Frank Scoffield Sánchez (he/him) will be a speaker at the Hope for the Future conference, organized by Mennonite Church USA (MC USA). He is a Guatemalan, living on occupied Tongva/Chumash territory, who studied philosophy and theology in undergraduate and graduate schools. Frank is an organizer with the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA) and a member of Progressive International. He, his wife, Erica, and their son are members of Pasadena (California) Mennonite Church.
I was raised in an upper-middle class Guatemalan church. Lawyers, doctors, businessmen and university deans sat around me, as we sang praises to God. As I grew older, I started noticing more of the contradictions between the words and deeds of our church. We had elaborate justifications for our wealth, such a naming it as a blessing from God, despite the sea of abject poverty around us. Racism and sexism pervaded our church culture, while we heard of God’s love. Evangelization was presented as the primary mission of our life, with no mention of the brutal political and social world we lived in or how we profited from it. This mission had nothing to say about material, practical or social life — unless it served to favor the same old few.
Then, as a young adult, when I moved to the United States, I met “the Mennonites.” Through two mentors — one was a life-long Mennonite, and the other was an Episcopalian whose ethics were more Mennonite than many Mennonites I’ve encountered — I came to see a Christian witness that was unfamiliar to me.
In word and deed, they taught me those Mennonite values that have long made this denomination stand apart: community, peacemaking, simple living, radical sharing.
My wife and I decided to join the Mennonite church, inspired by the cliche phrase, “surround yourself with people you want to be like.” These were Christians we wanted to be like.
For seven years I have been a member of the Mennonite church. There is great love of God and creation in this denomination. People I have met do, for the most part, aspire to cultivate a life that reveals the life of Jesus in practical ways. That being said, there are urgent matters that the Mennonite church must attend to as the 21st century advances on increasingly dangerous paths of war, debt, eviction, extraction, femicides, policing, migration, imprisonment, abandonment, climate chaos and so much more. What are the contradictions in our church? What forms of violence do we excuse, despite our stated values? What do we justify, because we benefit and profit from it? What do we convince ourselves we can remain morally above? What do we claim as our mission, and does that mission transform the world’s brutality at its root? Are we willing to truly wrestle with these questions?
Capitalism, colonialism and imperialism, working through racial, sexual and gendered hierarchies, are the solid foundation upon which our past and our present were built. Be it in Guatemala or in the United States, in the Mennonite church or in any other church, these are the structuring powers of our times. As they continue ravaging the planet, now to a point of almost no return, it’s obvious that “hope for the future” is precisely what all creation needs.
But we don’t need some abstract hope.
Like many of our Mennonite ancestors knew, the transformation of God’s creation, through Jesus, is profoundly material, practical and communal. I look forward to gathering with Mennonites who also feel the urgency to wrestle through what our role in that transformation is in “such a time as this” (Esther 4:15).
As the great Martinican philosopher and revolutionary Frantz Fanon once said: “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it.”
Register for Hope for the Future 2023, which will be held at Holiday Inn & Suites Atlanta Airport North, by Jan. 18, 2023. Hope for the Future is a conference, hosted by MC USA and its agencies, that offers Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) leaders affiliated with MC USA a place to gather for worship, networking and mutual support.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog belong to the author and are not intended to represent the views of the MC USA Executive Board or staff.
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