| Historical Committee
Church of Zurich
Invites Anabaptist Descendants
to a ceremony of Acknowledgement
by Kendra King
acknowledge their "shadow
side," including 16th- and 17th-century persecution and execution of
|An official ceremony of reconciliation between leaders
of the Reformed Church in Zurich and Anabaptist descendants from around
the world will take place in Zurich, Switzerland this summer.
For six months beginning in March, the Evangelical-Reformed Church of
the Canton of Zurich will commemorate the 500th anniversary of Heinrich
Bullinger, one of the fathers of the Reformed Church. On June 26, they
will also honor Felix Manz, a founder of the Anabaptist movement, in a
special ceremony. As a part of this ceremony, a memorial to Manz will
be unveiled and placed on the bank of the Limmat River, where Manz was
drowned in 1527 for his Anabaptist convictions.
officials of the Reformed Church in Zurich
have expressed a desire to
"The Reformation started as a movement of renewal but immediately
turned out to become a story of separations," said Peter Dettwiler,
ecumenical officer of the Evangelical-Reformed Church in Zurich. "It's
time to set a memorial in the city of Zurich where the roots of both
the Reformed and the Anabaptists are to be found."
placement of the Manz marker.
Sharp traveled to Zurich to participate in the discussions, and also
met with officials of the Evangelical Reformed Church for conversation
on the proposed conference.
|The Reformed Church has invited 100 North American
representatives to join in this ceremony of past acknowledgement and
future hope. These individuals are to include Amish and Hutterites, as
well as other spiritual descendants of Anabaptists. In addition, Larry
Miller of (MWC) is coordinating the broader participation by the
worldwide Mennonite and Brethren in Christ community. Swiss Mennonites
are playing an important role in the planning.
John Sharp, director of the Mennonite Church USA Historical Committee
and Archives, is coordinating North American participation in this
commemoration. Sharp became involved in planning this event quite by
chance last June. Through a relative, John Zook, an airline pilot who
frequently flies to Switzerland, Sharp's name was given to Elisabeth
Lutz, a friend in Zurich. Both Lutz and Zook were involved in
negotiating the approval and
While this will be a historic commemoration, it is not an isolated
event, Sharp said. Other similar discussions have taken place in the
past. In 1983, MWC participated in a discussion with the World Alliance
of Reformed Churches, followed by a public service of confession for
injustice during the Reformation.
This dialogue resumed again in 1984 and 1989. Swiss Mennonites and
state church representatives have engaged in various steps toward
understanding and reconciliation in the last 20 years. More recently,
in 2002, some Mennonites, Amish and members of the Reformed Church
gathered informally to engage in discussion and acknowledgement of past
"All of these conversations seem to be part of an emerging ecumenical
impulse toward reconciliation," Sharp said. "The challenge is to engage
in serious discussions of core commitments, so that reconciliation
ceremonies like this one have integrity."
So what makes this event special? This will be the largest gathering of
officials and members of the Reformed Church of the Canton of Zurich
and Anabaptist descendants, Sharp said.
"The setting for this conference -- the great cathedral, where the
dramatic actions that birthed the Anabaptist movement took place --
adds to its historic nature," Sharp said. "In Zurich, participants will
have an opportunity to engage in conversations of hope with two
In addition, the memorial to Manz will be unveiled on the bank of the
Limmat River at the place of his execution.
"It will be a great honor and a joy to have direct descendants of the
Anabaptists with us," Dettwiler said. "We hope this event can become a
new beginning of ecumenical relations among our churches and
is communications intern for Mennonite Church USA Executive Board
1. The Grossmunster, site of the
Reformed Church "acknowledgement" conference, June 26, 2004.
2. The Grossmunster in Zurich, the
center of Reformed and Anabaptist reform.
"God calls us to preserve our faith heritage, to interpret our stories,
and to proclaim God's work among us."