Mennonite world body expresses solidarity with churches in Zimbabwe

By staff writers
February 1, 2007

Mennonite World Conference (MWC) is sending a delegation to Zimbabwe later this year to build closer relations with its members there who, like other church and civil society groups, are enduring harsh circumstances in the crisis-ridden country.

The visitor team is a response to MWC general secretary Larry Miller's promise to Zimbabweans on behalf of all participants at the close of the Mennonite world body’s 2003 assembly in Bulawayo: “We will not forget you.”

A larger ‘global Anabaptist deacons’ plan is also being formed in response to a service consultation held in Pasadena, California (USA) in March 2006. At a meeting on 5-6 January 2007 MWC officers and senior staff decided to send one international ‘koinonia’ (communion) delegation in each of the next three years to a different region.

The primary purpose of the teams, named by Mennonite World Conference and selected from member churches and volunteers, is to stand in solidarity with churches living in difficult circumstances, not to bring immediate solutions to their problems.

Danisa Ndlovu, MWC president-elect and Brethren in Christ bishop of Zimbabwe, told the officers that in his country “each day seems to bring more hardships.” The team will go to Zimbabwe in August at the time of the annual BIC conference.

MWC anticipates sending a team to Asia in 2008 and is also facilitating a Mennonite Church USA “church-to-church” delegation to two churches in the Democratic Republic of Congo in February 2007.

The majority of MWC member churches are in the Global South, many of them in particular need. Miller pointed out that while churches perform the role of deacon in their local context, a biblical concept from the first Christian church, and Mennonite service agencies respond generously to world disasters, there is too little attention directed specifically to the global Anabaptist faith family.

‘Global Anabaptist deacons’ could help fill that void, MWC says. Just as importantly, these deacons could also be alert to the diverse needs of the churches in the global North and help the worldwide family of faith to respond.

Part of the goal is to create an ongoing list of potential deacons from which people with appropriate skills would be called for a specific time and particular tasks. MWC, in consultation with host countries, would provide orientation prior to visits. Pakisa Tshimika, associate general secretary, and Miller will refine a proposal for a Global Anabaptist Deacons Commission for action in August 2007.

Mennonite World Conference has also been given at least three of 250 seats at the ecumenical Global Christian Forum to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, in November 2007. The goal of the forum is to bring together representatives of all Christian churches, especially Evangelicals and Pentecostals who are not normally at the table with Catholics, Orthodox and mainstream Protestant churches.

Continental Christian forums have been held over the past eight years but this is the first global forum.

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