On May 24, during 150th anniversary celebrations in Detmold, Mennonite Brethren church officials read a statement asking for forgiveness for spiritual arrogance, pride and lack of love, for excluding brothers and sisters from their community, and for a contemptuous attitude toward other Mennonite churches. They cited a desire to be open to communication and opportunities for co-operation.
The statement said that while writing the church’s history in preparing for the 150th anniversary, people became aware once more of God’s kindness and mercy. Since 1860, MB churches and other Mennonite congregations have crossed paths many times. These denominations experienced renewal, mission, and growth and at this anniversary, could praise God for his kindness and mercy.
The statement was read by Walter Jakobeit, chair of Arbeitsgemeinschaft Mennonitischer Brüdergemeinden; Johann Richert, chair of Bund Taufgesinnter Gemeinden; and Silke Brohl, chair of Verband der Evangelischen Freikirchen Mennonitischer Brüdergemeinden in Bavaria.
Representatives of several Mennonite conferences gave responses. Hermann Heidebrecht, Bielefeld, Germany, chair of Arbeitsgemeinschaft zur geistlichen Unterstützung in Mennonitengemeinden, expressed joy about this “small step” and emphasized that Mennonite and MB churches seek the same goal and have a common desire for peace.
Daniel Janzen, speaking for WEBB churches (independent Mennonite congregations), said co-operation is possible, and pointed to the Bienenberg Bible School as an example. Frieder Boller, chair of Arbeitsgemeinschaft Mennonitischer Gemeinden in Deutschland, gave thanks for the newly opened door and encouraged communication.
In a concluding prayer, Hans von Niessen, former director of Umsiedlerbetreuung, asked God for forgiveness and blessings. Following the prayer, church representatives joined hands while the audience expressed their agreement with applause.
Fifty years ago at Reedley, California, the North American MB Church and General Conference Mennonite Church asked for and granted each other forgiveness and celebrated reconciliation. The statement confessed that old, unloving patterns of behaviour and perception were sinful and expressed sorrow and regret for pride, unkindness, and hurtful exclusion of other Mennonite brothers and sisters.