Thursday, August 12, 2010

Confession and Forgiveness: Ecumenical Practices Exemplified by Lutherans and Mennonites

The most significant ecumenical event of the summer occurred on July 22, when the Lutheran World Federation officially asked forgiveness from the Mennonite World Conference for the violent persecution of Anabaptists in the sixteenth century, for the ways in which the early Lutheran reformers supported these persecutions with theological arguments, and for the negative portrayals of Anabaptists and Mennonites that have continued in their communities and theological institutions. The text of the official LWF statement "Action on the Legacy of Lutheran Persecution of 'Anabaptists'" as drafted and approved by the LWF in advance of this summer's assembly is available online. Below is an unofficial transcript of the response by Mennonite World Conference President Danisa Ndlovu of Zimbabwe, courtesy of the blog of a Lutheran theologian attending the assembly of the LWF in Stuttgart:

“You seek for­give­ness for what your fore­bears in the six­teenth cen­tury did to the Anabap­tists, for for­get­ting about it in the inter­ven­ing cen­turies, for mis­lead­ing things said by Anabap­tist authors…

“Are we wor­thy of this? We are painfully aware of our own inad­e­qua­cies. We can­not come to this table with our heads held high. (chok­ing up) We can only bow down in great humil­ity and in fear of the Lord. We can­not come to this point and fail to see our own sin­ful­ness. We can­not come to this point with­out rec­og­niz­ing our own need for God’s grace and forgiveness.

“At this time we are pro­foundly moved by your spirit of repen­tance and your act of seek­ing for­give­ness, and we remem­ber the prayer of George Blau­rock, first bap­tized Anap­batist, later burned at the stake, who said, “I sin­cerely pray for all my ene­mies”… We believe that God has already heard and granted this Anabap­tist prayer. We believe that God has heard and granted this appeal for for­give­ness. We humbly and joy­fully join with God in grant­ing this gift of for­give­ness. …God also is doing it in heaven. To God be the glory.

“In response we com­mit to pro­mote the inter­pre­ta­tion of the Lutheran-Anabaptist story, which we take seri­ously, the jointly told his­tory in the report. We will take care that your ini­tia­tive for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion is known among us… We will con­tinue delib­er­a­tion on resolv­ing the issues between our two com­mu­ni­ties, open to the move­ment of the Spirit. We will encour­age our local churches and insti­tu­tions to seek greater cop­per­a­tion and rela­tion with Lutheran chruches for ser­vice to the world. Again we say to God be the glory.

“In the last sup­per Jesus gave a new com­mand­ment (quot­ing John 15). He gave them a phys­i­cally embod­ied sym­bol of this new com­mand­ment (retells story of foot­wash­ing). Some Anabap­tist and Men­non­ite churches have main­tained this prac­tice of foot­wash­ing. This tub and towl come from this tra­di­tion (offer­ing them).

“We will learn to seek one another’s good from a pos­ture of vol­un­tary and mutual sub­mis­sion. This is how God’s trans­form­ing pres­ence is made vis­i­ble in the world. Amen.”

1 comment:

  1. That's a very moving statement. I appreciate you posting it here. Is this what is meant by "the purification of memories?"

    Thanks again.