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Members of the circle

8.15. 2016 Posted By: Mennonite Church USA 122 Times read

Andre Gingerich Stoner is director of Interchurch Relations for Mennonite Church USA. This post originally ran on Mennonite Church USA’s Menno Snapshots blog

Several weeks ago I had the privilege of spending three days in retreat with ecumenical officers from 13 other Christian churches.

I’ve been meeting with this group for the past four years. I count them as significant colleagues and friends.

Orthodox leaders shared about the “Great and Holy Council” held in Crete earlier this summer. Orthodox churches have been preparing for this milestone event since the 1960s. We heard a report from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican. Several of the people in our circle who had recently returned from a World Council of Churches Central Committee meeting in Norway shared updates and reflections from that experience. We reflected on the report of a delegation of global church leaders who had recently traveled across the U.S. to learn firsthand about racism in America. Their word to American Christians was sobering and challenging.

During our three days together we caught up personally, heard reports from each other’s churches and

Some of the participants in the 2016 ecumenical officers’ retreat in Washington, D.C. Front row (left to right): Kathryn Johnson, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Angelique Walker Smith, National Baptist Convention, USA / Bread for the World; Karen Georgia Thompson, United Church of Christ; Monica Schaap Pierce, Reformed Church in America. Back row (left to right): Deacon Sergei Kapral, Orthodox Church in America; Robina Winbush, Presbyterian Church USA; Fr. John Crossin, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Hermann Weinlick, Moravian Church; Father Daniel Habib, Coptic Church; Paul Tche, Disciples of Christ; André Gingerich Stoner, Mennonite Church USA.

Some of the participants in the 2016 ecumenical officers’ retreat in Washington, D.C. Front row (left to right): Kathryn Johnson, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Angelique Walker Smith, National Baptist Convention, USA / Bread for the World; Karen Georgia Thompson, United Church of Christ; Monica Schaap Pierce, Reformed Church in America. Back row (left to right): Deacon Sergei Kapral, Orthodox Church in America; Robina Winbush, Presbyterian Church USA; Fr. John Crossin, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Hermann Weinlick, Moravian Church; Father Daniel Habib, Coptic Church; Paul Tche, Disciples of Christ; André Gingerich Stoner, Mennonite Church USA.

discussed pressing issues our churches are facing. We prayed, ate and laughed together.

In this circle we meet as friends and colleagues. We develop relationships with counterparts who are “insiders” within their churches, who bring deep understanding of their own tradition and longstanding relationships with key leaders and decision-makers in their church systems. We help each other develop a broader vision and understanding of what is happening in the various parts of the body of Christ.

As Mennonites, we tend to think of ourselves as bit-players in the world and in the broader church. But in this circle, through these relationships, I discover that I am very closely connected to the vast, complex, global body of Christ. I am a welcomed member of this circle and my story and perspective is honored.

I am reminded again that Mennonites are one small – but important – part of the broader body of Christ. We have important gifts to share and to receive, as we seek together to be a faithful witness to Jesus in this beautiful and broken world.

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One Response to “Members of the circle”

  1. Josias Hansen says:

    Thank you, Andre, for doing this important ecumenical work. After centuries of bloodshed among our various Christian traditions, let’s show the world that Jesus can and does bring peace, reconciliation and unity to any and all people groups.

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