I was walking across a bridge one day and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So, I ran over and said, “Stop! Don’t do it!”
“Why shouldn’t I?” he asked.
“Well, there’s so much to live for.”
“Well, are you religious?” He said yes. I said, “Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?”
“Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?”
“Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?”
“Wow, me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?”
“Baptist Church of God!”
“Me too! Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?”
“Reformed Baptist Church of God!”
“Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?”
He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!”
I said, “Die, heretic,” and pushed him off.”
Divisions in the body of Christ
The former story is a joke, written by comedian Emo Phillips, named the 44th funniest joke of all time by GQ in 1999.
In a humorous way, Phillips illustrates very well how the world perceives divisions in the Body of Christ. They just don’t make sense in an entity that speaks about love, forgiveness and reconciliation. Furthermore, fragmentation in the church questions the validity of its whole message.
As a matter of fact Jesus himself linked the credibility of his life to the quality of relationships among his followers: “that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me…” (John 17:23).
The way we relate with other churches has a direct impact in our missional witness. That is one reason, among many others, why Mennonite World Conference engages churches of other Christian traditions in dialogue. The credibility of Jesus is more important for us than our doctrinal, ethical or martyrdom pride.
Too precious to keep for ourselves
This does not mean that we negotiate our distinctives as Anabaptists. We value our convictions, our ethics and our past in a way that allow us to share them with others without fear. What we have received in our experience of following Christ is too precious to keep it only for ourselves.
Other Christians from different traditions learn from us in our dialogues as we also learn from them and from the rich gifts of their traditions.
This exchange makes us strong in our identity and humble in our experience of following Christ.
In this issue of the Courier, we have chosen to highlight our experience of dialogue with other Christian churches because it is in conversation that we build identity and value or own tradition.
It is my prayer that as a global church we always remember that God’s Spirit has been working through his church before Reformation of the 16th century and beyond the geographic limits of our church.
—César García, MWC general secretary, originally from Colombia, lives in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.
This article first appeared in Courier/Correo/Courrier April 2020. Click here to read other articles from this issue.