One city, one decade, two movements, 500 years. Today, representatives of Mennonite World Conference (MWC) have embarked on dialogues with representatives of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), a movement that also arose in Zurich in the 1500s.
Four MWC representatives and three WCRC representatives began dialogues at Camp Squeah, B.C., Canada, for several days in March alongside the Executive Committee meetings.
Efforts, like the trilateral dialogues on baptism with Catholics and Lutherans, and the current dialogue with WCRC, are “a critically important part of Mennonite World Conference’s work,” says MWC’s policy on “reconciling our perspective.”
“Relating to other Christian world communions” is part of MWC’s mission. MWC seeks to encourage greater unity within the global church through participating in dialogues that prioritize healing memories and restoring relationships.
Historically the Reformed movement had “lethal hostility toward Anabaptists over baptism, the nature of the church and the use of the state to further and enforce the Reformation,” says Thomas Yoder Neufeld (MWC Faith and Life Commission chair and member of the dialogue group).
However, there are many ways “in which our paths of commitment have converged,” he says. “Our dialogue becomes not a re-litigating of the past,… but a shared sense of the need to live into the unity Christ has created among often still estranged and even hostile members of the body of Christ.”
The dialogue group will work together on a statement that includes remembering our past together, confession and commitment to living into unity in Christ. The upcoming 500th anniversary in Zurich, Switzerland, forms the immediate focus of these efforts.
“We are grateful to see sharp disagreements of the past make way for mutual learning and encouragement in living out a gospel witness in our complementary traditions today,” says César García, MWC general secretary. “It will be a blessing to mark this 500th anniversary in Zurich amid this reconciling spirit of dialogue with the Reformed church.”
There is a potential for dialogue to continue beyond 2025 with a focus on how the Mennonite commitments to peace and Reformed commitment to justice can find expression in shared work and witness.
MWC dialogue team
- Thomas R Yoder Neufeld, co-chair (Canada)
- John D. Roth, secretary (USA)
- Anne-Cathy Graber (France)
- Rafael Zaracho (Paraguay)
- Tigist Tesfaye (Ethiopia)
WCRC dialogue team
- Gerardo Obermann, co-chair (Argentina)
- Hanns Lessing, secretary (Germany)
- Philip Peacock (India)
- Sandra Beardsall (Canada)
- Meehyun Chung (South Korea)