ICOMB offers global perspective to study conference topics
From David Wiebe, ICOMB executive secretary
Among those attending the USMB Board of Faith and Life study conference held last month in Phoenix, Ariz., were a number of representatives from various Mennonite Brethren and inter-Mennonite agencies:
- Randy Friesen, executive director of MB Missions
- David Wiebe, general secretary for the International Community of Mennonite Brethren
- John Roth, representing Mennonite World Conference
- Ron Byler, representing Mennonite Central Committee
- Larry Dunn, representing the Fresno Pacific University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies
The study conference examined Article 12: State and Society and Article 13: Peace and Nonviolence. These representatives were invited to share how they are involved in peacemaking during the closing session Saturday morning.
ICOMB’s David Wiebe, pictured left, updated the study conference participants on the growth of Mennonite Brethren conferences around the globe. Wiebe also asked leaders from ICOMB member conferences to comment on the issues of church and state and peace. That message, along with Wiebe’s introduction, is reprinted here.
It’s exciting to see our movement is making a contribution to God’s kingdom from all over. In this light, the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB) works to facilitate global theological exchange. We need to hear from each other. We can foster vision, growth and maturity as a global faith family by such exchange. To Larry Nikkel, Ed Boschman and the rest of the USMB leadership: Thank you, on behalf of ICOMB, for the opportunity to share some edited global MB perspectives at this study conference.
At the Renewing Identity and Mission Symposium in 2010, a theologian and missionary said: “Mennonite Brethren in North America have much to learn from their brothers and sisters who seek to follow Jesus faithfully within very different cultural settings…. The point is not to develop a Confession abstracted from any particular context, but rather to embrace the richness that various cultural perspectives bring…” (Renewing Identity and Mission, p. 150)
On The Church and State
1. We tend to identify a certain party as “good” and the other party or parties as “bad.” In this, the church tends to submit to and pray only for the leaders of their own party. In this context, the Evangelical church is often tempted to use the state for its utilitarian interests and not for the good of all.
2. As the church grows in size or economic wealth, we are seduced by consumerism or power, and we’re tempted to adopt the “rules of the market,” as one respondent put it.
3. Sometimes the state recognizes the power and potential of the evangelical church. For example in Brazil, the government is pushing very strongly for homosexual rights, with gay marriage approval and the rights to adopt children. Evangelicals were able to avoid the distribution of the “gay kit” for public schools.
4. Any time there is a growing connection between church and state, the church is drawn into compromising on issues pushed by the state. The church must be alert to what’s happening and to be strong to take a stand where called for.
On Love and Nonresistance
1. The church in our global family understands the need for a commitment to peace, a peace theology and a witness to peace through Christ because violence is so rampant in many countries.
2. Some of our churches exist in peaceful countries and have not had to develop a strongly articulated peace position. They recognize this difference and offer prayers for others in our global family who must find their way.
3. Many in our global family rely on a message of peace in areas of witness to Muslims. Some say we cannot reach Muslims authentically without the message of peace. Where people suffer for their faith, the stories of our Anabaptist history of persecution and martyrdom for their beliefs provide personal comfort and strengthen our faith family identity.
4. “Turning the other cheek” is an exercise of power, because the weak person thus sets the agenda, and whoever sets the agenda has power (African source).
5. The churches of our global family have not all been trained to critique and discuss conflicting positions. They often fragment over trivial disagreements and in fights for power, status, influence and access to resources. This happens at local church and conference levels. They need and want the gift of peace and conflict management.
A comment to this study conference from Brazil: The attempt to hear one another from different parts of the world can really help us to grow. We are thankful for the interest shown and the request for our response. It would be great if we would also hear of the outcomes so the process does not stop.
Thank you again for the opportunity to share with you on behalf of ICOMB.