Total eclipse of the heart

The moon, and divisions, can't block it all

Aug 28, 2017 by

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Carsten Stein experienced a sense of welcome and belonging when he attended a gathering of a different German Anabaptist body in April.

The Mennonite Brethren man wrote in a recent issue of Die Brücke that conference speakers regularly expressed the desire to reach people’s hearts. He found much commonality through building relationships in conversation with other individuals.

He didn’t burst through the dividing walls within and between Anabaptist groups by poring critically over denominational magazine articles. He didn’t do it through judgmental online comments or letters to the editor. Stein fellowshiped with another group and talked to people.

Our divisions too often eclipse simpler matters to which God’s followers are called. Yet in spite of our best efforts, the Holy Spirit still manages to seep through like a corona, illuminating the darkness we are so good at creating.

Connections between groups are few. Mennonite Central Committee does what it can, but cooperative relationships are rare. Most Mennonite colleges and universities celebrated centennials before undertaking true collaboration with each other, and that is only within Mennonite Church USA. It is unfortunate that some former MC USA congregations only found interest in Mennonite Brethren institutions Tabor College and Fresno Pacific University after removing themselves from MC USA.

Groups don’t slide into apostasy the moment they overlap. In many cases, they benefit.

Mennonite Brethren pastor Glenn Balzer was executive director for 23 years at DOOR (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection), a part of Mennonite Mission Network’s Christian Service ministries that provides opportunities for service, learning and leadership development in an urban context. For decades, a great many MC USA young people have benefited from the gifts he brought.

After reading a book by Frederick Douglass, Balzer wrote June 28 on his blog that Christ’s church must choose common humanity over national, cultural and class divisions. Ruminating on today’s polarizing times in both politics and religion, he noted too many people and churches are choosing country first and God second. “The church of Christ is motivated by the idea that all of us share one unifying trait — we are created in the very image and likeness of God,” he wrote.

Unlike celestial events, our eclipses last only as long as we allow.


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