SA2011 Speaker Raises Eyebrows
by Myra Holmes
No one would call Shane Claiborne “boring.” Claiborne looks and sounds like an Old Testament prophet, sporting dreadlocks, boldly questioning wealth and calling for justice for the poor. He makes lots of people, including Christians, uncomfortable. So it’s not surprising that Claiborne’s selection as one of two keynote speakers scheduled for San Antonio 2011 has raised questions among some U.S. Mennonite Brethren.
National Youth Convention co-directors Rick Bartlett, Wendell Loewen and Tim Neufeld have worked with national and district U.S. MB leaders throughout the vetting process. The CL talked with several of these leaders about the concerns and the role speakers and sponsors play in calling teens to a life of discipleship. Here, in part, is what they have to say:
Steve Schroeder, U.S. Conference Leadership Board chair: When people come to me with these kinds of concerns I first ask: "Have you verified the information?" Too often, the answer is "no." I have read one of Shane Claiborne’s books, which I found very inspiring and which sounded very Anabaptist to me. I have also combed through his Web site looking for anything that would contradict our MB Confession of Faith and I've found nothing.
Rod Suess, Pacific District Conference Board of Faith and Life: We have excellent (SA2011) leaders that take seriously the concerns being raised. They are seasoned in youth ministry and have designed this event to challenge young people caught in a very materialistic culture to risk their lives with Jesus. It is critical that we support them in the effort, surround them and all those who will attend in prayer and direct any concerns directly to them so that they can make SA 2011 the best experience it can be.
Ed Boschman, U.S. Conference executive director: When a youth camp speaker challenged me as a 15-year-old to lay down my life to follow Jesus—over the top as far as I was concerned—I said I would. And while I’m still struggling to get it right, I’ve never regretted it. The NYC Planning Team has put together an incredible plan for a similar discipleship opportunity. I’d love to be a youth pastor or sponsor at SA2011, and after hearing from this modern-day prophet, get into a circle with open Bibles and do what the Bereans did. The Spirit of Jesus Christ would be there.
Larry Nikkel, chair of the national Board of Faith and Life: I have read Shane’s writings and find him among the most serious followers of Jesus I know. If his messages offer the opportunity to engage in serious examination of biblical truth, he would be presenting our youth and our youthleadersa great opportunity for spiritual discernment and growth.