Goshen, Indiana – On 20-23 July, a six-member task force appointed by Mennonite World Conference (MWC) Faith and Life Commission met at Goshen College with counterparts from the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) to review progress globally on the commitments that the two global communions made to each other in a service of reconciliation in Stuttgart, Germany in July 2010.
At that service, which culminated nearly five years of dialogue, representatives of the LWF asked forgiveness for the actions of their forebears against the Anabaptists in the sixteenth century and for continuing negative portrayals of Anabaptists and Mennonites. They also committed their churches and seminaries to interpret the Lutheran confessions in light of the dialogue report, Healing Memories: Reconciling in Christ, and to continue conversations with Mennonites on the topics of baptism and the Christian relation to the state.
MWC leaders, in turn, committed themselves to promote a more balanced interpretation of the Lutheran-Anabaptist story, to continue conversation on unresolved issues, and to encourage their member churches to seek greater cooperation among with Lutherans in service to the world.
In their joint meetings at Goshen, the two task forces identified several areas of progress in their mutual commitments. They noted especially the many local services of reconciliation held by Mennonite and Lutheran congregations around the world, a study guide produced by Mennonite Church Canada, and numerous examples of cooperation in service projects. They also affirmed the trilateral conversations on baptism that are now moving forward between MWC, the LWF and the Catholic Church through its Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
The Mennonite task force further affirmed a website, sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Global Anabaptism at Goshen College, that provides easy access to resources related to Lutheran-Mennonite dialogue (www.anabaptistwiki.org). The MWC task force called on the Faith and Life Commission to take a stronger role in encouraging Mennonite colleges, universities, seminaries, historical societies, information centers and tour groups to incorporate the story of MWC-LWF reconciliation. It also recommended that several MWC national conferences pursue conversations on Christian peacemaking with their Lutheran counterparts, recognizing that local contexts differ widely on this theme.
On Sunday, 21 July, local Lutherans and Mennonites engaged in a public dialogue with the joint task forces at an afternoon service hosted by Trinity Lutheran Church in Goshen. The Lutheran task force concluded its visit with a tour of Mennohof, a nearby Anabaptist-Mennonite information center, and an extended conversation with 25 Amish ministers and lay people on the topic of baptism and Christian witness.
“After five hundred years of separation, full reconciliation will not happen overnight,” said, John D. Roth, professor of history at Goshen College and secretary of the MWC Faith and Life Commission. “But we praise God for these steps toward healing within the Body of Christ.”
Members of the MWC task force include Andre Gingerich Stoner, Gayle Gerber Koontz, James Juhnke, Enrique Rodríguez, and John D. Roth, along with Kathryn Johnson, a Lutheran professor of history who played a major role in organizing the reconciliation service in 2010.
The members of the LWF "Task Force on the Mennonite Action" are: Timothy Wengert, Musawenkosi Biyela, Kathryn Johnson, Selma Chen, Hellen Rios, Anne Burghardt, Michael Martin, Ivo Huber and John D. Roth.