Mennonite Church USA has cultivated relationships with Lutherans, Pentecostals, denominational peace fellowships and other Christians. What are we learning from our interchurch relations that might help us be church together within our own Mennonite community? What practices can help us be church together in times of significant disagreement?
Nearly 40 participants engaged these questions at a gathering held April 11 at North Goshen (Ind.) Mennonite Church and sponsored by the Interchurch Relations Reference Group of Mennonite Church USA.
Speakers at the event—informally titled “Being the body together?”—included John D. Roth, professor of history at Goshen College; Anton Flores-Maisonet, founding member of the Alterna Community in LaGrange, Ga.; and Eleanor Kreider, a longtime missionary, teacher and writer from Elkhart, Ind.
See this article about the event.
Listen to recordings of the presenters and the Q&A time here:
John D. Roth shared how participating in a formal dialogue between Mennonite Church USA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) from 2002 to 2004 had led to something of a conversion experience for him. He discovered that the conversations with Lutherans helped him see theological blind spots and deficits in his own tradition and to understand how we need other traditions as well.
Anton Flores-Maisonet shared from his experiences of working with immigrant brothers and sisters. “Love crosses borders” is the motto of the Alterna Community he founded—a bilingual community of Christ-followers devoted to faithful acts of hospitality, mercy and justice. This motto is true, he suggested, both in addressing societal issues such as immigration and in personal relationships and the challenges of being church together.
Eleanor Kreider highlighted practices that are needed “to be church together.” “We need to fast from certain kinds of words that pigeonhole, judge and demonize others,” she suggested. “When we speak poorly of others in our church family, we should remember that ‘the kids are listening.’”