As a biracial woman who grew up in the historically African-American village of Harlem, N.Y., and was raised in a multicultural Mennonite congregation there, it is my honor to serve as the board president for Anabaptist World Inc. We are “an independent journalistic ministry serving the global Anabaptist movement.”
I believe there is an Anabaptist movement happening all around us that draws from our deeply rooted history and bursts with new perspectives and exciting possibilities. It is our goal to share this movement through Mennonite news and inspiring stories that represent the body of Christ.
As an Anabaptist community, we are one body with diverse stories and many parts. Within each of these parts is embedded a particular worldview. How can we create a forum that honors all the parts?
According to clinical psychologist Gloria Morrow at The King Center in Atlanta, a worldview is a way of explaining life by addressing the big questions: How did we get here? Why are we here? Where are we going? Who’s in charge?
A worldview includes the core values, beliefs and assumptions that govern decision-making and problem-solving. It is derived from our primary culture and our socialization. Ethnic identity and cultural background play signiﬁcant roles in shaping our worldview.
Anabaptist World accepts the challenge to represent different Anabaptist worldviews. We hope to create safe and brave spaces where people from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds can make their voices heard. We will tell the stories of people who experience the Mennonite church and Anabaptist community in widely different ways around the world.
How can we create a forum for all of our stories to be valued and celebrated? I believe that as we cultivate Anabaptist World’s core values — Christ-centered faith, human dignity, cultural humility and journalistic excellence — an inclusive forum will flourish.
To envision how we will embody these values, I would like to offer a few supplemental frameworks. The first is conversational leadership.
According to Carolyn Baldwin of The World Café Community Foundation, conversational leadership uses conversation “to cultivate the collective intelligence needed to create business and social value.”
I participated in a World Café process through my Foundations in Peacebuilding class at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University. Class members represented scholars and leaders from all over the world. Our task was to choose a controversial issue and agree on a way forward. This was hard, because our worldviews were astonishingly different.
To understand each other’s perspectives, we used seven World Café principles: set the context, create hospitable space, explore questions that matter, encourage everyone’s contribution, connect diverse perspectives, listen together for patterns and insights, share collective discoveries.
These principles create hospitable spaces, cultivate creative thinking, welcome sincere questions and enable the exchange of perspectives that generate new insights. Anabaptist World will succeed if it does these things.
As I consider our core value of human dignity, I think of the 10 essential elements of dignity as stated by author Donna Hicks: acceptance of identity, inclusion, safety, acknowledgement, recognition, fairness, benefit of the doubt, understanding, independence and accountability.
These elements of dignity support our commitment to create space for stories that “challenge the dominant culture’s narrative, which often excludes perspectives of individuals who have not historically had the same opportunities to speak.”
Cultural humility will be crucial. It is a lifelong process of self-reflection and self-critique. We develop cultural humility by learning about other cultures. We begin by examining our own beliefs and cultural identities.
I believe Anabaptist World will expand our Anabaptist worldview. We will encounter people, experiences and ideas that will define, shape and impact our own stories.
Anabaptists are on a journey to implement new ways of connecting across cultures. I believe we have the capacity to be courageous and caring enough to create this space together.