“This idea of the people of God being in all places is very real,” says Benjamin Isaak-Krauß, pastor of Frankfurt Mennonite Church. The half-decade Assemblies of Mennonite World Conference are an opportunity to experience this reality. But, as members consider the looming climate crisis, some worry about the environmental costs of travel.
MWC spoke with two Mennonites in Germany who are thinking about these issues.
No peace on a warmer planet
“Climate change is the peace issue of our time. There’s no just peace on a planet that is three degrees warmer,” says Benjamin Isaak-Krauß.
David Lapp Jost, an American working with the German Mennonite Peace committee, agrees: “Droughts and rising temperatures cause direct conflict between groups at a local level. That played a role in the war in Syria… and will surely play a role in many others. Displacement of people and suffering is very harmful.”
Mennonites should oppose exploitative system due to climate issues and our legacy of settler-indigenous relations, David Lapp Jost says. “I hope making the church an authoritative and powerful responder to climate change becomes an important part of who we are over the next decades.”
A Pentecost imperative
Furthermore, in a globalized world with rising nationalism, it’s important “to have this concrete experience of worshipping with Christians around the world who look and talk and believe differently but we are still connected through Jesus and the Holy Spirit,” says Benjamin Isaak-Krauß.
“In an increasingly atomized world, there’s a scarcity of positive space for constructive discourse across international, social and political difference,” says David Lapp Jost. “Hopefully, MWC is a voluntary the voluntary grouping of people who choose to be together and can learn from and share life with each other.”
“I would love to be in Indonesia just to have a new chance to encounter people who are implicitly showing the way; how to keep openness to connection across really big differences.”
Much of the work of the church is at the local level, yet if we aren’t connected with the global church, David Lapp Jost says, “we don’t experience the Holy Spirit the same way as embodied in Pentecost.”
The church has been an international institution since Pentecost. “It’s ingrained in mission of church to be together across national lines and learn from each other,” David Lapp Jost says.
A global communion of actual people
As a teenager, Benjamin Isaak-Krauß didn’t just attend the Global Youth Summit and Assembly 15 in Paraguay; he spent half a year in Paraguay to get to know Mennonite communities there.
Attending MWC Assembly turned his sense of community from local to global. He formed lasting friendships, and, for Assembly 16, organized a minitour for German youth to spend weeks in the USA getting to know Mennonite communities – urban and rural, conservative and progressive.
It was transformative “to see siblings in Christ in another place,” culminating in GYS “with all these people who are my age, from around the world, and Assembly with more people. It makes the idea of a global communion into something you can perceive and interact with – with actual people.”
“It’s not the planned things that change us; it’s the encounters,” says Benjamin Isaak-Krauß. Those are easier to have with in person gatherings, but even an online Assembly, well planned, can make space for those intersections of our chosen paths and the others we encounter there.
Climate change and Assembly
Natural disasters around the world now take place where friends live.
The aspect of community that Mennonites espouse as core to faith and practice is key to our response to climate change.
David Lapp Jost hopes MWC can “foster conversation about how climate change is affecting the Global South, that can try to bring the Global North into solidarity.”
“It would be really sad if people concerned about climate don’t come to MWC events anymore,” says Benjamin Isaak-Krauß. “It would be better to come and wrestle with the fact we are one body with people affected by climate change.”
As a peace church, Mennonite World Conference members must “wrestle with how are we part of this global movement to repent and turn around our broken systems.”
“Hopefully, the Holy Spirit makes it happen,” says David Lapp Jost.
- As a congregation, fast – from meat eating, private vehicle usage, vacations that involve flying, etc., – to offset the carbon emissions of members who attend Assembly.
- Dialogue with farmers about regenerative practices. Buy food from farmer’s markets.
- Live simply. Reuse and repair whenever possible. Reduce fossil fuel use in transportation and heating.
- When you travel by plane, invest in environmental work in your destination. Learn about climate issues in Indonesia, for example, deforestation and landfill pollution from Western countries.
- Look ahead to Assembly 18 in Africa by investing in relationships and sustainable initiatives there, and planning low carbon travel (e.g., bicycle).