More Mennonite Stillness and Lectio Divina

Not only is the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary teaching the stillness and lectio divina,[1] the Ontario Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches is promoting a one day contemplative workshop this fall called a Day in the Word:

“…this one-day workshop can help to open your heart and set you on a path to hearing God’s voice and refreshing your relationship with him. Two experienced pastors will lead participants into fresh and time-tested ways of having a conversational relationship with Jesus—first, by addressing this topic in the light of scripture and experience; and then by guiding the group into two spiritual practices that open the possibility of encountering God as personal and communicating. These practices are stillness, and “sacred reading” of Scripture (i.e. lectio divina).” [2]

This workshop is will be facilitated by Andrew Dyck and Don Craw.

If these “fresh and time tested”[3] ways are “spiritual practices that open the possibility of encountering God,” does that mean there is a possibility of encountering something other than God in the stillness?


[2] Saturday, September 21 – Grantham MB Church (St. Catharines)
Saturday, October 5 – Grace MB Church (Kitchener)
[3] could be translated: new to Anabaptists and old as the desert fathers


The Stillness and Lectio Divina at a Mennonite “Biblical” Seminary?


The Stillness and Lectio Divina at a Mennonite “Biblical” Seminary?

The seminary for the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches is there to equip and educate future pastors, leaders, missionaries, counsellors and teachers for ministry within the Mennonite Brethren constituency. This fall, one of the courses offered by the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary to equip future pastors and teachers and missionaries is listed on the CMU 2013-14 COURSE TIMETABLE:

BTS-5960M Being with God in Stillness and Scripture (1.0 credit hour) This course will draw on biblical, historical and experiential resources for developing a conversational relationship with Jesus Christ through the practices of stillness, and `sacred reading’ of Scripture (lectio divina). Students will complete several assignments after participating in a one-day workshop. (In 2013 this workshop will be offered in two Ontario locations.)
Instructor: Andrew Dyck

Is this really a biblical practice?

The practice of stillness is a spiritual formation term that many Christians are using today to find God’s presence. It is different than finding a quiet place away from noise and distractions to meditate on scripture. It is referring to the silence that is found by achieving a mystical stillness of the mind.(1) One method used by those who practice contemplative spirituality to get into this place is called Lectio Divina, a practice that has been kept alive in the tradition of Benedictine monastics that involves emptying the mind of all thoughts, focusing on the breath and repeating a word or small phrase. The “presence” found in the resulting “silence” is actually an altered state of consciousness.(2) The danger is that the voice and presence found in the silence may not be God’s.

Where in the Bible are we taught to find a relationship with Jesus Christ through any such practices?

Even Richard Foster, a well known promoter of contemplative prayer, warns about this kind of prayer and says that it is not for the novice…

“At the onset I need to give a word of warning, a little like the warning labels on medicine bottles. Contemplative prayer is not for the novice. I do not say this about other forms of prayer. All are welcome, regardless of proficiency or expertise, to enter freely into adoration and meditation and intercession and a host of other approaches to prayer. But contemplation is different. While we are all precious in the eyes of God, we are all not equally ready to listen to God’s speech in his wondrous, terrible, gentle, loving, all embracing silence…
I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as supernatural guidance that is not divine guidance. While the Bible does not give us a lot of information on the nature of the spiritual world, we do know … there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way!
… But for now I want to encourage you to learn and practice prayers of protection…”
(page 156 – 157, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home)

Even though this is not backed up anywhere in scripture, future pastors, leaders, missionaries, counsellors and teachers will be taught by the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary that this is a biblical way to pray. How much farther will the practice of stillness and lectio divina spread to the Mennonite Brethren constituency? It’s already everywhere. Take a look around. And if the Spirit of God convicts and inspires you to speak out, do not remain silent. There’s already enough of that!




Who Goes There?
by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemplative Spirituality
Encountering voices in the quiet of contemplative prayer.

The Influence of Mennonite Oblate Arthur Boers Reaches 100 Huntley Street

Has the influence of Mennonite Benedictine oblate Arthur Boers reached 100 Huntley Street? According to their blog, it appears so.

The Unforced Rhythms of Grace
2013-07-03 by Moira Brown

Are you wondering what and where those “unforced rhythms of grace” are? Sounds out of this world doesn’t it?

That phrase appeared in a wonderful book by Arthur Boers(1), associate professor at Tyndale Seminary — LIVING INTO FOCUS—Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distractions(2). (Available at our estore) The author has excited me about “the priorities, potentials and practices of focal living”. Even before noting that Eugene Peterson wrote the foreword, I recognized his words from The Message . Here it is in context:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me — watch how I do it. l earn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11: 28-30 MSG )

What are the unforced rhythms of grace Boers is talking about? In his book Day by Day These Things We Pray(3), Boers writes about the monastic prayer disciplines (fixed hours of prayer, the daily office, etc.) which he first learned of while in university when he found a book in a discard bin by Jesuit priest and activist Daniel Berrigan that made him realize he had much to learn from other traditions.(4)

Is 100 Huntley Street actually promoting the monastic rhythms of this Mennonite ‘monk’?

Shall we chalk up one more notch on the Mennonite monkey business wall?


1) Boers is an ordained minister in the Mennonite Church USA and a Benedictine oblate at St. Gregory’s Abbey (Anglican) in Three Rivers, Michigan. He has written the foreword to a new book by a Mennonite pastor on contemplative spirituality called Sacred Pauses. See here:

Pausing to Examine ‘Sacred Pauses’

He also wrote the foreword of a book called Under Construction: Reframing Men’s Spirituality, written by Gareth Brandt, a teacher at Columbia Bible College who has been trained in Richard Rohr’s male spirituality. See here:

More Rohr Influence – this time at Inter-Mennonite Bible College

2) View LIVING INTO FOCUS—Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distractions by Arthur Boers, here:

3) In December of 2010 the MB Herald promoted his book on monastic prayer. See:

MB Herald promotes ancient rhythms of monastic prayer

4) Boers discusses this and more in a 2011 interview by Jim Cantelon on 100 Huntley Street here:

Day By Day, These Things We Pray – Dr. Arthur Boers – 1/2 (June 14, 2011)


This is not the first time that 100 Huntley street has inadvertently promoted contemplative prayer and/or Roman Catholic mysticism. In a 2011 interview, Red Letter Christian Tony Campolo refered to Ignatius of Loyola, lectio divina and the stillness as practiced by Benedictine monks. See:

“Hearing God Speak” — TRUTH TO GO with Tony Campolo #12