| Historical Committee
Response to the Confession Coming
from the Reformed Church of Zurich
Given by Ernest Geiser, President of the Council of Elders
of the Swiss Mennonite Church
Dear members of the Reformed Church of Zurich, our brothers and sisters
We are very touched to have been invited to prepare and live out this
day with you. Already in 1925 and in 1952, other international
Mennonite representatives were officially welcomed here in this place
which represents a very significant moment at the beginning of our
history. Though issuing from the same source in the Reformation,
Anabaptism has been marked by the breaking off and rejection of the
accents of a radical theology and the “following” of Christ.
Persecution, in Zurich and in other places, provoked the scattering of
the Anabaptists in many other countries where our way of understanding
were lived out and tested in many different situations.
As of today, Swiss Mennonites as such are no longer present in the land
around Zurich. Throughout the last few centuries, we have been
influenced in different ways. Having been pushed to the side, we have
become used to—and even finding some satisfaction in—being a bit cut
off from the world and society. We confess that the reality of our
communities do not always correspond to our interpretation of the
Gospel; we can find there conformism, atrophy, withdrawal, and pride.
History may designate us as victims, and could incite us to find
satisfaction in that. However, those here among you today, descendants
of those Anabaptists persecuted in the past, no longer feel as victims.
We do not ask for material retribution for the past: that would seem to
us to be contrary to the Spirit of the Gospel. But the fact that you
recognize the difficult points of your history in relation to ours
helps us to see ourselves and to meet you differently. We receive your
confession with a forgiving attitude.
For many years now, and in many places, many opportunities for
collaboration between members of Reformed and Mennonite churches have
demonstrated a common will to overcome our old conflicts and to live
out our belonging to the same body of Christ. This is why it is
sometimes embarrassing for us to be once again asked for forgiveness.
Maybe it is a sign that it is the moment for all of us to revisit our
past, with the help of the Holy Spirit? There is no longer any church
for us to oppose, and you no longer have any believers to reintegrate
by force. We maintain however strong convictions, which are often
shared by other free church movements issued from successive Revivals,
in particular to that which pertains to more ethical and
ecclesiological questions, that we would like to see more widely shared
throughout the body of Christ. We would like to see them shared more
broadly in the body of Christ and we would like to engage in a longer
dialogue concerning our church and theological traditions in order to
reinforce our common witness to Jesus Christ and his gospel.
The 26th of June 2004 will remain an important step forward on the road
of reconciliation. The plaque that will be unveiled today in this city
of Zurich attests that actions have been taken with determination. We
feel concerned by your words and deeds and we want to express our
gratitude. Dear brothers and sisters of the Reformed Church of Zurich,
may God bless you and give you his grace and his peace!
"God calls us to preserve our faith heritage, to interpret our stories,
and to proclaim God's work among us."