(Appeared first in Mennonite Mission Network’s Beyond Ourselves, October 2012. Shared with permission.)
By Ervin Stutzman
This issue of Beyond Ourselves focuses on significant anniversary celebrations that took place in the Congo this summer, so I will take the opportunity to highlight the relationship between Mennonite Church USA and two Mennonite denominations in the Congo. We have developed a covenant with Communauté Evangélique Mennonite (Evangelical Mennonite Church), which celebrated its 50th year of ministry this summer. We are pursuing a similar relationship with Communauté Mennonite au Congo (Mennonite Church of Congo), which celebrated its 100th year of ministry.
The relationships between our national denominations demonstrate what we designate as church-to-church relationships. These relationships stand in contrast to relationships such as church-to-mission, or mission-to-mission connections. Each of these can be helpful in its own way.
These two Congolese churches and Mennonite Church USA are three of approximately 100 national denominations in the fellowship of churches known as Mennonite World Conference. As such, we benefit from the opportunity to share fraternal fellowship and encourage one another. To that end, Evangelical Mennonite Church and Mennonite Church USA have agreed to the following covenant:
- As brothers and sisters in the global church, we desire to grow in our practice and our understanding as part of the body of Christ, following 1 Corinthians 12 and the example of the early church in Acts 2:41-45 and Acts 4. As a witness to our love of God and our neighbor, we, the Evangelical Mennonite Community and the Mennonite Church USA, commit ourselves to the mutual sharing of gifts through face-to-face encounters in the following areas:
- Mutual visits by diverse groups in our churches, such as pastors, women, youth, businesspersons, choirs, etc.
- Response to each other’s specific needs according to our gifts and capacities, such as:
- Call, training, and empowerment of pastors.
- Nurture of women in leadership.
- Increased commitment of youth in the church.
- Exchanges of experiences in the training and practice of sharing our faith, church planting, and peace.
The Mennonite Church of Congo hopes to adopt a similar covenant with Mennonite Church USA. This only seems natural since many people within Mennonite Church USA have served in the Congo or hosted people from the Congo in their homes.
It’s not easy to traverse the obstacles created by significant differences in language, geography and culture. But by God’s grace, we can bridge those barriers, and find deep meanings in the connections between us.