Walt Wiltschek, Mennonite Church USA
ELKHART, Indiana — Rachel Miller Jacobs, assistant professor of congregational formation at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS), was one of three keynote speakers at Deep Faith: Anabaptist Faith Formation for All Ages, a conference held Oct. 6–8 at AMBS. More than 100 people participated.
Miller Jacobs focused her address on Anabaptist values of reconciliation and peacemaking with a look at “ordinary-time forgiveness” (as opposed to extreme incidents) — noting that the Greek word aphiemi has a wider range of meaning (including “sending away” and “letting go”) than “forgiveness,” which is how it’s usually translated.
She defined "human becoming" as the construction of “matrices of meaning” and noted how one’s actions and words can offend someone — even unintentionally — by being at odds with those frameworks. When people come into conflict, it isn’t only because of a “binary” of right and wrong, she said, illustrating her point with an example from her marriage.
Miller Jacobs cautioned against the religoius tendency of “perfecting” concepts and definitions so that others with differing viewpoints can’t possibly be right and said that despite high aspirations, “all persons and all groups have a shadow.”
“We often fall into a pattern of everyday harmful behavior while aspiring to virtue,” she said. “How do we embody (forgiveness) in our family life and our congregational life so that we’re not just aspiring to, but actually practicing it? We have to become better practitioners.”
Since “God is the God of the first and third and 50th try,” and grace allows room for re-adjustment, she continued, we can “choose over and over again the trajectory of becoming increasingly reconciling people.”
Numerous other AMBS faculty and staff assisted with the conference, including President Sara Wenger Shenk, who brought welcoming remarks, and Andy Brubacher Kaethler, assistant professor of Christian formation and culture, who served on the planning team and led a workshop. For full coverage of the event, read, "Deep Faith" conference delves into faith formation