This post is part of Mennonite Church USA’ Follow Jesus series.
Glen Guyton is the executive director of Mennonite Church USA. He is the first person of color to serve in the role. Glen has almost 30 years of leadership experience in the denomination. He joined the MC USA Executive Board staff in 2009 as the director of Intercultural Relations, and for the next serval years, held various staff roles until becoming executive director.Glen holds a bachelor’s degree in management from the United States Air Force Academy and a master’s degree in education from Regent University. He is the author of two books: “IDEAL ME: Discovering Your Call in a Cluttered World,” a cultural guidebook for youth and young adults, and “Reawakened, Activate Your Congregation to Spark Lasting Change,” which explores eight keys to developing the abilities of congregations to bring healing and hope to their communities. He is a member of C3, Hampton, Virginia.
“He called the crowd with his disciples and said to them, ‘If any wish to come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” — Mark 8:34 (NRSVUE)
Our society is becoming increasingly polarized, divisions are growing, and the very idea of community seems threatened. The challenges we face are not unique to Mennonite Church USA; they are challenges all religious communities face.
In this time of change, I am reminded of a line from Seth Godin’s book “This is Marketing”: “People like us do things like this.” That is the core of who we are as Mennonites. People like us — followers of Christ, believers in peace, community, and reconciliation — do things like this: We respond to adversity with love, we bridge divisions with understanding, we combat hate with compassion, and we meet challenges head-on with faith. It is time for us, as members of MC USA, to remember who we are at our core. It is not about what divides us but what we do together, as small but powerful instruments of God’s peace.
As Mennonites, our history is steeped in peace. Our peace is not a passive peace but an active, vibrant peace that calls us to action. It’s a peace that compels us to live out Jesus’s teachings, care for the marginalized, love our neighbors as ourselves, and work toward justice and equity for all.
I urge us to remember the Renewed Commitments that were birthed out of our Journey Forward process. We embraced the following themes: to follow Jesus, to witness God’s peace and to experience transformation. These are not just words but the driving forces behind our actions.
For example, in the face of a global pandemic, people like us, Mennonites, turned challenges into opportunities to serve. We saw the devastation, the suffering, and we responded. We came together to offer those who were affected aid, support and comfort. We did this not because we had to, but because “people like us do things like this.”
In a time of growing inequality, we have sought to bring about justice. We have raised our voices against systemic racism, we have stood in solidarity with the oppressed, and we have worked toward creating more equitable communities. We do these things not because they are easy or popular but because they are right, because “people like us do things like this.”
In the face of divisive politics and hate-filled rhetoric, we have chosen to be peacemakers. We have not returned hate with hate, but instead, we have strived to be ambassadors of Christ’s love and grace. We have worked to bridge divides, to foster understanding and to build a community based on mutual respect and love. Why? Because “people like us do things like this.”
Our theme for the next biennium, “Follow Jesus,” prompts us to recommit ourselves to live these values. MC USA’s role in our society is more critical than ever. Our message of peace, love, community and reconciliation is needed in this hurting world.
Today, we must recommit ourselves to live out these values. MC USA has a vital role to play in our society. Our historic peace church is needed now more than ever. The world needs our message of peace, love, community and reconciliation. But we cannot merely preach these values; we must live them out. We get there through the hard work forbearing with one another, struggling through adversity and most of all keeping our eyes on Jesus. Only then we can earn our name and reputation as a historic peace church, much like Jacob earned the name Israel (meaning, he struggles with God).
Let us then be unafraid to do the hard work. The work of turning faith into action, of standing up for what is right and of being true to our mission and our identity as Mennonites.
Let us remember that “people like us do things like this.”
Let us take heart in the knowledge that we are not alone in this journey. We have each other, and most importantly, we are led by Jesus the Christ. Together, we will face whatever challenges may come our way. Together, we will keep the spirit of MC USA alive and strong. Let us courageously undertake the challenging work. The work of transforming faith into action, standing up for what is right and being true to our mission and identity as Mennonites and Anabaptist Christians. We have a long journey ahead, and I have no doubt we will continue to rise to the occasion, ever faithful, ever committed.
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