This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

‘Of one mind’?

The question of whether Mennonite Church USA can live in unity with diversity challenges us to rethink some of our theological underpinnings. Embedded in Mennonite theology as far back as 1527 are two statements written into the Schleitheim Confession: one concerning excommunication if one is “in error,” the other concerning taking the Lord’s Supper together only if we are “of one mind and are agreed.” These practices have shaped the Mennonite church. We do not have to work at our differences; we can simply practice excommunication. The need to be of one mind before a congregation can take communion together has also had its ramifications. We have learned to masquerade unity by not saying what we think or believe. The manner of “resolving” conflict that I grew up with seems to have grown out of this. It was assumed that if you just didn’t talk about it long enough, it would go away. Whether we can find unity comes down to whether we continue to use these practices as guiding principles. If we uphold the tradition of excommunication and the idea that we must be of one mind in order to commune together, the question of whether we can stay together can only be answered “no”; there is no room for either differences or real dialogue. It takes courage to listen to one another. It takes even more courage to honestly look at these two historic theological presuppositions and decide whether it is time to change them.

Rose Marie Zook Barber
Eugene, Ore.

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