Courier 2023 / 4 October

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Inspiration and reflectionCourier 38.4


Country Profile


General Secretary

Word from the editor

Making space and time for conflict

We don’t like to talk about it.

The unity of Christ seems to be easier to maintain separately.

Our tradition as Mennonite peacemakers results from a split from the wider church, and our plurality today – with its strengths and weaknesses – was the result in many cases of a disagreement that was not resolved. Our personal histories may also contain memories of ill-managed conflict: relationships broken; leaders ostracized; churches divided.

This issue of Courier attempts to talk about it.

In our feature article, Daniel Schipani enters into the story of the Jerusalem council in Acts 15. It’s a multicultural context for a disagreement on matters of spiritual importance. This was more than a question of whether to sing old songs or new!

But they sat down to talk.

Early in the formation of the church, in the face of a crucially important matter, the leaders – and the factions – faced their fears and discerned together. The unity of the church could persist despite diversity because it is a gift of God.

“The unity in Christ that God is creating reaches to the edges of space and time and beyond – and includes us all even when we don’t include each other!” says Larry Miller, former general secretary of MWC.

In his address to MWC’s General Council, Larry Miller offered three practices that could help us approach conflict in the church and come out with unity on the other side, without necessarily being uniform.

  • a. Recognize Christ in one another. Even when the other seems wrong on points of theology and practice, can we acknowledge each other’s love for Christ and desire to follow him?
  • b. Learning receptively from each other. Just as I think I have something to teach you about what Jesus really meant, so you may have something to teach me about faithfulness.
  • c. Coming together as local congregation. In some cases, this is where the conflict lies! But can we remember even in conflict that no one has everything; but everyone has something? Swiss Mennonite theologian Hanspeter Jecker says “This recognition requires that the gifts of the individual contribute to the wellbeing of the whole…. Mutual encouragement and admonition are the foundations for…becoming a forgiving – as well as a forgiven – community.”

It won’t be comfortable, it won’t be quick and it will take courage. But instead of walking away from conflict, could we use these principles to walk toward conflict carrying the gift of unity, so that righteousness and peace may kiss?

Karla Braun is editor of Courier and writer for Mennonite World Conference. She lives in Winnipeg, Canada.