By Wil LaVeist
ELKHART, Ind. (Mennonite Church USA/Mennonite Mission Network)—Churches can lead communities in resolving conflicts by launching a “pilgrimage of justice and peace,” says the World Council of Churches.
This invitation for member churches to journey together in seeking God’s peace was the heart of the closing message of the organization’s 10th annual assembly held in Busan, Republic of South Korea, Oct. 8 – Nov. 4, 2013. Thirty Mennonites from about eight countries were among the more than 3,500 participants. The theme of the assembly was “God of life, lead us to justice and peace.”
James R. Krabill, senior executive for Global Ministries for Mennonite Mission Network, attended the assembly as a representative of Mennonite Church USA. Sarah Thompson of Christian Peacemaker Teams attended as part of an international gathering of young theologians. Assembly activities included worship services, workshops, Bible studies in various languages, and visits to local churches. There were also two meetings among about 60 representatives of the historic peace churches (Mennonites, Quakers and the Church of the Brethren), Krabill said.
“When we go to a conference of this nature and meet Christians committed to working for God’s shalom—justice and peace—we need to be at the table because we have a theology to share with people who are working at the same issues,” Krabill said.
Formed in 1948, the World Council of Churches (WCC) includes Protestant and Orthodox churches that came together after the horrors of World War II. With a deep desire for churches to be agents of peace, the first founding assembly affirmed that “war is contrary to the will of God.” More recently, the WCC initiated the “Decade to Overcome Violence,” which has explored the framework of “just peace.”
Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the WCC currently has 345 member churches. These churches across the globe make up about 25 percent of the world’s Christian population. Mennonite World Conference comprises 100 entities, three of which are also members of the WCC (Mennonite churches from Germany, Holland and the Congo). Mennonite Church USA is not a member of the WCC but has sent guest participants to WCC assemblies.
“We want to be in relationship and conversation with this part of the body of Christ, as well as other parts of God’s family,” said André Gingerich Stoner, director of Interchurch Relations for Mennonite Church USA. “Mennonites are one small but important part of the body of Christ. We have gifts to receive and gifts to share as we seek to be faithful witnesses to Jesus. It is important to be at the table together.”
“We cannot be reconciled in the abstract, but only to real people who may have values and convictions we often find difficult to stomach,” said Stanley W. Green, executive director of Mennonite Mission Network. “If we are to know them beyond the stereotypes and get the nuances that characterize their beliefs, it is critical that we stay engaged. This is the burden, and the promise, of those who say ‘yes’ to being agents of reconciliation in the world; we must refuse partition and estrangement. We must be the bridge.”
Statements issued by the WCC during the assembly include a renewed emphasis on mission and evangelism in changing landscapes, support for the rights of indigenous people, and a statement on the way to a just peace.
The Teatro Ekyumenikal, a drama team from the Philippines, performs at the World Council of Churches Assembly worship in Busan, South Korea. (Photo by James Krabill) Download full-resolution image.
James Krabill (left), representative of Mennonite Church USA, and Sarah Thompson, representative of Christian Peacemaking Teams, at the World Council of Churches Assembly in South Korea. (Photo by James Krabill) Download full-resolution image.