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: