Members of Mennonite Church USA and the Church of God met in Elkhart, Indiana for their second ecumenical dialogue on Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 2018. Through presenting and discussing papers, worship, and fellowship, the team members pursued a mutual understanding of each other’s history and theology, sought greater common witness to the gospel and considered concrete ways to share a sense of togetherness as the body of Christ.
The theme of this year’s meeting was “Christian Discipleship: Witness, Peace, Simplicity.” Dr. Nancy E. Bedford, a member of the MC USA team and from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, presented “A Narrow Gate?: Proceeding Along the Way of Jesus by the Spirit.” Rev. Dr. Christopher A. Stephenson, a member of the Church of God team and from Lee University, presented “A. J. Tomlinson’s Antiwar Sentiments: Theological Reflections.”
The gathering began with a welcoming meal for all participants at the home of Rev. Dr. Gayle Gerber Koontz, the on-site coordinator for the meeting. On Sunday, participants worshiped with local congregations, including Prairie Street Mennonite Church, Hively Avenue Mennonite Church, and College Mennonite Church. Assembly Mennonite Church hosted lunch and the group toured the Mennonite Historical Library and Goshen College.
The next day began with worship from the Anabaptist prayer book Take Our Moments and Our Days, led by Eleanor Kreider, wife of the late Rev. Dr. Alan Kreider, a former dialogue participant on the MC USA team. Participants discussed the papers presented by Bedford and Stephenson and raised questions for each other in plenary sessions.
The group expressed gratitude to MC USA and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) for providing funding and meeting space; to gracious host churches and host families for assisting with accommodations; to Professor John Roth of Goshen College for tours and a lecture; and to Elly Chaney for travel planning.
Members of the MC USA team included Bedford, Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Soto Albrecht of Lancaster Theological Seminary, Rev. Dr. Gerald Shenk, Rev. Dr. David Boshart, moderator of MC USA, Rev. Dr. Gayle Gerber Koontz of AMBS and Dr. Jamie Pitts of AMBS.
Members of the Church of God team included Stephenson, Rev. Dr. Cheryl Bridges Johns of Pentecostal Theological Seminary (PTS), Rev. Dr. Jackie D. Johns of PTS; and Rev. Dr. David G. Roebuck of Lee University.
The first meeting between the two churches took place at Lee University (Cleveland, Tennessee) in 2016.