Tag Archives: MWC

MWC and MCC: The way of the open palm, peacebuilding at the UN

Intern moves from depression to hope

 by Thien Phuoc Quang Tran

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Thien Phuoc Quang Tran is from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. His sign reads “Arriving, I feel hopeful.” Photo: MCC/Diana Williams

NEW YORK, NY—Growing up as a preacher’s son, I was immersed in Christian values. Every memory I have revolves around Vietnamese Mennonite Church (VMC) in Ho Chi Minh City. I learned the way of Christ—to love my neighbours and to give to the poor.

In Vietnam, we have a philosophy called “the way of the open palm.” The palm facing up is a non-threatening gesture, reminiscent of the pleading gesture of a beggar. The person being addressed will not feel threatened by the gesture, and it is used universally as a way of greeting. As a Christian, I am also familiar with the image of God’s open hands.

When I first came to New York to start my one-year internship as the MWC/International Volunteer Exchange Program intern at MCC United Nations office, I had a reality check.

At the UN people talk about imposing sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), also known as North Korea, military interventions in Syria and conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was depressed; there were too many atrocities and they were too horrific.

I realized, unfortunately, that the people in power often find it easier to destroy than to build, to oppress than to understand. When we turn on the TV, we see an arms race, conflicts and nuclear threats. Most people think that military strength ensures peace, but, in reality, it only brings fear and destruction. Major countries find the idea of exercising their power alluring: with power and wealth, they can protect the weak, help the poor and bring “security to the world.”

Little do they know, the more they try to impose their will on others, the more resistance they will create.

But there is hope.

There are many people who yearn for peace, and they are working hard, day in and day out, to bring real peace to the world. The people of MCC are a part of this group, as am I. And our method is the way of the open palm.

I’m inspired by Doug Hostetter, the director of MCC’s UN office, who has lived this philosophy of peace all his life, including during the Vietnam War. Instead of bearing guns and bullets, like many soldiers, he came to my country with MCC, bringing books and pencils to help Vietnamese students learn how to write and read their language. He lived in the community, and earned the trust of the Vietnamese people whom he met.

Today, when most of the people tend to stay away from DPRK, MCC is there to bring food and medical supplies to people in need. We try to be the voice for displaced people from Latin America and war zones in the Middle East. Our presence, though small, is vital to encourage dialogue.

This is what I believe being a Christian means. With open minds we welcome people. With open hearts we share their pain and suffering. And with open hands we work with them to bring peace to this world. It’s not easy, but I’m pleased to be a part of this effort to help “God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

MWC and MCC

MWC’s Mission Commission Calls for Urgency in Mission

by Stanley W. Green and Rafael Zaracho,
MWC Mission Commission chair and secretary

Book with 10 key convictions to be shared in English, Spanish and French

In recent years, Anabaptists have been identified by such distinctives as peacemaking, voluntary choice, simple living, community and discipleship. We believe, however, that a key defining characteristic of the early Anabaptist movement was its fervent embrace of mission.

Even while we continue to emphasize discipleship, we have muted the passionate, even sacrificial, commitment to evangelism that distinguished the early Anabaptists. For the past half-century, particularly in the north, there has been a troubling relinquishment of the missionary calling of the Church.

In this context, the Mission Commission of MWC had a vision for a book: God’s People in Mission: An Anabaptist Perspective.

The core of theological and missiological convictions, informally shared among the members of the Mission Commission, first led to an interest in developing a catalogue of those convictions that undergird and influence our foundations and approaches in mission.

On March 24, 2014, after several years of yearning for a comprehensive statement of shared mission convictions, the MC adopted “Mission Theology Statements” at Dopersduin, Schoorl, Holland. This is a compilation of 10 missional convictions that articulate what we believe together about mission in the global Anabaptist community.

We believe that further exploration of these convictions in a book-length form can help us think soberly about our essential identity as the missionary people of God. This is an urgent need.

We hope that the reflections in each chapter will stimulate needed conversations and help us to align ourselves with God’s purposes for the reconciliation of all humanity and the restoration of the created order. In addition, we yearn that through these exchanges we will be revitalized by God’s Spirit for the mission that brought Jesus to our world.

The desire of the MC is that God’s People in Mission: An Anabaptist Perspective might bring together diverse voices and experiences from within the varied contexts of our MWC global family. A number of the manuscripts were written in the different languages spoken by members of MWC. In the interest of ensuring wide accessibility, we hope eventually to have the text available in the three official languages of the MWC (English, Spanish and French).

A further goal is to make the book available in several other languages spoken by members of the MWC. We are working hard to finish this book before our next meeting in Kenya 2018.

Though the primary audience for the book is the MWC global family, we believe the book’s basic biblical-theological foundations and its contextual reflections can serve a wider audience.

We hope it can serve diverse groups as a resource for study and reference for workshops, training, Sunday School classes and seminaries by creating and promoting spaces for dialogue, reflection, and commitments.

We believe that every part of the MWC communion needs to recover the understanding that the church by its very nature is missionary. We understand from the Bible that God’s purposes find their essence and meaning in the mission of Jesus, and the work Holy Spirit is to advance this mission through the Church.

Since God’s yearning is that all people experience salvation, the Church is called to be in mission on every continent until Jesus returns. Our prayer is that every member church in the MWC will be transformed for the missionary purposes of God.

 

 

MWC: Persecution past and present

by Nelson Kraybill, MWC President

AUGSBURG, Germany—Early Anabaptists in Augsburg, Germany, paid a high price for meeting at the large white house in this picture.

German Mennonite historian, theologian, and peace activist Wolfgang Krauss retold the story to modern Anabaptists who toured historic sites in Augsburg during meetings of Mennonite World Conference executive committee in February 2017.

On Easter Sunday 1528, 100 Anabaptists met secretly in this house to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Some escaped when they learned that the authorities were watching, but 88 remained. Police raided the building, and took all worshippers away in chains. Authorities expelled those visiting from outside Augsburg, and whipped locals. They tortured some, and executed the group leader who refused to recant.

“Thankfully, Anabaptists are not persecuted today,” someone commented—which drew an immediate reply from a man from another continent. “Yes, we are!” he said.

Conversation turned to costly choices Anabaptists make today to follow Jesus in countries where Christians are a despised or marginalized minority.

 

 

 

Dr. Hanspeter Jecker: Transformed by the Word

The Protestant (Radical) Reformation Through 2017

by Dr. Hanspeter Jecker

Renewal 2027 is a 10-year series of events launched by Mennonite World Conference (MWC) to mark the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Anabaptist movement.

“Transformed by the Word: Reading Scripture in Anabaptist Perspectives” (the inaugural event in Augsburg, Germany, Feb. 12, 2017) fit well within the mandate of the MWC Faith and Life Commission to help member churches “understand and describe Anabaptist-Mennonite faith and practice.”

In the midst of the many Reformation commemoration celebrations, especially in Europe, it’s important to remember that the Anabaptists also emerged within the context of the Reformation and were decisively shaped by its rediscovery of the Bible as an authority for Christian faith and life.

Shortly before the first adult baptisms in January 1525, a member of the Bible study group that formed the core of the emerging Anabaptist movement illustrated this clearly:

“However, after we too had taken up the Bible and studied all the possible points, we have been better informed.”

The letter went on to describe how they came to a deeper understanding of Scripture. Five central themes—visible in the quote above—distinguished their shift from walking alongside the Reformers to a posture of opposition:

  • Scripture is the key point of departure for the renewal brought about by the Reformation.
  • It is crucial to learn not only second-hand, but to read Scripture for yourself.
  • The Bible study group read with an expectant attitude. They “studied all the possible points,” posed questions about the text, and received answers.
  • They reoriented themselves around these new insights.

In this way, they were “better informed” in regard to the teachings of the Catholic Church, but also in regards to Zwingli and the other Reformers.

To be “better informed.” At first glance, that statement sounds very positive. But it also carries some pain. It suggests that one has indeed been mistaken; it includes a readiness to let go of older, cherished understandings. This is often not easy.

The key question at stake here is: do we allow the biblical word (and the God who desires to speak to us) to scrutinize our convictions so that we allow ourselves “to be better informed”? Or does the admonition to “test all things and hold on to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21) only apply to other people?

Up to this point, all the themes could be regarded as Protestant principles. But the fifth point is the most distinct Anabaptist principle:

  • The “we” in the quote is crucial: not only does Bible study happen in community; but new understandings of Scripture are also reached collectively.

No one is forced to be part of an Anabaptist congregation—faith and membership are always voluntary. No single person has all the understanding or all of the gifts, but everyone has something.

Therefore, it is crucial that we create frameworks for Bible study in which everyone can contribute to a better understanding of the biblical text: old and young, men and women, academics and labourers. Precisely for this reason the “we” in our text is so important!

But several dangers are already evident in this same quote.

To allow ourselves to be “better informed” sounds nice, but who can protect us from endless efforts to prove the superiority of one understanding or from the notorious church divisions that have occurred so frequently in Anabaptist history? How can we ensure that space remains for the recognition that all of our knowledge is partial and in need of additional insights? And how do we ensure that the “struggle for the truth” does not come at the cost of a “struggle for unity”?

Dr.-Hanspeter-Jecker
Dr. Hanspeter Jecker

If “renewal of faith and life” and “transformation through the Word” are going to happen within the context of Mennonite World Conference, then it will be essential for it to happen in the form of members from north and south, east and west, walking together alongside each other as “we.”

Dr. Hanspeter Jecker is a member of the Mennonite World Conference’s Faith & Life Commission and a professor of historical theology and ethics at Theological Seminary Bienenberg in Switzerland. He holds an MA in Theology (AMBS) and a DPhil (Basel).

World Fellowship Sunday celebrated  not in ‘the absence of challenges,’ but with assurance of victory

by MWC

BOGOTÁ, Colombia–Music from other cultures, Scripture readings on a common theme, shared food and special offerings characterize World Fellowship Sunday, a celebration of Anabaptist family in Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches around the world on Jan. 22, 2017.

The theme of 2017 was “My cry is heard,” reflecting on God’s faithfulness amid hardships in the global displacement crisis and personal challenges in life (Psalm 40:1-10, Gen. 11:1–9, Acts 2:1–18). The worship resources package downloadable at www.mwc-cmm.org/wfs can be used any Sunday of the year to help churches to celebrate the global Anabaptist communion.

“We remember that 500 years ago brave men and women, motivated by the real teachings of Jesus, decided to follow him even though that action cost them their lives, says Oscar Suarez, member of Iglesia Menonita de Ibagué, Colombia.

“It means the breaking of bread in serving and in meeting the needs of others. It doesn’t mean any absence of challenges, but recognizing we are assured of victory with and through God,” says Manjula Roul of Bethel BIC Church, India.

World Fellowship Sunday is about “Encouraging and exhorting the brothers to make decisions that transcend the walls that others want to impose,” for pastor Ofelia García de Pedroza of Chihuahua, Mexico. “In prayer, we lifted up the concerns of our worldwide family of faith, those being persecuted and those discouraged by political events,” says Andrea Lange of an AMG congregation.

“It was good to speak of the reality of refugees,” says pastor Siaka Traoré of the Mennonite church in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, which welcomes those fleeing Mali. The congregation’s celebration of World Fellowship Sunday 29 January 2017 inaugurated a new building. “Our joy was the greater because our new church welcomed seven new people to worship God with us and become members of our community.”

World Fellowship Sunday is “an important event because it says that the teaching of Jesus is the final authority for how Christians live their lives,” says Marvin Dyck, pastor of Crossroads MB Church in Winnipeg, Man. “It’s not about what the government or culture tells people to do. It’s about following Jesus’ teaching and example in the Bible.”

With MWC’s help, church in Tanzania is built for mission

Global Church Sharing Fund helps construct church building in Muslim area

by MWC

TANZANIA—Budget constraints prevent many church buildings in Tanzania from being completed. Mennonite World Conference’s Global Church Sharing Fund is helping to assure that a mission church in a predominantly Muslim area won’t be one that stands unfinished.

Church-planting efforts of the Kanisa La Mennonite Tanzania (Tanzania Mennonite Church, or KMT) Eastern Diocese have produced three congregations in the Muslim area. In Msikisi, the largest of the three, MWC has contributed $10,000, and the KMT Eastern Diocese has given $15,000, to compete the church building.

MWC has contributed $10,000 toward completion of a church building in Msikisi, Tanzania. “It is a great joy to partner with MWC to meet the needs of our people,” said Bishop Steven W. Mang’ana.

The Msikisi congregation’s goals are reaching unreached people, providing a space to worship God and fellowship together, establishing social services and strengthening new Christians by equipping them with biblical principles.

“A church building is a space to encounter God,” Mang’ana said. “This encounter is one of the most basic acts of drawing the kingdom of God into the heart of a community. When we build a church building, we set a place for God. People go there to seek God together, to pray, mourn, celebrate, ask and seek God’s blessing. God responds.”

Mang’ana sees the building of a church as an imitation of biblical characters who built structures for worship, including the Shunamite woman (2 Kings 4:10), Moses (Ex. 33:7-11), David (2 Sam. 6:17), and Solomon (1 Kings 5:4-5).

“The partnership with MWC gives KMT the assurance of working with an organization that shares our values of faith, integrity and dignity,” he said. “This collaboration with MWC strengthens networking, results in sharing gifts and blessings.”