The possibility and promise of an Anglican-Mennonite Dialogue in Canada is something that had been talked about in various circles for many years, going back at least until the 1990s. Interest continued to grow up to recent days, in large degree due especially to the increasing number of interesting connections and partnerships which were emerging between these two churches in different parts of the country. A Resolution approved by the General Synod in July 2016 served to give formal approval for the Anglican Church of Canada to begin a bilateral dialogue with representatives of Mennonite Church Canada. Thus the Dialogue was born.
This dialogue is unique in comparison to some of the others in which the Anglican Church of Canada is engaged in that it has been specifically mandated to work according to the “receptive ecumenism” model of ecumenical conversation. Receptive ecumenism, to put it succinctly, refers to a form of dialogue which is not focused so much on seeking doctrinal convergence or agreements that take us beyond or above the historic differences that exist between two divided Christian communities. Rather, it seeks to encourage the mutual exchange of gifts between these different traditions by holding them side by side in their distinctiveness.
As such, the Anglican-Mennonite Dialogue concerns itself primarily with the following pieces of work:
- Encouraging greater mutual understanding of the distinctive histories, spiritualities, and theologies of the Anglican and Mennonite expressions of Christian faith and life.
- Identifying areas where Canadian Mennonites have gifts from their traditions to share with Canadian Anglicans, and where Canadian Anglicans have gifts from their traditions to share with Canadian Mennonites.
- Communicating the fruits of the dialogue to the constituencies of the two churches at all levels.
- Helping to facilitate greater contact and collaboration in mission and ministry by Anglicans and Mennonites in Canada.
Having met for the first time in early 2018, the Anglican-Mennonite dialogue is still young and finding its legs. However, it promises to be a very vibrant forum for growth in relationship and partnership between these two historic traditions that have both always defined themselves as “bridge churches” across the major lines of historic Christian division.