Upcoming Conference Concern (UPDATED)

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

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

Related:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Mennonite connections with Sabeel, for research purposes:

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

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

__________

*** UPDATE:

Those who are interested can find new information here:

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

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Sabeel, Merton, Mennonite Convergence

This week, Menno-lite has been exploring the link between the Mennonites and the anti-Israel agenda. Much of the information on this topic applies to other church denominations and Christian organizations, like the following ministry which is not Mennonite per se, but does have Mennonite project leaders.

Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries is a Christian revisionist group that was founded in 1998 as ‘an ecumenical experiment.’ BCM works towards justice and discipleship in communities, and currently has several project areas headed up by Mennonites. One of those is Ched Myers, an ecumenical Mennonite activist specializing in theologically educating churches and faith-based movements towards peace, justice and radical discipleship.[1]

On the BCM blog, Ched Meyers recently made a posting called Sabeel Global Young Adult Festival:

“Imagine rebuilding a family’s demolished home in one week. Or replanting a burned down olive grove in a day. Or challenging discrimination with the mischievous fun of a solidarity flash mob.

”These are the sorts of things you could be doing in Palestine and Israel this summer.”
- Sabeel’s Festival Invitation

Dear colleagues: 
In spring of 2011 and 2012 I traveled to Palestine/Israel to learn about the painful, but also inspiring, realities of this troubled place. Both times I was hosted by colleagues at the Jerusalem-based Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, an organization that I believe is the best “midwife” for faith-based international visitors to the Holy Land.
This spring I am home, but my mind and heart are very much with our friends still struggling for justice and peace in places like Hebron, Taybeh and Nazareth. This year, I want others to see what I saw…
We at BCM strongly support this gathering, which will be co-hosted by another of our international partners, Diakonia (Sweden), and led by the indefatigable Sabeel staff Omar Haramy (pictured right). In this critical historical moment, I want to urge you, and/or a young adult friend of yours who has never been to Palestine/Israel, to attend… 
Easter blessings, Ched Myers
http://www.bcm-net.org/node/140

The facts about Sabeel should alarm Christians that invitations like this are becoming a disturbing trend.

Here is the problem:

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, headquartered in Jerusalem, has been a persistent source of anti-Zionist agitation in mainline Protestant churches in the United States since its founding in 1994. The organization subjects Israel, Jews, and Judaism to intense scrutiny while remaining nearly silent about Arab and Muslim extremism in the Middle East. In addition to publicizing the writings of its founder, Anglican priest Naim Ateek, Sabeel broadcasts its message via regional conferences in the United States and regular study missions to Israel. Far-Left American and Israeli Jews are given prominent display at Sabeel conferences, where Israel is held up to a strict biblical standard of conduct while its adversaries are held to no standard at all. By giving its followers the sense that they are engaging in a showdown with the forces of evil embodied by Israel and its U.S supporters, Sabeel reenacts the church-synagogue rivalry documented in early Christian writings.Read much more about Sabeel here:
Updating the Ancient Infrastructure of Christian Contempt: Sabeel
http://jcpa.org/article/updating-the-ancient-infrastructure-of-christian-contempt-sabeel/

Those who work with Sabeel are only supporting what Sabeel supports, which is; the “one state solution” (the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state). How can any Christian group align themselves with the claims of Sabeel’s director, who blames Israel for suicide bombing attacks?[2]

Paul Wilkinson, who attended the Sabeel conference in 2004, said:

“…the Lord prompted me so clearly to go out to Israel for the very first time and witness this movement called Sabeel, and see all these evangelical leaders assembling in Jerusalem, basically, to condemn Israel, to condemn the United States for supporting Israel, and to condemn all Christians for supporting Israel based on a literal interpretation of the Word of God, and that’s where I met men like Stephen Sizer, Gary Burge, Donald Wagner—leading evangelicals within the Anglican and Presbyterian churches who, as I mentioned in a previous program, lined up with Yasser Arafat and gave him their support and their endorsement, and that shows you the power of this movement I’ve termed, “Christian Palestinianism,” that Yasser Arafat would want to meet with this group involved with the Sabeel conference.”
Source: Paul Wilkinson, T. A. McMahon & Paul Wilkinson (Part 4) https://www.thebereancall.org/content/t-mcmahon-paul-wilkinson-part-4

A few years after Wilkinson witnessed what this movement was about, Mennonite ecumenical activist Ched Myers was a keynote speaker at Sabeel’s eighth International Conference in Bethlehem Feb. 22-28, 2011. Now he is inviting students to Sabeel through Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries. In light of what this movement stands for, one cannot help seeing the parallels with another movement in history.

“…Hitler targeted the youth. He had the whole Hitler Youth Movement, because he knew if he could get the young people onboard, wow! He would have a powerful force behind him. And, you know, I was in Bethlehem at the Checkpoint Conference and there were young students wearing the Palestinian Keffiyah—that headscarf, the black and white checkered scarf—they’d been brought there to Bethlehem by Gary Burge and Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne, and you could just see how much they were being swept along on the hype and the emotion and the propaganda that was coming from that platform, and Satan is certainly targeting the youth in our church today.”
Source: Paul Wilkinson, T. A. McMahon & Paul Wilkinson (Part 4) https://www.thebereancall.org/content/t-mcmahon-paul-wilkinson-part-4

Inviting students to Sabeel is one way to get more people in the movement. This is why the BDS campaign targets university campuses. How alarming that all these movements are backed by Christian organizations. In spite of all the truth twisting, recent Christian donors of Sabeel include, among others, Church of Scotland; Presbyterian Church USA; Presbyterian Church of Canada; United Church of Christ and the Mennonite Central Committee (U.S. and Canada).

This is why it’s not a surprise to see an ecumenical Mennonite activist like Ched Meyers promoting Sabeel. But there is another surprise. On his resource website[3] Ched Meyers has the following blog post (dated Feb. 3):

Reflecting on the 50th anniversary of a historic peacemaking retreat with Merton

One of the joys of assessing manuscripts by new authors is discovering both a good story and a good storyteller. So it was a delight working with Gordon Oyer, a midwest Mennonite, on his book project documenting the historic retreat of pioneering peacemakers with Thomas Merton in the fall of 1964 (in photo above), which included A.J. Muste, J.H. Yoder, the Berrigan brothers, Jim Forest and others.
Three powerful faith traditions–Anabaptist peace ecclesiology, Catholic radicalism and Protestant political theology–converged for the first time at that legendary retreat at Merton’s hermitage. The resulting synergy has fueled North American Christian activism ever since . . . Oyer has gifted us with a magnificent chronicle of that seminal event in his forthcoming Pursuing The Spiritual Roots of Protest, due out from Cascade Books in March.
Two retreats around the book are being planned. The first is just two months away, and will be held at Kirkridge in PA[4]. . . Another is being planned for October 24-25 at the Merton Center in Louisville, KY.
http://ChedMyers.org/blog/2014/02/03/reflecting-50th-anniversary-historic-peacemaking-retreat-merton

As for Merton:

Wayne Teasdale , who wrote A Monk in the World, saw Thomas Merton as being one of the leading interspiritual visionaries as Merton assimilated “the major spiritual classics of the east into his Christian understanding, particularly Zen Buddhist, Hindu Vedanta, Yoga texts and Taoist classics.” Wayne Teasdale also said of Merton: “He was consciously trying to relate the mystical insights of other traditions with his own Christian faith.” p.181
SOURCE: Thomas Merton – Contemplative, Mystic, Panentheist
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/merton.htm

Is it really a surprise when Mennonite theology converges with Merton and Sabeel? It all seems to fit with the the revisionist themes of ecumenical experiments and Mennonite activists. The only surprise in these perilous times is when the truth is spoken.

________________

[1] http://www.bcm-net.org/node/1
[2] SABEEL ECUMENICAL LIBERATION THEOLOGY CENTER
February 16, 2014
http://www.ngo-monitor.org/article/sabeel_ecumenical_liberation_theology_center
[3] http://ChedMyers.org/
[4] http://kirkridge.org/wp-content/uploads/Oyer-1.pdf

________________

UPDATE: NEW ARTICLE:

Palestinian Liberation Theology Exposed Jan 20, 2014
Reverend Dr. Naim Stifan Ateek (Arab Palestinian Anglican priest and founder of Sabeel International Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem) attempts to revise history.
http://www.frontpagemag.com/2015/susan-warner/palestinian-liberation-theology-exposed/

Lent, the New Mennonite Tradition

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of an ancient but relatively new tradition that the Mennonites have taken on, as the following examples from the March 2014 issue of their Mennonite Brethren Herald magazine[1] confirm.

Example #1

What I like about Lent
by Dora Dueck

Lent was not part of my experience growing up in a Mennonite church. It was something that “others” did (read: Catholics), and when one is young, what those others do often seems vastly inferior to what one’s own people do. We celebrated Good Friday and Easter and that was enough. Lent had an aura of gloominess and “works righteousness” about it, and we were beyond all that striving and uncertainty and climbing the stairs to heaven on our knees. (I speak as a child.)
But in the meanwhile, many Mennonite churches, including my own, have adopted various practices of the liturgical calendar, and I’ve come to appreciate Lent’s invitation to reflection, to deep consideration of Christ and the cross, to give up or to take on. To see oneself as one is: as in the words of Thomas Merton, “I walk from region to region of my soul and I discover that I am a bombed city.” To hear oneself named “Beloved” in the midst of that desolation.
One can do this any time, of course, but Ash Wednesday with its formal beginning and the six Sundays leading up to Easter with their liturgies and sermons and reminders are helps along the way.
So it’s a good time. But one of the things I like best about Lent is that it’s not a big deal in the wider culture. It’s not commercial. Having ashes imposed (I love that word for this ritual) to mark repentance and awareness of being “dust” seems by now, in fact, the strange activity of a strange minority . . .

From here: http://mbherald.com/what-i-like-about-lent/

Note: Thomas Merton is thought to be the greatest popularizer of interspirituality and said “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity … I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.”[2]

Example #2

The Season of Lent

The church has historically focused the 40 days leading up to Easter (mirroring Jesus’ 40 days of temptation in the wilderness in preparation for his ministry) on three aspects of discipleship: prayer, fasting, almsgiving.
Prayer:
Commit to a specific exercise for these 40 days; a predetermined time of day, a written or memorized prayer, the use of the Psalms, connecting prayer with a specific activity.
For example, what if you vowed to pray for “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15) every time you put on your shoes?
Fasting:
Commit to a specific discipline of self-control; abstain from a particular food for the duration, regularly give up one meal, avoid one of your regular leisure activities.
For example, what if you let the drama of your favourite TV shows unfold without your observing eyes for 40 days?

From here: http://mbherald.com/the-season-of-lent/

Note: Mennonite churches have not historically focused on the man made religious rituals in the 40 days leading to Easter.[3]

Endnotes:

[1] http://mbherald.com/march-issue-2014/
[2] http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/merton.htm
[3] For further research into the history behind these traditions, see:
Nimrod Part 9: The real meaning of Ash Wednesday and Lent http://biblepaedia.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/nimrod-part-9-the-real-meaning-of-ash-wednesday-and-lent/
Nimrod part 15: Lent and Tammuz the Solar god http://biblepaedia.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/nimrod-part-15-lent-and-tammuz-the-solar-god/

Related:

What is Ash Wednesday? http://www.gotquestions.org/Ash-Wednesday.html

What is the meaning of Lent? http://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-Lent.html

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/

For research purposes:

Exploring a Lenten practice of sabbatical http://www.themennonite.org/bloggers/timjn/posts/Exploring_a_Lenten_practice_of_sabbatical

Christian Calendar
http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Christian_Calendar

Pausing to Examine ‘Sacred Pauses’

This March, Frank Viola interviewed the author of a new book called Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal published by Herald Press(1). In the interview, April Yamasaki, lead pastor of Emmanuel Mennonite Church (B.C., Canada), indicated that her views of finding God’s presence are drawn from sources like Mother Teresa(2), Henri Nouwen, and the 14th century Cloud of Unknowing.

She also draws from and the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, even recommending a helpful introduction to Ignatian Spirituality(3), although Yamasaki’s book is more like a new kind of consumer friendly Jesuit spirituality.

One of the classic models for retreat is The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, which is organized into four weeks to be completed along with a spiritual director. But even Saint Ignatius seemed to realize that was not possible or practical for everyone.”
– page 21, Chapter 1, Sacred Pauses

Sacred Pauses unfolds to give readers an easier, do it yourself at home recipe for part time retreat, Brother Lawrence style (page 22). Yamasaki draws from many other extra biblical sources to find ways of making sacred pauses with God, from recommending icons to “allow God to create that sacred space in you” (p 24), to Thomas Merton and Richard Foster (p 180).

In a recent Herald Press (Menno Media)(4) Interview with April Yamasaki, more of her sources were revealed:

Q: What other books have you read on this topic? How is your book different from others on this topic?
Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline is a classic; I also love Ruth Haley Barton’s Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation

http://www.heraldpress.com/titles/SacredPauses/interview.html

Ruth Haley Barton’s book Sacred Rhythms and its unbiblical Roman Catholic mysticism is a classic example of contemplative spirituality making its way into Bible believing churches (please see this review). While Yamasaki’s theme that Christians in this day and age of distractions should take pauses for God is correct, isn’t she gleaning from many sources that not only contradict the Bible but are based on Roman Catholic spiritual formation? The only way to draw nearer to God is through Jesus Christ and His written Word, not through the mystical experiences of contemplative spirituality.

The July 2013 MB Herald magazine published a review of Sacred Pauses by Rachel Twiggs Boyce(5), pastor of House Blend Ministries, Winnipeg. Boyce says that “Sacred Pauses is a good book to begin to explore that sort of life-style.” What sort of life style is the ecumenical Boyce referring to? The slowed down more centered way of life as experienced by contemplative mystics?

Other contemplatives who have endorsed Sacred Pauses include Jan Johnson, J. Brent Bill, Quaker and author of Awaken Your Senses(6), and Benedictine oblate Arthur Boers(7), who wrote the foreword.

Do the Mennonites who promote Sacred Pauses actually believe that this is a book that equips the church with the gospel of Jesus Christ from an Anabaptist perspective, as their goals state on their websites? Would they change their minds if they paused to examine Yamasaki’s sources and contemplative spirituality in practice where she blogs at aprilyamasaki.com?(8)

ENDNOTES:

1) Herald Press says on their website that they provide books that equip the church to experience and share the gospel of Jesus Christ from an Anabaptist perspective.

2) Mother Teresa quotes:
“There are so many religions and each one has its different ways of following God.”
“There is only one God and He is God to all; therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God. I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.”

3)  On page 184-185 Yamasaki recommends Inner Compass: An Invitation to Ignatian Spirituality (Loyola Press) by Margaret Silf, a book about the insights of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. In the Foreword of Inner Compass, Gerard W. Hughes (on page vii) wrote:
A friend of Ignatius, Jerome Nadal, on being asked for whome the Spiritual Exercises were suited, answered, “For Catholics, for Protestants, and for pagans”! Inner Compass is similarly suited.”

4) MennoMedia says on their website that they are an agency of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, and 
seek to engage and shape church and society with resources 
for living Christian faith from an Anabaptist perspective.

5) Read previous concerns posted on this blog about the ecumenical Rachel Twigg Boyce:
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?

6) MB Herald favourably reviewed J. Brent Bill’s book about sensual spirituality in November of 2012. See: Awaken Your Senses

7) Athur Boers is Benedictine oblate at St. Gregory’s Abbey. In December of 2010 the MB Herald promoted his book on monastic prayer. See: MB Herald promotes ancient rhythms of monastic prayer

8) How do you do contemplative prayer? (for I. who asked)
aprilyamasaki.com/2012/11/12/how-do-you-do-contemplative-prayer-for-i-who-asked/
(April Yamasaki is married to Gary, teacher of biblical studies at Columbia Bible College in B.C., Canada.)

RELATED:

THE DANGERS OF CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER
http://standupforthetruth.com/2012/05/the-dangers-of-contemplative-prayer/

History of Ignatian Spirituality
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/history-of-ignatius-spirituality/

Spiritual Disciplines: Some Thoughts
http://solasisters.blogspot.ca/2013/07/spiritual-disciplines-some-thoughts.html

Beginners or Beggars?
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/beginners-and-beggars/

Merton and the Mennonite Church Down the Road

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6

Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk who did not believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. At the end of his life he had become so interested in Buddhism and Asian monasticism that he showed up at a monastic conference in Bangkok. In rare footage, Merton said:

“That’s a thing of the past now, to be suspicious of other religions, and to look always at what is weakest in other religions and what is highest in our own religion. This double standard of dealing with religions — this has to stop.”

The Muddy Theology of Thomas Merton
http://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2010/04/28/the-muddy-theology-of-thomas-merton/

During his Asian pilgrimage Thomas Merton stood in front of the Buddha statues and finally found the ‘clarity’ he was looking for – not in the word of God, but in the faces of the statues. Listen to his words:

Thomas Merton and Buddhism

After meeting him, the Dalai Lama [1] called Thomas Merton his comrade and spiritual brother, which was the foundation for the interreligious Compassion Rising Project, revealing how closely Merton’s beliefs resonated with Buddhism and New Age pagan religions.

Merton’s untimely death by accidental electrocution in Bangkok did not zap him into silence. Today he has begun showing up in many Christian churches. In fact, Thomas Merton and his teachings can now be found at the Mennonite church down the road. In an August 2012 MB Herald article called Viewpoint: “My church meets just down the road…” Seeking a theology of place for the church, author Len Hjalmarson [2] writes:

“Thomas Merton, both a mystic and a rooted man, embodied in his life and work this paradox – between earth and spirit – that expressed his gospel journey. I was first drawn to Merton’s work in 1981 with New Seeds of Contemplation. I recognized the threads of a common pilgrimage: a search for a place to belong…

Thomas Merton, trying first to escape the world, perceived that the path to life was in and through creation. Life became sacramental: the created world a window opening toward God. All around him, creation was continuing – “the dance of the Lord in emptiness.””

-Len Hjalmarson, MB Herald, August 2012
“My church meets just down the road…” Seeking a theology of place for the church

Hjalmarson, who has a doctorate in spiritual formation from MBBS, then goes on to say that Merton would have heartily approved of songwriter Bruce Cockburn words in “In the Falling Dark” (last verse). The last line goes like this:

“Don’t you know that from the first to the last we’re all one in the gift of grace!”

Hjalmarson is right that Merton would have agreed. Merton also said, “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity … I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.” [3]

Next, Hjalmarson quotes Merton’s kindred spirit Henri Nouwen [4]…

“Writer Henri Nouwen reminds us we must convert hostility to hospitality – and this is a call to prayer. In prayer, we will discern the Spirit in the rhythms and textures of the neighbourhoods to which we are called, and which Jesus died to redeem.”

Only after reading Hjalmarson’s other writings[5] does it become apparent that this could be another reference to contemplative prayer and spirituality in the form of Rule of St. Benedict, the Daily Office and fixed hours of prayer.

In “My church meets just down the road…” Hjalmarson also points out that the missional church should invest in its own neighbourhood, but is this how to do it? Should the Bride of Christ, the head of which is Jesus Christ, be drawing from the living water of God’s Word, or from the words of men like Merton and Nouwen [6] and Benesh and Cockburn? Hjalmarson also alludes to the analogy of planting trees and deepening our roots, but instead of trusting in the words of mystics and men to do this we should consider the words in Jeremiah 17:5-8.

Unfortunately Hjalmarson is not alone in his quest for wisdom from other sources than the Word of God. Like many leaders and teachers affiliated with the Mennonite Brethren who now promote men like Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr (see: Rob de Cotes, Steve Klassen and Gareth Brandt), Hjalmarson too draws deeply from these same sources to find ‘wisdom’.

Learning to Approach Mystery

Approaching mystery isn’t an easy thing to do in our world of daytimers, constant interruptions, cellular phones and pagers. We have some unlearning and some learning to do.
The contemplative tradition offers some help. Pick up a book by Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, or Richard Rohr. Try “The Way of the Heart,” by Nouwen, “New Seeds of Contemplation,” by Merton, or “Everything Belongs,” by Richard Rohr. You’ll be amazed at the wisdom there.”

– Len Hjalmarson
Coloring outside the box
http://www.next-wave.org/aug01/coloring.htm

Like Klassen of the MB affiliated Mark Centre [7], Hjalmarson not only promotes neo pagan Franciscan priest Richard Rohr but also the silence of contemplative spirituality and Roman Catholic mysticism:

“… I have known a few Catholics over the years, and attended a few retreats, and I have observed that they are comfortable with silence. Silence is the one element almost completely missing from evangelical meetings.”

-Len Hjalmarson
Coloring outside the box

Welcome to the new neighbourhood Mennonite church down the road, but don’t forget to read the back of the sign. There you may find words like “new missional, monastic, and sacred” and quotes from universalist interspiritualist monks, but will you find THE Way, THE Truth and THE Life?

Endnotes:

[1] See: Thomas Merton & HH Dalai Lama
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXSnnYQEpkA

[2] Len Hjalmarson is co-author of Missional Spirituality and an adjunct professor of ministry at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Chicago with a doctorate in leadership and spiritual formation from MBBS. A new missional author of several books, he has written previously for the MB Herald. See more here:
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/

[3] (David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969)

[4] Thomas Merton & Henri Nouwen: Sacrificing Truth for Mystical Experiences
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=104
Why Christian Leaders Should Not Promote Henri Nouwen
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=1355

[5] See: Ancient Monasticism and the Anabaptist Future: A Tale of Two Reformers
Leonard Hjalmarson
http://www.directionjournal.org/article/?1583
Also see: the daily office
by Len Hjalmarson @ http://nextreformation.com/?p=2000

[6] WHO IS HENRI NOUWEN?
http://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2010/05/28/who-is-henri-nouwen/

[7] See: Richard Rohr Impacts the Mark Centre
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/richard-rohr-impacts-the-mark-centre/
The Mark Centre and Silent Prayer – Strategy to Affect Millions
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/the-mark-centre-and-silent-prayer/

RELATED:

Merton’s Spirituality
http://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/mertons-spirituality/

MB Herald Editor Quotes Interspiritualist (Thomas Merton)
http://rollovermenno.wordpress.com/2007/11/14/mb-herald-editor-quotes-interspiritualist/

Mennonites or Mertonites?
http://rollovermenno.wordpress.com/2007/08/11/mennonites-or-mertonites/

Contemplative Prayer and the Evangelical Church
by Ray Yungen
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/contemplativeprayerarticlebyray.pdf

Contemplative Prayer – Does Our Intent to Find Jesus Justify the Method?
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=4186

Missionary or Missional-lite?
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2010/03/12/missionary-or-missional-lite/

UPDATE:

Please see:

A Historical Analysis of Mysticism: Part I
Catholic and Buddhist Spirituality in the Context of the 12th and 13th Centuries

http://moriel.org/MorielArchive/index.php/missions/thailand/a-historical-analysis-of-mysticism-part-i

What Will Ears Hear in The Mark Centre’s New Book?

And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21

A new training resource offered by the Mark Centre (affiliated with the BC Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches) is a book written by directors 

Steve and Evy Klassen called Your Ears Will Hear: A Journal for Listening to God. The title of this workbook is four words taken from Isaiah 30:21 that are said to be the ‘watchwords’ of the Mark Centre.

The description of this book, which was written to assist people as they listen to God, informs readers that it:

“…has already received praise from international authors like Paul Hawker[1], who claims ‘Your Ears Will Hear’ offers a smorgasbord of stories and practices for seekers to draw from as they pursue their quest to hear God’s voice. In his foreword, Loren Cunningham[2], founder of Youth With A Mission[3], promises ‘You will enjoy recognizing and listening to the voice of God while working through this book.’

SOURCE: http://markcentre.org/ListeningTools/YourEarsWillHearJournal.html

However, is it the praises of international authors, smorgasbords of stories, and practices that we should seek when listening for the voice of our MOST HOLY GOD? Does the Mark Centre’s book measure up to the words of scripture which they say are their ‘watchwords’?

In the beginning pages of Your Ears Will Hear: A Journal for Listening to God in a chapter called A God Who Speaks there are references to many sources other than His Word. There are quotes from authors like Quaker mystic Thomas Kelly (A Testament to Devotion) who, we are told, “understood something about God’s initiating and active presence.” There is also a quote from Eugene Peterson’s version of the Holy Bible called The Message. We are also informed in this same chapter of other “certain people who have caught a glimpse of a refreshing and wild God whose kingdom is at work everywhere and all the time,” such as Richard Rohr[4] (Catholic priest and director of The Center of Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico). The Mark Centre’s book includes a quote from Rohr’s book called The Naked Now Learning to See as the Mystics See. Another person the Mark Centre’s book points to who has ‘caught a glimpse of God’ is Barbara Brown Taylor[5], author of Alter in the World: A Geography of Faith, a book which not only opens the way to contemplative spirituality and the labyrinth but is endorsed by contemplative emergents Lauren Winner, Phyllis Tickle, Tony Jones, and Marcus Borg (of the heretical Jesus Seminar).

The Mark Centre’s book also describes 5 ways to hear God’s voice, one of which includes their ‘favourite’ approach to Scripture, Lectio Divina. (As major emphasis is placed on this method not only in their book but in Mark Centre’s retreats, please read Lectio Divina: What it is, What it is Not, and Why It is a Dangerous Practice.)

Also quoted in Your Ears Will Hear are Eugene Peterson’s The Message (p 8), Brennan Manning‘s Ruthless Trust the Ragamuffins Path to God (p 84), quaker Thomas Kelly, and Mother Teresa (“The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life.” Your Ears Will Hear, p 16). It was Mother Teresa who saidWe all belong to the same family. Hindus, Muslims and all peoples are our brothers and sisters. They too are the children of God.” (p.35, Mother Teresa, Words to Love By)

Are these the ways that God has told us in His Word to walk in? Will the terms and people named in this book offered by the Mark Centre cause some to miss the mark? If so, how many Christians will be led off course? Hopefully those who have ears to hear will listen to what the Lord is saying to His church and not what the emergent, contemplative and possibly even heretical voices are saying.

Endnotes:

[1] Paul Hawker is an author whose inspirations for his book Soul Quest include Henri Nouwen and M. Scott Peck. This book opens with a telling quote in the Preface by Seng Tan 606 AD: “Don’t search for the truth, Just let go your opinions.” Hawker has also written Secret Affairs of the Soul and Soul Survivor.

[2] See: Loren Cunningham, YWAM and False Prophesy
http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/cunningham.html

[3] See: Will You Entrust Your Youth To YWAM
http://www.spiritual-research-network.com/youthwithamission.html
Articles on YWAM
http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/youthwithamission.html
What is Wrong with YWAM? Evangelism or Ecumenism – You Decide http://letusreason.org/ecumen30.htm

[4] See: Richard Rohr
http://apprising.org/2008/05/10/who-is-richard-rohr/

Brian McLaren’s good friend Richard Rohr
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/brian-mclarens-good-friend-richard-rohr/

[5] According to former Episcopal priest Barbara Brown Taylor’s book called Leaving the Church : A Memoir of Faith (HarperCollins 2007), since leaving her leadership position af Grace-Calvary Church (Atlanta), she feels more open to the Lakota spiritual practices that have long attracted her husband and admires the element of real risk in the Native American’s focus on direct encounters with God (chapter 15, Reader’s Guide). Barbara Brown Taylor was also listed as one of 10 SPIRITUAL SAGES
 TO WATCH IN 2009 along with ROB BELL and SHANE CLAIBORNE on David Crumm’s Read the Spirit, a new kind of media network of religion and spirituality (which also has a ‘Sharing Islam‘ section).

NOTE: Read the Spirit lists Ten 21st-Century Principles of Religious Publishing, Principle 1 being:
“It’s about the Voice, not the book.
This religious truth cuts across spiritual traditions. Our Scriptures talk about Voice, Message and Word. And, today, this principle remains profoundly true. In this new century, power lies in the message, not the specific packages, which are constantly evolving.”

*MENNO-LITE EDITOR COMMENT: Is it any coincidence that this is the interfaith message which the emerging church has recently joined with in ‘The Voice,’ a new Bible version which the MB Herald recently promoted and recommended for children?

RELATED POSTS:

Mennonites Reading and Quoting Thomas Kelly
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/reading-and-quoting-thomas-kelly/

Richard Rohr Impacts the Mark Centre
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/richard-rohr-impacts-the-mark-centre/

St. Ignatius of Loyola & St. Teresa of Avila and Agnes Sanford at a Mennonite Retreat Centre?
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/st-ignatius-of-loyola-st-teresa-of-avila-and-agnes-sanford-at-a-mennonite-retreat-centre/

MB Herald Promotes Contemplative Centre, Again
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/mb-herald-promotes-contemplative-centre-again/

B.C. Mennonite Church Allowing Contemplative Spirituality to be Taught
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/b-c-mennonite-church-allowing-contemplative-spirituality-to-be-taught/

The Mark Centre and Lectio Divina
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/the-mark-centre-and-lectio-divina/

The Mark Centre and Silent Prayer – Strategy to Affect Millions
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/the-mark-centre-and-silent-prayer/

Why are Mennonite pastors, students and missionaries being taught to sit comfortably repeating a word quietly for 20 minutes?
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/why-are-mennonite-pastors-students-and-missionaries-being-taught-to-sit-comfortably-repeating-a-word-quietly-for-20-minutes/

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/

* PLEASE NOTE: About following “Matthew 18” and first going to the authors and/or leaders of magazines or books critiqued, see THE BEREAN CALL.

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UPDATE

Mennonite churches near the Mark Centre where this book and it’s contemplative practices have recently been introduced include:

Bakerview Church
http://www.bakerview.org/Ministries/Adults/Women.html

Coast Hills Community Church
http://www.coasthillschurch.com/series/ancient-practices-to-change-your-life/sermons

Cedar Park Church
http://cedarparkchurch.org/cpt_sermons/your-ears-will-hear/

Mountain Park Community Church
http://www.mpcc.ca/sermons/your-ears-will-hear/

McIvor Avenue Mennonite Brehtren Church
http://www.mcivorchurch.com/sermons/sept09nov2512/sept09nov2512.html

South Abbotsford Church
southabbotsford.com/podcast/july-8-2012/

Central Heights Church
http://www.centralheightschurch.com/resources/sermon-archive/

UPDATE: A new women’s retreat centre influenced by the Mark Centre and this book:

http://www.womenrefreshed.com/

Ortberg and Mennonites

The average church going Mennonite probably won’t know this, but just over one year ago John Ortberg spoke to a record crowd of 550 pastors and lay leaders last February 25 at Fresno Pacific University’s Central Valley Ministry Forum. Sponsors were KDUV-FM, the Pacific District Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, Growing Healthy Churches, and MB Biblical Seminary. (See Grace will fill the gap in people’s lives: Ortberg–2010 Ministry Forum attracts record crowd.)

Here is why some light needs to be shed on the subject:

John Ortberg Promotes Contemplative Spirituality
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/johnortberg.htm

John Ortberg Quotes Thomas Merton
http://solasisters.blogspot.com/2011/03/john-ortberg-quotes-thomas-merton.html

Ortberg Writes for Monvee
http://solasisters.blogspot.com/2010/11/monvee-you-dont-just-become-holieryou.html

John Ortberg promotes Enchantment
http://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/enchanter-john-ortberg/

Book Review, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by John Ortberg (NEW)
http://solasisters.blogspot.com/2011/06/book-review-life-youve-always-wanted.html

Oh Mennonites, why do you sponsor such men? Why do you sell John Ortberg’s books on your websites and promote them to your members? Where is your discernment?