A word from the editor
Who is with us
“They showed us unusual kindness” (Acts 28:2).
That was the theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this ear in the northern hemisphere. The churches represented at the gathering were not the ones I, as a Mennonite Brethren, normally have a close affiliation with: United, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Catholic, Orthodox.
The formality of the service with its liturgy written word-for-word in the handout may have been unfamiliar, but the Spirit of God among the worshippers as we sang, read Scripture, prayed and listened to the sermon together was very familiar.
It got me thinking about Jesus’ words in Mark 9:40: “Whoever is not against us is for us.”
It seems to me that we often flip this statement – “whoever is not for us is against us” – and we use it to build walls between us and others, even others of the same faith. However, this seems to be the opposite of what Jesus was telling the disciples. To the disciples who are eager to point out how other people are doing things wrong, it seems that Jesus is saying anyone who claims the name of Jesus is an ally – even if they talk about the gospel a little bit differently.
And that makes me think of hope. The theme of Anabaptist World Fellowship Sunday in 2020 is “Jesus Christ, our hope.” This is a message that never gets old.
It is easy to find bad news: within our global Anabaptist family, Colombia is steeped in violence after years of civil war; Venezuela and Zimbabwe are in economic crisis; Burkina Faso and India experience flashes of religious violence; DR Congo is both cause of and shelter from displacement; in the Philippines and Indonesia, seismic and weather disasters threaten the most vulnerable citizens; and many people are suffering from general anxiety or outright trauma. In addition, the whole world is in a state of uncertainty about COVID-19.
What a breath of freedom in this statement that we find hope in Jesus.
Additionally, there can be hope in getting to know his other followers too. Even the ones we have disagreed with.
This issue of Courier presents the Faith and Life Commission’s statement on ecumenicity, passed by the General Council in Kenya in 2018. It provides a framework for how we as Anabaptist Mennonites can approach others within the Christian tradition with whom we have differences in theological perspective. How to get along with those who are also for Jesus Christ, our hope.
In the Perspectives section, we read stories from church leaders around the world who share experiences of collaborating interdenominationally, sharing the message of Jesus Christ, our hope.
May this issue encourage you to consider how to show unusual kindness to the theological strangers close to you – crossing barriers of church tradition – for the sake of the good news.
Karla Braun is editor of Courier and writer for Mennonite World Conference. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
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In this issue
A Theology of Interchurch Hospitality and Denominational Identity