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on Inter-Mennonite Cooperation in North America, 1983
General Conference Mennonite
Church and Mennonite Church
Mennonites have lived in North
America for 300 years. They came to the New World at different
times and for varied reasons. Many had known persecution for
their faith and were seeking a land where they could live as
followers of Christ according to their conscience. They came
from many places and spoke diverse languages and dialects.
We Mennonites have been a divided
people. In our separate groupings we have too often viewed one
another with apprehension and even suspicion. We have not always
remembered the prayer of our Lord as recorded in John 17:20.23
(NIV): "that all of them may be one. , . so that the world
may believe. .. that they may be one as we are one. . .. May
they be brought to complete unity."
In later times separated Mennonites
have discovered each other, most frequently in crisis and war.
We have found among ourselves a long-neglected kinship. Tentatively
and cautiously we have begun to work and fellowship together
in common experiences and tasks. Among us has grown an awareness
that our heritage is woven of common strands, Among us we hear
the voice to "make every effort to keep the unity of the
Spirit through the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3, NIV).
In these days we pause to recognize
and give thanks for the ways in which God's Spirit is bringing
Mennonites together. We experience this in inter-Mennonite organizations
such as the Mehnonite World Conference, the Mennonite Central
Committee, Mennonite Disaster Service, Mennonite Mental Health
Services, the Council of Moderators and Secretaries and more.
We experience this in inter-Mennonite programs such as Mennonite
Mutual Aid, publishing The Foundation Series and the Mennonite
Experience in America, leadership training at the Associated
Mennonite Biblical Seminaries, missions (Council of International
Ministries and the Council of Home Ministries), Inter-Mennonite
Conference in Ontario, inter-Mennonites structures in urban areas
(Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia), and more.
We experience this in 46 congregations
holding dual-conference memberships, in linking of families through
marriage, in the sharing across conference lines of pastoral
leadership and more.
We experience this in meetings
where Mennonites come together such as the joint sessions of
the Illinois Conference and Central District Conference, the
South Central Conference and the Western District Conference,
the Pacific Coast Conference and the Pacific District Conference,
the Southwest Conference and the Pacific District Conference,
the Mennonite Conference of Ontario and Quebec, Western Ontario
Conference and the United Mennonite Churches of Ontario and more.
Here at Bethlehem we have experienced kinship of spirit.
At this joint meeting of the
General Assembly of the Mennonite Church and the 43rd Triennial
Sessions of the General Conference Mennonite Church,
1. That we have a common faith
in the one true God, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, and the
2. That we are part of one spiritual ancestry, many of whose
forebears came to this continent in search of freedom and worship
and with the desire to live a life of peace in obedience to Jesus
3. That we have been separated by our cultural backgrounds and
have gone our own ways and have allowed commitments to our respective
structures to keep us apart from one another.
4. That in recent years the Spirit of God has been bringing us
together in fellowship and common tasks, in many ways and places,
with some problems but many joys. Particularly have we experienced
this as the church has reached out in ministries of mission and
We commit ourselves:
1. To be open to the leading of the Spirit in unfolding ways
of loving one another, receiving from one another, supporting
one another in a united witness so that we can better testify
to other Christians and to the world that we are together disciples
2. To support congregations which have affiliated with more than
one denomination in order to manifest the unity they have experienced
in the wider Mennonite Church through Christ.
3. To encourage area conferences to seek additional ways of working
together cooperatively, seeking wholeness in ministry, including
the ministries of evangelism, service, peace, justice, nurture,
and to affirm exploration of forming area inter-Mennonite conferences.
4. To work intentionally and sensitively in programs and on issues
of common concern to the conferences.
5. To relate to each other in ways which will strengthen fellowship
and participation among all Mennonite groups.
6. To form an inter-Mennonite committee representing Mennonite
and Brethren in Christ denominations to explore steps of cooperation
at the binational level.
7. To support similar types of Mennonite meetings as has occurred
here at Bethlehem 83.
We move forward with gratitude
for the unity in the Spirit we have experienced and in expectation
of an unfolding of God's leading as we seek to walk together
in his ways.
Approved in August 1983 by the Mennonite Church General Assembly
and the General Conference Mennonite Church Triennial Sessions
with the understanding that some further revision will be made
to incorporate suggestions by the delegates. Proceedings,
Seventh Mennonite Church General Assembly, August 1-7, 1983,
Lehigh University, Bethleham, Pennsylvania, pp.22-23.
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