How do our member churches express the MWC Shared Convictions in beautiful, local variety throughout our global body?
The October 2016 issue of Courier/Correo/Courrier seeks to discern the variety of reasons why Anabaptist communities from around the world come together to form MWC. In the articles that follow, writers reflect on the question: How does Christ’s love for us motivate and guide our response to strangers in our local context?
Our mission and Shared Convictions
As Anabaptist-Mennonite Christians, our mission is closely linked to the identity we have recognized and confessed. For this reason, What We Believe Together: Exploring the Shared Convictions of Anabaptist related Churches, comprises what is needed to communicate to faith communities who we are and the work the Lord has entrusted us to carry out.
Social, economic and cultural injustice has increased in Mexico. Violence causes casualties every day. To witness to Jesus in this context requires clarity as to who we are, by whom and to what we have been called. I feel that What We Believe Together, clearly responds to these questions, especially point seven: “As a worldwide community of faith and life, we transcend boundaries of nationality, race, class, gender and language. We seek to live in the world without conforming to the powers of evil, witnessing to God’s grace by serving others, caring for creation and inviting all people to know Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.”
In my church in Mexico (Conferencia de Iglesias Evangélicas Anabautistas Menonitas de México – CIEAMM), we believe that each local congregation and each faith community is the seed and fruit of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. In line with this conviction, we seek to understand and live out the gospel of peace, justice and reconciliation proclaimed by Jesus in a holistic (comprehensive) way. Thus, when he went through cities, towns and villages proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, he healed every disease and sickness (Matthew 9:35).
Likewise, we must be agents of holistic healing in each area of our community and social life. Our mission must be embodied in the world, just like Jesus; and he reminds us every day that, as the Father sent him, he is sending us (John 20:21).
In CIEAMM, we are aware that every local church is strengthened by the Holy Spirit, a truth that is well grounded in What We Believe Together. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of Christ calling us and strengthening us for the compassionate mission. Jesus Christ felt the pain, suffering and conditions experienced by people as his own, and felt compassion for them. Compassion is not about feeling momentary pain; it means identifying with the person who is in distress, and be moved to action and service to ease the pain that deeply hurts human beings.
Jesus was compassionate and his deep identification with those who suffered led him to action (Matthew 9:36, Matthew 14:14, Mark 6:34, Matthew 15:32–37, Luke 7:12–15). If we say that we follow Jesus, then we must be compassionate, as he was.
We have promoted the printed book as well as the digital version of What We Believe Together in the CIEAMM. The volume has been studied in different ways in each church affiliated to CIEAMM. In some cases, each chapter became a Sunday school lesson; in others, each one of the seven Convictions was presented as a sermon theme; and we have also encouraged study groups. Our aim is to give a copy of What We Believe Together to every new church member as a study guide.
There is little printed and digital material on Anabaptist identity and mission available in Spanish. This is why What We Believe Together is appreciated by CIEAMM as a good summary of the distinctive beliefs of the global family which we are a part of, especially because most of our church members are people with low and medium schooling, with little reading habits and systematic studies.
It has been enriching and a blessing for the members of CIEAMM to know that they are a part of a global community, whose identity is centered on Christ, made up by “saints from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). This identity principle is central to building reconciling communities and seeking to put into practice the gospel of peace taught by Jesus Christ.
The vision of the church communities which make up CIEAMM is “to be a church family whose authority lies in the Word of God, which forms disciples for holistic growth as they follow the example of Jesus, guided by the Holy Spirit to be embodied in our reality.”
Our mission is to “serve and reflect the gospel of peace through Jesus’ model.” What We Believe Together was the biblical-theological basis on which we developed what we confess as the vision and mission of CIEAMM. For the people of CIEAMM, this document has been a tool for thought and action as Anabaptists in the Mexican social, economic and religious context.
—Carlos Martínez García is a journalist and pastor in Mexico. He is moderator of the Conferencia de Iglesias Evangélicas Anabautistas Menonitas de México (CIEAMM).