[Benjamin Eby was bishop of the Mennonite churches of Waterloo County. The other Mennonite churches in Ontario, in the Markham and Niagara areas, had their own bishops. Nevertheless, Benjamin Eby was highly regarded and he was often called upon by the others for counsel. This letter gives a hint of the reason for this respect.
Berlin is now Kitchener; Canada West is now Ontario. John Reesor was a minister in the Markham area; Jacob Groff was the bishop. A counsel meeting is a meeting of all church members to consider matters relating to the functioning of the church.]
Berlin, Canada West, October 17, 1849
Last Monday Jacob Weitman stopped here on his way home and told me that there is to be counsel meeting next Saturday regarding the matter about Jacob Burkholder.
Out of brotherly love, I feel impelled to write my opinion, yet with the limitation of whether I have understood the matter fully.
First, I have in mind that Burkholder was found guilty of a fault, whereupon he gave himself up to the church counsel, who laid the punishment of confession upon him. Now, I would ask whether he has done what the church required of him? If he has done so, then the counsel of the church should be upheld unalterably, since the church had acted according to their judgement.
It seems that some feel that the punishment of confession was not sufficient, which I can readily believe that the judgement might justifiably been sharper. However, when the majority of the church was so inclined, then the minority should yield to the majority, otherwise sad confusion can result, which seems to have happened in your case. Out of pure love and a true heart I give you my opinion. Hold fast to the original counsel of the church, firmly resolved, and lay the matter down quietly, embrace each other in love, forgive one another their faults, and be patient with each other, as Christ has patience with us.
Hold fast to brotherly love, for charity is the bond of perfectness. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Finally, we greet you and yours heartily with greetings of peace and love, as well as all dear brothers and sisters in the Lord who receive this in hand.
Your loyal brother in the Lord, to John Reesor, Benjamin Eby.
N.B. When you have read this letter, and believe it to be useful, you may give it to brother Jacob Groff and hold counsel with him. However, if I did not fully understand the proceeding of the matter, and my counsel being therefore unreasonable, then keep this letter at home, so that I with my good intentions might not do harm. My love for Christ and His Word, and for the well-being of the church prompted me to write, so I hope you won’t be offended.
I commit you to God and the guidance of His Spirit.