WESTERN DISTRICT CONFERENCE
April 25, 2017
A weekly communication for:
WDC Churches and Pastors
WDC Executive Board, Commission, Committee and Task Force members
Any content may be used in bulletins and newsletters and
forwarded to congregational leaders and members.
WDC Sprouts is also available at: www.mennowdc.org (Publications)
IN THIS ISSUE:
*From the Conference Minister’s Heart
From the Conference Minister’s Heart
by Heidi Regier Kreider, WDC Conference Minister
This is the second of three articles on WDC’s mission statement: “WDC empowers Anabaptist/Mennonite congregations to Witness and invite others to faith in Jesus Christ, Dwell in just and loving relationships, and Connect to God’s mission in the world.”
As I prepare this article on the theme “Dwell in just and loving relationships,” I am taking an online short-course with Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary on “Transforming Congregational Conflict, Nurturing Healthy Communication.” The course assumes that conflict is a natural part of congregational life. Rather than deny conflict under the guise of “community” or “peacemaking,” it is better to understand and practice constructive approaches to conflict that will strengthen congregations and our witness as followers of Christ.
One of our reading assignments in the course is from the book Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation by Miroslav Volf. As a Croatian theologian, he was deeply influenced by the brutal hostilities and ethnic cleansing that took place in the former Yugoslavia. At the center of his theology is the crucifixion of Jesus, which offers both solidarity with the suffering, and forgiveness for the oppressor. Volf wrestles with the challenge of both honoring God’s call to seek justice for the oppressed, and accepting God’s gift of love for those who perpetrate oppression. In our search for justice, we are tempted to exclude the “other” (whoever is perceived as a threat). However, Jesus models an embrace of the “other” rather than excluding the enemy from God’s love. While we need to practice healthy differentiation and boundaries to maintain our identity as human beings, ultimately our wholeness is connected to the “other” who is also within God’s realm of love. We must hold love and justice together. Without justice, love is permissive and lacks accountability. And without love, justice is vindictive and turns into revenge.
WDC’s mission statement holds together justice and love as both being essential for healthy relationships within and beyond our congregations. The combination of justice and love is especially crucial in our current political and social environment, in which exclusion of the “other” is the dominant framework, describing people with labels such as Republican and Democrat, citizen and immigrant, victim and perpetrator, straight and LGBTQ, Israeli and Palestinian, Christian and Muslim, police and criminal, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, male and female, young and old, rural and urban, Anglo and Latino, black and white, and so on. Many of these labels describe factions within the church as well as in wider society.
Relationships between some groups are characterized by abuses of power that must be confronted so that justice can be established. For example, in the case of sexual abuse or other violence, the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable persons is the first priority, then to bring perpetrators to take responsibility for their actions and to change their behavior.
At the same time, distinctions between different groups of people are often distorted by imagined threats and unfounded fears, in which we justify ourselves and demonize the “other.” And in most cases, sharp polarizations between groups reveal a false dichotomy between “us” and “them.” In reality, individuals often embody both sides of a polarity – for example, a person who grew up in a rural community and now lives in a large city, or someone whose childhood was shaped by parents from two different religious traditions, or a perpetrator of abuse who is also a victim of childhood abuse.
Likewise, in our families, congregations and communities we maintain (or struggle between) loyalties to multiple identities at the same time: For example, when a child identifies with a different sexual orientation than her parents, or when members of the same congregation vote for different political candidates, or when persons of different religious traditions work together in a civic organization.
As disciples of the crucified and risen Christ, we are called to follow Jesus beyond a framework of excluding the “other,” and instead to reach across factions by building relationships of authentic love and true justice. This requires us to move beyond “us vs. them” thinking and to question neatly divided categories. The line dividing good from evil and innocent from sinful runs not between individuals or between groups of people but through each of one of us.
Each one of us is created in the image of God and beloved by God; each one of us is wounded by the hardships of life and the actions of other people; each one of us also commits sin and is called to repentance and forgiveness through Christ; and each one of us is offered new life and transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit.
We are on this journey together, called to dwell in just and loving relationships as a way that we can experience wholeness and offer God’s healing and hope to a broken world.
May 7 – Pray for WDC congregational and conference delegates planning to attend Mennonite Church USA assembly in Orlando this summer, as they prepare and discern action on the Seeking Peace in Israel-Palestine resolution.
May 14 – Give thanks for the diverse geography in which WDC congregations are located, and pray that we may care faithfully for God’s creation through stewardship of land, facilities, and other resources.
May 21 – As the school year concludes, give thanks for WDC youth pastors and sponsors, and pray for youth groups preparing to attend Mennonite Church USA convention and other activities this summer.
May 28 – Pray for the WDC Ministerial Leadership Commission meeting this week, as they provide support and accountability to leaders in our congregations.
Share your congregation’s story! As part of WDC’s 125th anniversary in 2017, congregations are invited to share stories of their history to post on the WDC website. Twelve churches have already submitted their stories – read them at, at http://mennowdc.org/congregation-history-stories/. To submit your congregation’s story, go to http://mennowdc.org/wdcs-125-year-anniversary-is-in-2017/ where you will find several questions to respond to. This ongoing project provides one way for us to learn more about each others’ congregations, and be inspired to live faithfully in the future.
Jewish and Palestinian Voices for Peace Tour – In preparation for this summer’s Israel-Palestine resolution in Orlando, join in conversation exploring diverse views on Israel-Palestine and prospects for peace in the current political climate. Jonathan Kuttab, a Mennonite Palestinian human rights lawyer, will give three presentations at Austin (TX) Mennonite Church on April 30 (9:30 & 11 am, and 1 pm). This tour is sponsored by Mennonite Church USA and Western District, along with local funding.
Camp Mennoscah announcements
- Kitchen staff and nurse for June 11-17! Camp Mennoscah, home of wonderful campers and stunning volunteers, is seeking a couple of folks to be part of our volunteer kitchen staff and a nurse for our first week of camp. We think that if you think about it, you’ll know you are the right person for this. Kitchen staff need only to be able to follow directions and be willing to help with an assortment of tasks. Our nurse needs to have a valid RN license. Camper discounts up to full camp fees for kitchen staff and nurses are available. Contact us at 620-297-3290 or email@example.com.
- Early registration ends soon! May 1st is the deadline for the early registration discount for Camp Mennoscah summer youth camps. Scholarships are available–share this information with someone who would benefit from camp. Register online at campmennoscah.org or give us a call at 620-297-3290. We’ll help you out!
Mennonite church announcements
- Host a “Reading the Bible with Jesus” workshop! Encourage your congregation or join with other area congregations to host itinerant Bible teacher Bryan Moyer Suderman for 1-2 days of digging deep into one of the Gospels to gain tools for reading and interpreting Scripture like Jesus, in light of today’s world. These workshops are available in English and Spanish through Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary’s Church Leadership Center. ambs.edu/workshops
- Step Up – Youth wanted for participation in the Future Church Summit in Orlando: About 40 spots remain open for the Step Up program – an opportunity for high school age youth to participate in the Future Church Summit at this summer’s Mennonite Church USA Convention in Orlando. This opportunity was initially open to only three youth per conference. (WDC has already appointed: Erick Martinez from Iglesia Menonita Monte Horeb in Dallas TX, Andrew Moore from Rainbow Mennonite Church in Kansas City KS, and Magdalena Ramer Wenger from First Mennonite Church, Hutchinson, KS.) Now, any interested youth attending convention may participate. Participants will attend an orientation seminar and be included in table groups during the July 6-8 Future Church Summit. Additional information and a link to registration can be found at http://convention.mennoniteusa.org/registration/youth/.
Western District Conference
2517 North Main, PO Box 306
North Newton KS 67117