In four days of meetings just prior to the July 21-26 Mennonite World Conference Assembly, the General Council gathered with about 120 representatives from MWC member churches around the world. About half the time involved sharing stories and reflecting on themes of unity and diversity.
The last in a five-part series leading up to Mennonite World Conference Assembly in Harrisburg, Pa.
When someone asks you to use a few words to describe yourself, what words do you use? Would you change those words to describe yourself when you are with your family? At work? Travelling to some distant place?
I was down in Mississippi, at a small African-American church. My parents were volunteering there with a ministry that had many different programs going. They had a farm, a clinic, a law office, a school, sports activities for the youth of the community, a resale shop, among other worthy endeavors.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?” (Matthew 7:9-10).
The journey towards reconciliation is not easy. Attempts to repair wrongs involve time and intentionality. Healing broken relationships takes longer still.
On April 18, Karen and Andrew Suderman and at least 18 others protest recent eruptions of xenophobia by wrapping about 100 trees in the downtown core of Pietermaritzburg with yellow fabric and a statement from South Africa’s Freedom Charter: ‘South Africa belongs to all who live in it.’ (Photo courtesy of Karen and Andrew Suderman)
As a colourful protest against xenophobia unfolded in downtown Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, people living in the neighbourhood come out and help wrap trees in yellow fabric to symbolize friendship, warmth, welcoming, joy and hope, and to fasten posters of inclusion to the fabric. (Photo by Andrew Suderman)
What do you do in the face of hatred, a hatred so immense that it drives people to pillage, beat and even kill others? What do you do when that hatred is simultaneously “out there” and in your own backyard? How do you show love, kindness and hospitality in rejection and defiance of such wanton violence?
Just as there are Lutheran, Baptist and Anglican Christians, so there are Mennonite Christians. The name “Mennonite” is most appropriately used as an adjective rather than a noun. We are first of all Christians and secondarily a certain kind of Christian.
“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.
Sometimes, a single act can have enormous consequences.
Indigenous students and their families arrive by plane for a Mennonite-run Bible school at Stormer Lake in northwestern Ontario in 1981. (Photo by Martin Frey)
Children from indigenous communities in northern Manitoba are pictured with their teacher at a summer camp in Loon Straits, Man., in the 1950s. (Photo by Edwin Brandt, courtesy of the Mennonite Archives of Ontario)
A resident of the Beardy’s & Okemasis Willow Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan reads a thank-you letter from MCC Canada for his donation of $5 in 1968. (Photo courtesy of the Mennonite Archives of Ontario)
Henry Berg, third from left, and indigenous men build a chapel at Cross Lake, Man., sometime in the 1950s. (Photo courtesy of the Mennonite Archives of Ontario)
“History,” wrote American poet Maya Angelou more than 20 years ago, “despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”
In an appendix to Ambassadors of Reconciliation, Vol. II: Diverse Christian Practices of Restorative Justice and Peacemaking (Orbis Books), which I co-wrote, I explored the question of how principles and practices of restorative justice might be applied to historic and continuing violence, as is the case regarding indigenous justice in Canada.
David Siebert, left; Josie Winterfeld, outreach worker at Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church, Kitchener, Ont.; Dylan Siebert and Annemarie Rogalsky enjoy table fellowship at 50 Kent during Awakening Hope, an evening of 'inspiring each other on the path of Christian discipleship and community living' on Feb. 20, 2014. (Photo by Dave Rogalsky)
Mennonite churches are afraid. In fact, Christian denominations all over Canada are afraid. We have felt this, seen it and experienced it. Sometimes this fear leads denominations to do reckless things. Sometimes it reaches the point of despair. Why so much fear?
1. What has changed since the 1970s and ’80s that conversations about sexual misconduct and sexual abuse are so much more prevalent these days? Does sexual violence happen more now, or are we just more ready to talk about it? Does a sexualized culture make sexual violence more prevalent? Are we less apt to silence or blame victims than formerly?