KANSAS CITY (Mennonite Mission Network) – While anger and forgiveness might seem to occupy opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, the Hursts consider them tools that can work, and do good, together.
Mark and Mary Hurst led the seminar ‘Anger and forgiveness: gifts to share’ on Thursday, July 4, 2019, as part of the Mennonite Church USA convention in Kansas City. The Hursts have served as resource people and pastors with the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand (AAANZ) since 1990. Through their nearly 30 years of service, Mark and Mary have worked to build Anabaptist networks, lead conflict transformation workshops, and cultivate community.
In their seminar, Mark pointed to Ephesians 4:25-32 as an example of Paul calling to the Ephesians to both get angry and let go of their anger through forgiveness, a confusing request if one relies only on the English translation of the text. Leaning on the teachings of Tom Yoder Neufeld, professor emeritus at Conrad Grebel University College and delegate session facilitator at the conference, Mark proposed that Paul advocated for shifting anger from a personal emotion to the cause itself. “What injustice or falsehood needs to be addressed?” he asked the attendees. The list of righteous anger sources suggested by the audience was long. Oppression. Abuse. Silence in the face of injustice.
"There are situations in the world where we have every right to be angry. I go to God about that,” said Mary, who along with Mark, have helped organize civil disobedience protests in Australia. “I pull weeds as well,” she added with a smile.
In helping seminar attendees redefine anger, the Hursts also encouraged viewing forgiveness in a new light. “Forgiveness is not for the other person,” said Mary. “It's for the person who was hurt to heal.” The couple laid out steps for forgiveness, stressing that it can be a lengthy, complex process; not a singular act.
“Some of our best opportunities to share faith have come out of talking about these practical steps [for forgiveness],” explained Mark. “People will say, "Where did you learn this?" and for us, it's the whole theme of being alternative, being attractive, and then when people ask, being articulate about your faith.”