Mennonite Brethren Still Spreading Stillness

As more and more evangelical leaders are compromising and crossing the ecumenical bridge toward Rome[1], quietly joining them are the Mennonite Brethren. They are not blatantly announcing it, but just revealing the direction they have been taking more subtly for some time now. It began silently, and still continues to spread through contemplative spiritual formation being taught in their seminaries and churches.

A recent example of this can be found on the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary website (www.mbseminary.ca) where viewers can watch a faculty testimony video and read a news article commending the Assistant Professor of Ministry Studies for Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary Canada and Canadian Mennonite University (Winnipeg). . .

SEMINARY PROFESSOR RECOGNIZED BY EVANGELICAL PRESS ASSOCIATION
May 21, 2014
The Evangelical Press Association recently awarded Professor Andrew Dyck a 3rd place award for his article, “Sowing Seeds or tossing nutshells?” published in the October 2013 issue of MB Herald. The “Higher Goals” competition honors individual aspects of a publication, such as reporting, column writing and design. Professor Dyck received this honor in the Evangelism category. To read the article online, go to… http://mbherald.com/sowing-seeds-or-tossing-nutshells/.
Source: http://www.mbseminary.ca/%5B2%5D

The sincerity and qualifications of this seminary professor are not the issue. The disturbing trend that is becoming more apparent is that the Mennonite Brethren have become more comfortable with their acceptance of contemplative spirituality and those who teach it.

Last September in St. Catharines, the Ontario Conference of Mennonite Brethren churches promoted a contemplative workshop (led by this same professor). . .

Day in the Word
Being with God in Stillness and Scripture
September 21

Evangelicals have often emphasized having a personal “Quiet Time.” 
This has meant setting aside time regularly for reading the Bible, reflecting and praying—often accompanied by some form of journaling. Believers have sought to nurture their personal relationship with Christ by doing these activities every day.
Over time, however, Bible reading can be reduced to rote reading, intellectual study, or a springboard for one’s own musings—without listening for God’s communication. Similarly, Quiet Time can become so filled with activity that there is no quietness in which to pay attention to the Spirit’s still small voice. Believers are left wondering whether Jesus’ followers can hear God’s voice, or even whether God still communicates to people.
If this is your experience, your participation in 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:
- by addressing this topic in the light of scripture and experience; 
- 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).

Seminary Credit
If you’d like to take this worshop as a seminary credit please contact Andrew Dyck at adyck@cmu.ca for a syllabus with a reading list and assignments.

About the Workshop
This one-day workshop provides an ideal learning environment and time context for those with busy schedules. The material is presented in a clear and concise manner that is suited to persons of any age, to newcomers as well as seasoned Christians and mature students of the Word.
By means of gifted teachers and leaders and with the use of numerous visual aids, you will be amazed at the truths you will come to understand as we methodically walk through the spiritual disciplines of stillness and lectio divina.
You will enjoy learning in a comfortable, relaxed setting, and have the opportunity to fellowship with others during breaks and over lunch.
Come and discover the treasures of Christ for yourself.

http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e82odozp134c7152&llr=bwatvmcab

This workshop on stillness and Lectio Divina was also offered last fall to students at Mennonite Biblical Seminary . . .

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
http://www.mbseminary.ca/cmu-courses

https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/stillness-and-lectio-divina-at-a-mennonite-biblical-seminary/

What are these practices of stillness and Lectio Divina? Briefly…

Stillness:

Different than finding a quiet place away from noise and distractions, the silence is referring to a stillness of the mind.
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/thesilence.htm

Lectio Divina:

While some people think lectio divina is just reading Scripture slowly, and what’s wrong with that, it is the focusing on and repeating a word or small phrase to facilitate going into the “silence” that is the real danger. There is certainly nothing wrong with reading Scripture carefully and thoughtfully. Thoughtfully, we say. In eastern-style meditation (and in contemplative prayer) thoughts are the enemy.
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/lectiodivina.htm

As controversial as these methods are, Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba (http://mbcm.ca/) has also condoned contemplative prayer as taught by this same professor. On their website, another article called Does praying include listening?[3] by Andrew Dyck explores listening prayer, stillness and silence. . .

“Several emphases in Scripture suggest that stillness and listening are indeed meant to accompany our praying. Psalm 131 (a favourite of mine, not least because it challenges my ambitions) addresses the LORD with these lines, “I have calmed and quieted myself / I am like a weaned child with its mother.” As I once heard the Rev. Mike Stewart of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, Abbotsford comment: in our culture of ambition, noise and busyness, silence with God is one of the most important practices we can cultivate in our congregations.

… Praying—asking God—needs to be embedded in the silence of stilling our souls, of depending on God to be praying on our behalf to God, and of being alert and attentive to life.

I learned this some years ago, when I discovered that in spite of praying for many people in my pastoral role (e.g. beside hospital beds, during prayer meetings, leading worship services), I rarely felt moved to pray for people in my private prayers. When I told this to a wise spiritual director, he said, “Tell this to God, and just be quiet and wait. Pay attention, and see how Jesus invites you.” In the coming months, as I did this, I discovered occasions when I found myself deeply desiring God’s goodness for someone I knew. By becoming silent with God, I learned how to ask God.

I am convinced that silence needs to be an integral part of our praying—not only when we are alone, but also in our times of praying together. Communal prayer trains us in private prayer (that’s why we’ve been given the Psalms). Therefore, prayerful silence needs to be a normal part of our worship gatherings. And not  just 30 seconds of “let’s- pause-for-a-moment-of-silent-prayer,” but much longer intervals of stillness—even minutes long, or more!—since we can’t ‘still and quiet our souls’ in a mere 60 seconds.

When silence and listening become embedded in our practices of praying without ceasing, perhaps our lives will indeed become incense to God.”

Although Andrew Dyck does not specifically refer to Roman Catholic sources, he ends his article with the recommendation of a prayer website called Sacred Space. . .

A RESOURCE:

I recommend the website www.sacredspace.ie for incorporating silence with prayer. This daily prayer site is provided by Irish Jesuits, who emphasize that “when you pray you are not alone. You are part of a global community.” This prayer guide is organized around 6 simple steps: (a) become aware of God’s presence, (b) desire and acknowledge the freedom God gives us, (c) become conscious about oneself with God, (d) meditate on The Word of God, (e) have conversation with Jesus, and (f) conclude with God’s glory. When I use this guide leisurely, allowing for ample silence during and between each step, I have often  been refreshed, challenged, invited and renewed by God’s Spirit.

This guided prayer website belongs to the Jesuits, the order founded by Ignatius of Loyola that led the counter reformation. Their mission continues today in the new evangelization plan to bring the “separated brethren” back “home” to the church of Rome[4]. After the Jesuit recommendation at the end of Andrew Dyck’s article, a note from the MBCM says:

This blog is the second in a series of monthly posts that are offered to “equip, resource and inspire” the Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba in praying.

Apparently, MBCM must agree that Jesuit guided prayer is a good global link to Jesus. They also give their readers a link to Andrew Dyck’s blog, where in his recent post, Repetitive Prayer: Vain or Meaning-full?[5], he recommends Taize, The Jesus Prayer and a book called Take Our Moments and Our Days – An Anabaptist Prayer Book: Ordinary Time. Arthur Boers, an editor of this book, is an ordained Mennonite Church USA minister and a Benedictine oblate at St. Gregory’s Abbey. (Boers also wrote Day by Day These Things We Pray – Uncovering Ancient Rhythms of Prayer (Herald Press 2010), a revision of his earlier book called The Rhythm of God’s Grace: Uncovering Morning and Evening Hours of Prayer. It’s about monastic prayer disciplines (fixed hours of prayer, the daily office, etc.) which Boers first discovered in a book by a Jesuit priest that made him realize he had much to learn from other traditions.[6]

What will the students coming out of Mennonite Brethen Biblical Seminary, their churches, and their places of service look like in 10 years from now? Andrew Dyck’s spiritual direction began just over 10 years ago, when…

“Andrew Dyck of King Road MB Church in Abbotsford, B.C. was awarded a Study Grant for Pastoral Leaders given out by The Louisville Institute. He was one of only 40 pastors from across North America to receive the award in 2002, out of 236 applicants…
Dyck also joined nine other MBs to begin a two-year series of retreats and spiritual direction under the leadership of Steve Imbach, focusing on prayer, listening to God and discernment; this experience is intended to prepare them to give spiritual direction to others.”
-Mennonite Brethren Herald • Volume 41, No. 14 • August 2, 2002

MB pastor wins sabbatical award 

old.mbherald.com/41-14/profile.html?view=p

It was only a matter of time until this spiritual direction led by Steve Imbach would lead to more contemplative spirituality and eventually go mainstream in the Mennonite Brethren churches[7]. Imbach co-founded the contemplative SoulStream (soulstream.org) for those seeking a contemplative community through spiritual direction training, retreats and courses in the Vancouver, B.C. area. Soulstream draws heavily from the teachings of Thomas Merton[8], a trappist Monk. In 2004 a retreat for pastors in the BC MB Conference (Mennonite Brethren of British Columbia, Canada) took place at Silver Star Mountain Resort. This prayer retreat for pastors and their spouses, focusing on spiritual direction[9], was also led by Imbach of SoulStream.

What began with a little bit of stillness and spiritual direction has now spread, like yeast through an entire lump of dough. Only a decade after contemplative spirituality was introduced, it is now being taught at Mennonite Brethren Seminary[10] and is showing up in most Mennonite churches.

Considering that the meditation methods of monks are being so highly esteemed and taught in the Mennonite Brethren seminaries and conferences, wouldn’t it be safe to say that the Mennonite Brethren are no longer following the footsteps of their namesake, Menno Simons, who bravely left false teaching? Instead of standing on the Solid Rock, many who still call themselves Mennonites seem to be picking up speed on their slide down the slippery slope of silent contemplation and ecumenical compromise.

Were he here to today, what would Menno Simons blog about that?

Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
1 Corinthians 5:6

________
Endnotes:

[1] See:
The Great Convergence and the End of the Age http://standupforthetruth.com/2014/06/great-convergence-end-age
TV Preachers [Copeland, Robison] Glowingly Describe Meeting with Pope to Tear Down ‘Walls of Division’ http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=15760
CBN Building Bridges to Rome http://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/cbn-building-bridges-to-rome/
Is Beth Moore’s “Spiritual Awakening” Taking the Evangelical Church Toward Rome? http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=1591
Evangelical Church Takes Another Big Step Toward Rome—This Time? Franklin Graham http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=159664
[2] Also found here: http://www.mbseminary.ca/news-updates/seminary-professor-recognized-by-evangelical-press-association
[3] http://mbcm.ca/does-praying-include-listening/
[4] “. . .the Counter Reformation (tha) was founded to bring the “Separated Brethren” back to the “Mother of All Churches” . . . was largely headed by Ignatius Loyola, the man who founded the Jesuit Order in the mid 1500s and launched an all-out attack against those who dared stand against the papacy and Rome… While most Christians think that the Counter Reformation is a thing of the past because we are not seeing Inquisitions today, this movement continues until today and with renewed effort through various avenues of the evangelical/Protestant church. In a way, it is more insidious than the Inquisitions, because now it has infiltrated Christianity and is being disguised as the “new” Christianity. . . By their very roots, Jesuits are proponents of mystical prayer practices. The founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius Loyola, created “spiritual exercises” that incorporated mysticism, including lectio divina. Today, millions of people worldwide practice the “Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola.” “
SOURCE: The Jesuit Agenda and the Evangelical/Protestant Church http://www.understandthetimes.org/commentary/c97.shtml
[5] http://bringinggifts.com/2014/07/08/repetitive-prayer-vain-or-meaning-full/
[6] See also:
MB Herald promotes ancient rhythms of monastic prayer https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2010/12/11/mb-herald-promotes-ancient-rhythms-of-monastic-prayer/
The Influence of Mennonite Oblate Arthur Boers Reaches 100 Huntley Street https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/the-influence-of-mennonite-oblate-arthur-boers-reaches-100-huntley-street/
[7]Disappointment in the MB Herald (UPDATED 2013) https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/disappointment-in-the-mb-herald/
[8] Catholic lay monk Wayne Teasdale says this of Thomas Merton:
“Thomas Merton was perhaps the greatest popularizer of interspirituality. He opened the door for Christians to explore other traditions, notably Taoism (Chinese witchcraft), Hinduism and Buddhism.” [Mystic Heart: Discovering a Universal Spirituality in the World’s Religions – Wayne Teasdale]
[9]Contemplative Mennonite Retreats http://rollovermenno.wordpress.com/2008/03/28/contemplative-mennonite-retreats/
[10]The Stillness and Lectio Divina at a Mennonite “Biblical” Seminary? https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/stillness-and-lectio-divina-at-a-mennonite-biblical-seminary/

Related:

Contemplative Spirituality – the Source of the Catholic Church’s Expansion http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=633

The Road to Rome: The New Evangelization Plan to Win Back “the Lost Brethren” http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=654

CERTAIN MEN CREPT IN http://www.understandthetimes.org/commentary/c151crept.shtml

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Upcoming Conference Concern (UPDATED)

Because some Mennonites have had a connection with Sabeel, and because Paul Wilkinson, who has been mentioned on this blog, recently spoke in a Mennonite Brethren church in Canada and warned about an upcoming Sabeel conference in that very city, today Mennolite is linking to a post at Olive Press about Sabeel’s upcoming Canadian conference. Originally scheduled for two months from now, it has recently been changed to next spring. The Canadian Friends of Sabeel conference is called Facing the New Jerusalem:
 Face-to-Face with Christian Zionism and with Palestinian Christians, and will be held in a university in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, Canada. Read about it here:

Canadian Friends of Sabeel or Enemies of Israel? http://olivepress.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/friends-of-sabeel-canada/

Related:

What is Christian Palestinianism? https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/what-is-christian-palestinianism/

Mennonite Palestinianism https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/mennonite-palestinianism/

Sabeel, Merton, Mennonite Convergence https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/sabeel-merton-mennonite-convergence/

McLaren’s Palestinian Justice Speech, Part 1 https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/mclarens-palestinian-justice-speech-part-1/

McLaren’s Palestinian Justice Speech, Part 2 https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/mclarens-palestinian-justice-speech-part-2/

The Anti-Israel Movement and the Mennonites: Part 1 – What’s it all about? https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/the-anti-israel-movement-and-the-mennonites-part-1/

The Anti-Israel Movement and the Mennonites: Part 2 – In the Name of Christ https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/the-anti-israel-movement-and-the-mennonites-part-2/

The Anti-Israel Movement and the Mennonites: Part 3 – Pawns at the Checkpoint https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/the-anti-israel-movement-and-the-mennonites-part-3-pawns-at-the-checkpoint/

More Mennonite connections with Sabeel, for research purposes:

Network seeks to mobilize Israel-Palestine peacemaking
http://mennoworld.org/2014/08/12/network-seeks-to-mobilize-israel-palestine-peacemaking/

Mennonite Palestine Israel Network (MennoPIN)
Steering Committee
http://mennopin.wordpress.com/about/steering-committee/

__________

*** UPDATE:

Those who are interested can find new information here:

Anti-Zionist Lectures in Canada
https://olivepress.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/anti-zionist-lectures-in-canada/