Thank You Bennie (Keeping the Faith part 5)

Thank you Bennie Giesbrecht for giving me material for some relevant articles.  Your book Keeping the Faith has provided a few morsels of information that profoundly underscore the points that I have been trying to make.  I am thinking I will wrap up my review of your book but I have  some more points that I wish to make.

Page 131 “Mennonites began to enjoy wealth and luxury and indifference set in.”   How well this describes the Holdeman people of today. They enjoy wealth and luxury,  and the indifference that has set in has had to be offset with a fierce legalism.  Because true spirituality and Holy Spirit led living do not keep control over a system, a different structure has evolved.  The Holdeman church has such power because they are family, because they all come from the same background. This introduces a very specific type of culture that bonds the people together.  Wealth and luxury no longer mean that the group will disperse, but that the whole face of the group will change.  It has always been the case that when the Mennonites have settled and become wealthy that spiritual coolness begins to take hold.  These days the ministers are masking the fact of the spiritual coolness by forcefully hammering down the rules. People cannot get out. They have too much invested.  The world around them is too difficult to absorb into their personal lives after generations of secluded and isolated society.  Can you see the culture that has evolved?  The power of the Church has more to do with culture than God.

Page 132   “A loss was perceived in the doctrine of excommunication and avoidance.  They evidently did not succeed in halting the drift.”  Ok, look at this. Bennie wrote this book at least 20 years ago, about the time the drift in the Holdeman church had been identified and addressed. Interestingly enough, the drift began to emerge as an issue shortly after the purge of the 70s, that great revival that was hailed as the revival to end all revivals.  The church had been cleansed of much unrighteousness, only to find itself in the midst of a drift.  Rather odd, don’t you think?  A great revival should have brought on a renewed zeal for Christ, a commitment to following him at any cost.  Instead, people had been forced to say whatever they had to say to get by, and suddenly the ministers found themselves facing a whole new problem; a drift.  Here on page 132 we see that Bennie is more or less condemning the early Anabaptists because they were not able to halt a drift.  He names many different ways in which this drift showed itself, but he continues to speak of excommunication and avoidance.  Today, in order to make it look like the drift is being contained, excommunication and avoidance are held over people’s heads more often than ever before. It is interesting to note that often it is only the threat. If someone is out of order, the threat is so terrifying that they will verbally conform, and even though there is very little difference in their actual behaviors and practice, they have satisfied the staff. If a failure to halt the drift condemns the earlier church, then why does it not condemn the church of today?  Have they halted the drift? Would they actually be able to say that they have “reversed” the drift?  They remind one of the little Dutch boy who had his finger in the dike.  You can stop up one leak, but others will spring forth just out of reach.  Who can stop all of these leaks?  Are there enough revival ministers, enough panels, enough members meetings, minister’s counsels to hold it all together? What is needed is true Holy Ghost revival, but this is prohibited from happening because it requires people to think for themselves and be willing to face any difficulty that might come.  People desire their ease, their acceptance and the status quo. Who is willing to lose it all?  I see very very few.

Page 173  “Surely it is the design of the enemy of the soul to destroy the people of God through any means possible, which includes the use of the economic system.  His plan, his intention, is portrayed in the apocalyptic prophecy ‘And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand: or in their foreheads and that no man mighy buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.  (Rev 13:16-17)  Do we have our principles or faith established in such a way that in the last times, in the times when Satan is loosed, that there will be no compromising of our faith, no surrendering of the sovereignty of God for financial advantage?  Do we, and will we, recognize and refuse the snares of Satan?

This is interesting if one also reads the book His Kingdom is Now by Samuel Byrnes.  There appears to be a difference of opinion amongst the brethren.  Let us see what Byrnes has to say about a mark, without which one will not be able to buy or sell.  Page 14:

At the same time I would sometimes hear brethren make statements that seemed to me to belong more to the literal (dispensational) than to the spiritual (amellennial).  For instance, I met one brother who believed in a literal mark of the beast that was yet to come.  In fact he argued for it adamantly.  His point was that the spiritual  kingdom we are in is real, so therefore the mark must be real.  I wasn’t sure if I could follow his logic.

Hey, notice that Byrnes is saying the opposite of what Bennie said.  Bennie seems to  believe in a literal mark of the beast, where Samuel Byrnes is scoffing at it.  Whom shall we believe?  Does a Samuel trump a Bennie? Has the official position of the church changed between the publication of the two books?  Here we have two conflicting points of view. They need to get together on this and clarify their stand.   Listen to what Byrnes says on page 15 of his book:

We sometimes hear talk of a big computer over in Belgium called the Beast.  This computer will supposedly be used to control everyone in the world to where they can’t buy or sell.  Again, this is not new talk for me because I grew up with it.  I would pose this question though:  Does the fact that there might be something like this mean that it is a fulfillment of prophecy?  To insist that this sort of thing is a fulfillment of prophecy forces one to accept an entirely different system of interpretation from what the church has historically embraced and taught.  If time stands, we may very well witness the creation of a cashless society.  We may even see efforts made to establish a one world government which may exercise more or less complete control over our economic lives.  I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if some of these things eventually came to pass.  I do question though,  whether they would be a fulfillment of a specific prophecy.  I  also question whether we as God’s people should concern ourselves overly much with these matters. It seems to breed a spirit of fear.  

This is quite striking. He is saying that even though prophecy comes to pass, we should ignore it and not abandon his idea of the endtimes.  He says that we are to hold to the traditional teachings even if world events show us that another interpretation of events might be accurate. He is saying that if a one world government should arise and a chip in the hand, and allegiance to this one world government should be required in order to maintain our economic position, we should ignore the possibility that this is indeed “the mark of the beast” and go ahead and allow ourselves to be marked.  I’m not putting forth a position one way or another in this particular writing, but am showing you the absolute obtuseness of this kind of teaching.  Never will they modify their position if it causes them to back up or change lanes in any degree.  They will cling to their interpretation and beliefs even if actual events are unfolding according to the scriptures and another interpretation of prophecy. This should be very alarming to anyone who is watching world events with any kind of discernment.  He really does not care to face great tribulation. He is going to ignore it and pretend it is not happening.

The main point of mentioning Mr. Byrnes and his book, however, is to point out that he and Bennie differ in their understanding of a literal mark of the beast. At least they did. Who knows what adjustments have been made in the meantime.

Hiram

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29 Responses to Thank You Bennie (Keeping the Faith part 5)

  1. Godfather says:

    “It seems to breed a spirit of fear.” it looks like Samuel Byrnes would prefer to stick with teachings that don’t cause fear in the people rather than to see them be strong enough to face the most terrible predictions for the future with courage and resolve. Whatever you do Sammy, don’t scare the people!

  2. The talk about the “Drift” was big during the mid-2000s when my buddy got hoofed. During one interrogation session in the church’s infamous mother’s room the preachers were all bent out of shape because none of the men ages 40 and 50 now have any “conviction”, so my buddy told the preachers that they created their own monster in the Purge when no dissent was allowed so every laymember just zipped their lip, shut their brains off, and toe-ed the party line. Anyhow, my buddy went on for 10 minutes about what he though of the Purge, then the 2 revival preachers (WE and PE) went on for 20 minutes about the glories of the Purge, then my buddy told them they didn’t even believe their own lies, then my buddy left the interview without being dismissed, and soon after he was (you guessed it) booted!

  3. The Holdeman church has a very, very affluent membership. In fact the very values that they preach like diligence, industrious honesty, integrity & co-operation, ethics, restraint, discipline, and thrift will naturally contribute toward an accumulation of wealth and the resultant “complications”. Other Plain People experience this same phenomenon as well.
    I don’t think the Holdeman preachers will be able to keep their members’ financial dreams in check much longer nor does it appear that they are trying. Longstanding historical opposition to all forms of insurance have completely melted away so Holdemans can participate fully in today’s economy. Opposition to education is also withering – many “young brethren” attend colleges and complete apprenticeships. Members are purchasing RRSPs to reduce their taxes. The Holdeman Church receives interest money from the Schowalter Foundation. Lawyers are retained to help collect receivables. The internet was initially allowed exclusively for business requirements – not for family contact nor for spreading the gospel.
    The Holdemans enjoy a lavish lifestyle with plenty of travel. Whenever someone goes to to any of the other continents to convert the heathens, it is almost a guarantee that up to 10 family members will buy $2000 airline tickets to visit. The Mission Board then hopes that the baptized locals won’t notice the affluence of their North American “brothers & sisters of like precious faith”!
    The Holdeman people have completely conformed to the “worldly” economic system. Many share indistinguishable political views to many southern Baptists: loathing of inspectors, professors, unions, environmentalists, government officials, etc… After all, nobody should stand between a Born Again Christian and his money.

  4. Hiram says:

    A person has to wonder if this could cause a break in the lineage. Will it have to pop up some place else, or does some young man need to jump up and run off with the candle stick again?

  5. with all the troubles that the cell phones pose the Holdies – texting/sexting among the youth, photograph capabilities for middle aged men, instant access to the NFL scores, etc – there seems to be absolutely nobody in the Holdie church proposing to abandon the cell phone and live the plain, simple, unadorned Christian life. Why not? They would hardly be able to function in today’s economy and would therefore suffer a severe blow to their lavish lifestyle.
    And that is why the Holdeman preachers are limited to spouting off that the Devil is slyly encroaching on the one true church and encouraging the brethren to paint or scratch the photo lens of their smart phones…

    • We have a “bitter & offended” ex-Holdeman in our community who got the boots back in the Purge for having too fancy a vehicle. Now he owns a gas station and fuels up $50,000 extended cab Chevy pickups driven 22 year old Holdemans in “good standing” and so he strokes his beardless chin and wonders what happened.

      • Hiram says:

        These are the things that concern me. People have been hurt,lives have been torn apart, all in the name of keeping the church pure. But there is no consistency, no predictability. This is why I continue to mention the claims of a lineage. According to all the writings, the lineage holds things together. Very specific things designate the lineage. If these things designated the lineage in past centuries, why not today? If wealth, inconsistent use of excommunication and shunning, fancy church buildings caused the lineage to fail in the past, why not now? I continue to dwell on this simply because the idea of a lineage is untenable. It cannot be supported. This means that a great deal of mind control, deception and obfuscation must be employed in order to keep the people under control. It has already been admitted that the leaders need POWER. Church members! Wake up! They have this power at the expense of your freedom and autonomy. I don’t see how intelligent and well girded men can stand for this. Claim back your manhood!

  6. Hiram says:

    I think the point you are making is that the lineage might have worked to hold the church together a hundred years ago, but for now, they are going to have to come up with some REAL power.

    • lotsaquestions says:

      At the last ministers and deacon’s council near me it was openly said by a preacher that “We are past the point of no return.” BUT, It was off the record; it was requested that this tid bit of info not be put into the minutes. Think on that!

  7. watching and waiting says:

    The multi million dollar church we worship in over shadows the other churches in our community.We want to be a witness of humility and conservative living. How does this appear to our neighbors? One generations excess is the next generations standard. I have been a Holdeman all my life and I am very afraid of what the future holds for me and my family as far as the church is concerned. If the Lord returned today would he recognise His people?
    I know there is deep concern amongst some of the ministers. Are there enough brave men to make a change?

  8. Hiram says:

    Well, John Holdeman mentions at one point in his book something about elaborate places of worship and points out that the buildings actually disqualified groups from the lineage. I’ll find the passage and quote it.

    Watching and Waiting, how do you envision brave men making a change…What will it take

  9. watching and waiting says:

    Hiram- I agree that our forefathers lived the plain life style and denied themselves. We can change only if we change ourselves first. Is the will there for us to go back to the Bible and study the words of Jesus? I see a very shallow understanding of the tru Gospel even among the ministry.Materialism has crept in to most areas of the Church. I would like to hear from others who read here. There are more that are concerned than people know. Ministers and deacons included. Fear of reprisal is keeping most of us quiet however the more I see and hear the more troubled I become.

  10. James says:

    I heard someone say something one time that I thought was interesting. They said that the Holdeman people live the lives of wealthy middle class Americans. They have their own businesses, send their children to private schools, the teenage boys have expensive vehicles, they travel freely and take elaborate vacations, they have plenty of leisure time, they have the best of everything. Many of them have swimming pools and guest houses on their property, they have very active social lives and have a very high standard of living. I understand what you are saying, watching and waiting. The image of a simple and plain people disappeared long ago.

    • lotsaquestions says:

      James, you and others here have hit the nail on the head!The Holdeman Menno’s three words Economy, Simplicity and Modesty is over and done with! And it’s never coming back. Unless a political , economic upheaval forces it. And then I venture to say the Holdeman’s would still live above the rest of the people.

  11. watching and waiting says:

    I am not necessarily saying we need to be a plain people however we have to stop saying we are pilgrims and strangers if we plan to live an affluent lifestyle. The hypocrisy is disturbing. I agree with a lot the views of Bro Hiram but some of the doctrines seem a bit off.

    • Hiram says:

      I agree 100%. I have no issue with wealth. It does not disqualify one from being a Christian in the least. It is, however, important that wealth is handled correctly. If people become lifted up and arrogant because they believe a lineage and a culture set them above other Christians, and they claim the status of pilgrim and stranger as though they are something special, but then they stand head and shoulders above the world around them in wealth, ease and luxury, and on top of that they have a history of cruel and unfair excommunication and shunning, then I have a huge issue with wealth. Be as rich as you want, but come down from there. You have yourselves on a pedestal that makes you an easy mark for those who wish to discredit you. You forgot about Jesus long ago. He is a nice thought, a warm fuzzy on Sunday morning. That is all.

  12. Not So Certain says:

    Are the doctrines that seem a bit off end time thoughts, baptism mode, and excommunication? One of the most difficult things for any born and raised Holdeman to do is take a serious look at his doctrinal understanding. We have been taught so very thoroughly how to understand the doctrines and together with this, taught that it is wrong to question. It is almost impossible to open our minds to the scripture and start with a blank page. But this is what is desperately needed!

    One of the first things to delve into is our belief in “The Church.” For many of us the church has replaced or superseded Christ. This is one of the most subtle schemes ever devised by the devil, because we can rest in the proving and light of the brethren without really ever knowing Jesus Christ our Savior who is head of His body the church. We need to come to an understanding of who His body really is. Another analogy the Bible uses is the Bride. Again we need to understand who the Bride is. The Spirit will reveal to us those who are part of the body and bride of Christ as we lay aside our preconditioned teachings and open ourselves to what the Bible really says. Once we have pulled on this thread we will find the whole fabric starting to unravel and we will find ourselves standing naked and open to the Holy Spirit and the Word. Very frighting, humiliating and unsettling to say the least!

    By nature we want to be right, but ponder this. You cannot feel yourself to be right and have true faith! The Bible is so clear that our only “rightness” is in Jesus. We need to consider if we are covered by Christ or by or by doctrines and submission to the brethren.

    Recently during revivals a young married brother I am close to was told that he had no right to question the doctrines or the workings of the church. He was asking questions from an honest heart. He was also told (over the pulpit in a council meeting) that he could not participate in communion. Incidentally the minister who was most outspoken in this action has since been benched. It is not wrong to question, we need to search the scriptures from an honest heart of wanting to know the truth.

    I heard an older pillar in the church brother say the other day that “we first need to find approval with men before we can find approval with God.” I have never heard it said quite this openly before, but this highlights the foundation of the OTVC teaching. This should cause us all to scurry to the Word and pray earnestly to see whether or not these things are true.

    • Hiram says:

      Not so certain, once again you have tapped into the root of my concern. The difficulty of having one’s eyes opened to the subtleness of the deception is enormous. It is such an ingrained part of our beings, it is so tied in with those placid Sunday morning services which have such a comforting sameness, the lulling hymns, the predictablity of the order of the service, the droning of the preacher about such familiar things, all in a setting of such peace and tranquility, that have created a comfort zone that bolsters and buttresses the doctrines and vice versa. To begin to remove one of these blocks means that the entire structure begins to topple and lean. One quickly jams that block back in, in order to resume the comfortable structure of one’s life. I am convinced that God himself has to start the process through some kind of personal trauma, or divine revelation. One who is seeking truth will find it, but it must be won at a cost. Again, I challenge all Godly men and women to truly seek the face of God and ask for truth to be revealed. This is a request that God will not fail to grant. However, be ready to be unsettled. Truth comes at a cost. Once a person begins to unravel the knots and the questions that arise, he/she will find that everything falls. Be ready for this. That does not mean that no truth is to be found within the Holdeman denomination. It simply means that you must find it all for yourself. You must be ready to discard that which does not stand, and to earnestly and profoundly desire truth above comfort, ease, acceptance and honor. I ask again, are you worthy to be called one of His?

    • lotsaquestions says:

      “For many of us the church has replaced or superseded Christ.” A true statement. But the ministers have made us “do it.” They put so much emphasis on being in accord with the concerns and laws of the church, and if you don’t you are in trouble. This makes people live the gospel according to man.

  13. cagedbutterfly says:

    I again am amazed at what I’m reading here. Your comments, Hiram, about finding truth is exactly what has happened to me. I went through a severe trauma about 8 years ago. The “safety” that the church always says they have wasn’t any where to be found. Instead it was just the opposite. I have been praying for several years for truth. Sometimes them were the only words I could pray. So many of the posts and comments I read here are things that I have thought about. I believe I’m finding truth. I’m trying to find the courage to stand up for what I feel is right but the impact it would have on my youth and school children is about more than I can bear to think about. The Mennonite life is all they know and how much damage it would do to them concerns me greatly! Any input is appreciated.

    • Rose says:

      I’ve been thinking for several years about starting a website that would give support and information to people who are in the situation you describe. I’ll forward my email to Hiram if you would like to communicate with me, tell him to forward my email to you. I have gone through everything you describe. I’d like to think I have advice that could help you.

      • Hiram says:

        caged butterfly, I am saddened and yet overjoyed at what you have written. I am always glad when someone has faced the truth. it is not an easy thing to do, and I truly believe that God calls people out. It has to be a divine revelation when it does come. that’s not to say that it is only available to a select few, but as the Bible says, many are called but few are chosen.. It is what a person does with the truth, when it comes, that matters. I know that God will direct you and give you wisdom.

      • Rose says:

        You can email me anonymously at postholdeman@gmail.com if you want to.

  14. watching and waiting says:

    When I read comments like cagedbutterfly above it becomes very clear that we have a very big issue within the church. I mentioned that I thought some of the postings from Hiram were a bit off. I want to say that they are a minor issue compared to the turmoil and unhappiness amongst the members. The ministry seems to be tightening control when they need to let go of control and allow the Holy Spirit to guide the individuals. I understand this will likely cause divisions but the choice is clear to me. We need to stand for truth and mercy.

  15. Years before I received my dishonorable discharge from the “Holdeman Army of the Lord”, I overheard my uncle say that ex-Holdemans just about never do well financially. I have thought of that comment occasionally throughout the years. Doesn’t that sound somewhat like the Prosperity Gospel that the Holdemans ostensibly condemn? But if the Prosperity Gospel is in effect in for the Holdemans in North America, then why not for their recruits in Africa as well?

  16. holdemanzombie says:

    cagedbutterfly, I believe a change in course can be made without damage to children. Of course, wise and careful planning is a must. I’ve thought about these things for years. My opinion is that if mom and dad are guided by an inner direction (not a bitter and offended spirit) you can make a transition without damage to the kids. That includes a backbone to protect the kids from the bullying the Holdemans are sure to provide,.It may mean not attending family gatherings where you are sure to be shunned. Do not allow shunning. It damages a child more than the parents. If anyone has sensed your lack of loyalty your children may already be feeling the bullying that’s sure to follow. I believe you must create connections with trusted people outside the church who will be “there” for you when you make the transition. The gap left by the H social club would need to be filled with other friends who care. Maybe I’m just dreaming…….

  17. Bryon Schmidt says:

    holdemanzombie, That is very true what you said about the shunning damaging the children more then the parents. It is so sad to see your children lose their grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. Shunning is truly evil and I do all I can to not allow it.

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