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Christian Responses

The Response of the Mennonite Church to A Common Word

 

722 Main St., P.O. Box 347
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E: Newton@MennoniteUSA.org

November 5, 2007

To the Muslim Religious Leaders who signed the October 13, 2007 letter “A Common Word between Us and You” addressed to Leaders of Christian churches throughout the world:

As one of the historic peace churches, we in Mennonite Church USA heartily thank the signatories of “A Common Word between Us and You” for recognizing that Christians worship one God and take Jesus’ commands to love God and love our neighbors as central to our lives of faith. We appreciate the affirmation that Muslims and Christians hold important theological and ethical foundations in common, and we welcome the call for sincere dialogue between Christians and Muslims wherever we meet around the world.

We also respect “A Common Word” as a courageous expression of goodwill in the midst of less charitable Muslim voices and in the face of recurrent Christian hostility toward Muslims and misunderstanding of Islam. We repent for our role in perpetrating these unchristian actions and ask your patience and forgiveness as we grow in understanding you, our Muslim neighbors, and in practicing Christian love with you.

We understand the character of this love to be shaped by the teaching and personal example of Jesus. In addition to loving God and our neighbors, this means that we aim to love even enemies and, like Jesus, we choose against using violence as a response to difference and conflict. We believe that Jesus has modeled for us a life of faithful obedience to God based on love, truth, reconciliation and justice. We seek the same, in response to God’s love for all humankind expressed in innumerable acts of salvation, reconciliation, forgiveness and guidance and most fully in Jesus Christ (the Messiah). In sum, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). In our faltering attempts to love as the Messiah loved, we thank God for the gift of his Spirit who enables us to live our lives focused on God.

God has given each person the precious gift of choice, even the freedom to believe in God or turn to unbelief. In our Mennonite churches, adult baptism is a sign of the individual’s decision to believe in and follow the Messiah. For that reason we baptize only after a person has made a mature decision to believe and to turn away from the ways of the world.

Our life as a church thereby witnesses to society and government, that each person has the responsibility and freedom to choose their faith. We believe that in any society, the love of neighbor that you have so eloquently written about includes respect for that person’s freedom to believe or not to believe, to choose his or her faith and religion. We would indeed welcome opportunity to talk more with Muslim friends and leaders about the implications of religious freedom for this matter is of profound significance.

With you, we embrace the goal of loving our neighbors, while also recognizing that both Muslims and Christians often fall short of the ideal. We recognize that even today in too many situations Muslims are threatened by Christians, and in other situations, individual Christians or communities of Christians in Muslim regions experience restrictions and sometimes hostility. Let us repent of such actions toward one another and work together to assure the integrity and freedom for both communities, Christian and Muslim.

Many Mennonite Christians have enjoyed friendship with Muslims and cooperated together in a wide range of activities through the years. We in Mennonite Church USA continue to commend such interaction and strongly encourage Christians and Muslims around the world to meet, develop friendships, and cooperate in endeavors of mutual concern as we discuss and bear witness to the theological and ethical foundations of our faith and life.

We thank those who have issued “A Common Word,” and assure you that we will continue to pray and work for Christian-Muslim understanding, cooperation, and peacemaking.

Sincerely,

James Schrag
Executive Director, Mennonite Church USA

The full text of “A Common Word between Us and You” is available at the letter’s official web site www.acommonword.com. Click on “Downloads and Translations” on the left-hand sidebar to access a pdf file.