The ‘B’ Word
Hey there WMBC! We are getting our blog back up and running and we’re starting with some stories from WMBC staff. We know that we aren’t getting to see each other as much or have personal connections in the foyer, so we are trying to fill that gap. Our Staff will be sharing some stories over the next while; something that God’s teaching them personally or possibly connected to a ministry they are leading. We miss you and would love to hear how you’re doing too! If you have a story or update we’d love to hear from you.
My daughter and I were heading into the church office one day this summer and she asked me a surprising question.
“What’s the ‘B’ stand for in WMBC?”
In my mind, I immediately thought to myself, the pastor’s kid doesn’t know what the ‘B’ stands for? What!? And then almost simultaneously began to think about all the interesting directions our conversation could go in the next few minutes! I explained to her that the ‘B’ stands for the word Brethren.
“Ok” was her reply, and we probably could have left it at that and moved on, but I decided to ask her another question.
“Do you know what the word Brethren means?”
“Well, it’s like an older term they used I guess for brotherhood,” I responded.
I could see her wheels starting to spin a bit. So, I asked my daughter another question. A question I really wanted to know the answer to.
“How does that make you feel knowing that?”
“I guess not very included because I’m a girl.”
We talked more about how poorly girls have been treated by culture and by the church in the past, and the inequality that girls and women still face today. I committed to her as her dad, and as her pastor, that at our church, WMBC – Winkler Mennonite Brethren Church, we want girls to know they are valued and accepted.
The next day as I was driving in my car, I kept thinking about that conversation; maybe I didn’t have the definition right.
So out loud I asked, “Hey Siri! What’s the definition of ‘brethren’?”
“As a noun, it is the archaic form of ‘brother’. Would you like to hear another?” my phone asked me.
“A fellow Christian of a male religious order. Would you like to hear another?”
In my mind, I’m thinking, surely there’s got to be a better definition!
“Yes, please give me another definition.”
“A man or boy in relation to other sons and daughters. Would you like to hear another?”
“A male fellow Christian. Would you like to hear another?”
“As an exclamation, used to express annoyance or surprise!”
Oh, brother! I thought to myself in real annoyance, none of these definitions are what I hoped for.
And that has sparked in me what I can only call a holy discontent – I am increasingly struggling with the name, ‘Mennonite Brethren’. As a dad, I don’t want to have to explain to my daughter what our church is not because of our name. As a pastor, I struggle to reconcile our vision of helping people see the church in a new light so they can passionately love and follow Jesus with our name. The word ‘Brethren’ simply rings tone-deaf to our culture, and while we do not intend to communicate an elevation of men, the name does that on its own.
Don’t get me wrong, I love our MB conference or our larger family of churches, the values we stand for and unite us, our rich heritage of faithfulness, revival, and passion for mission. I personally sit on the board for the provincial MB conference and value the efforts and initiatives of conference leadership and will continue to champion and partner with the 42 churches in our province. I am so proud to pastor at the first MB church in Canada, with 132 years of history! But we cannot allow the fondness for the past to exceed our passion for the future.
So there you go, that’s what I’m wrestling with and now you know!
I’m praying about what to do with all of this, and I hope you join me in that. Feel free to reach out if you want to chat further! (email@example.com / my cell 204-362-1114).