Hutterite Challenges in 2017


It’s a New Year and 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

It’s difficult not to do a “then” and “now” retrospective. Life as we know it is changing rapidly. World wide, many of our social and political norms are being de-constructed. It feels, in some respects, like we’ve lost our footing.

It must have felt that way to our Hutterite ancestors in 1517 when Martin Luther, a German priest ignited a movement that turned the status quo on its head. The Protestant Reformation splintered Catholic Europe and reimagined political and religious strongholds that had controlled Empires and a continent for centuries. It caused such turmoil it is estimated that 40% of German people lost their lives in the ensuing upheaval, including most of our Hutterite forefathers.

What we know from the Hutterite Chronicle about that time is the incredible courage our Hutterite ancestors showed in the face of sure torture and death. What is equally obvious is the importance of leadership during difficult times. Luther skillfully used the power of the printing press to give his ideas a wide audience. Our Hutterite forefathers followed suit, printing tracts and dispensing them everywhere they went.

In sharp contrast to their predecessors modern Hutterites have gone silent, shunning the media to the extent that most mainstream folks would have a difficult time knowing exactly what religious beliefs Hutterites practice and why. Regardless, the Hutterite Church is facing the same challenges many other Christian Churches are grappling with.

One of the most contentious of these issues is the Hutterite Church’s policy on Gay Hutterites.

Over the last few months I have interviewed half a dozen gay Hutterites both on and off the colony. And I have sent the following list of questions to Bishops from all 4 Hutterite sects.

1. Do you have an official policy on Gay issues?

2. Do you discuss with your ministers and leaders how to respond to someone who is gay or do you leave it up to each colony minister in your sect to handle it whichever way he sees fit?

3. Has a young person who is struggling with this issue ever confided in you? What counsel would you or did you give him or her?

4. Do you believe that someone is born gay, or do you feel that gay people choose to be gay and thus choose the consequences of being hated and alienated by others?

In my upcoming columns starting January 18th I will be publishing both the interviews I have done with Hutterite Bishops and my conversations with gay Hutterites. For the Hutterite community this is a very difficult and controversial issue but the time has come to talk about it.

Mary-Ann Kirkby is a Hutterite Author and Speaker. Her award- winning books, I Am Hutterite and Secrets of a Hutterite Kitchen, are available in book stores and at www.polkadotpress.ca. Contact Mary-Ann at m.kirkby@sasktel.net

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