.

Now that we have all clearly seen what is going on, are there any voices that will speak out against these false teachings besides a few blogs which those in MB positions of authority have simply and admittedly “chuckled about,” to their shame? Researching these issues and writing about them out of concern for the church is no laughing matter. It’s not a fun hobby, or something done out of boredom to cause trouble or division. The posts on this blog, and others like it (of which there are only a handful), are birthed out of godly conviction and sorrow over the way these people have chosen. This kind of e-excavating involves extensive work, digging and toil over many hours of free time. It requires so much diligence that it may even qualify as one of the new spiritual disciplines.

Some have been wondering if Menno Simons would blog about these issues if he were here today. Judging from his bold words from the past, it would not be difficult to answer that question. And if he did, would today’s MB leaders chuckle about his blogging?

Isn’t it time for some important questions to be asked of those in leadership? Here are a few ideas:

Do you actually think it’s biblical to return to Roman Catholic practices?
Do you actually believe that the first century church practiced contemplative spirituality?
Have you forgotten why you call yourself Mennonites?
Do you think that under the circumstances it might be more appropriate to change your name in keeping with other emerging terms (un-christian, new kind of Christian, re-imagining, etc.) and call yourselves un-Mennonites, ex-mennonites, or post-Mennonites?
Do you honestly believe it is spirituality beneficial to promote Jesuit spirituality and practice the prayer methods of Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits whose oath is to the Vatican?
Do you honestly think that it is beneficial to endorse Benedictine rules and rhythms to the people under your leadership?
Are you concerned that so many in your churches and seminaries are spewing forth the language and terminology of the emerging church and Roman Catholic mystics?
Have you forgotten your first love, Jesus Christ?
Do you realize or care that there are many concerned biblical Christians who have had to leave their beloved churches because of these teachings which you have condoned and promoted?
Will your Bible seminaries ever make the cut for this list?
Are you even aware that you are you teaching a mixture of truth and error?
Do you teach the difference between the holy and profane?
Or are you leading your sheep down the ecumenical path to Babylon?
Are you teaching discernment or the acceptance of neo-monasticism and emerging church theology?
Are you willing to take your stand on God’s Word or do you back away from controversy?
Are you protecting the sheep from the wolves?
Do you worry at all about leading those under your headship astray?
Are you at all concerned about your accountability to God?

Is the bold word on the back cover of the October 2010 MB Herald a typo? It says REGENERATE, but properly spelled, shouldn’t it look like this: R-E-P-E-N-T !? It’s not likely this will change, but with God all things are possible. Until this happens, the MB’s will continue to be led down this very slippery spiritual pathway. If the those in MB leadership cannot answer these simple questions now, then they WILL have to eventually answer to God. But wouldn’t now be better for them than later?

My people have become lost sheep; Their shepherds have led them astray They have made them turn aside on the mountains; They have gone along from mountain to hill And have forgotten their resting place. Jeremiah 50:6

THE PAPISTIC BELIEF

THE PAPISTIC BELIEF.

It is true, the papists teach and believe, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he offered up his flesh, and shed his blood for us, but if we would enjoy them, and be partakers thereof, we must adhere to and obey the pope and his church, hear mass, receive the holy water, perform pilgrimages, call upon the mother of the Lord, and the departed saints, confess at least twice a year, receive papistic absolution, have our children baptized, and commemorate the holy days. The priests must vow chastity; the bread in the mass, must be called the flesh, and the wine, the blood of Christ; besides all their other idolatry and abominations, which are daily practiced by them.

And all this is called, by these poor, ignorant people, the most holy christian faith, and the institution of the holy christian church. Although it is nothing but mere human opinion, self-chosen righteousness, seductive hypocrisy, manifest deception of the soul, ungodly, indecent bodily nourishment and gain of lazy priests, an accursed abomination, an incensing of God, a disgraceful blasphemy, an unworthy despising of the blood of Christ, a self-devised undertaking, and a disobedient, contumacy to the divine word. In short, a false, offensive, divine worship, and open idolatry, of which Jesus Christ (to whom the Father points us) has not left or commanded us a single letter of all these things.

http://www.mennosimons.net/ft023-papisticbelief.html

Related:

The Vatican’s Quest for a World Political Authority
By Carl Teichrib

Another article in the MB Herald that opens the door to contemplative spirituality.

On page 16 of the latest MB Herald is an article called Wanted: Anabaptist saints by Rob Des Cotes, pastor at Imago Dei Community (affiliated with the BC MB Conference of Churches). The article is benign as far as contemplative spiritual formation goes, especially in comparison to some of the other articles in this October issue (which is surprising, since the Imago Dei community is very contemplative, as seen here). They also link to the Jesuits, as does the MB church plant in Vancouver called Urban Journey.

Rob Des Cotes has written two books on spirituality. One is called Fan the Flame which is written in the tradition of Christian contemplatives and mystics from the past to the present. In this book are frequent references to the Desert Fathers, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart and modern day writers such as James Houston and Ronald Rolheiser. The other book Rob Des Cotes has written is called Higher Than I. This too is written in the contemplative tradition of mystics from the past to present.

Rob Des Cotes is not only a spiritual director and pastor, he also teaches Contemplative Traditions at Trinity Western University, as well as courses on spirituality and the arts at Carey Theological College and Columbia Bible College. He also speaks at various conferences, such as this Thomas Merton Society conference in 2007 (along with Merton expert Lynn Szabo of TWU):

CONTEMPLATIVE LITURGY
4:15 – 5:00 pm, Sanctuary, Canadian Memorial United Church
Gather for a concluding celebration of hope with reflections and acoustical music by Rob des Cotes and friends.
Rob Des Cotes is a musician, liturgist and pastor at Fairview Baptist Church in Vancouver. He is an active member of Baptist Peacemakers International and a spiritual director with Imago Dei Community (www.imagodeicommunity.ca). Rob also directs Imago’s Vancouver Arts Network, a community of writers, musicians, actors, dancers and visual artists who are in creative dialogue with spiritual issues in the arts, especially as they relate to postmodern culture.
Following the conference today, you are invited to a “Contemplative Communion Service” with Taizé-styled worship featuring meditations from the writings of Thomas Merton at 7 pm at Fairview Baptist Church (1708 W. 16th Ave., between Burrard & Granville).

“The fire of a wild white sun has eaten up
the distance between hope and despair.
Dance in this sun, you tepid idiot.
Wake up and dance in the clarity of
perfect contradictions.”
—Thomas Merton

http://merton.ca/HOPEconfguide.html

Thomas Merton was a trappist monk who opened the door for Christians to explore interspirituality and learn from Eastern religions (see here).

Why has the new interim editor of the MB Herald highlighted so many contemplative pastors in this month’s issue? Why are the MB Herald readers being pointed to so many teachers who value the spiritual practices of mystics and Roman Catholic saints from the past? And why are so many of them leading to Jesuit websites? What is going on? Are the Mennonite sheeple aware of what is going on? Are they blindly or willingly being led down this pathway? What would Menno Simons say about all of this?

Who can answer these questions?

MB leaders respond to concerns about conference speaker

Can the peace loving Mennonites stir the pot by speaking up? They certainly can! They not only have the right to do so, but those who know God and His Word MUST continue to shine the spotlight on error and sound the warning – for the sake of the gospel and the future generation!

MB leaders respond to concerns about conference speaker
By Sheldon C. Good
Mennonite Weekly Review

Mennonite Brethren leaders are defending their choice of a national conference youth speaker after some members raised concerns.

The speaker is Shane Claiborne, a prominent author and activist who often speaks about peacemaking and social justice.

Claiborne is slotted as one of two keynote speakers at the 2011 U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches youth convention in San Antonio, Texas.

Wendell Loewen, co-director of the convention, and other church leaders have heard concerns since late July after they publicized Claiborne as a speaker.

“I was bracing for some pushback,” said Loewen, associate professor of youth, church and culture at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kan. “People start to get curious and investigate a little bit, especially if they’ve never heard of him.”

Some church groups aren’t planning to attend the convention because of Claiborne, Loewen said….

More here:

http://www.mennoweekly.org/2010/10/18/mb-leaders-respond-concerns-about-conference-speak/

Related:

The Fallacy of Social Justice
http://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/the-fallacy-of-social-justice/

Shane Claiborne will be the keynote speaker for the 2011 National Youth Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Churches
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2010/07/07/shane-claiborne-will-be-the-keynote-speaker-for-the-national-youth-conference-of-the-mennonite-brethren-churches/

MB Herald Spotlights Claiborne’s Socialist Propaganda
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/mb-herald-spotlights-shane-claiborne/

About those Spiritual Exercises

This is a special excerpt from The Berean Call which is a reminder for those Mennonites who have been charmed by the methods of Ignatius and are linking to Jesuit prayer resources on their Mennonite Brethren church websites…

Many of the so-called “desert fathers” (…) adopted occult techniques, later popularized as the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. They thought that if they could visualize Christ and biblical events in their imagination, the Bible would become more real and they would mature spiritually. That delusion is still promoted by many Christian leaders today such as Richard Foster, Calvin Miller, Karen Mains, and others. Foster enticed thousands with the deceitful promise of spiritual maturity through occult methods such as the following in Celebration of Discipline (R. Foster, Harper and Row, Pub., 1978, pp. 24-27):

[Begin] with a daily period of from five to ten minutes…learning to “center down”…[using] two brief exercises….The first [is] called “palms down, palms up”…placing your palms down as a symbolic indication of your desire to turn over any concerns you may have to God. Inwardly you may pray “Lord, I give to You my anger toward John. I release my fear of my dentist appointment….I surrender my anxiety over not having enough money to pay the bills…my frustration over trying to find a baby-sitter for tonight.” Whatever it is that weighs on your mind…just say, “palms down.” Release it….After several moments of surrender, turn your palms up as a symbol of your desire to receive from the Lord… “I would like to receive Your divine love for John, Your peace about the dentist appointment, Your patience, Your joy.” Whatever you need, you say, “palms up.” Having centered down, spend the remaining moments in complete silence….

Another meditation aimed at centering oneself…seated…comfortably, slowly become conscious of your breathing [to] get in touch with…the level of tension within. Inhale deeply, slowly tilting your head back as far as it will go. Then exhale, allowing your head slowly to come forward until your chin nearly rests on your chest. Do this for several moments, praying inwardly something like this: “Lord, I exhale my fear….I inhale Your peace. I exhale my spiritual apathy. I inhale Your light and life.” Then, as before, become silent….

After you have gained some proficiency in centering down, add a five- to ten-minute meditation on some…tree, plant, bird, leaf, cloud, and each day ponder it carefully and prayerfully. God…uses His creation to show us something of His glory and give us something of His life…as Evelyn Underhill [says]…begin with that…contemplation which the old mystics sometimes called the “discovery of God in His creatures.”

Having practiced for some weeks with the two kinds of meditation listed above, you will want to add the meditation upon Scripture….Take a single event….Seek to live the experience, remembering the encouragement of Ignatius of Loyola to apply all our senses to our task. Smell the sea. Hear the lap of water along the shore. See the crowd. Feel the sun on your head and the hunger in your stomach…. Francis de Sales [says] “represent to your imagination the whole of the mystery on which you desire to meditate as if it really passed in your presence….” As you enter the story…remember that since Jesus…is not bound by time, this event in the past is a living present-tense experience for Him. Hence, you can actually encounter the living Christ in the event…Jesus Christ will actually come to you.

This is, of course, rank occultism. The visualized “Jesus” often takes on a life of its own and does indeed “speak.” This is not the Lord Jesus Christ come down from the right hand of His Father in heaven, but a seducing spirit, exactly as Paul warned would occur: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron…” (1 Tim 4:1, 2). There is no excuse for falling into such delusion, which is so contrary to the Word of God.

SOURCE: Victory in Christ
http://www.thebereancall.org/node/2567

Related:

Ignatius
http://www.svchapel.org/resources/articles/133-spiritual-formation-movement/796-ignatius

Mennonites and St. Ignatius

As if the MB Herald hasn’t revealed enough about how far the influence of contemplative spirituality has spread into Mennonite churches, here is another concern.

Urban Journey (www.urbanjourney.ca) is an MB church plant in Vancouver, B.C. that is doing a good work for the city with something called Urban Advocacy. This involves caring for those in need in very practical ways, because as Mennonite Brethren, they believe that “alleviating suffering, reducing strife, and promoting justice are ways of demonstrating Christ’s love.” Urban Journey is pastored by the Stanley’s who have recently been appointed as the Mennonite Brethren Chaplains at UBC. (They are bloggers at My Celebration (here) and at the MB’s Regenerate 21-01 blog (here), which is “a place were we can share what God is doing in our communities as we apply the dynamics of the first century church now in the 21st century.”)

The concern lies in the area of the kind spirituality they may be recommending (much like the contemplative spiritual formation of Len Hjalmarson’s MB church plant in Kelowna). Urban Journey’s resource page has this recommendation:

For other resources to aid in the practice of daily prayer and Scripture reading, visit:

These recommendations include a prayer site run by the Irish Jesuits called Sacred Space and Northumbria (a monastic ecumenical community), but even more surprising is the first prayer link recommended by this MB church plant. It’s called Pray as you Go, and here are the details:

Pray as you go
http://www.pray-as-you-go.org/
Jesuit Media Initiatives
Daily prayer “thoughts” It is produced by Jesuit Media Initiatives, with material written by a number of British Jesuits and other experts in the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola.

Also on Pray as you go are the following daily prayer aids that Urban Journey must actually believe are useful for prayer preparation, or they would not have recommended them:

Breathing exercise
If you have time, this four-minute breathing exercise can be a useful preparation for prayer, helping you to develop the stillness, focus and attentiveness that you need. Length: 4 mins.

Body exercise
If you have time, this four-minute body exercise can be a useful preparation for prayer, helping you to develop the stillness, focus and attentiveness that you need. Length: 4 mins.

*There are also daily prayer thoughts, like this October selection, which begins with a prayer bell:
http://www.pray-as-you-go.org/mp3/PAYG_101019.mp3

Because it is a Jesuit website with Jesuit spirituality, it promotes Jesuit Retreats and spirituality centres, such as:

Mount Street Jesuit Centre London W1
Underpinned by the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola,
the Centre provides a range of evening and weekend courses and activities
in spirituality and theology, designed to help adults grow in their faith.

Ignatian Spirituality Centre Glasgow
A welcoming space in the heart of the city of Glasgow,
the centre offers opportunities for people to reflect on the
presence of God in their lives and respond to that presence.

Loyola Hall Rainhill, Merseyside
Loyola Hall offers many retreats and courses catering to many kinds of needs.
Their extensive programme offers individually guided retreats of various lengths from weekends,
through mid-week or 8-day retreats, to the full 30-day Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola

St Beuno’s North Wales
Take time to think, pray and relax in beautiful North Wales:
Quiet weekends, 6-day, 8-day, and 30-day retreats
inspired by the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius.

Inigo Enterprises New Malden, Surrey
A centre for resources and courses based on
the spirituality of St Ignatius Loyola.

Sacred Space
Daily prayer on your computer screen, in the Ignatian tradition, produced by
the Jesuit Communication Centre in Dublin. With over twenty million visits
recorded, Sacred Space is one of the world’s top spirituality sites.

>> Map of Jesuit spirituality centres in Britain

>> Jesuit spirituality centres in Europe

>> Jesuit spirituality centres in the USA

>> More about Ignatian/Jesuit Spirituality from the British Jesuits.

>> Online Ministries at Creighton University, the Jesuit University in Omaha, Nebraska, USA

>> Guide to resources on Ignatian Spirituality from sjweb.info in Rome

If the Jesuits want to promote all their stuff, that is their business. The question that needs to be asked of the Mennonite Brethren leadership and their church plant pastors is, once again, how they can possibly lead anyone to believe that this is what God is doing in the 21st century with the dynamics of the first century church, when Ignatius of Loyola (father of Jesuit spirituality), the church of Rome, and “Christian” contemplative prayer did not yet exist in the first century. Perhaps they think that all the members in their Mennonite churches are not quite bright enough to do basic math, or read a history book. Or perhaps those in MB leadership have not taken the time to research who the Jesuits are. Or maybe it will remain an unsolved mystery.

For those who do not know, St. Ignatius of Loyola was the founder of the Jesuits, and it was he who invented the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius (i.e. the Ignatius Examen), which involve the occult practice of visualization. These are not practices one would expect to see in any evangelical or anabaptist denomination, but they are slowly being introduced into Christian churches everywhere, even a Mennonite Brethren church plant.

Here is some reading about St. Ignatius:

“The Roman Catholic Church has a name for those who have departed from the “One True Church.” They’re called the “separated brethren.” Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, had one main goal in mind when he established his organization. He and his band of faithful ruthless men would do everything possible to bring these separated brethren back to the Mother of All Churches. Several centuries have passed. Now that we are in the twenty-first century, his plan is becoming a reality.”

-Roger Oakland, HOME TO ROME
http://www.understandthetimes.org/commentary/c60.shtml

“As can be documented, the very reason the Jesuits were founded by Loyola was for the purpose of bringing the Separated Brethren (those who departed from Catholicism) back to the Roman Catholic Church, by whatever devious means it would take.”

-Roger Oakland
http://www.understandthetimes.org/commentary/c58.shtml

What is the Ignatian Examen?

Ignatian Examen is an occult visualization technique taught by Ignatius Loyola, who founded the Jesuits in the 16th century. His exercise teaches one to visualize oneself in the presence of Jesus and then interact with Him during his earthly events, e.g., “at the Last Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane, at the foot of the cross, and laying Jesus’ body in the tomb.”6 This has one adding content to Scripture from his imagination and opens a person to demonic manipulation (2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:8).

Evangelical Mysticism?
http://www.thebereancall.org/node/6433

*More about the spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius (excerpt from The Berean Call):

“…I’m talking about the spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius. Now, for those who don’t know the name Ignatius, Saint Ignatius, Catholic saint was a founder, the founder of the Jesuits, and this was in the 16th century, yet today it’s called, the Ignatian Examine, these were his spiritual exercises, and all Jesuit priests go through these exercises, but it’s gone beyond that. Now we have these exercises being promoted in the evangelical church through the Emerging Church teachings.

Dave:

Tom, I know some ex-Jesuits who told me they were demonized by the spiritual exercises of Ignatius.

Tom:

Right. So what are they about? Really, visualization is the key. But before we get into the explanation let me give you a quote, a couple of quotes from professing evangelical Tony Campolo, who has done so much damage to our young people with his heretical teaching, not just unbiblical but heretical teachings, very bad. By the way, he writes: “I learned about this way of having a born-again experience from reading the Catholic mystics, especially the spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. Like most Catholic mystics he developed an intense desire to experience a oneness with God.” Now before you comment, Dave, here’s another one: “After the reformation we Protestants left behind much that was troubling about Roman Catholicism of the 15th century. I am convinced that we left too much behind. The methods of praying employed by the likes of Ignatius have become precious to me. With the help of some Catholic saints my prayer life has deepened.”

Is There A Biblical Mysticism?
http://www.thebereancall.org/node/6407

Also see:

Who is Ignatius of Loyola?
http://apprising.org/2008/12/13/who-is-ignatius-of-loyola/

SPECIAL REPORT: The Jesuit Agenda and the Evangelical/Protestant Church
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=6844

Ignatius
http://www.svchapel.org/resources/articles/133-spiritual-formation-movement/796-ignatius