Historical records are shaped by the perspectives of those who write them, but perspectives that clash can cause centuries of pain.
On July 22, 2010, an apology from Lutherans for their historical persecution of Mennonites initiated a new relationship between these parts of the church and opened a door to revisiting their shared but distinctive histories.
“We have to change the way we teach our history,” says Janet Plenert, who, as executive secretary of Mennonite Church Canada Witness and vice-president of Mennonite World Conference (MWC), has been actively involved in the reconciliation process.
To provide a solid foundation for nurturing this new relationship, reconciled through a common faith and commitment to Christ, MC Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada jointly prepared a new study guide, “Healing Memories, Reconciling in Christ,” for distribution to their respective congregations.
The guide reflects the historical relationship between Lutherans and Mennonites in a portrayal accepted by both churches. It illustrates how differences between them arose, helping to bridge the gap between misunderstandings.
The guide was created by Allen Jorgenson, Lutheran pastor and seminary professor, and Margaret Loewen Reimer, Mennonite editor and writer. It is based on a report by the Lutheran-Mennonite International Study Commission, a three-year dialogue begun by MWC and the Lutheran World Federation.
Lutherans and Mennonites are encouraged to work through the study guide together wherever possible. Four one-hour sessions include material from the study commission report, questions, relevant Bible studies and prayers. Links to video clips are included.
In addition to print copies of the study guide, each MC Canada congregation will receive a copy of the Lutheran World Federation’s magazine, Lutheran World Information, that focuses entirely on the apology and reconciliation.
“We’re providing a lot of resources, but we need people to implement them,” Plenert says, encouraging congregations and area churches to implement this study however they feel is most effective within their own communities.
—Updated Nov. 5, 2016