Relationship-building with Jewish-Christian dialogue

Mennonite Church USA logo(Mennonite Church USA) – On November 1, 2017, Professor John Kampen of Methodist Theological School in Ohio attended the Jewish-Christian dialogue sponsored by the National Council of Churches (NCC) and the National Council of Synagogues (NCS). This is the third time Kampen has attended this biannual event on behalf of Mennonite Church USA.

The NCS and NCC Jewish-Christian dialogues are opportunities for Christian leaders to build relationships and have discussion with leaders of Conservative, Reformed and Reconstructionist Judaism. The meetings have addressed a range of topics including antisemitism in the current political climate and its impact on congregational life.

“Participation in this dialogue is an important step for Mennonite Church USA,” Kampen notes. “It provides an opportunity to build relationships and provide the basis for more formal connections with the organizations of the Jewish religious communities in America.”

Kampen’s participation in these meetings is one step in efforts by MC USA to implement the resolution “Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine,” adopted by delegates at the July 2017 Orlando assembly. In the section of the resolution titled “Opposing Antisemitism and Seeking Right Relationship with Jewish Communities,” it calls on Mennonites to “cultivate relationships with Jewish representatives and bodies in the U.S.”

“It is my belief that this relationship is important for the future well-being of the Mennonite Church and would be valued by members of the Jewish community,” said Kampen.

Kampen has maintained close personal and professional relationships for many years with leaders of Reformed Judaism. He holds a doctorate from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati and is currently on the Executive Committee of the Alumni Leadership Council. Hebrew Union College is the home of Reform Judaism and trains rabbis on all of its four campuses. Kampen is also a member of Cincinnati Mennonite Fellowship and a graduate of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS).

The “Seeking Peace” resolution at the Orlando convention also encourages Mennonite Church USA to examine the legacy of antisemitism in the Mennonite church. With support from the denomination, Bethel College (Kansas) is hosting a conference on “Mennonites and the Holocaust,” March 16 and 17, 2018. The Institute for Mennonite Studies at AMBS also anticipates organizing a conference, likely in 2020, on reading scripture after the Holocaust.