End scandal of poverty in churches, says Mennonite leader
Eradicating global poverty for all is a key priority for Christians, but specific attention also needs to be paid to the scandal of inequality and deprivation within the world-wide Christian community, says Mennonite World Conference (MWC) executive secretary Larry Miller.
Mr Miller, writing in the latest issue of Courier, a multilingual MWC publication, supports the ëAgape Call' of the World Council of Churches and the ëMicah Challenge' of the World Evangelical Alliance, stating the biblical and theological case for involvement in the UN Millennium goals to halve world poverty by 2015.
'What must be added to these calls - and cried out loudly - is a plea to overcome the disaster of poverty in the church', he adds. 'The early Christians' attempt to eradicate poverty in the church was a key component of their effective witness in the world.'
The Mennonite leader stresses that his stand should not be seen as sectarian, but expresses a practical desire to recall a New Testament priority and to face the demanding truth of living in the Body of Christ.
'We know there is enormous economic disparity in the Mennonite Conference family of churches', declares Mr Miller. 'The 72 per cent of our [one million] membership who live in Africa, Asia and Latin America control less than 5 per cent of our estimated wealth.'
He continues: 'Disturbing as it is, that statistic still reveals nothing about the number and condition of the impoverished people in our churches, both South and North. Until we have the courage to count, the only realistic assumption for me is that thousands of my Anabaptist sisters and brothers suffer daily from poverty while I do not.'
Commented Simon Barrow, co-director of the UK Christian think-tank Ekklesia: 'The idea of an audit of poverty within the Christian churches is an important one. The point is not that we help ourselves alone, but that it is scandalous to claim to be transformed as part of the Body of Christ if we are neglectful of the grotesque inequity in our own ranks.'
He added: 'Many liturgical churches declare each Sunday, ëWe are one body, because we all share in the one bread.' But is this spiritual communion reflected truthfully in the churches' physical and ecoenomic life together?'
Mennonite World Conference and Mennonite Central Committee (an aid organisation) are jointly sponsoring a world consultation on ëService (Diakonia) as a Mandate for the Global Anabaptist Family of Faith' from 7-8 March 2006. It will take place in Pasadena, Florida, USA.
In the past the World Council of Churches has supported initiatives on ëecumenical sharing of resources' which have focussed the question of poverty and inequality in the churches, as well as support for wider social transformation.
Mennonites, who originate from the radical end of the Reformation in Europe, are known world-wide for their active involvement in peacemaking and justice, as well as their opposition to the idea of a state church.
The Mennonite Churches in the USA and Canada are co-sponsors of Christian Peacemaker Teams, which has recently hit the headlines after the abduction of four of its co-workers in Iraq.
Ekklesia works closely with the long-established Mennonite Centre in London.
[Also on Ekklesia: Ethiopian Mennonite leader delves into politics; Episcoplaians and Mennonites provide hurricane relef ; Comment from Christian Peacemaker Teams; Buy Nothing Day challenges global economics; Search goes on for Christian peacemaker kidnapped in Iraq; Christians in army resort promote non-violence]