Mennonites Walk Barton’s Bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

________

Endnotes:

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

*** UPDATE JULY 3, 2015

Mennonites delay vote on divesting from Israel for 2 years
http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=26609

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

Mennonites Teaching Contemplative Spirituality to Children

Are the Mennonites who are teaching contemplative spirituality to children leading them astray?

In 2005, at a Mennonite Educators Conference workshop, Dr. Sara Wenger Shenk taught child educators to:

“Teach various kinds of prayer: centering prayer with a chosen word such as “Abba” or “shalom” to repeat while quieting one’s spirit and body to listen to God; meditative prayer prompted by a poem, artwork, musical selection that provides a loose structure within which children can ponder the mysteries of life, their commitments…; using a biblical story for guided meditation, pausing to ask prayerful questions that invite imaginative engagement at various points in the story”

Source: How do we cultivate faithfulness in children?
Mennonite Educators Conference
September 22-24, 2005
Workshop: Practices for Nurturing Children in Faith 
Presenter: Dr. Sara Wenger Shenk http://www.emu.edu/seminary/resources/practicessws.html

The primary source for ideas in this workshop was a book called Real Kids: Real Faith—Practices for Nurturing Children’s Spiritual Lives by Karen Marie Yust[1]. Since then, the ideas in this book have captured the imagination of other child educators. In 2011, this same book by Yust (among others) was used as a reference source for an article about children and contemplative prayer in The Mennonite. Here is an excerpt…

“there has been an increased recognition that children in our society have an intense yearning for silence and meditation (see Real Kids Real Faith by Karen Marie Yust). There is also a growing understanding that children have the capacity to enter the meditative silence of various spiritual practices and often with greater ease than some adults. The keys to helping children enter these practices are creating space and providing them with the tools and understanding necessary to connect with God in prayer. 

Many prayer practices are being recommended for children, for example: centering prayer, guided meditation, journaling, listening prayer, the examen and mindfulness. Some educators, such as Ivy Beckwith, have explored the benefits for children of adding deep breathing to their prayers in order to develop a rhythm for centering prayer, or using a prayer rope to occupy their hands and minds as they engage in the Jesus prayer (see Formational Children’s Ministry by Ivy Beckwith)”[2]

Source: 2011-09-01 ISSUE:
Children and prayer
Ways to help us see ourselves and our children as whole beings who pray with our bodies.
by Carrie Martens http://www.themennonite.org/issues/14-9/articles/Children_and_prayer

Carrie Martins is still interested today in helping children learn contemplative spiritual formation. Her website (www.carrielmartens.com) promotes many contemplative links. One of these is the First Steps Spirituality Center[3], where children from babies to teens can learn about the labyrinth, or practice breath, sensory, and contemplative prayer with interactive prayer beads, holy listening stones, or by reading a ‘breath prayer book’ called Child of God, Child of Light by founder Rev. Leanne Hadley. Carrie Martins’ favourite author list includes Ivy Beckwith, Marjorie Thompson, Richard Rohr, Adele Calhoun, and Joyce Rupp, some of whose contemplative teachings are considered by many Christians as New Age paganism.

Martins says she loves the Mennonite Church Canada Resource Centre[4] which offers many sources to help teach families and children contemplative prayer. These include the above mentioned child educator contemplatives, Karen Marie Yust[5], Ivy Beckwith[6], and various materials on centering prayer[7] and monastic traditions[8] for children.

As these Mennonites teach such practices to children, what direction are these little ones being influenced to walk in?

Ivy Beckwith, who has explored the benefits of centering prayer and deep breathing for children (as Carrie Martins mentioned in The Mennonite), spoke at the “Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity” conference in May 7-10, 2012 in Washington, D.C. Other speakers included emerging church leaders Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, Shane Claiborne, Jim Wallis, and over 50 other influential leaders in Christian formation.[9] The Gather Round Sunday school curriculum (www.gatherround.org), co-published by Brethren Press and MennoMedia, was one of the co-sponsers at this emergent conference. Attendees represented Church of the Brethren, Mennonite Church Canada, and Mennonite Church USA.

This month, Ivy Beckwith will be speaking at Faith Forward (May 19-22) in Nashville, TN.[10] Other speakers[11] include emergent leader Brian McLaren, ‘thin places’ Lilly Lewin, ‘recovering fundamentalist’ Melvin Bray, and ‘the great emergence’ author Phyllis Tickle.

Is this where contemplative spiritual practices and meditation will lead the children? Into the welcoming arms of emergent teachers of ‘the new kind of Christianity’ who want to influence the minds and hearts of the next generation?[12]

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Matthew 18:6

End Notes:

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Real-Kids-Faith-Practices-Nurturing/dp/0787964077
[2] http://books.google.ca/books?id=pnkniUw7aCEC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
[3] http://www.1ststeps.net/Home/tabid/615/Default.aspx
[4] Top Ten Reasons I LOVE the Mennonite Church Canada Resource Centre http://www.carrielmartens.com/2014/05/top-ten-reasons-i-love-mennonite-church.html
[5] Karen Maire Yust: http://resources.mennonitechurch.ca/ResourceView/2/6471
[6] Ivy Beckwith: http://resources.mennonitechurch.ca/QuickSearch?maker=Beckwith%2C+Ivy
[7] Journey to the Heart: Centering Prayer for Children by Frank X. Jelenek
This simple, colorful, practical book uses rhyme and illustrations to teach children how to practice prayer of the heart, contemplative prayer, or “centering prayer.” Ideal for parents, teachers, educators – and children ages 3-10. http://resources.mennonitechurch.ca/ResourceView/2/13599
[8] The Busy Family’s Guide To Spirituality: Practical Lessons for modern Living From the Monastic Tradition by David Robinson (lessons from the rule of St. Benedict and the Benedictine traditions) http://resources.mennonitechurch.ca/ResourceView/2/12458
[9] Gather Round cosponsors conference on children and youth, June 6, 2012. http://mennomedia.org/?Page=7247
Gather ’Round co-sponsors conference on children and youth http://www.brethren.org/news/2012/gather-round-cosponsors-conference.html
GATHER ‘ROUND CURRICULUM COSPONSORS MAJOR CONFERENCE http://www.mennoniteusa.org/2012/03/27/gather-round-curriculum-cosponsors-major-conference/
[10] http://faithforward2014.sched.org/list/descriptions/
[11] http://faithforward2014.sched.org/directory/speakers
[12] Q&A with Brian McLaren http://www.childrenswork.co.uk/main/article/brianmclaren

Related:

Why centering prayer should not be taught to children http://www.womenofgrace.com/blog/?p=797

MINDFULNESS GOES TO KINDERGARTEN by Marcia Montenegro http://christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_MindfulnessForChildren.html

OUT OF YOUR MIND: MEDITATION AND VISUALIZATION (Guided Meditation) http://christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_Meditation.html

THE LABYRINTH: A WALK BY FAITH? Concerns About the Christian Use of Labyrinths by Marcia Montenegro http://christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_Labyrinth.html

Where do Mennonites, Monasteries and Jesuits Intersect?

In an article called Pray and Work[1] in the February issue[2] of the MB Herald, the author attempts to answer the question; where do prayer and deed intersect? But another question remains unanswered; where do Mennonites and Benedictine monks and Jesuits intersect?

Here is an excerpt from Pray and Work (MB Herald):

The Protestant work ethic shouts: “Work harder, do more, give more!” The contemplative ethic tells us to pray more, go deeper with God, reflect on our activity. Perhaps the answer is in both.
Holy dependence
I’ve often heard we should “pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you.” This proverb (often attributed to Ignatius of Loyola) seems prudent – an appropriate mix of dependence on Christ and the Protestant work ethic that has served us so well.
While this saying appears wise at first glance, it’s poorly conceived. If we apply it to our lives, we risk falling into self-sufficiency and independence from God. It’s the Jesuit version of “God helps those who help themselves.” If I work as though ministry is all my responsibility, I’m liable to create my own kingdom based on my good works. Who needs God if I work as if everything depends on me?
Some suggest that St. Ignatius’ comments were more along the lines of: “Work as if everything depended on God, pray as if everything depended on you.”
Father Mark Stengel, who contributes to the Country Monks blog, summed it up well…

What follows is a lengthy quote from Father Mark Stengel, the oblate director at the Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas, home of 40 monks who follow the rule of St. Benedict and chant prayers 5 times a day. Father Stengel is a contributor to the blog on the Abbey’s website (www.countrymonks.us).

“Saint” Ignatius of Loyola[3] was the founder of the Jesuits, an order formed to bring about the counter reformation, which continues today (through much more civil efforts than 500 years ago) to convert Protestants back to the Mother Church of Rome. Roger Oakland says that “in a way, it is more insidious than the Inquisitions, because now it has infiltrated Christianity and is being disguised as the “new” Christianity.”[4]

Where do Mennonites and Benedictine monks and Jesuits intersect?
Answer: at the ecumenical crossroads where the cross of Christ and the gospel of truth is compromised.

Endnotes:
[1] http://mbherald.com/pray-and-work/
[2] http://mbherald.com/february-issue-2014/
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignatius_of_Loyola
[4] Understanding The Jesuit Agenda and the Evangelical/Protestant Church http://www.understandthetimes.org/jesuit.shtml

Related:

Of Saints and Fathers.
http://gerdapeacheysviews.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/of-saints-and-fathers/

Mennonites and St. Ignatius
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/mennonites-and-st-ignatius/

Timothy, Take Heed

In the January 2014[1] issue of the MB Herald is an article called They will know us by our theological arrogance[2] by Tim Neufeld[3]. In it he gives advice to move past all the drama of winning theological differences and arguments, and be known by our “love for one another”. The first suggestion is to read broadly and the last is to practice what you preach. For the second idea, he writes:

2. Learn about traditions outside your own.
The history of the church includes different periods, styles and practices of Christian faith. For example, Richard Foster identifies six historical traditions in Streams of Living Water: contemplative, holiness, charismatic, social justice, evangelical and incarnational influences of spirituality. Exposure to other traditions leads to gracious embrace of those who are theologically dissimilar.
Occasionally, I attend an evening vespers service at a nearby convent where worshipping with a small group of Roman Catholic sisters has taught me the importance of quiet reflection in the presence of Christ. We pray, read Scripture and sing with a serene reverence that ministers to the core of my busy soul. I’ve had similar experiences of prayer and worship at a Greek Orthodox monastery located in the mountains an hour from where I live.
I don’t always understand the observances or agree completely with the theology of these communities, but I’m deeply challenged by the piety of their worship.

The problem with this idea is that there is a difference between learning about other traditions and immersing yourself in them while participating. This is how so many Christians have become involved in contemplative spirituality. Richard Foster[4] not only identifies other traditions, he teaches the spirituality behind them and has led countless sincere Christians onto the path of the contemplative mystics. Neufeld is right that there is piety in the worship of Roman Catholic nuns and the Greek Orthodox tradition, but which Jesus[5] are they worshipping? How can two walk together, unless they are agreed? (Amos 3:3)

Neufeld’s third point also involves a caution. While recommending talking to Christians from other cultures to create awareness, he says:

Native American pastor Richard Twiss’s challenge toward reconciliation, especially among and on behalf of First Nations people, has shaped my understanding of forgiveness and oppression.

There is nothing wrong with talking to Christians from other cultures. The difficulty here is that Richard Twiss “continues to teach that the Great Spirit is the Holy Spirit by wearing the cultural items associated with the Great Spirit, even though it is a historical fact that the Great Spirit is a pantheistic god that required blood rituals and human sacrifice. Richard Twiss claims that what he is doing is not syncretism, when it is the very definition of syncretism.”[3] This is something that was further confirmed recently at the Emergent Village Theological Conference that he took part in.[4]

Tim Neufeld’s prayer that those outside the church will know us for our love, not our theological arrogance, should be the prayer of every Christian. We should practice what we preach and learn from others, but not at the expense of compromising doctrine and leading others astray, whether it be into contemplative spirituality or syncretism. Doctrine is important. In the Bible we read Paul exhorting another Timothy to…

Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. 1 Timothy 4:16

The truth is, we can be known as loving and caring and still hold to doctrine and stand up for truth.

Finally, the MB Herald directs readers to Tim Neufeld’s blog, Occasio (timneufeld.blogs.com), where he promotes Bono, U2 Sermons, and the One Campaign (one.org), of which Bono is on the board of directors.[8]

Timothy, take heed.

Endnotes:

[1] http://mbherald.com/january-14-issue/
[2] http://mbherald.com/they-will-know-us-by-our-theological-arrogance/
[3] Tim Neufeld is associate professor of contemporary Christian ministries at Fresno (Cal.) Pacific University.
[4] Richard Foster:http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/fosterlinks.htm
[5] Watch: Another Jesus http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dncdIxJeA8U
[6] “Richard Twiss is spreading the doctrines of the New Apostolic Reformation and is endorsed by them. He claims that the Great Spirit of the Indians is the Holy Spirit of the Bible. . . He continues to teach that the Great Spirit is the Holy Spirit by wearing the cultural items associated with the Great Spirit, even though it is a historical fact that the Great Spirit is a pantheistic god that required blood rituals and human sacrifice. Richard Twiss claims that what he is doing is not syncretism, when it is the very definition of syncretism.”http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/twissquotes.html
Also see: http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/reasonstoreject.html
[7] At the 2010 Emergent Village Theological Conference, which Richard Twiss was a part of, a blog for the event states:
“Richard Twiss . . . began by blessing us with sage incense and having a member of his team dance a healing dance. . . . He moved from rejecting his reservation upbringing, to re-discovering his heritage and hating white people, coming to faith in Christ through evangelical churches, walking away again from his heritage, to re-re-discovering his Native culture and integrating it into his faith.” – Emergent Village Theological Conference, http://iowaemergent.blogspot.com/2010/11/emergent-village-theological-conference.html
*Also related: NEW PRINT BOOKLET TRACT: Can Cultures Be Redeemed? (Some Things You Should Know About the Indigenous People’s Movement) http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=11295
[8] For an eye opening revelation on Bono and the One Campaign, please read this informative article with pictures, video clips and links, here:
U2′s Bono, Unorthodox Superman http://www.submergingchurch.com/2013/07/05/u2′s-bono-unorthodox-superman/
Also see:
Bono: David sang the blues and Jesus did some punk rock https://www.thebereancall.org/content/bono-david-sang-blues-and-jesus-did-some-punk-rock
Also related: U2’s Music And Moments Of Vertigo by Tim Neufeld http://www.usmb.org/u2s-music-and-moments-of-vertigo

The New Mennonite Ashram-Monastic-Missional Model?

Direction Journal[1] is a semi annual Mennonite publication which has addressed biblical, theological, historical, ethical, and church-related issues for more than 30 years. It is backed by the following Mennonite Brethren institutions:

Cooperating sponsors of Direction are:
• Bethany College, Hepburn, Saskatchewan
• Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg, Manitoba
• Columbia Bible College, Abbotsford, British Columbia
• Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California
• Fresno Pacific University, Fresno, California
• Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary Canada, Langley, British Columbia and Winnipeg, Manitoba
• Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas
The Canadian Conference and the U.S. Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church

Last spring a lengthy article appeared in their Journal[2] called Toward a Missional Spirituality in the Academy[3] by Len Hjalmarson. In this article (which contains enough new missional language to require an e-missional language translator) the author discusses several models and characteristics of emerging missional spirituality (with diagrams). One such alternative model is the ashram, which the author also compares with ancient Celtic communities and monasteries…

Whatever its similarities, there are also differences, and the ashram is a current model employed across cultures and across religions. The Celtic communities existed at the confluence of pagan and Christian cultures, not multiple religions and cultures. And the ashram has proven effective in promoting dialogue across religious barriers. Klaudt writes that, “In the east, Christian ashrams have brought people of all faiths together to learn from one another.”

Ashrams are historically Hindu symbols. Hjalmarson writes that one quality which makes the ashram “an attractive alternative model for theological formation is the way it reframes issues of power.” In fact, at an ashram founded by Rabindranath Tagore[4], Hjalmarson tells us…

“it is said that, “no great distinction exists between the teachers and pupils of Shanti Niketan; all are learners together, all are endeavoring to follow the one rising path.” 30 This mirrors the convictions of Henri Nouwen in Reaching Out.”

This ashram in Shanti Niketan was once a marble-floored prayer hall (Hindu temple) that Tagore’s father founded for people to come and meditate but is now an educational institution. Traditionally ashrams[5] are spiritual hermitages for instruction (yoga, religion, etc). If there is such a thing as a “Christian Ashram”, it would be categorized as a monastery. Currently we are seeing a lot of evangelicals going to retreats in these places to learn the monastic practices and rules. Any modern expression of this kind of Christian monasticism[6] today in modern evangelical circles involves a blending of Roman Catholic, Anglican and Protestant traditions.

As for the convictions of Catholic theologian Henri Nouwen, whom Hjalmarson quotes, his was a universalistic view. It was Nouwen who said: “Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.”[7]

What is the point of exploring any of these models?

Hjalmarson also discusses centered community and belonging, and the missional incarnation model. He says that “centered-set churches need custodians of the story and guardians of the ethos,” and that the new missional model is about inclusivity and open-ended belonging.

Are such ‘centered-set’ churches centered on Christ?

No. It appears that they are centered on religious ritual and contemplative spirituality. The article mentions that many of these new missional groups have adopted monastic patterns based on a rule of life (of St. Benedict), such as The Order of Mission, the Northumbria Community or The Simpler Way. Quoting emerging churching leaders such as Alan Roxburgh, Jim Wallis[8] and Rowan Williams, the article’s author concludes that the missional community order should be bound around a set of shared (monastic) practices.

Why does the church need any such (so called) attractive alternative models for theological formation? Why look to the Hindu symbol of the ashram or it’s Christian counterpart, a monastery and it’s ancient practices? According to the Bible, the church already has unity in Christ, and a mission to proclaim the gospel truth that He is the only way. Not ecumenical models that encourage inclusiveness and universalism.

Christian unity means all those who are saved by belief in Christ alone. It’s not about being bonded in monastic habits or finding community in an ashram-like model or an open ended, all inclusive centered order. These ideas sound more like the chains of religion than the power of the gospel to free souls. This neo-monastic concept comes as no surprise, as previous postings on this blog[9] have revealed. The only surprise is that Mennonites continue to publish articles like this one that would make their founder a little upset. Are they really so unsatisfied with God’s Word that they allow teachers in their midst who explore alternative religious rabbit trails? In doing so, it appears that they are not looking to the source and head of the church (Jesus), but to ideas that are devoid of the power of the Holy Spirit to save souls from an eternity separated from the one true God.

Endnotes:

[1] http://www.directionjournal.org/index.html
[2] Spring 2013 · Vol. 42 No. 1 · pp. 38–54 http://www.directionjournal.org/42/1/index.html
[3] Toward a Missional Spirituality in the Academy by Len Hjalmarson http://www.directionjournal.org/42/1/toward-missional-spirituality-in-academy.html
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabindranath_Tagore
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashram
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_monasticism
[7] http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/nouwen.htm
[8] http://standupforthetruth.com/leaders/jim-wallis/
[9] What Kind of Discipleship is this in the MB Herald https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/what-kind-of-discipleship-is-this-in-the-mb-herald/
Merton and the Mennonite Church Down the Road https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/merton-and-the-mennonite-church-down-the-road/

*Unless otherwise stated, this blog may contain the opinions and view points of the blog administrator who is not responsible for the content of connecting links or ensuing comments.

Menno-lite Prayer in the New Year

Prayer has always been very important to Mennonites. The following excerpt from an article in the January issue of the MB Herald [1] describes the Mennonite commitment to prayer in the new year:

Five ways to deepen your prayer life in 2014
Jan 1, 2014

In conjunction with the conference’s “Week of Prayer” resource, some MB leaders share strategies for cultivating a richer prayer life:

I’ve started using The Voice of Jesus by Gordon Smith to guide my mornings and have found it inspiring. Smith lists five prayer activities to walk through each day: thanksgiving, confession, meditation (reading and reflecting), guidance for this day and silence.
—Jerry Giesbrecht, pastor, Fraserview Church, Richmond, B.C.

The most prevalent call to prayer in my life has been The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle. This plan of prayer, Scripture and readings from tradition and hymnody invites me to a desire (not always acted upon, but always present) to steal away into the quietness and intimacy of God’s presence. It follows the church calendar with four daily calls to prayer and reflection, and the verses and refrains often impact the other hours of my day.
—Mary Reimer, pastor, FaithWorks, Winnipeg

SOURCE: http://mbherald.com/five-ways-to-deepen-your-prayer-life-in-2014/

The Voice of Jesus that pastor Giesbrecht uses daily as a guide is written by Gordon Smith, president of Ambrose University College and Seminary in Calgary, Alberta (Church of the Nazarene and Christian & Missionary Alliance Canada). Before becoming Professor of Systematic and Spiritual Theology at Ambrose, Smith was associate professor of spiritual theology at Regent College in Vancouver BC. He also has a PhD from Loyola School of Theology. [2]

Much of Smith’s book, The Voice of Jesus [3], is drawn from Roman Catholic spiritual traditions of John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuits) and his spiritual exercises.

While pastor Giesbrecht may use Smith’s book to guide his mornings, one Berean researcher writes that the exercises of Ignatius…

“…would motivate a person doing these exercises to increase their diligence in doing penances, instead of coming to Jesus where true forgiveness can be found. Regarding a visualization on the birth of Christ, Ignatius again advises using the five senses to imagine these scenes, including, “…what they are, or might be, talking about, and reflecting on oneself, to draw some profit from it.” (Mullan, 33) This type of visualization is not recommended in the Bible, and it goes beyond the Bible in imagining conversations and then trying to profit from these imaginary conversations, instead of being edified by the sure Word of God.”

SOURCE: A Historical Analysis of Mysticism: Part II
http://moriel.org/MorielArchive/index.php/discernment/a-historical-analysis-of-mysticism-part-ii

The Divine Hours of Phyllis Tickle, which Pastor Reimer considers the most prevalent call to prayer in her life, is another book that is not modelled on biblical prayer.[4] Tickle’s book is designed to invite readers into the ancient practice of fixed-hour prayer.

Here is how Phyllis Tickle discovered Fixed Hour prayer:

The kind of prayer that these Mennonite pastors value is the fixed hour of prayer of the Benedictine monks and the spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. Even so, the MB Herald promotes these leaders’ ‘strategies’ for a richer prayer life.

Equally, if not more distressing is another article in the same issue that infers that commitment to prayer in the new year includes teaching youth contemplative sprituality.

“As Mennonite Brethren, we are people of prayer… In cross-cultural settings, our commitment to prayer is evident. MB Mission – through SOAR and other short-term programs – is raising up a generation of young people who practise listening prayer as effortlessly as breathing.”

SOURCE: “Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night”
http://mbherald.com/neither-snow-nor-rain-nor-gloom-of-night/

While it is true that through SOAR and TREK[5] the new generation is being taught to practice called contemplative listening prayer “as effortlessly as breathing”, it too is unbiblical and has its roots in Roman Catholic and eastern mysticism. Much of this is happening through the MB affiliated Mark Centre, whose goal is to “serve thousands who will inspire millions to embrace a lifestyle of listening to God.”[6]

These Mennonites certainly are committed to prayer in the new year. How unfortunate that much of it appears to be based on mysticism, ritual, and/or Roman Catholic traditions, which their namesake, Menno Simons, boldly denounced. Are these Mennonites, who promote ancient fixed prayer and practise effortless listening prayer, Mennonites in the true sense? Or are they the new Menno-lites?

Endnotes:

[1] http://mbherald.com/january-14-issue/
[2] Ambrose University College hires Jesuit-educated contemplative spirituality proponent as its new president http://suspiciousberean.blogspot.ca/2012/05/ambrose-university-college-hires-jesuit.html
Christian & Missionary Alliance Students Taught to Listen to God – Contemplative Style http://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/christian-missionary-alliance-students-taught-to-listen-to-god-contemplative-style/
[3] http://books.google.ca/books?id=Xrfe9KD1t6oC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
[4] The Great Emergence or A Great Deception? Be careful of Phyllis Tickle’s Teachings and Beliefs http://rootedinchrist.org/2010/11/30/the-great-emergence-or-a-great-deception/
The Great Emergence ~How Christianity is Changing and Why by Phyllis Tickle (Bad Fruit) http://thebereanlibrary.com/archives/category/phyllis-tickle-2
From the Circle of Prayer: Phyllis Tickle http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jonathanwilsonhartgrove/2012/02/from-the-circle-of-prayer-phyllis-tickle/
[5] MB YOUTH SOARING WITH CONTEMPLATIVE MINISTRY?
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/mb-youth-soaring-with-contemplative-ministry/
Mennonite Missions TREK to the Labyrinth and the Silence https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2012/07/04/mb-trek-to-the-labyrinth-and-the-silence/
A Trekker Learns Lectio Divina
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/a-trekker-learns-lectio-divina/
Mennonite Students go to Benedictine Monastery to Sit in Silence https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/mennonite-trekkers-go-to-benedictine-monastery-to-sit-in-silence/
[6] The Mark Centre and Silent Prayer – Strategy to Affect Millions https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/the-mark-centre-and-silent-prayer/