Monday, October 26, 2009

Lutherans and Mennonites - Reconciliation and healing of memories

Not many may remember all that actually happened almost 500 years ago during and after the reformation. We Lutherans mainly remember Martin Luther's struggle to reform the Catholic Church and how he was finally kicked out of Catholic Church and had to establish a protestant church. We Lutherans tend not to remember how the Lutheran princes persecuted the Anabaptists, and did so with theological support from leaders of the protestant reformation. The Anabaptists, or Mennonites, as they themselves prefer to be called, however, have never forgotten how they were treated by their Lutheran brethren in the Christian faith.

What has just happened at the Council meeting of the Lutheran World Federation in Geneva today is therefore very significant. The council unanimously approved the report, ”Healing of Memories; Reconciliation in Christ”, from the Lutheran-Mennonite International Study Commission, 2005-2009 and the below statement and recommended it for adoptaion at the LWF Assembly in Stuttgart, Germany in 2010.

”When Lutherans today realize the history of Lutheran –anabaptist relationships in the 16th century and beyond as it is presented in the report of the Lutheran – Mennonite International Study Commission, the are filled with a deep sense regret and pain over the persecution of Anabaptists by Lutheran authorities and especially over the fact that Lutheran reformers theologically supported this persecution. Thus, LWF, A Communion of Churches wishes to express publicly its deep regret and sorrow.

Trusting in God who in Jesus Christ was reconciling the world to hiself, we ask for forgiveness – from God and fromour Mennonite sisters an brothers – for the harm that our forbears in the 16th century committed to Anabaptists, for forgetting or ignoring this persecution in the intervening centuries, and for all inappropriate, misleading and hurtful portraits of Anabaptists and Mennonites made by Lutheran authors, in both popular and scholarly forms, to the present day.

We pray that God may grant to our communities a healing of our memories and reconciliation.”

As the president of LWF, bishop Mark Hansson, ELCA, said at this very emotionale moment: "We talk a lot about repentence, but more important than words about repentence is repentence. And this is what we are involved in today."

Geneva, Monday October 26, 2009

Mogens S. Mogensen

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Religion and Politics According to Moltmann

The encounter with Islam has once again raised the issue of religion and politics. Since Islam is seen by some as a politicised religion or a religious politics, some politicians, media people and also some church people have tried to explain Christianity in a way so that it separates religion from politics.

Today I happened to read an interview with and articles by the German Lutheran theologian J├╝rgen Moltmann which put this debate about religion and politics into a relevant context. When explaining his "theology of hope", Moltmann points out that "eschatology is the expectation of God's coming in this wolrd to establsih his reign and perfect all the longings and desires of humanity". The coming kingdom therefore gives the church a much broader focus for its mission than a only a private "only" the salvation of individual souls. For Moltmann this means that an eschatological theolology (a theology of hope) will also be a political theology.

Referring to Ernst Blochs's "Principle of Hope" he noted that the eschatoogical conscience and messianic hopes came into the world through the Bible. But, and I quote:

"In the past two centuries, a Christina fiath in God without hope for the future of the world has called forth a secular hope for the furture of the world without faith in God. Since the Christians, the churches, and theology believed in God without future, the will for a furture of the earth has joined itself to an atheism which sought a future without God. The messianic hopes emigrated from the church and became invested in progress, evolution, and revolutions."

If Christianity does not hold forth its hope for the future - based on its escahtological theology, founded in the vision of the coming Kingdom of God - and also has the courage to relate it to the political reality, the consequences may be serious.

"'Political theology", Moltmann argues, "was our answer to the fuailure of the churches and Christendom in Auschwitz. Why did the church fail? There were many heroes in the church. Why were the churches silent? Many reasons could be named. Probably the most important reasin is religon was said to be a private matter that has nothing to do with politics."

A church that choses to be silent regarding politics based on a theology that keeps religion apart from politics, I think, does not take its calling seriously.

Christiansfeld, Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Mogens S. Mogensen

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Holocausts and genocides

Reading ”The Lost History of Christianity” (2008) by Philip Jenkins is really an enlightening and challenging experience which I can recommend to others interested in the history of the Christianity in its interactions with other religions.

Jenkins reminds us that around 1900 Christians made up about 11 % of the population of the Middle East, and points out – if we should have forgotten it – that since then ”Christians have ceased to exist altogether – are ceasing to exist – as organized communities.” And he goes on to conclude that whether the causes of that change are religious or polititical ”the result was to create a Muslim world that was just as Christian-free as large sections of Europe would be Jew-free after the Second World War. And in both instances, the major mechanism of change was the same. For alle the reasons we can suggest for long-term decline, for all the temptations to assimilate, the largest single factor for Christian decline was organize violence, whether in the form of massacre, expulsion, or forced migration” (p. 141).

All religious communities, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu etc., have in their history events and periods which contradict the noblest ideals of these religions. It is not healthy, however, for any religious community to pretend that this was not part of their history. In Europe we have to face the reality of persecutions of Jews and the holocaust. In the same way as people in the Middle East have to face the reality of the persecution of Christians and cases of genocide, and people in Turkye will have to face the history of the Armenian genocide. Some of these tragic events took place long ago, others is part of our modern history. If we refuse to face the harsh reality and learn from our history, we may be more likely to bring ourselves – and others – in a positition where we – and others – repeat the holocausts and genocides of history.

Christiansfeld, Saturday, May 23, 2009
Mogens S. Mogensen

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Rise and Fall and Rise of Global Christianity

Next year we will celebrate the 100 anniversary of the Edinburgh World Mission Conference in 1910. At the beginning of the 20th century about more than 80 % of the Christians in the world lived in the West, i.e., in Europa and North America. And if we go a few centuries further back in time more than 90 % of alle Christians were either Europeans or North Americans. And today only about a third of all Christians live in the West.

The modern missionary movement, whose climax was the 1910 conference in Edinburgh, did not result in the conversion of all the world to Christianity – the perecentage of Christians is about the same today as it was in when mission leaders gathered in Edinburgh a hundred years ago under the slogan ”The Christianization of the World in Our Generation – but it led to an impressive globalisation. Christianity can no longer be presented as ”the white man’s religion”.

Reading Philip Jenkins’ excellent book, ”The Lost History of Christianity” (2008), I was once again reminded that the development of Christianity has not in any sens been linear and progressive in terms of extension and size. Globalisation of Christianity is not a new thing in Christian history. For many centuries in the middle ages Christianity just as globalised as it is now. Jenkins rightly observes that

”For most of its history, Christianity was a tricontinental religion, with powerful representation in Europe, Africa and Asia, and this was true into the fourtheenth century. Christianity became predominantly European not because this continent had any obvious affinity for that faith, but by defaltu. Europe was the continent where it was not destroeyed. Matters could easily have developed very differently” (p. 3).

We should keep this in mind as we celebrate the100 anniversary of Edinburgh 1910. And we should ponder this historical fact as we today celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, who on this day before ascending – so that He could and can be globally present with his church - gave his disciples then (and also his disciples today) the great commission that whereever we are or go to share the good news and call people to become His disciples.

Christiansfeld, Ascension Day, May 21, 2009
Mogens S. Mogensen

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