Canadian Mennonite
Volume 14, No. 17
Sept. 6, 2010


Readers Write

We welcome your comments and publish most letters sent by subscribers intended for publication. Respecting our theology of the priesthood of all believers and of the importance of the faith community discernment process, this section is a largely open forum for the sharing of views. Letters are the opinion of the writer only—publication does not mean endorsement by the magazine or the church. Letters should be brief and address issues rather than individuals.

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Church leaders seek a world without nuclear weapons

(Excerpted from a letter written to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on June 25 and signed by Robert J. Suderman, general secretary of Mennonite Church Canada. and all of the other leaders of the Canadian Council of Churches denominations.)

We write this letter to encourage you and your government to give renewed and urgent attention to nuclear disarmament.

Our call for the elimination of nuclear weapons is rooted in our certain knowledge that the Earth is God’s and that all that is in it is under both God’s love and judgment. We know that God has placed before us and all people in all generations the choice between life and death, desiring for all people not only life but the abundant life of peace with justice.

We are called to love our enemies, and we are convinced that this cannot be accomplished through the build]up of nuclear arsenals. Nuclear weapons have only one capacity, and that is for mass, indiscriminate destruction with a power so great that it threatens the very existence of the human community and the environment that sustains it. Nuclear arsenals cannot defend against attack or protect humanity or any part of God’s creation. We believe that to rely on nuclear weapons, to threaten nuclear attack as a foundation for security, is to acquiesce to spiritual and moral bankruptcy. We say without reservation that when measures employed to defend nation states and human institutions undermine God’s gift of abundant life, threatening humanity and the planet itself, such measures must be unequivocally rejected. We cannot conceive how the use of nuclear weapons could be justified and consistent with the will of God, and we must therefore conclude that nuclear weapons must also be rejected as a means of threat or deterrence.

The United States and Russia carry the heaviest weight of responsibility to set an ambitious pace for disarmament. The new U.S./Russia strategic arms treaty signed on April 8 is an important step. We believe that Canada, along with the international community, has a vital role to play in encouraging the United States and Russia to persist in disarmament efforts.

All other states that possess nuclear weapons also have an obligation to progressively and verifiably reduce their arsenals, to end all planning for new systems, and to reshape their security architecture in accord with the vision of a world without nuclear weapons.

Non]nuclear-weapons states have an obligation to conduct their nuclear energy programs in complete openness and with an unqualified willingness to meet the most stringent and reliable inspections requirements. We therefore urge Canada to foster verification efforts and technologies, and to ensure that the International Atomic Energy Agency has the resources it needs to carry out its critically important monitoring and inspections work.

Collective global action to verifiably ban nuclear weapons will yield tangible economic and security benefits, and it will release political, psychological and spiritual resources on which humanity can draw to address the other daunting challenges that confront us. . . .

As Christian leaders we also understand our own obligation to encourage our respective faith commu-nities to become part of a great global movement for nuclear disarmament.

We appreciate your attention to our concerns and wish to assure you of our prayers as you exercise your responsibilities.

Authoritarian brutality much more sophisticated now

Re: “Major media skewed G20 protest,” Aug. 2, page 23.

Laura Dyck presents a brave and positive picture of the experiences of the protesters themselves; they “did not simply talk about peace and justice as a rosy ideal. They lived it out in the face of violent opposition,” she writes. At the same time, she admits that the message of the protesters “did not make it onto the primetime news.”

It seems to me that there is a plaintive question lurking behind the whole article: Why is this not working? It worked for Gandhi! It worked for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.! Why doesn’t it work for us?

This is a very good question, but the answer is pretty disturbing. During the Gandhi and King protests, it was still possible to shame the authorities; it was still a time when there were certain things the authorities would not do: namely, shoot down peaceful protesters. During the 1968 demonstrations in France, President Charles de Gaulle had to interview at least five generals before he found one who agreed to shoot down students.

At this time I do not know of anything a government would not do. I’m sure our Canadian authorities, had they felt it necessary to shoot and kill some protesters, would have had their stories ready to justify such killings.

I seem to remember that it is in Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984, where one image of the future of the world is a jackboot forever stomping on a face. While jackboot stomping has gone out of fashion, brutality has not. It has just become much more sophisticated, as Joshua Enns and others experienced at the G20 protests.

Jim G. Suderman, Winnipeg, Man.

From Our Leaders

Time to prioritize

Lisa Carr-Pries

It’s September again. I’m sure I’m not alone when I acknowledge the variety of feelings that accompany fall’s arrival. We move from a season that is relatively free from structure into one where schedules and activities shape the rhythm of each day for the next eight to 10 months.

Some enter this period of transition with great anticipation, while others are more apprehensive about the road ahead. As parents of three school-aged children, my husband and I find that September is a time where five schedules fill up and collide. Piano. Sunday school. Volunteer commitments. Hockey. After we decide on our activities, we must figure out how we can possibly manage the details and sheer logistics of getting everyone where they need to be, when they need to be there.

If it’s not on the schedule, it won’t happen.

Church life is similar. At the end of August, we begin searching for volunteers to assist in our programs and recruit others to enrol in those programs. Board rooms and fellowship halls are booked to capacity and it becomes tough to schedule meetings and events. Tension builds between personal schedules and the church calendar. We stress, we question each other’s priorities, and we worry about the health of our programs or our burned-out volunteers.

Without a doubt, September can be tough. But the pain of September is really the pain of change, of giving birth to a new year rich with potential and possibility. Although we may hope to just survive September, if we look deeper we’ll find that it offers us an opportunity to encounter God.

Making space for God and hearing God’s voice in the chaotic and hectic pace of the month is something that each of us can deliberately choose to do. Begin simply. Start each day by asking for God’s presence and direction in your life. End each day by reflecting on where you noticed God’s presence. At church, surround each meeting in prayer.

September gives us the opportunity to once again reorder our lives, reserving a place for God that allows us to develop an ever-deepening relationship with God and with others.

Creating a new rhythm can absorb all of our attention and we often tune out God’s still small voice. Embrace the unexpected. Be open to the opportunity you never anticipated and welcome the invitation to participate in something new. Be willing to hear and see in new ways. Many of us think we don’t have the luxury of being able to drop everything and pursue new aspirations or opportunities, but this season of re-ordering provides a chance to create time for the new things we are called to do.

It’s not really about piano, Sunday school or hockey. We need to embrace the fact that we are beloved children of God. And in doing so, we consciously attune ourselves to the nudges of God’s Spirit, prioritizing our formation into Christ’s likeness.

Lisa Carr-Pries chairs the Mennonite Church Canada Christian Formation Council.

Family Ties

The grace of duty

Melissa Miller

“Is it just about duty?” my friend wondered. “Is that the only reason to stay in the relationship? Duty seems so flat and colourless. What about joy and excitement and fun?”

It’s a good question. At the time, we were discussing marriages, and the times when it’s tough to hang in. When the appeal of personal fulfillment, self-actualization or “following one’s bliss” seems much more attractive than the dutiful plodding through the mundane terrain of keeping faith.

While marriage was the topic of conversation, it could have been about other kinds of relationships or commitments. Most of us have had at least some moments when duty was the only thing that compelled our response—a calm reply to an overwrought child; a phone call to an estranged friend or relative; a visit to a hospital bedside; attendance at a funeral we wanted to avoid. At such times, it is duty that reminds us of our obligations to people and commu-nities that stretch beyond our personal preferences or comfort.

Walking the pathway of duty, we encounter the river of God’s grace.

Duty doesn’t get a lot of credit in our larger culture. We hear more messages promoting individual freedom, the avoidance of pain, self-centredness and irresponsibility. “The heart wants what the heart wants,” proclaimed filmmaker Woody Allen in 1992, to justify his sexual relationship with his stepdaughter. More recently, we witnessed the buck-passing of many individuals in the companies responsible for the ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. Who sings the praises of duty, of “doing the right thing”?

With thought, it doesn’t take long before we see the value of duty, not the least of which are the benefits we’ve received from others who have met their obligations. I am grateful for my parents’ example: their capacity to stick with each other through good times and bad, and their steadfast support to their aging parents and prickly teenagers. They would probably agree with these words from an old Salvation Army hymn: “By the pathway of duty flows the river of God’s grace.” As we take our measured, sometimes reluctant steps of duty, we are refreshed, and occasionally even overwhelmed, by the abundant sweetness of God’s grace.

We see some of this in the biblical story of Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi. The two women had fallen on hard times; Naomi urged Ruth to look after herself and leave Naomi to her own fate. Ruth chose the path of duty. She kept walking with Naomi, as they cared for each other. By the end of the story, they had encountered much grace, including a new home, security and new life.

The grace that is present in the story of Ruth has another name, chesed in Hebrew, or “steadfast love.” Naomi uses this word near the beginning of the story as she blesses Ruth: “May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with me” (Ruth 1:8).

Steadfast love, the kind of constant, compassionate faithfulness that God offers us, can enliven our acts of duty and brighten our mundane paths. Walking the pathway of duty, we encounter the river of God’s grace. God’s grace and steadfast love provides the strength we need to walk the path of duty.

Melissa Miller ( lives in Winnipeg, Man., where she ponders family relationships as a pastor, counsellor and author.

God, Money and Me

Joy and finances

Dori Zerbe Cornelsen

Is it realistic to contemplate joy as a potential outcome of setting financial priorities? In our increasingly complex financial world this may seem naïve.

A fairly common metaphor for managing money that Mennonite Foundation of Canada staff use has three jars: one for share, one for save, one for spend. Nathan Dungan has developed this metaphor as part of his Financial Sanity program on This idea is not new in this column and has even generated some pointed response when potential percentages of income have been attached to the three-jar metaphor.

It was with interest, then, that I read an article in a recent edition of MoneySense magazine called “The joy of spending.” It presented the dilemma of a couple who were unable to rid themselves of their anxiety about money because they were “extreme savers,” savers with significant financial assets with which they couldn’t part. The solution offered by a financial counsellor was to “set up three ‘money pots’—one for savings, one for emergency cash [six months’ to one year’s worth] and a third pot for . . . ‘regret-free living.’?” The couple adapted well to this system with their regret-free pot now funding two Caribbean cruises per year. “We’re spending without stress for the first time in our lives,” one spouse gushed.

Moving from stockpile to shopper isn’t a great financial success story.

Given this outcome, I wonder if the educator thought to suggest generosity—the “share jar”—as a solution to the real financial anxiety this couple was experiencing. It is possible that generosity was presented as a “regret-free living” option, although the emphasis of the article was on the couple’s joy of spending on themselves.

Moving from stockpile to shopper isn’t a great financial success story, according to author Matt Bell in Money Purpose Joy. In the quest for more, either more savings and investments or more stuff, both forms of this common North American consumer financial identity become caught up in a cycle of declining returns, which only feeds the desire for even more to be happy.

The root of true joy in our lives is generosity, Bell claims. He reminds his readers that we are made in God’s image and that generosity is at the heart our creating, saving God. Therefore, generosity is part of who we are as well. “When we don’t give, or give only token amounts, we resist our nature and deprive ourselves of one of life’s greatest joys,” he writes. “When we give, we live in harmony with our design. That’s why being generous provides us with so much pleasure.”

There are many generosity stories that confirm the joy of giving. On, a website dedicated to sharing stories from philanthropists to encourage more giving, Molly Stranahan, heiress of the founder of the Champion Spark Plug Company, stresses, “I experience every day that being generous enhances my happiness.”

“Giving infuses life with joy,” writes Randy Alcorn.

Perhaps it is time that more of us plan our finances with an expectation of joy as a return by giving generously.

Dori Zerbe Cornelsen is a stewardship consultant at the Winnipeg, Man., office of Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC). For stewardship education and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit

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