“The unity on the conference was more important than each position,” says Paul Duck, church leader in MWC member church Convenção das Igrejas Irmãos Menonitas (COBIM) in Brazil. “We agreed to create a path or a highway, not too narrow but also not too wide where both groups could live peacefully.”
During online General Council resourcing sessions with former Mennonite World Conference (MWC) general secretary Larry Miller, Paul Duck shared about how the Mennonite Brethren church in Brazil learned to be one.
Each 109 MWC member church has 1-3 representatives on the General Council (based on church size). Their meetings in Indonesia were cut short due to COVID-19 infections among participants. So, General Council delegates gathered on Zoom for equipping and sharing 1-2 December 2022.
“Our consensus-based decision making is not practical with a large group on a medium such as Zoom,” says César García. “However, we can use Zoom to learn and pray together, to keep nurturing our worldwide communion.”
To illustrate “receptive listening,” Paul Duck told a story from his church’s experience.
Some COBIM congregations were historically Anabaptist and predominantly Germanic. Others were Brazilian with strong influences from Pentecostalism. The sharp differences between the groups seemed to be headed toward a split.
However, representatives from both groups agreed to talk together. Over several days, they agreed to “recognize Christ in one another” (one of Larry Miller’s points).
“We started with the definitions of what the Bible teaches about the topic. Each group had the opportunity to share about their understanding and the practical living of the explained topics,” says Paul Duck.
They entered the process Larry Miller called “learning receptively from each other.”
As a result of the conversations, “those in the traditional group agreed to be more open to the moving of the Spirit while those in the charismatic group agreed that they could be more focussed on the Word,” says Paul Duck.
Unity within the church was maintained peacefully, with openness to continually revising understandings.
“It should be emphasized that God’s Word should be the reference for unity,” says Paul Duck.
“According to [the apostle] Paul, God’s unity plan is immeasurably bigger than the plan we might have in mind,” says Larry Miller.