Appraising four decades

Thank you to J Robert Charles (“To a Mennonite Rip Van Winkle,” Dec. 22) for an insightful and witty analysis of the developments in Mennonite Church USA and its predecessors since Bethlehem ’83. He complements so well the documentation that editor Paul Schrag has given us with “Subtractions add up” (Oct. 13). It’s sad that the church can’t figure out how to deal with differences in a loving way.

Abner Schlabach, South Royalton, Vt.

Overall, the merger of the General Conference Mennonite Church and the Mennonite Church and the concurrent structural separation of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, still seem to have been the right moves despite the accurate though disregarded prediction that this would yield other separations. The most significant loss is of gatherings for worship, discernment and visiting between Americans and Canadians. Could new occasions for this be established? 

Our denominations would have fractured even if the GCs and MCs had not merged — probably in similar ways over the same issues. To assess the losses, one should add a comparison of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada in 1983 and MC Canada now. The five provincial conferences have remained, but a significant number of congregations have withdrawn, though perhaps not in as high a proportion as from MC USA. 

With regard to John Oyer’s scenarios for the future (cited in the Dec. 22 editorial): The one about the West becoming totalitarian, which seemed the least likely in 1983, is the most troubling in 2024.

Peter Rempel, Winnipeg, Man.

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