Lutheran-Mennonite Church USA
Representatives of the Mennonite Church USA (MCUSA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) met in Goshen, Indiana February 21-24, 2002, beginning the first in a series of dialogues between the two denominations. Included in this round of conversation were reflections upon the Protestant Reformation, the experience of each church in the North American context, and the role and authority of confessional writings. A key element in the dialogue was an examination of the persecution of Anabaptists by Lutherans and others, and the healing of those painful memories. In the course of this first round, the dialogue explored each church’s hermeneutic for interpreting Scripture, the role and authority of Church structures, and the relationship between Church and state.
From February of 2002 until March of 2004, topics included baptism, the Lord’s Supper, nonresistance and non-violence, pacifism and the Gospel of peace, anthropology and free will, and others. Throughout the dialogue, members of congregations were given opportunities to meet with and discuss these issues as the group sought to deepen levels of trust and cooperation between our two church bodies. Their continued hope is that our deepening fellowship will strengthen both faith communities for mission in the world.
This first round of conversations concluded March 21, 2004. The ELCA-MCUSA Liaison Committee submitted a summary report, Right Remembering in Anabaptist - Lutheran Relations. The report includes recommendations for further interaction between these two churches.
Based upon these recommendations, on November, 13, 2006, the ELCA Church Council adopted the Declaration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on the Condemnation of Anabaptists , expressing "deep and abiding sorrow and regret for the persecution and suffering visited upon Anabaptists during religious disputes of the past." The future of continued conversation is also uplifted in the declaration.
Where We Stand
On July 22, 2010, the Eleventh Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) took the historic step of asking the Mennonites for forgiveness for past persecutions. Delegates unanimously approved a statement calling Lutherans to express their regret and sorrow for past wrongdoings towards Anabaptists and asking for forgiveness. Read the full ELCA news release.
In a solemn service of repentance, the LWF assembly, along with members of the Mennonite community, came together to reflect on the painful past that has caused divisions between Lutherans and Mennonites for hundreds of years. the Rev. Danisa Ndlovu, president of the Mennonite World Conference, presented Hanson with a wooden foot-washing tub, saying that it represented the Mennonites' commitment to a future together. Read the release from the Mennonite Church.
The document that helped lay the foundation for the historic reconciliation in July is now available in four languages—English, German, French, and Spanish—both in book form and as a downloadable document. The 120-page Healing Memories: Reconciling in Christ offers churches and individuals historical background on the early condemnations of Anabaptists by Lutherans, new perspectives on what that history means today, and next steps towards a future as reconciled communities of faith. Download the document in English.