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Town Hall Dialogues
Discerning the 7 Calls Together

Are the 7 Calls a faithful way for Mennonite Church Canada to respond to the climate crisis? Are they sufficient for the great task at hand? What in the 7 Calls resonates with you? What do you think is missing or misdirected? And what about your congregation? How have they reacted to the 7 Calls? What do they think God is asking of us, in this critical moment, as we seek to heed the cries of the earth and the cries of the poor?

   

This "Town Hall Dialogues" page is a space for everyone to share their hopes and questions  about the 7 Calls and how Mennonite Church Canada can engage the climate emergency. Whether you've signed on in support of the 7 Calls, or you have a markedly different vision for the "climate church," you are warmly welcomed to speak your heart and mind, and we'll post your insights and reflections here. All genres and formats will be accepted: short letters and long essays, litanies and laments, audio recordings and videos. If it's generative and respectful, we'll post it. 

Simply email your submission to 7callstoclimateaction@gmail.com.    

Prophets, Mystics, and Launderers Too:
A Response to Andre Wiederkehr & Josiah Neufeld

Lydia Dyck
Hanover Mennonite Church (Hanover, ON)

Hello to everyone who has found their way to this forum. I wish this could be an in-person discussion, preferably over some potluck food and a hymn or two.

I want to respond to both Andre and Josiah. Thank you for what you wrote. We need both of these views. By that I mean that I agree wholeheartedly…I agree with both strong courses of action, and I’d like to unpack that a little here.

 

It’s really easy to forget how many people there are in the world. History changes in many ways, in fact we’re making it right now by starting this conversation. In other words, the people who have been on the streets protesting with Greta Thunberg against big oil are making history… or changing history… just as much as those who are at home doing a load of laundry that flushes micro-plastics into our water systems…or as much as those buying sustainably sourced linen clothing from a local farm (please let me know of any such farms in Southern Ontario) as the case may be. The key distinction you may be looking for is, who is making “impactful” change?

This paradigm that both of you have brought up definitely strikes me dumb, paralyses me, and still does (a lot, if we’re being honest here) when I’m not careful.  What am I doing to save the world? why am I not the prime minister of Canada so I can enact policy? or most appealingly, why am I not a hermit in the woods so I can ignore all these problems and leave the smallest footprint on the earth and on my fellow members of the human race?

To read the rest of Lydia's essay, click here.

A Response to Andre Wiederkehr's "Discerning Directions: A Case for Concrete Personal Action"

Josiah Neufeld
Hope Mennonite Church (Winnipeg, MB)

I am glad that Andre Wiederkehr is “deeply disturbed and moved by the crisis of climate change” (see Andre's full essay in the post below)  and is ready to take action. An ecological emergency is indeed upon us that will call for all of our love, passion, creativity and hard work. I share Andre’s concerns about unsustainable living and applaud his willingness to do the work that must be done in his own back yard.

 

Andre makes a mistake, however, when he positions this necessary work as the antithesis of political action.

 

When the pandemic hit, all of us stepped up to the task of caring for each other by staying home. But that wouldn’t have worked without the federal government’s emergency response benefit, or our provincial governments' investments in our medical systems, or the vast cooperation of governments, corporations, non-profits, and civil society required to distribute millions of doses of a life-saving vaccine.

 

The climate crisis is a collective problem that requires collective action. Many Mennonites I know are already very practiced at doing right in our own backyards. We eat organic and buy local and ride bicycles and put up solar panels. I do these things. But if we only do these things and don't also work to transform the structural evils around us as well, we cannot call ourselves people of peace and justice.

 

Imagine if Civil Rights activists, instead of taking to the streets to demand that governments change racist laws, had simply stayed home and decided not to be racist to their neighbours? 

 

Two thirds of our country’s fossil fuel emissions come from industry. Less than a third comes from people’s personal use. Even if each one of us transformed our homes and habits to perfect ecological sustainability starting tomorrow, it would not be enough.

 

It’s time for Mennonites to raise our voices in the political sphere to pressure our governments to take action. This crisis calls for a swift and just transition away from fossil fuels, a transition that centres the voices of the people who are most vulnerable and who will be impacted the hardest—Indigenous people and workers in the energy sector. 

 

This transition will require energy rebate programs so people can afford to retrofit their homes, better public transit systems so people don't have to drive as much, and winding down the fossil fuel industry. These are the work of federal, provincial, and municipal governments.

 

We must write letters to our elected representatives—as thousands of us did in support of Bill C-262. We must put up signs—as dozens of churches did when they pressured governments to address the long-standing injustice of Winnipeg getting clean drinking water at the expense of Shoal Lake 40 First Nation. We must march in the streets, as the Civil Rights activists did to demand desegregation and as the peace activists did in the 1980s to demand disarmament.

 

Here's an opportunity: March 12 has been declared a nation-wide day of action to call for a Just Transition. (https://350.org/just-transition-day-of-action/). Find an action near you to attend. Better yet, organize one in your own home town. 

 

This is what it means to love our neighbour.

Discerning Directions:
A Case for Concrete Personal Action


Andre Wiederkehr
Hanover Mennonite Church (Hanover, ON)

The 7 Calls to Climate Action for Mennonite Church Canada represents the vision of a grassroots committee of nine. At the time of this writing (January 1, 2022), over 600 people have affirmed the vision this committee has offered MC Canada, and I am among them. I think this group has provided a valuable synthesis of many other leaders' voices. However, while their vision and mine overlap, they are by no means identical. I am not content to let the conversation end here, so in a spirit of appreciation for this movement and love for the broader church, the global human community, and the rest of creation, I want to offer some of my perspective.

 

We have come together as a community deeply disturbed and moved by the crisis of climate change. What should we do with this loving fear? Each of us hears multiple authoritative voices urging us in multiple directions. From this sea of advice, we must discern what we believe a faithful course of action looks like, and enact it.

 

Through the lens of our Christian morality we can see many broken situations and systems in the world that demand our attempts at healing. Those who do not share our moral structure and do not personally feel the negative impacts of this brokenness often do not share this concern, and in a way this leaves us free to respond as we see fit. A striking aspect of anthropogenic climate change is that it involves nearly everyone: it is rooted in a set of destructive practices and technologies which most of us share, and it presents an existential threat to all of us. It is a problem of and for the Mennonite church, but by no means only of and for Mennonites or Christians. Since it is everyone's problem, high-impact solutions are generally being coordinated by governments, not the church. In a way this complicates our response. We need large-scale changes in our collective actions in order to avert disaster, but we cannot necessarily expect that the democratically acceptable political solutions are aligned with the direction God calls us to take....

To read the rest of Andre's essay, click here.