GMC at the 2015 Mennonite World Conference

From Emma Horst-Martz.

I look to my left and see my brother following along with lyrics. I look to my right and see my best friend from Laurelville Mennonite Summer Camp clapping. I look across the Large Arena and see 8,000 Mennonites singing in English, Spanish, French, Swahili, and German. Nothing can compare to the music at the Mennonite World Conference that happens every seven years.


This year in Harrisburg, Mennonites, Brethren in Christ, and Mennonite Brethren from every continent gathered to share culture, faith, and songs. Leaders from many different countries contributed to the programming and led the worship services, workshops, and represented their cultures in information booths. The speakers during the worship services focused on unity of the global Mennonite family and how we can continue to follow Christ’s example as peacemakers.


Most of the speakers used English, but many of them were also translated from Spanish. There was an American Sign Language interpreter throughout each worship service as well as simultaneous translations transmitted to listeners headphones, to ensure that everyone could partake in the messages and music. The convention center was also very accommodating to those in wheelchairs and other physical needs.


I attended a few different workshops with a wide variety of themes. I sat around a large quilt with my brother Hans, our friend Sean, and people from Holland, Canada, Spain, and the United States, learning how to quilt in the traditional Mennonite fashion. We then moved on to a workshop about how to effectively engage in environmental sustainability in our church communities. The next day I met with a group of women celebrating the work of female pastors who worked their way into leadership roles, despite resistance. In another session, a group of 30 or so discussed how we can work for social justice in spite of violent and oppressive push-back from government. These workshops inspired and educated me about how other Mennonites are living out our shared values in creative and daring ways.

The last workshop I went to was called Walking with God in Politics: What does God Expect of Christian Citizens? I had been looking forward to this all weekend, as I am very interested in politics, but struggle to justify the compromises that often seem inevitable in Washington. As the workshop progressed, I realized that the examples the speaker used exemplified the struggle in the Mennonite Church USA. His bigotry towards the LGBTQ+ community caused a man in a Pink Menno T-shirt to leave. A few minutes later, I followed suit.


I have been to two Mennonite USA Conventions, eleven years of Mennonite summer camp, and now one Mennonite World Conference. This conference in Harrisburg challenged me and gave me a valuable lesson that is still making me think about my relationship to the Mennonite Church.


I have grown up knowing what it means to be from an excommunicated church. When people ask what church I attend, I know exactly what their faces will do when I say Germantown Mennonite Church. I have always been proud of where I come from and what we do. I believe that problematizing injustice is crucial to following Jesus. I believe in critical pedagogy.


For me, the pain of having to walk out of a workshop because the leader is spewing homophobic rhetoric does not compare to the joy of singing with 8,000 Mennonites from all over the world. God is working very hard, we just need to have the faith to facilitate God’s efforts. Mennonites around the world are still committed to pacifism, socioeconomic equity, and access to education. When we as a faith community genuinely disagree over major understandings of acceptance and justice, I am realizing how important it is to continue connecting with the rest of our church beyond Germantown. There’s a lot out there.

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