Delegation from MWC joins Dutch celebrationMennonite World Conference and Mennonite Weekly Review
ELSPEET, the Netherlands — In a visit punctuated by humor and joy, a five-person “koinonia” delegation of Mennonite World Conference got to know their Dutch brothers and sisters in September.
The visit was prompted by activities surrounding the 200th anniversary of the Algemene Doopsgezinde Sociëteit (Dutch Mennonite Conference, or ADS).
Delegation members included Cynthia Peacock from India, Sandra Campos Cruz from Costa Rica, Marc Pasqués from Spain, Thuma Hamukang’andu from Zambia and delegation leader and MWC North American representative Bert Lobe of Canada.
The three-day celebration featured several performances by Dutch humorist and actor Kees Posthumus, including a 45-minute summary of the Bible. Piet Visser offered the light-hearted presentation, “A Short History of Dutch Mennonite Joy.”
In their reflections after the visit, the MWC group gave tribute to the strong commitment of the Dutch church to remain true to its radical history while also speaking relevantly to its contemporary context.
“The Dutch Mennonites may be the most traditional church in the world … because the tradition of the Mennonite church was to be radical in their society,” Pasqués said. “Perhaps they discovered 500 years ago the significance of Menno Simons turning from facing the cross [in religious rites], to facing the people. Their way of accepting ‘friends’ (those who express interest in the church and are welcome at the communion table) is radical.”
Peacock found the readiness to accept outsiders into worship inspiring.
“In a context in which baptized believers are declining, the number of ‘friends’ is increasing,” Peacock said. “This is a commendable strategy in their context of change and postmodernism.”
But Dutch radicalism goes beyond who gets to share communion to who does the sharing.
“I was overwhelmed when I learned that 100 years ago the Dutch Mennonites ordained Anna Zerinke as their female pastor,” she said. “In most parts of our Mennonite world, women are still considered to be second best.”
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