The leaders of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S.’ supporting denominations – Beachy Amish Mennonite Churches, Brethren in Christ U.S., CMC (Conservative Mennonite Conference), LMC – a fellowship of anabaptist churches, Mennonite Church USA and U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches – together requested that MCC U.S. staff prepare this message. We pray for the witness of the church in the U.S. at this tumultuous time.
Nearly 500 years ago, the Anabaptist tradition was born of a small group of believers whose commitment to following Jesus showed an alternative path to the widespread Christian practices of the day, which were bound up in politics and power.
For this group, following Jesus meant orienting their lives around Christ’s call – not as second, third or fourth priority, but as primary. As articulated in their Schleitheim Confession, this included rejection of the sword as their protection, declaring it was “outside the perfection of Christ.”
Their faithful witness inspires Anabaptists in this time of enormous division and upheaval in the United States. Jeremy Miller, president of Rosedale Bible College in Irwin, Ohio, wrote recently in the CMC (Conservative Mennonite Church) Beacon that amid growing polarization, “the country and the church need people of deep character, authentic faith, and a deep reservoir of courage” who orient themselves first and foremost to practicing and embodying the Kingdom of God.
As Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S., a worldwide ministry of Anabaptist churches that is engaged in relief, development and peacebuilding work, we offer this encouragement to the church: to restate and reflect our primary commitment to Christ and Christ’s reconciling ministry (2 Corinthians 5:18). We do so in consultation with leaders of Anabaptist denominations that support our ministry.
Too often, our churches do not look different from the world around them – quick to judge and divide, slow to draw together and model unity across ideological diversity. When we do this, we betray our calling to the reconciling ministry of Christ.
The Bible shows a different way. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit breaks down barriers between people and creates a community that values every language and experience. In Colossians 3, Paul outlines the characteristics of life in Christ: compassion, gentleness, humility, kindness, patience, forgiveness, love, unity and peace. These must be evident in how we relate to one another in every situation.
At a practical level, this means learning how to talk together. Healthy dialogue skills help us engage in ways that reflect God in us. It is a spiritual practice to put on compassion when we don’t agree with one another, to listen more and speak less (James 1:19).
As we engage in the spiritual work of reorienting ourselves toward compassion and away from judgement, MCC U.S. invites Anabaptist churches to:
- Restate our primary commitment to God above earthly kingdoms.
- Follow Jesus, practicing reconciliation, humility, nonviolence, unity and peace.
- Ask for the Spirit’s guidance in our interactions within our families, churches, society and world.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14, NRSV)
Ann Graber Hershberger, executive director, and Jessica Stoltzfus Buller, peace education coordinator, Mennonite Central Committee U.S.