When Michael Pahl was forwarded an email with a request to support the Winnipeg Freedom Convoy last week, the executive minister of Mennonite Church Manitoba wasn’t sure if he would respond. But after talking to a colleague, he started crafting his message, which he shared on Twitter.
The Freedom Convoy includes people protesting vaccine mandates and overall COVID-19 restrictions. People associated with the larger effort have occupied Ottawa for more than two weeks and blockaded border crossings between Canada and the U.S.
Pahl says that he understands why the convoy organizers reached out to Mennonite Church Canada since some church leaders and prominent Christians in Manitoba and in other parts of Canada have backed their efforts. But he wanted them to understand that his definition of freedom might not match theirs.
“We are free in Christ Jesus to serve one another in love,” he wrote, quoting Galatians 5:13-14.
He continued that freedoms, including the freedom of religion and peaceful assembly, matter to Christians, but that the word also means something more. “This Christian understanding of freedom takes precedence over any worldly conceptions of ‘freedom’ or ‘rights’ and it calls us to ‘look not to our own interests but to the interests of others.’”
Read his full response on Twitter by clicking on the tweet and then on each individual image to view it. You can also read the text here.
I was invited by the Organizers of the Winnipeg Freedom Convoy to lend my support to their efforts. Here was my reply. There was much more I could have said, but I thought I should stay in my lane as a church leader. 🙂 pic.twitter.com/rjRcqOGuQQ
— Michael Pahl (@MWPahl) February 10, 2022
Pahl says he hasn’t received a response, and he isn’t surprised. “They’re talking about individual autonomy, the ability to choose what each of us wants to do,” he says. “I would expect that they would understand that there are limits to that, but I don’t think that there was a lot of self-reflection in that, at least not in the email that I saw.”
For Pahl, the Christian understanding of freedom is about communal good and the concern for the well-being of others. “We are free to care for and show compassion to the other,” he says, “even at times, when necessary, putting our own self-interests aside.”
He said he didn’t expect the response that he received on Twitter.
“I haven’t heard of negative responses certainly from within our congregations. It’s all been positive,” he says. “ I don’t think I’ve [heard] any, even more widely than that, maybe some pushback on a few specific ideas, but generally it’s been positive.”
Emma Prestwich is Broadview’s digital editor.
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