It is important to note that this article was written in the mid-1950s and reflects the state of race relations in Mennonite churches at that time.
By the mid-20th century the rights of subject peoples, especially those of color, had become a burning social and political issue throughout the world. With other Christians, Mennonites found it necessary to speak out on this question, especially on the Christian attitude toward persons of a color other than one's own.
It could be pointed out that Mennonites have never owned slaves, that slavery was forbidden in the Plockhoy colony of 1663, and that in 1688 the Germantown Mennonites had a share in the first public protest against slavery on record in America.
In 1955 the Committee on Economic and Social Relations and the Mennonite Community Association, both of the Mennonite Church (MC), sponsored a conference on Christian race relations; a significant pronouncement, "The Way of Christian Love in Race Relations," was drafted here and was later that year adopted by the Mennonite General Conference (MC) as its official position. The statement proclaims the unity of man in the order of creation and in the order of grace, and the unity of the one fellowship in Christ. It holds that the Scriptural teaching and New Testament practice are opposed to distinctions based on race or color and that racial discrimination is a recent phenomenon and a sin, in that it does wrong to the victim, scars the soul of the offender, contributes to social tension and hatred, is a major cause for war, invalidates the central meaning of redemption, discredits the Christian church and the Gospel before the world, and weakens its missionary program. The statement includes a confession of the failure of the church to witness against this sin as it ought and a commitment to a renewed emphasis on the way of Christian love in race relations.
Obviously the members of the younger Mennonite churches in Africa and Asia are persons of color. In the United States, however, both the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church had an African American membership with at least one African American minister in each group in 1958. These groups as well as others were conducting church extension work, voluntary service units, and other forms of evangelistic and social service work among African American, Latin American, Indian, and other non-Caucasian groups.
In 1956, 1957, and again in 1958 the Peace Section of the Mennonite Central Committee sent a group of visitors to the South to study race conditions there and to encourage Christians who were engaged in a witness against racial discrimination. In 1957 a group of students from Goshen College gave a week of service to Koinonia Farms in Georgia. While prejudice and discrimination were not completely overcome in all Mennonite groups, there was positive teaching against these evils. All Mennonite schools and colleges, even in the South, were open to persons of color without discrimination, although this was not true of all homes for the aged. Attempts were being made to maintain Mennonite congregations and institutions on an integrated basis, and there was a limited amount of intermarriage among American Mennonites of Caucasian background with Latin Americans, Puerto Ricans, Filipinos, and African Americans.
Christian Race Relations: Proceedings of the Conference on Christian Community Relations. Scottdale, Herald Press, 1955.
Kraus, C. N. Integration: Who's Prejudiced. Scottdale, Herald Press, 1958.
|Author(s)||Guy F Hershberger|
Cite This Article
Hershberger, Guy F. "Race relations." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 20 Feb 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Race_relations&oldid=84276.
Hershberger, Guy F. (1959). Race relations. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Race_relations&oldid=84276.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 241. All rights reserved.
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