Mennonite World Conference Speaker Says: “Stop dreaming of a perfect & ideal church”

This morning at Mennonite World Conference in Harrisburg Pennsylvania Remilyn Mondez of the Philippines spoke on the subject of conflict in the church and featured a Nationwide Fellowship church from the Philippines quite prominently (although unnamed in the presentation, the above picture was used as backdrop during the story) in a story about a girl named “Lenlen”. In the story Lenlen’s parents joined a conservative Mennonite church who practiced “the holy kiss” and simple, modest clothes and which had a long history of objecting to higher education.  As time went on Lenlen’s family came in conflict with the local church because they wanted their daughter to attendant college. This conflict culminated with Lenlen’s extended family leaving the church and some of them going to a more assimilated Mennonite church while others ended up at no church at all. Remilyn Mondez sprung a bit of a surprise at the end of her talk and noted she was “Lenlen” and that her family’s move to another church was a very painful experience for her as a 15 year old who was separated from her social circle and took years to heal. She drew attention to the  fact that similar church conflicts hurt many youth caught in the middle by no fault of their own.

Could this story be read as a precautionary tale of divisively leaving even a conservative church one disagrees with?

Could this story be read as a precautionary tale of divisively leaving even a conservative church one disagrees with? Or is it rather a call for taking fewer or no stands on which congregants might disagree? This was not clarified.

Stop dreaming of a perfect & ideal church

Mondez’s advice to the MWC audience was “Stop dreaming of a perfect & ideal church” which was most certainly intended as a needed call to humility & forbearance. If it was a call to unqualified unity it is formulated very similar calls to unity & conformity by the magisterial reformers in the 1500’s which was often used against Anabaptists. Martin Luther summarized this critique in a short punchy line in a sermon given at St. Andrews church in Eisleben “There is no such thing as a pure church such as the Anabaptists want…”. While no church leaders in any period are likely in any delusions about a “perfect” church, the Anabaptists did have a dream empowered by faith that envisioned Christ could raise up a people capable of living a powerful witness to peace and agape. Thanks to early Anabaptist rejection of unqualified unity on this point with magisterial reformers, Mennonites around the world are heir to a very distinctly Christ like witness today.

Mennonite World Review also covered Mundoz’s talk:

Evangelical Book “Wild At Heart” Inspires Violent La Familia Cartel

For some bizarre reading check out the La Familia cartel on Wikipedia. And I quote:

La Familia cartel is sometimes described as quasi-religious since its current leaders, Moreno González and Méndez Vargas, refer to their assassinations and beheadings as “divine justice” and that they may have direct or indirect ties with devotees of the New Jerusalem religious movement, which is noted for its concern for justice issues.

La Familia’s boss and spiritual leader Nazario Moreno González, (a.k.a.: El Más Loco or The Craziest One) has published his own ‘bible’, and a copy seized by Mexican federal agents reveals an ideology that mixes evangelical-style self help with insurgent peasant slogans. Moreno González seems to base most of his doctrine on the work by a Christian writer John Eldredge. The Mexican justice department stated in a report that Gonzalez Moreno has made Eldredge’s book Salvaje de Corazón (Wild at Heart) required reading for La Familia gang members and has paid rural teachers and National Development Education (CONAFE) to circulate Eldredge’s writings throughout the Michoacán countryside. An idea central to Eldredge’s message is that every man must have “a battle to fight, a beauty to rescue and an adventure to live.” Eldredge quotes from Isaiah 63, which describes God wearing blood-stained clothes, spattered as though he had been treading a wine press. Then he writes:

“Talk about Braveheart. This is one fierce, wild, and passionate guy. I have never heard Mister Rogers talk like that. Come to think of it, I never heard anyone in church talk like that, either. But this is the God of heaven and Earth.” [1]

End quote.

This is a good example of ignoring both Jesus’ clear call to love our enemy and the fact that God never calls His people to imitate His judgment or wrath. The judgment of God in the Biblical record is never depicted as a model for the behavior of Christians and even in the Old Testament God’s command to His people was “vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” [2]

John Eldredge objects that La Familia is taking his writing out of context, and I am sure he does not like that it is a “Christian” drug cartel that is using his words to justify violent retribution, but I would have to hear how Eldredge retracts this passage in his book before I say they are not taking it exactly as it was written.

[1] Wild at Heart, John Eldredge p35
[2] Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19