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Declaration of the

Mennonite Universalist Association

We are Mennonites (and fellow travelers) who reject the churchs proselytizing activities. We oppose proselytizing by all religious groups, not just Christians. Sharing ones spiritual journey with an interested inquirer is fine. But in our view it is unethical to approach someone who hasnt solicited your input and tell them they must adopt your beliefs to be on the right path. We are universalists. We believe hell is a myth, invented by the church to control people and keep them in line. The doctrine of eternal punishment is offensive to us. How could any empathetic person enjoy the afterlife knowing that friends and relatives are in unending torment? We love human diversity and seek to preserve it. We believe the world would be poorer if all Buddhists, for example, were converted to Christianity. So we oppose evangelistic crusades and mission boards, no matter how well-meaning they claim to be. For even missionaries who profess cultural sensitivity still have as part of their agenda persuading unbelievers that Christianity is the only way. We reject the authenticity of the Great Commission. We just dont think Jesus said it. First, any statements attributed to the post-crucifixion Jesus must be called into question, for obvious reasons. Second, the global scope of the Commission is contradicted by Jesuss (more likely authentic) instructions to steer clear of Gentiles (Matt. 10:5-6). Third, if Jesus told the disciples to make followers of all nations, then the debate between Paul and James makes little sense. (James didnt know about any great commission or he would have been more understanding of Pauls work among non-Jews.) Of course, Jesuss message does have universal appeal. We just dont think he had enough time to develop a vision beyond his borders. Thus, the impulse behind the Great Commission is more likely to have come from the post-70 C.E. church than from the pre30 C.E. Jesus. We believe the missionary mindset contains inherent contradictions, as illustrated by the following exchange: A pagan asks a missionary, If I didnt know about God and sin, would I go to hell? The missionary says, No, not if you didnt know. To which the pagan replies, Then why did you tell me? If people in a state of grace become condemned once they hear and reject the gospel, then missionary preaching itself is the catalyst that moves them from grace to condemnation. Wouldnt it be best to leave ignorant unbelievers alone, in their state of grace, in the first place? We are persons whove come to know and love folks from a variety of paths: Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Bahai, Jain, Native American, Pagan, and more. We recognize the common themes that make religions more alike than different: mercy, compassion, forgiveness, humility, empathy, etc. These qualities, no matter where they are found, emanate from the same place: the Source of All Truth and Beauty in the Universe. Human efforts to elevate one path above others are misguided and pointless, in our opinion. Being a Pagan isnt wrong; trying to convert one is! The Dalai Lama has said: Dont use what you learn from the Buddha to be a Buddhist; use it to be a better whateveryou-already-are. We think the church should adopt a similar perspective: Dont use what you learn from Jesus to be a Christian; use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are. Thus, we call on Mennonite mission agencies to: 1. 2. 3. 4. Renounce the doctrine of eternal punishment as inconsistent with the essence of the Sermon on the Mount; Change their mandate from conversion of the masses to preservation of mass diversity; Create reparations ministries for making amends to groups harmed by past missionizing practices; Send representatives around the globe to investigate the truth and beauty in other religions, and bring those elements back for the edification of folks at home; 5. Develop a different kind of outreach paradigm, one that works alongside people to help them (and us) deepen the journeys were already on. Without coercion, and without judgment, of course.
The Mennonite Universalist Association was created in July 2012.
Visit www.facebook.com/mennoniteuniversalistassociation and like us. Declaration last revised: June 22, 2013.