Confession and forgiveness are part of loving your neighbour

Speakers call church to a love that acts on behalf of others

By Lil Goertzen

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA — “We are here today, celebrating our common Anabaptist faith and our position in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Deacons Commission representative Shantkumar S. Kunjam of India greeted the participants of PA 2015 in the morning plenary 24 July 2015.

We have been called to liberty, but not for selfish gain, Kunjam said. We are to love one another, our neighbours, and our enemies (Galatians 5:13–14, Philippians 2:7, Matthew 5:33–34).

Shantkumar S. Kunjam

Shantkumar S. Kunjam

No terror can stop us from doing good to others, even those who would terrorize us, said Kunjam.

We are incomplete without each other in a worldwide community of faith, he said. And we are called to serve those outside the community of faith.

Many churches suffer internal disunity, weakening the witness for Christ. Loving your neighbour as yourself creates the way for reconciliation, Kunjam said.

Kevin Ressler, representing the Young Anabaptist voice, challenged the crowd.

Ressler showed his passport to the crowd as a reminder of those who could not attend Assembly 16 “because my country (USA) said they were unwelcome. “

Christianity around the world faces many challenges, said Ressler from persecution to church splits to declining membership. How can the Anabaptist church can regain its confidence and become boldly prophetic again? asked Ressler.

Many of us are like the scribes and Pharisees of Matthew 23:1-29, said Ressler: knowledgable about Scripture but more concerned about image than substance. By protecting our power and privilege we create categories of “us and them.”

“In our lust for comfort and power we have made the church about individuals over God’s kingdom,” said Ressler. “Sin is not just an individual thing but one of the whole community as well.”

Ressler led the congregation through a reflection of confession and in asking forgiveness.

“We must learn to listen to one another,” said Ressler. “We must see the value in the missioned as much as the missionary. We must learn to grow together.”

Earlier in the service, David Meyers, representative of the Obama administration and the White House, brought greetings, welcoming Anabaptists from around the world.

For nearly 500 years, Anabaptists have been a faithful and suffering witnesses to faith, he said. Commitment to peace and reconciliation is a powerful example of how communities of faith can transform conflict into new beginnings, said Meyers.

Meyers thanked the audience “for the unique ministry you continue to do in walking with the least of these in your communities around the world.”

Lil Goertzen is editor of the Evangelical Mennonite Mission Church Recorder. She is part of the Meetinghouse team of editors reporting on the plenary sessions at Assembly 16.