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

Advertisements

The “New” Evangelical Traditions

Are Lenten abstinences a rejection of the completed substitutionary atonement of Christ?

Former Roman Catholic T.A. McMahon writes:

I trusted in relics of dead so-called Saints; holy water; making the sign of the cross; votive candles; baptism for salvation (infant or otherwise); a “transubstantiated” piece of bread alleged to be Christ; apparitions of Mary; a scapular; a “miraculous medal”; statues and images of Jesus, Mary, and the saints; endless Rosaries, Novenas, the Stations of the Cross; abstaining from meat on Friday; Lenten abstinences; the Last Rites to get me into Purgatory and indulgences to get me out of Purgatory; Mass cards; graces dispensed from Mary; the confessional, with absolution of my sins by a priest; penance and personal suffering to purify me of my sin; worshiping a piece of bread at the Eucharistic Holy Hour; the Holy Father as the Vicar of Christ on earth, etc., etc. Therein lies a bondage that few evangelicals understand.
Many brush these things aside as non-essentials of the Christian faith or minor theological aberrations unique to Catholicism. Not true. They are essential to the gospel that Rome declares-a gospel of meritorious works that the Bible condemns (see Galatians, Romans, Ephesians, et al.) as a rejection of the completed substitutionary atonement of Christ our Savior. Catholicism’s Tradition, which is declared to be equal in authority to Scripture, is made up of those things (such as cited above) that are necessary for, or supportive of, a Catholic’s entrance into heaven.
According to the Word of God, anything that is added to Christ’s finished work on the cross is a denial of the gospel: that Christ paid the full penalty for the sins of humanity.

Source: Evangelical Mysticism?
McMahon, T.A
http://www.thebereancall.org/content/evangelical-mysticism

Why Lent?

Once again the Mennonite Brethren are promoting their new ancient tradition of Lent. In the February 2015 issue of the MB Herald[1] are two plugs. The first is an article by Norm Funk, founding pastor of Westside Church, Vancouver, B.C. (Canada). He begins with a very good question . . .

Why Lent, why Now?

There were certain traditions in my Mennonite Brethren upbringing; Lent wasn’t one of them.
So why Lent, and why now?
I’ve wrestled with this. Here’s my answer: my main motivation is birthed out of what I see as a lack of preparation and thoughtfulness connected to the Easter season.
Lent helps battle that tendency. Lent doesn’t just remind us of the cross; it prepares us for it.
Lent invites people to join Jesus on the way to the crucifixion. Fasts – one or many – assist in that process. Obviously, the joy of Good Friday comes because the tomb was empty Sunday; however, in the sacrament of communion we are called to remember Jesus’ death. . .

More here:
http://mbherald.com/lent-now/

[Note: The comment thread following this article at the above link is quite informative.]

We also discover in this same MB Herald issue that the MB Biblical Seminary Canada has produced a devotional resource for the MB family this Lent and Easter called “Waiting for the Resurrection: A Collection of Readings for Lent and Easter”.[2]

Turning toward the resurrection

“The resurrection changes everything,” says Jeff Peters, director of advancement at MB Biblical Seminary Canada. “Christians should spend time contemplating and celebrating this pivotal event.”
The seminary has produced a devotional resource for the MB family this Lent and Easter.
Available for download, “Waiting for the Resurrection: A Collection of Readings for Lent and Easter” contains forty-one 300–400 word devotionals reflecting on a Scripture passage.
For each of the six Sundays of the Lenten season, a poem, song, reflection or prayers from the history of the Christian church foster excitement about the coming resurrection.
Contributors are Canadian pastors, scholars and leaders from MB and other traditions.
The seminary resources the MB family in Canada with training and special initiatives like this devotional. A limited number of hard copies will be sent to churches and supporters. Donations to cover costs are welcome.

SOURCE: http://mbherald.com/turning-toward-resurrection/

The Mennonites who download the recommended devotional will now be taught through a collection of meditations about the new traditions of Lent (Lenten Season, Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Holy Saturday). The contributions of these Lenten Devotionals are from various Mennonite Brethren pastors and seminary leaders, and a few surprises, including one by Rachel Twigg Boyce[3], Pastor of House Blend Ministries in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Why Lent? The answer appears to be obviously simple. The spread of ecumenical yeast seems to have spread through the whole lump of Mennonite dough.

____________

Endnotes:

[1] http://mbherald.com/february-2015-issue/
[2] http://www.mbseminary.ca/devotional
[3] For previous blog posts on Rachel Twigg-Boyce, see:
WHY IS THE MB HERALD FEATURING “A RADICAL PRAYER GATHERING” LED BY RACHEL TWIGG-BOYCE?
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/01/19/why-is-the-mb-herald-featuring-a-radical-prayer-gathering-led-by-rachel-twigg-boyce/
Is the MB Conference Knowingly Condoning Ecumencial Inter-spiritual Practices?
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/is-the-mb-conference-knowingly-condoning-ecumencial-inter-spiritual-practices/
More House Blend
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/more-house-blend/
MB Herald promotes Ecumenism, New Monasticism
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/mb-herald-promotes-ecumenism-new-monasticism/

____________

* Related blog posts on Mennonites and Lent:

Bent on Lent
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/bent-on-lent/

Mennonites, Lent, and Spiritual Direction (Updated)
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/mennonites-lent-and-spiritual-direction/

Lent, the New Mennonite Tradition
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/lent-the-new-mennonite-tradition/

Also of interest:

The pagan goddess behind the holiday of ‘Easter’
http://www.timesofisrael.com/the-pagan-goddess-behind-the-holiday-of-easter/

Mennonites Promoting the Mesa Document – the New Direction of the Same Old Emerging Conversation

My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change
Proverbs 24:21

For ninety years, Mennonite World Review has independently published a newspaper to serve Mennonites and the Anabaptist movement. In more recent years they began publishing a website and The World Together Blog. This Anabaptist-themed blog contains articles written by Brethren, Brethren in Christ, Mennonite Brethren, Conservative Mennonite, Quaker and other “Anabaptist-influenced thinkers”. This blog seems to be one of the ways that Plymouth Brethren defector Brian McLaren has been making inroads into Mennonite circles. One of the current articles on The World Together Blog by change agent McLaren concerns the direction the emerging conversation has taken and how it has led to his latest project, the Mesa Document.

Here is an excerpt of McLaren’s article as it appears on the Mennonite blog:

What’s happening in the emergent church conversation?
Nov 19, 2014 by Brian D. McClaren

I was asked recently for my view of what’s happening in the emergent/emergence conversation in North America. Here’s a very short overview, from my perspective.
The conversation continues to grow, not by creating a new slice of the pie, but by seasoning nearly all sectors of the pie. Even where the word “emergent” is not used, ideas from emergence leaders are being considered and adopted, leading to new experimentation and openness.
Influence in the Roman Catholic world is still relatively small, but growing numbers of Catholic scholars and leaders are listening, reading and engaging, from lay people to (yes) the Vatican. Catholic influence on the emergence community continues to be strong, especially through the spiritual practices of the monastic and contemplative traditions.
Much of the Mainline Protestant world has opened its arms wide to the emergent conversation, from bishops to parachurch organizations to denominational leaders to local pastors to grassroots activists. A few years down the road, I think Mainline engagement will become even more overt and significant, but already most Mainline Protestant denominations are experimenting with creative new approaches to church planting and worship/liturgy renewal. Key next steps may include the creation of a national, trans-denominational campus ministry, collaborative and transdenominational church planting and “branding,” new approaches to theological and ministry education, and the development of a new genre of progressive Christian worship music.
The evangelical community has, by and large, decided to double down against LGBT inclusion and equality, and because many emergence leaders see equality as a natural and unavoidable expression of the gospel, their voices have been marginalized by prominent gatekeepers. But beneath the surface, influence continues to expand, especially among young evangelicals and those uncomfortable with the marriage between American evangelicalism and the religious right. Along with LGBT equality, surprising numbers of evangelicals are quietly but consistently moving towards greater concern for the full equality for women, the environment, racial and interfaith reconciliation, the elimination of torture, peacemaking, poverty reduction and related issues. And theologically, they are eager to engage with questions that have been suppressed — including rethinking penal substitutionary atonement theory, biblical inerrancy and interpretation, and the violence of God. For practical reasons, it will often be best, in the short run at least, for these conversations to happen without association with the term “emergence.”

SOURCE:
http://mennoworld.org/2014/11/19/whats-happening-in-the-emergent-church-conversation/

After perfectly describing what the one world church of the anti-Christ might look like, McLaren goes on to explain in this article that, as the first wave of the emerging church leaders are aging, a new wave of young (politically correct, sin tolerant, atonement rethinking, Bible doubting) leaders is rising. These radicals are “making room for Catholics, Mainline Protestants, Evangelicals and others to work together for the common good.” Since this new unstructured wave of emergent spawn requires new structuring, McLaren recently got a group together to make a global document of sorts, detailing their new ideas and goals. In May of 2013, Brian McLaren asked for large sums of money to go toward this project which was yet to be named[1]. What he has to show for this effort is called the Mesa Document.

The Mesa Document pdf[2] explains how the goals for this restructuring were formulated in Thailand, based on conversation, dreams and friendships around the world, and is dated Halloween, 2013. An excerpt describes:

“The journey was often frightening and difficult. Whenever we found someone who shared our questions, desires, and dreams, we gathered around a table for conversation. Through conversation, we became friends on a journey. And from our friendships, we gained the courage to try new things. . . We chose the name Mesa, the Spanish word for table, because it suggested a space of conversation, companionship, and nourishment for life, work, and action.”

They are always attempting to try ‘new things,’ but had they consulted the Bible for wisdom, they might have save themselves a lot of time and resources, for as the wisest man in the world said, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.” (Ecc. 1:9-10) Then in the book of Acts we saw the wise Bereans who studied in contrast with all the Athenians and strangers who spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing. (Acts 17:21). All scripture is written for our benefit, but only to those who study and take heed.

Although McLaren and friends say they believe in Jesus, nothing is mentioned about the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the re-writing of this new kind of church (because they don’t believe the written word is inspired or inerrant). According to McLaren’s perspective, here are the new directives on the Mesa Document:

• We believe in Jesus and the good news of the reign, commonwealth, or ecosystem of God, and we seek for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven by focusing on love — love for God and neighbor, for outsider and enemy.
• We seek to know, serve and join the poor in the struggle for justice and freedom . . . through advocacy, relationships and action.
• We seek to honor, interpret and apply the Bible in fresh and healing ways, aware of the damaging ways the Bible has been used in the past.
• We seek to reconnect with the earth, understand the harm human beings are doing to it, and discover more responsible, regenerative ways of life in it.
• We seek the common good, locally and globally, through churches of many diverse forms, contexts and traditions, and we imagine fresh ways for churches to form Christlike people and join God in the healing of the world.
• We build inclusive partnerships across gaps between the powerful and vulnerable – including disparities based on wealth, gender, race and ethnic identity, education, religion, sexuality, age, politics and physical ability.
• We engage conflict at all levels of human society with the creative and nonviolent wisdom of peacemaking.
• We propose new ways of encountering the other in today’s pluralistic world and we collaborate with other religious and secular groups in alliances for the common good.
• We host safe space for constructive theological conversation, seeking to root our practice in theological reflection and seeking to express our reflection in practical action.
• We value the arts for their unique role in nurturing, challenging and transforming our humanity.
• We emphasize spiritual and relational practices to strengthen our inner life with God and our relationships with one another.

Why did McLaren and friends travel all the way to Thailand to re-define words into a language the new kind of gatekeeper-phobic church will be comfortable with? As much as McLaren has been preaching that everything must change, these “new” concepts sound like the same old ways the emerging church has been using to integrate ideas the world already accepts: reconnecting with mother earth, social justice, the new tolerance, politically correct peace building, ecumenism, interfaith, LGBT inclusiveness, transformation of humanity through the arts and inner spiritual disciplines. The world drinks this church blend the same way it accepts the New Age message of Oprah’s tour with Rob Bell.[3] In their process of redefining terms for the new kind of church, McLaren and friends have ignored the words of Jesus (whom they claim to believe in) when He said to His beloved friends, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” (John 15:9)

What began in Thailand in 2013 will be completed in 2017 with a final Mesa gathering. Meanwhile, more gatherings and conversations will take place until then.[4] Other emergent friends of McLaren associated with Mesa are Doug Pagitt, Frederick Buechner, Phyllis Tickle, Steve Chalke and Tony Jones. In fact, partnering with Mesa is Oasis, where Steve Chalke is founder of the Oasis Charitable Trust.[5] McLaren’s friend Chalke denies the penal substitutionary atonement by Jesus Christ on the cross, calling the cross ‘cosmic child abuse’.

McLaren ends his article on the Mennonite blog by expressing interest to see where others would add, subtract or differ. In answer to that, Menno-lite would like to propose that these new leaders add the words that God has already said (in the Bible), from which McLaren and friends appear to have subtracted. But that would just start another never ending conversation out of which a barrel of semantic monkeys would emerge.

In conclusion, those who call themselves Mennonites and point to such false teachers would do well to read the words of their founder and namesake, Menno Simons, who said…

“it should be observed that the church of anti-christ is brought forth by faithless preachers, who are actuated by the spirit of anti-christ … who, with the false prophets preach Peace, Ezek. 13:16”
-Menno Simons [6]

*To find out more about Brian McLaren and this project, read here:

The latest diabolical ideas to ‘EMERGE’ from BRIAN McLAREN
http://www.takeheed.info/pdf/current-concerns-2013/McLaren_and_Mesa.pdf

_____

Endnotes:

[1] DONATION PLEA: BRIAN MCLAREN RESPONDS
http://standupforthetruth.com/2013/05/donation-plea-brian-mclaren-responds/
[2] The Mennonite blog article has a link to the Mesa Document entitled Mesa Friends in Pattaya, Thailand (31 October 2013)
http://www.mesa-friends.org/downloads/Statement%20from%20Mesa%20Pattaya%20October%202013%20FINAL.pdf
[3] Rob Bell and Oprah Wrap Up New Age Tour—EQUALLY YOKED
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=16411
[4] http://mesa-friends.org/
[5] http://www.oasisuk.org/changemakers
[6] Menno Simons, CONCERNING THE CHURCH, AND AN INSTRUCTIVE COMPARISON HOW WE MAY DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE CHURCH OF CHRIST, AND THE CHURCH OF ANTI-CHRIST.
http://www.mennosimons.net/ft068-concerningthechurch.html

Related:

Brian McLaren and a New Era of Bible Reading
http://www.thebereancall.org/content/brian-mclaren-and-new-era-bible-reading

Brian McLaren’s Platform at Menno Weekly
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/brian-mclarens-platform-at-menno-weekly/

MB Herald Promotes Brian McLaren
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2010/12/09/mb-herald-promotes-brian-mclaren/

MB Herald calls A New Kind of Christianity “a book on freedom”
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/mb-herald-calls-a-new-kind-of-christianity-a-book-on-freedom/

The Morphing of the Emergent Movement: Can You See It Now
http://standupforthetruth.com/2014/11/the-morphing-of-the-emergent-movement-can-you-see-it-now/

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

Mennonite-Catholic Collaboration

A century old Mennonite church in Ukraine is being restored into a Greek Catholic church with help from Canadian Mennonites. The building fell into disrepair when Mennonites were forced to leave during the Soviet era.

“Observers call the project an example of Mennonite-Catholic collaboration in the spirit of other exchanges over the past decade or so….

“Initially Father Peter was afraid that Mennonites wanted to take back the church,” said George Dyck, treasurer of Friends of the Mennonite Centre in Ukraine, the Canadian-based charity providing partial funding to the project over the past year.
Dyck describes the involvement as a “mutual embrace of returning Mennonites with their former fellow villagers.”

… Darrin Snyder Belousek said the renovation “is the fruit of the renewal of the Catholic Church in Ukraine.” Snyder Belousek is executive director of Bridgefolk, a North American-based movement of Mennonites and Cath­olics with an annual gathering to learn from each other’s traditions.”

Source: Greek Catholics restore Ukraine church building
May 26, 2014 by Ron Rempel and Mennonite World Conference http://mennoworld.org/2014/05/26/greek-catholics-restore-ukraine-church-building/

The common ground for this collaboration is based on past persecution and remaining faithful. However, are these Mennonites remaining faithful, to the gospel or their founder, by building such bridges with the church of Rome? Would their founder, who renounced the teachings of the church of Rome, smile upon such compromise?

“I voluntarily renounced all my worldly honor and reputation, my unchristian conduct, masses, infant baptism, and my unprofitable life, and at once willingly submitted to distress and poverty, and the cross of Christ.”

-Menno Simons, MENNO SIMONS RENUNCIATION OF THE CHURCH OF ROME http://www.mennosimons.net/ft002-renunciation.html

RELATED:

Mennonite Pope? https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/mennonite-pope/

Call for an Ecumenical Mennonite Denomination https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/call-for-an-ecumenical-mennonite-denomination/

The Deception behind Evangelicals and Catholics Together https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/the-deception-behind-evangelicals-and-catholics-together/

Common Cause – for Concern https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/02/14/common-cause-for-concern/

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/

Mennonite seminary hosts conference on Mary https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/02/15/mennonite-seminary-hosts-conference-on-mary/