This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Looking back in order to move forward

Joanne Gallardo will become pastor of faith formation at Berkey Avenue Mennonite Church, Goshen, Indiana, on August 14. She currently attends Hyattsville (Maryland) Mennonite Church.

I admit it. I love being a delegate.

I’ve been a delegate for four different congregations over my lifetime and have attended as many conventions as possible since my first in Nashville in 2001.

I like facilitating discussion, being a part of a large group process and Robert’s Rules of Order are fascinating to me. I often lament the time-consuming nature of such an endeavor, as this often means I cannot attend as many seminars as I would like, but for someone who came to this church as a relative outsider, I appreciate being able to experience the “inner workings” of Mennonite Church USA.

This year, being a delegate also meant being a part of the Future Church Summit. For several hours each day we shared our hopes and dreams for the future of MC USA. We looked at our past, present and future through the lens of our shared Anabaptist identity, acknowledging our mistakes and voicing our desire to be a church faithful to the teachings of Jesus.

What struck me most about these sessions was the look into our past. A quote from theologian Miroslav Wolf came to mind: “…the fiercer the struggle against the injustice you suffer, the blinder you will be to the injustice you inflict.”

From our history of martyrdom and oppression, at times we Mennonites have emerged as the very oppressors we have struggled to escape. Whether it be with Native communities, LGBTQ persons, women, or with people from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds, Mennonites have been complicit in and instigators of oppression. In the struggle to be a community “without spot or wrinkle,” we’ve ignored and done violence to the very people to whom Jesus came preaching peace.

I don’t wish to be misunderstood. Mennonites have done a lot of good in the world. But to ignore our troubled history does a disservice to the future we are trying to build together. In this summit, we were able to both name and acknowledge our history as a denomination.

As I reflect on our week of exploring the past, present and future together, I’ve come to realize that I want so much for this church.

I want a place where everyone feels welcome, where all people are allowed to serve and use their gifts, where differences are encouraged, where there are more people who look like me and where young people are excited and ready to lead.

But to do that, we need to acknowledge our missteps and name our less proudly displayed deeds. Those with power have to loosen their grip, give up some control and allow room for the Holy Spirit to move and change what has been.

That’s what I believe it means to live into the resurrection and to be the future church. Whether or not you were a delegate at Orlando, this is a task for all of us to do together. Let’s get to work.

Did you attend the Future Church Summit? Do you have a reflection to share? E-mail us your thoughts about this gathering:

Sign up to our newsletter for important updates and news!