How did Lutherans and Mennonites in Harleysville, Pa., find a way to grow together in faith after centuries of misunderstanding between their traditions? It began with a curious ELCA pastor on a bicycle and Mennonite gardeners who were open to planting seeds ecumenically.
Steve Godsall-Myers often rode past a one-acre community garden on the grounds ofSalford Mennonite Church, not far from Advent Lutheran where he has served since 2010. “I would see folks working in the garden and I was so impressed by what they were doing,” he said. “I just had to find out more about it.”
Godsall-Myers had another reason to get to know his Mennonite neighbors better. He knew the Lutheran World Federation Assembly had taken the historic step in July 2010 of asking for forgiveness for persecutions and portrayals of Anabaptist Christians (the forebears of Mennonites) rooted in the 1500s Reformation and continuing to this day. Those persecutions resulted in part from theological differences over Anabaptist writings that condemned infant baptism.
In 2011, Bishop Claire Burkat followed up by issuing an apology to local Mennonites at the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod Assembly at Franconia Mennonite Church, Telford, Pa., where its gatherings have been held for years.
Tears of joy marked both occasions.
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