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GENEVA (RNS/ENI) Lutheran World Federation leaders plan to apologize for their ancestors 16th-century persecution of Anabaptists, religious reformers whose successors include Mennonites and the Amish.
“We ask for forgiveness — from God and from our Mennonite sisters and brothers — for the harm that our forebears in the sixteenth century committed to Anabaptists,” says a statement adopted unanimously on Monday (Oct. 26) by the LWF’s council.
The apology is now recommended for formal adoption by the highest LWF governing body, its assembly, meeting in Stuttgart, Germany, in July 2010.
Anabaptists, whose originally pejorative name means “re-baptizers”, stressed the need to baptize Christian believers, including those who had been baptized as infants. They were persecuted as heretics by both Protestants and Catholics, and many of them fled to America.
The Rev. Larry Miller, general secretary of the Mennonite World Conference, who attended the Geneva meeting, welcomed the vote by the LWF council. Miller said this request for forgiveness would require that Mennonites also change.
“Mennonites have learned from Lutherans that we are justified by faith alone, because we know that justification produces not only relations between oneself and God but also communion between the churches,” said Miller.
LWF president, the Rev. Mark Hanson, who is also presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said the apology process had begun 25 years ago, “when we began to examine Luther’s anti-Semitic writings”.
“We are also heirs of a tradition that has borne pain in the lives of others because of how our ancestors have written, spoken and communicated,” said Hanson.
A document presented to the LWF council about the apology described repentance as “the only fitting response to the persecutions of the 16th century and the continuing Lutheran characterizations of Anabaptists in the centuries which followed. “It noted how the Augsburg Confession of 1530, a central Lutheran statement of faith, explicitly condemned Anabaptists and their teachings.
By Stephen Brown
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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