The Transformation of Mennonite Writing

A recent event called ‘Mennonites Writing VII’ took place March 12-15 at Fresno Pacific University, California. The conference was attended by 215 people from the U.S. and Canada. In the light of all that is going on presently to ‘transform’ the culture and the church, it came as no surprise to see a similar theme emerging at this Mennonite writer’s conference, as the following excerpt reveals.

Transforming times
The “movement” and perhaps the “transformation” facets of the conference theme manifested in at least two major ways.
One was the attention paid to the place of LGBTQ writers and writing. One concurrent session was devoted to LGBTQ fiction, while self-identified queer writers contributed to other sessions.
Daniel Shank Cruz, a literary critic and English instructor at Utica (N.Y.) College, noted the challenge of “how to integrate Mennonite roots into and with a queer life. The Mennonite self never really goes away, no matter how much you try to flee it.”
He described his life as “[like] mediating between two angry family members — my Mennonite ancestors and my activist queer friends urging me to move forward and leave the old behind. But ‘Mennonite thinking’ is home to me, and I can’t escape it, no matter how hard I try.”
Casey Plett of Winnipeg, Man., read from her collection of short fiction, A Safe Girl to Love.
“I see many parallels between Mennonite literature and queer literature,” she said, “such as the ‘apostate Mennonite character’ and the ‘transplanted queer character,’ who have many similarities.”
Jan Guenther Braun, originally from Osler, Sask., published a novel, Somewhere Else, in 2008.
“Tolstoy said that history is like a herd of cattle, [who] get spooked and you don’t know what spooked them or which cow started it, but suddenly they take off down the field,” she said. “This [LGBTQ fiction] panel might be that herd making or starting history.”

SOURCE: Writing conference goes west for a changed landscape
Apr 13, 2015 by Melanie Zuercher
http://mennoworld.org/2015/04/13/news/writing-conference-goes-west-for-a-changed-landscape/

They may appear to be making history, but the wisest man on this earth once said that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9). Unfortunately, these writers seem to prefer their own words to the ones God has written. As this minority group continues to organize, infiltrate the church and change the culture from within, we can only expect to see more of this.

“Homosexuality must be removed from the “sin list” and, according to an MSNBC commentator, traditional marriage proponents must be forced “to do things they don’t want to do.” Sadly, this crusade will be like the Marxist “liberation” movements that promised to “free” people, but really were about control and suppression.”

SOURCE: Dear Churches in America: Prepare to Be Treated Like 1st Century Christians in Rome
http://www.christianpost.com/news/dear-churches-in-america-prepare-to-be-treated-like-1st-century-christians-in-rome-138025/

______

Also see:

Conference connects Mennonite writers east and west
http://news.fresno.edu/04/06/2015/conference-connects-mennonite-writers-east-and-west

*RELATED:

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

*TRENDING IN THE NEWS:

‘We will not obey’: Christian leaders threaten civil disobedience if Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage
http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/04/28/will-not-obey-christian-leaders-threaten-civil-disobedience-if-supreme-court/?intcmp=latestnews

Swing Vote Justice Kennedy ‘Not Persuaded’ by LGBT Arguments at Supreme Court Hearing, Ryan Anderson Says
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/swing-vote-justice-kennedy-not-persuaded-by-lgbt-arguments-at-supreme-court-hearing-ryan-anderson-says-138348/

Christian print shop wins discrimination case
http://www.worldmag.com/2015/04/christian_print_shop_wins_discrimination_case

Are religious colleges at risk if Supreme Court approves same-sex marriage?
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/05/07/are-religious-colleges-at-risk-if-supreme-court-approves-same-sex-marriage/

*FOOD (CAKE) FOR THOUGHT:

Hypocrisy
How is liberal hypocrisy is turning Truth into hate speech? Today we’re talking about racism, religious freedom and the cultural Marxism that is today’s political correctness.
http://standupforthetruth.com/2015/04/hypocrisy/

NEW:
NIGHT IS FALLING
The real agenda – marginalize Christians
Olive Tree Ministries
http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com

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

Mennonite Brethren still okay with Brian McLaren

It appears that the Mennonites are still praising the false teachings and ‘beautifully poetic moving’ ideas of Brian McLaren. In the Cross Currents section of the February 2015 issue of the MB Herald is a book review of the newest Brian McLaren book called We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation and Activation. The review is written by Brad Sumner, regular writer for the MB Herald and pastor at a Mennonite Brethren church plant (Jericho Ridge, B.C. Canada). A mixture of light criticism and praise, the review leans toward applause and affirmation of the book’s commendable emphasis on spiritual formation among many other things – McLaren’s approach to scripture, emphasis on justice and nonresistance that resonates with the Mennonite Brethren, caring for creation, and enough ‘skillfully phrased’ family/child inclusive questions to sustain conversations for a year. The following excerpt is from the review:

Concerning reorientation toward the Bible

What will likely create some tension, however, is the elasticity with which McLaren treats the Bible itself. For him, Scripture seems to be an allegory of possibilities where factual truth and actual truth become interchangeable and sometimes intermingled.
McLaren has a tendency to denigrate biblical authority to make a contemporary point. For example, when discussing violence in the Old Testament, he indicates that “in the minds of the originators of these stories, God as they understood God did indeed command these things.” He goes on to suggest that what is truly important is how we understand God, not necessarily how the original writers or hearers heard or understood him…
As Mennonite Brethren, we have a very different outlook, as expressed in Article 2 of our CCMBC Confession of Faith: “We accept the Bible as the infallible Word of God and the authoritative guide for faith and practice.”

Community emphasis on activation

For those with an already firm view of biblical authority, the book holds wonderful benefit for personal contemplative reading…I could see the material being used as a post-Alpha learning circle that meets weekly to journey deeper into the themes of Scripture.
…on the whole, the book is pithy and full of vitality and worthwhile topics for conversation along the road.

Source:
http://mbherald.com/we-make-road-walking/

Why recommend ANY teacher who does not submit to the Bible as the inspired Word of God? Why promote the ‘skillfully phrased’ (some might say “hissed”) questions of a false teacher as a good source for teaching children and new Christians?

This review by Pastor Sumner, an avid reader and prolific blogger, is also posted at his blog Leadership Confessions, where admiration for Brian McLaren, whom Sumner calls “a sometimes controversial author and public theologian,” is expressed more than once. Previous book reviews and author promotions on his blog include (among many others) many such “controversial” authors. Such as Danny Silk of Bethel Church, Henri Nouwen, Parker Palmer, George Fox, Kathleen Norris, Ann Voskamp, Leonard Sweet, Gary Thomas, and Larry Crabb. Sumner also refers to “The Emotionally Healthy Church”, by Peter Scazzero, and Shane Claiborne’s “Common Prayer – A Liturgy For Ordinary Radicals” as ‘helpful’ books. Also included among his many postings is a quote from Understanding the Ennegram (“Psychology without spirituality is arid and ultimately meaningless, while spirituality without grounding in psychological work leads to vanity and illusions”). Many of these are authors are leaders in the emerging church and contemplative spirituality movements. The Ennegram, which quite a few of them also promote, is an occult tool.

There is an old quote by Oscar Wilde, whose life turned out to be a tragic mess, that goes like this: “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” Sadly, many of today’s pastors and Christian leaders read more books off the shelf than they do the books of the Bible.

“And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Ecclesiastes 12:12

It is time to weep and pray for the pastors.

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

__________

Related:

*Find out more about Mennonites and McLaren’s book here:

McLaren’s New Book – A New Kind of Year Long Church Curriculum
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/mclarens-new-book-a-new-kind-of-year-long-church-curriculum/

*Learn more about McLaren’s Bible interpretation methods and plans to influence children, here:

Muddy Emerging Convergence in Sunday School Curriculum
https://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/muddy-emerging-convergence-in-sunday-school-curriculum/

Note: to read previous articles on this blog about Mennonite and their enchantment with Brian McLaren, enter his name in the search box.

Mennonites and the Eco-Gospel

A new collaboration of Mennonite Church Canada and Canadian Mennonite University called the CommonWord Book Store and Resource Center[1] just opened at the beginning of this year. On their website they state that they are “passionate about Anabaptist resources for the home and congregation,” however, what can be found there is a plethora of spirituality, from earth worship and indigenous peoples resources to contemplative spiritual formation curriculum and resources by emergent church leaders. Within the virtual walls of this library are enough non-anabaptist resources to make Menno Simons roll over in his grave. For example, the closest Brian McLaren (whose materials fill their web pages) comes to “anabaptist” is his Plymouth Brethren roots.

Shortly after opening, the top ten most popular resources[2] at CommonWord included Heaven is for Real: Based on the incredible True Story DVD[3], Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry: Conversations on Creation, Land Justice, and Life Together[4], Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal by April Yamasaki[5], and Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Curriculum) by Richard Rohr[6].

While there may be some biblical resources to be found at CommonWord, more commonly there appears to be a lack of materials that teach the power of God and His Word. For example, Becoming an Energy Saint is a video that was promoted this January on CommonWord’s New Resources page[7]).

Is this environmental message of eco-theology truly what some Mennonites want in their church congregations as a teaching resource?

Carl Teichrib, researcher and writer, confirms that the interfaith green gospel has not only invaded Mennonite organizations, but many church denominations.

“Today’s Christian community is rife with green social and political messages, eco-theology, and interfaith action on the environment. Examples abound, such as the G8 World Religious Summit of 2010, a major interfaith meeting with strong representation from across the Protestant/evangelical spectrum, working in cooperation with world religions to push global green governance and a form of eco-spirituality.
Another example is the commissioned Mennonite Central Committee report, Earth Trek: Celebrating and Sustaining God’s Creation. In it we discover a combination of questionable theology, pantheistic-based messages, troubling political and social activism, mystical meditations and texts on the sacredness of Earth, the promotion of family planning through the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (part of the global abortion industry), favorable connections to The Earth Charter Foundation and Friends of the Earth – and at the end of the book we find this suggestion; “this week, make an offering to the earth, in the form of a prayer or some other gift.” (bold in original)
In Canada, the United Church sings “O Beautiful Gaia” – a song to the Greek goddess of Earth – as found in their More Voices hymnal. Across North America congregations hold Earth Day services, hear sermons on global warming, and engage in environmental campaigns. Example after example could be given. It’s like we’re facing a tsunami of green.”

SOURCE: Bridging Faith and Earth
By Carl Teichrib (www.forcingchange.org)
https://forcingchange.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/bridging-faith-and-earth/

Have some Christians, perhaps in name only, gone so far from their roots that they don’t know who they truly are in Christ? One can only pray that such souls will turn away from the earthy green gospel and turn their hearts to the Maker of heaven and earth.
_____

Endnotes:

[1] http://www.commonword.ca/Home
[2] http://www.commonword.ca/MostPopularResources
[3] Is “Heaven Is for Real” for Real?: An Exercise In Discernment
http://www.thebereancall.org/content/heaven-real-real-exercise-discernment-0
[4] http://www.commonword.ca/ResourceView/2/16064
[5] See: Pausing to Examine Sacred Pauses https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/pausing-to-examine-sacred-pauses/
[6] This book by Franciscan Priest Richard Rohr is endorsed by Dr Mehmet Oz, Brian McLaren, Cynthia Bourgeault
http://www.amazon.com/Falling-Upward-Spirituality-Halves-Life/dp/0470907754
[7] http://www.commonword.ca/ResourceView/48/17430

Mennonites and a Bridge too Far?

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:19,20

Did Jesus instruct his disciples to go into all the world as peace catalysts, building bridges, making relationships and finding similarities with those who worship other gods?

In the January issue[1] of the MB Herald, a book review called A guide to following the Prince of Peace[2] by J Janzen[3] paves the way for Mennonites to cross the ‘peace catalyst’ bridge. But is this peace building the way of the Prince of Peace? In his review of Rick Love’s Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Our Families, Organizations and Communities, Janzen writes:

“In recent years, attention to peacemaking has been reinvigorated among North American Mennonite Brethren. Rick Love’s Peace Catalysts is a timely resource for two important reasons.
First, Love, who serves as associate director of the World Evangelical Alliance Peace and Reconciliation Initiative as well as president of Peace Catalyst International, which promotes peacemaking between Muslims and Christians, writes out of the evangelical tradition. Love combines Mennonite and Reformed resources to present long-standing Anabaptist convictions in a language that many Mennonite Brethren will appreciate.”

Janzen continues to describe Rick Love’s foundations for peace catalysts which among other things include the holistic approach of pursuing harmony and the eight pillars of peacemaking, concluding that . . .

“church leadership teams, pastors and business people among others will want to have this helpful resource on their shelves… teachers and Sunday school facilitators will find this book to be an excellent discussion starter.
In a pluralistic society in which the church experiences tension with other groups – homeless people, Muslims, the LGBT community, to name a few – Peace Catalysts sparks one’s imagination to consider how God might be inviting Mennonite Brethren into a deeper experience of the Prince of Peace.”

The concern with the MB Herald publishing this recommendation of such a resource is deeper than Janzen’s review delves. Inside Peace Catalysts, Rick Love acknowledges his many influences on his road to peace building. One of these is Miroslav Volf, the Founding Director of the Yale Centre for Faith and Culture and Yale Divinity School. Love writes in the first chapter of his book how he helped prepare for Miroslav Volf’s Common Word Conference at Yale University in 2008.[4]

“This unprecedented global conference was a turning point in my life. I have never met so many Muslim scholars, sheikhs, grand muftis and princes. More importantly, learning about Islam directly from these Muslim leaders and getting to know them personally over meals impacted me profoundly. I began to devote myself to becoming a full time peacemaker and to breaking down barriers between Christians and Muslims. God was calling me to be a bridge builder.” Rick Love, ch. 1, Peace Catalysts

Another influential leader in this bridge building movement is Lynne Hybels, married to Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church. In her endorsement of Rick Love’s book, she says: “In my life and ministry, I need this book!” Many may not know that she is a Palestinian advocate who often speaks at church conferences. Jim Fletcher, editor of the Balfour Post, writes:

“At Catalyst Atlanta, in 2012, Hybels spoke, and the title of her talk, “We Belong to Each Other: Americans, Israelis and Palestinians for Peace,” implied a non-violent form of protest of the “occupation,” yet she decried the presence of the IDF in the territories, spoke of the negative impact of the security fence, and alleged that Palestinians lack water sources. Her slide titled “1967 Six-Day War” stated: “Israeli Military Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza begins.”
All standard PLO fare.”
– Jim Fletcher, Creeping Anti-Israelism in the Evangelical Movement[5]

This anti-Israel position of Lynne Hybels was also mentioned in an Israel Today article that states. . .

Hybels is close friends with Nora Carmi of Sabeel, an organization that pushes vitriolic anti-Israeli propaganda in the name of “peace and justice.”
All of this eclipses Hybels’ attempts to become a neutral peacemaker. While certainly not an anti-Semite, she is guilty by close association with those who accuse Israel of everything from genocide to deicide. Perhaps unwittingly, she is carrying on Christianity’s awful anti-Semitic legacy.[6]

Also a contributing editor for Jim Wallis and Sojourners magazine, Lynne Hybels was appointed to President Obama’s faith Council, and has partnered with Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren at “Christ at the Checkpoint”.[7] For her to say that she really needs Rick Love’s book in her life and ministry should be quite telling.

Today Rick Love is an internationally recognized expert in Christian-Muslim relations and leads Peace Catalyst International.[8] On his website is a video called Conversations with an Imam: Similarities and Differences in Christian-Muslim Friendship[9], the message of which boils down to the bottom line that – “we can be friends.”

But is this even possible? One defender of biblical truth says it is not. . .

“Muslim clerics know that from Muhammad’s time until today Islam has always viewed each and every non-Muslim as “infidels” and members of the “House of War.” It is, in Muslim tradition and doctrine, perfectly acceptable to deceive any and all infidels (non-Muslims) if it is for the furtherance of Islam”
-Eric Barger, Evangelical MELTDOWN [10]

If this is so, from a Christian point of view, what would be the sense of participating in such bridge building campaigns? What eternal benefit is there in seeking similarities between two opposing religions? Without prayer and preaching of the truth about the Prince of Peace (to ANY group the church experiences “tension” with), is bridge building on common ground and/or integration even possible (or biblical)?[11]

“The ultimate goal of befriending Muslims should be, for the Christian, to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to them. Those who are true disciples of Jesus were, at one time, “God’s enemies, but have been reconciled to Him by the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10).” – Got Questions[12]

Bible believing Christians (and Mennonites) would agree that Jesus instructed his followers to preach the good news to every person who is eternally lost, and make disciples. Perhaps this is the sincere objective of many peace bridge builders. However, another very important concern needs to be addressed in this case – what about the anti-Zionist names involved with Rick Love in this peace catalyst process?

Jim Fletcher recently wrote:

“Rick Love, I have no doubt, is very sincere in his efforts to build bridges with Muslims. I found it incredibly interesting though to check out whom he “follows” on Twitter. A sampling:
Porter Speakman Jr. (director of the Christian Zionist-mocking film “With God on Our Side”); David Neff (editorial vice-president for Christianity Today); The Economist (left-leaning European news magazine); Catalyst; Cameron Strang; Mark Driscoll; NPR News; Al Zazeera English; Alan Hirsch; Joshua Dubois (who until recently headed Obama’s Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Parterships); Rob Bell; Lynne Hybels; World Vision; John Ortberg; Rachel Held Evans; Gabe Lyons; Christ at the Checkpoint; Tony Campolo; Ed Stetzer; Shane Claiborne; Donald Miller.
The list goes painfully on, but you get the idea. Each of the people/organizations listed above would either be overtly hostile to Israel, or they hobnob with those who are. Hence, Rick Love’s view of Israel is, I can safely presume, similar to that of Mahmoud Abbas.
That is, Middle East peace would flourish were it not for the “occupation,” etc.”
–Jim Fletcher, Israel Watch[13]

In conclusion, a ‘peace building’ book recommendation in a Mennonite magazine may not be noticed by many, but it is an important issue in light of what is going on in the world today. It is only one of many examples where good intentioned Mennonites get involved in interfaith dialogue with other religions, be it Islam or Catholicism. The list would be too extensive to add to this blog. One such Mennonite has endorsed Rick Love’s book:

“This book is Christ centered and biblically grounded…Those committed to local and global mission will find this book to be a necessary resource in these tumultuous times.” (David W. Shenk, global consultant for Christian/Muslim relations, Eastern Mennonite Missions)

As Jim Fletcher concludes in his message to the many evangelicals who are willing to go far in building bridges with Muslim leaders . . .

“Well, then I say to them: go on and try to build your bridges, though I am certain it is a bridge too far.”[14]

_______

End Notes:

[1] http://mbherald.com/january-issue-2015/
[2] http://mbherald.com/peace-catalysts/
[3] J Janzen (former interim MB Herald editor) serves as pastoral elder at the Highland Community Church, Abbotsford, B.C., a Mennonite Brethren affiliated church which leans toward contemplative spirituality. (See: Disappointment in the MB Herald
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/disappointment-in-the-mb-herald/)
[4] Read: A Biblical and Historical Rebuttal to “Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to a Common Word Between us and You.” By Eric Barger http://www.ericbarger.com/muslim.rebuttal.htm
[5] Jim Fletcher, Creeping Anti-Israelism in the Evangelical Movement
http://www.frontpagemag.com/2015/jim-fletcher/creeping-anti-israelism-in-the-evangelical-movement/
[6] The Impossible People: Lynne Hybels: http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/24218/Default.aspx?archive=article_title
[7] See: “Christ at the Checkpoint” and Lynne Hybels: http://standtoministry.com/2012/02/18/christ-at-the-checkpoint-and-lynne-hybels/
[8] http://www.peace-catalyst.net/
[9] January 7, 2015 http://ricklove.net/?p=3009
[10] Eric Barger, Evangelical MELTDOWN
http://www.ericbarger.com/emailers/2008/update8-7-2008.htm
[11] Danish Psychologist: ‘Integration of Muslims in Western Societies is Not Possible’ by FELIX STREUNING http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/publications/id.5905/pub_detail.asp
[12] http://www.gotquestions.org/sensitive-Muslim-culture.html
[13] Jim Fletcher, Feb, 18, 2013, Dupes: Part 786, Israel Watch
https://www.raptureready.com/jim/rap15old24.html
[14] Ibid.

*Final note: Incidentally, although the word ‘bridge’ does not appear in the Bible, Jesus is the only One who bridged the gap between us and the Father. It is Him we must direct people to, not the so called bridges of common ground beneath opposing religions.

RELATED ITEMS:

*Interfaith Peace – Mennonites and Muslims
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/interfaith-peace-mennonites-and-muslims/
*Mennonite Palestinianism
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/mennonite-palestinianism/
*Mennonites and Muslims Meet
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/mennonites-and-muslims-meet/
*Mennonites and Muslims Merge?
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/mennonites-and-muslims/

More Contemplative Spiritual Formation from Herald Press

Product Details

Herald Press, the book publishing imprint of MennoMedia (Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA) which publishes books from ‘an Anabaptist perspective,’ brings you their newest title:

“A new book addressing the deepest questions of the soul, The Spacious Heart: Room for Spiritual Awakening, was released by Herald Press in early September. The authors, siblings Donald Clymer and Sharon Clymer Landis, offer 12 keys, or insights, for unlocking the heart for spiritual growth.

Don is a spiritual director and Spanish professor who has led cross-cultural semesters at Eastern Mennonite University, in Harrisonburg; younger sister Sharon is a writer, spiritual director, and retreat leader from eastern Pennsylvania…

…Don first became involved in spiritual direction as a mentee, and then took training to be a spiritual director. He has been giving spiritual direction since 2003. Both Don and Sharon also blog regularly at http://www.donrclymer.blogspot.com and http://www.spiritsongsl.blogspot.com, respectively.”

SOURCE: News
Herald Press publishes new book on spiritual formation

News release / September 4, 2014
HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ont.
http://mennomedia.org/?Page=8046

On the back cover of The Spacious Heart: Room for Spiritual Awakening are endorsements by Franciscan priest Richard Rohr, Marva J Dawn and Nathan Foster (author of The Making of an Ordinary Saint and Richard Foster’s son).

Some of the contemplative terms (and links) mentioned in this book are centering prayer (www.centeringprayer.com), consciousness examen (www.ignatianspirituality.com), contemplative prayer, guided imagery, and lectio divina.

Is this an Anabaptist perspective? Or just another contemplative tool of many that the Mennonites have formed as they retrace the footsteps of their founder Menno (backwards) on the road back to Rome?

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