Young Anabaptist Radicals

Latest Posts

Blessed are the poor in spirit; Blessed is the spirit that the poor possess


/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin-top:0cm;
mso-para-margin-right:0cm;
mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt;
mso-para-margin-left:0cm;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:12.0pt;
font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

Living 10 years in Latin America, where one inevitably encounters poverty and is therefore affected by it, has shaped my life, my priorities, and my thinking.

What’s more, I was lucky enough not to live at arms length from those who were poor. Our family and the work of my parents had us building relationships with those who were poor. I got to listen to, had friendships with, and walked side-by-side with those who were struggling with poverty. These experiences and relationships have changed my life. Now, being formed by these relationships, I find myself continuing to walk with those who are poor. This has led me to work in prisons, homeless shelters, and in communities in South Africa where my hope is that I can be in solidarity with those whose lives are spent struggling against that which systemically causes, creates, or keeps people in poverty. This is, after all, a struggle for justice.

One reality, however, that continues to cause confusion, especially among Christians, is the question of whether the gospel message deals with economic or material realities. One verse that has caused much confusion is Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

This verse begins one of the most powerful and revolutionary “sermons” or teachings ever articulated. The Sermon on the Mount, as it has become known, flipped many assumptions, expectations, and understandings of the day upside down. In fact it continues to do so. It articulates a seeming foolishness that we are called to trust, follow, and embody. In our world it seems to make no sense to love our enemies, go the second mile for those who are willing to exploit, forgive and pray for those who persecute us. Yet this is the upside down logic Jesus provides.

This sermon’s revolutionary nature is noteworthy. When we moved to Bolivia in 1980, the dictator Garcia Mesa had just come to office. Mesa made a list of books that were banned to Bolivian people. Included in this list were Matthew chapters 5-7! Why would a ruler ban these chapters? Because he recognized the danger they posed to his power, authority, and rulership. Mesa recognized that if his citizens were actually to practice what is taught in these three chapters, he would have a difficult time achieving his political goals. These chapters are revolutionary!

Unfortunately, we often interpret these passages (and even Jesus’ life and teachings in general) in ways that dilute its revolutionary character. We mold and interpret these passages in ways that are easier and safer to grasp, both politically and economically, so that, if we are in a position of power, we don’t have to feel too threatened by its message. We alter its good-news message so that it does not have to affect our positions of power and status.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,” is one such example. Sometimes it seems that North Americans gravitate towards Matthew’s rendition of the Sermon on the Mount as opposed to Luke’s version, perhaps in part because Matthew seems to “spiritualize” the situation—“Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew) as opposed to “Blessed are the poor” (Luke). Surely, it is thought, the good news is not just for the poor. For this reason we tend to understand that those who are spiritually poor are also somehow blessed. Surely, one might say, the gospel message isn’t making an economic statement. Matthew’s rendition provides more ambiguity than Luke’s, making its message easier to swallow, especially if we are not in a position of poverty.

Matthew 5:3 has been variously interpreted, with the hope that its ambiguity can be clarified. Several elements in this verse affect how it is interpreted. Let me identify some of these:

o Some translations include the verb “to know”: “Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor…” (Good News Bible). The Greek text does not include the verb meaning “to know”.

o Matthew’s version, as opposed to Luke’s, includes “in spirit.” The Good News Bible states, “spiritually poor”. These versions seem to reduce poverty to a form of spiritual poverty.

o In the Greek text, “spirit” is a noun not an adjective. The noun appears with a definite article “the”. The impact of this article is not present in many translations. In English this changes the meaning drastically. Instead of “Blessed are the poor in the spirit” (the poor who walk in the spirit), it is “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (those who have a poor spirit or who are spiritually poor). If the sustantive character is maintained, it points to a spirit that exists within poverty that is also foundational to the character of the kingdom of God. In other words, there is a particular spirit that the poor possess that is blessed. Author R. J. Suderman in Calloused Hands, Courageous Souls: Holistic Spirituality of Development and Mission states “…The poor recognize their dependence on others, understand human interdependence, see the evil of oppression, comprehend that their situation is unjust and struggle for the change they deserve. In other words, the spirit of the poor is a blessed spirituality.”

o The Greek text could also be translated: “Blessed are the poor through the spirit.” This translation puts the poor in a favored position. The word “with” could also be an option (“Blessed are the poor with the spirit”).

o “Blessed” is often used in a passive tense. In We Belong to this Land author and scholar Elias Chacour suggests that Jesus used the word ashray from the verb yashar. Both very active words that mean to act, move, turn around, repent or put oneself on the road.

These elements provide a potentially different way of translating this verse. If we were to incorporate these insights, it could read:

“May the poor get up, move, walk, and act in-with-through the spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Put this way, the phrase sounds familiar and is in line with other teachings of Jesus:

o It affirms that the Spirit is with the poor.

o It suggests that the Spirit of the poor fits very well within the coming kingdom of God.

o It encourages the poor to move in the direction of the kingdom that has arrived.

o It suggests that as the poor move toward the kingdom, the kingdom will also be revealed in the world.

The situation of the poor will change with the presence of the kingdom. The poor are both the principle subject of the inauguration of the new kingdom and the necessary objects of its benefits. It is the poor and their situation that will be drastically transformed with the coming of the kingdom. R. J. Suderman writes, “Their situation will be transformed because the lack of equality, the oppression and the hunger and mistreatment that we understand as part of the situation of the poor in our world do not coincide with the character of this kingdom.”

R.J. Suderman suggests that this highlights the preferential option of the poor in God’s plan: “God opposes the oppressors, the wealthy and the powerful, who struggle to keep the situation as it is.” What’s more is that the spirituality found in poverty aligns with the spirituality required by God to enter the kingdom. Suderman continues, “To recognize the injustice that surrounds us, to discern the roots of oppression, to depend on the direction of the Holy Spirit, to share what little one has with the needy, to open oneself to new revelations of God and to recognize one’s dependence on God and our human interdependence are only some of the characteristics already present in the world of the poor and in the purpose of the kingdom of God.”

Such an alternative understanding moves us away from the ambiguous translation that somehow blesses a poor spirit. Poverty itself is not blessed. This understanding does not advocate that those who are poor should remain poor. This verse does not speak about poverty: it speaks about the poor. This alternate reading highlights that the spirit that the poor possess aligns better with what the kingdom of God is about, and with the economic, political, and social realities that are associated with the kingdom.

Blessed indeed is the spirit that the poor possess for it is a revolutionary spirit that challenges the political and economic assumptions that do not match with God’s alternative kingdom.

This article leans heavily on Calloused Hands, Courageous Souls: Holistic Spirituality of Development and Mission (R.J. Suderman, Monrovia, California: MARC books, 1998).

Andrew Suderman is a Mennonite Church Canada worker in South Africa and is the Director of the Anabaptist Network in South Africa. Check out this and other columns in their Alternative News.

Have we lost our way?

(Repost from http://ballymennoniteblogger.blogspot.com/)

<div xmlns=’http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml’>A new issue of the online version of “The Mennonite” church publication has been released.  I just got my e-mail today.  I enjoy getting this weekly dose of information from the primary publication of my denomination.  It keeps me informed as to what’s going on at the denominational level and gives me some different insights on modern issues from a Mennonite perspective.<br/><br/>However, I must say that this morning’s issue disappointed me.  Not because of the lack of content, nor because it somehow didn’t meet the professional standards of the publication.  It disappointed me because of the content itself.  The lead article in today’s e-mail found <a href=’http://www.themennonite.org/issues/12-14/articles/Healing_hope_and_healthcare_reform’>here</a> discusses how the health-care reform bills currently being worked on by the US federal government coincide with Jesus’ inaugural sermon from <a href=’http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%204:16-20;&amp;version=72;’>Luke 4</a>.<br/><br/>On one level, I agree with this article.  The Kingdom of God is a kingdom in which there is no more poverty, no more disadvantaged, no more illness, no more pain, where everyone can come to the table of the Lord with equal stature and be blessed by God.  Amen.  Preach it.  Come Lord Jesus.<br/><br/>What disappoints me about this article goes towards the roots of what the Anabaptist movement and the Mennonite denomination has been about for centuries.  The foundations of our denomination are not in advocating programs in the government, having the state dictate the ethics of the church, giving power to the secular human institutions to carry out God’s kingdom.  Quite the contrary.  As I read the stories of faith from our denominational past, both the general as well as the ones more close to my personal story, I hear stories of a people who have a faith in their God that acts out in personal witness and activity.  I hear of people who, when the secular organizations are insufficient, step up to the plate and sacrificially give of themselves to meet the needs.  Organizations like MCC with their meat canning project, Mennonite Disaster Service when FEMA fell through, educational programs in third world countries, advocacy for peace in Palestine when the UN fails to save lives… the list goes on.   One instance after another where a denomination, when a need is seen, gets out of the pews and goes into the world to carry out the mission of the Kingdom that Jesus read about in the writings of Isaiah.<br/><br/>Don’t get me wrong.  I do feel that it is the responsibility of the members of the Kingdom of God to act as God’s ambassadors to this world, calling our governments and secular institutions to repent and come into line with God’s plan.  However, the article in the Mennonite, along with many discussions with other Mennonite church members, advocates giving this power to the government.  One reasoning I heard was that “It’s such a big job, there’s no way the church can do it.”  This has been the primary argument for a number of things, from this current health-care reform debate to debates on welfare reform to conversations about marriage.  The church does not have the power or the resource, therefore we must advocate the government’s role.<br/><br/>I’ve got one word for that argument: BUNK.  Here’s why.  The suppositiion seems to be that the human ability of the Christian church is insufficient to meet the immense needs of the poor around us.  Listen to that again.  God’s church does not have the power to do it.  Okay, one more time.  The body of Christ is unable to change the world.  You hear that?  You hear what is being said?  The argument seems to be that there is a limit to what a people, who call themselves the body of Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit to do God’s work in this world, blessed by God with talents, abilities and gifts…there is a limit to what God’s people can do.  The power of God, acted out through his people, is limited.  We can’t do it.  God is not big enough to help us do what needs to be done.  The same God who, as the God-Man Jesus, raised Lazerus from the dead, healed countless people, cast out demons, fed 5,000 men with a few loaves of bread and some dried fish…  Nope.  Can’t do it.  The church cannot do it.  God does not have the ability to give us any power to make these changes.  It costs too much, takes too many people, takes up too much time, there are too many obstacles.  Nope.  God cannot help us do this.  We’ve gotta have the government do it.<br/><br/>This is the same God who Paul wrote, as a reason why he was able to surmount many obstacles, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13).  Or how about the same Paul who wrote that, when faced with the power of sin, is able to say “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).  What about the many stories in the book of Acts where the church stepped up to the plate and, through their own sacrifice and generousity, were able to meet the needs of hundreds of people without having to ask the Roman emporer to do so?  Paul alludes to this in his letters to the churches, how Macedonian Christians gave out of even their poverty and, because of this act of sacrifice, were able to bless many.<br/><br/>Again, please understand, I do believe that we need to call our government to justice and mercy.  We need to ask our government to step in on the part of the poor and disenfranchised, to act justly, to live mercifully.  But we CANNOT.. I repeat, we CANNOT expect the government to do it.  It is a human institution and subject, especially in an institution that is constitutionally not a spiritual organization, to the failings of all such human institutions.  Our own church <a href=’http://www.mennolink.org/doc/cof/art.23.html’>confession of faith</a>, concerning government says, “Even at its best, a government cannot act completely according to the justice of God because no nation, except the church, confesses Christ’s rule as its foundation.” (Article 23).<br/><br/>As I said, I agree with the article in The Mennonite and the resolution in Columbus that the Mennonite church “asks members to urge their legislators to support legislation extending access to all Americans, especially the poor and disadvantaged”.  That is EXACTLY what the Mennonite Church has done over the centuries.  But what is MOST important to our traditions of the church, is that it doesn’t stop there.  It is the church (meaning the body of believers characterized by faith in Christ) living out the mission of God that ultimately bears the responsibility for the Kingdom.  To sit back and expect the government to do so I would argue is going along with the idolatry of the government (also stated in Article 23 of our confession of faith).  To say that the government has more power than the church to effect change in our society, I believe, is a wrong statement.<br/><br/>Let’s write to our legislators.  Let’s tell them what we want.  Let’s be that voice the cries out in the darkness.  Let’s be the light on the hill.  But let’s also be salt and light in the world.  Once we’ve raised our voices to the secular powers, let’s grab hold of the power given us by God, as joint heirs with Christ, and step out into the world, confident that God will bless us with everything that we need to be able to do the work of His kingdom in this world.  Peter Dyck used to tell the story of the Berlin Exodus.  He always introduced the story by stating a German phrase: “Gott Kann”.  Obama’s supporters used a particular chant during the campaign.  “We can do it, yes we can.”  As the Christian church, I would say we can borrow this, with a slight edit:<br/><br/>”We can do it!”<br/>”Yes, God can!”<br/><br/><div class=’zemanta-pixie’><img src=’http://img.zemanta.com/pixy.gif?x-id=728d0eda-de2a-818b-a271-7554395e2019′ alt=” class=’zemanta-pixie-img’/></div></div>

Introducing myself

Greetings, everyone. Some of you I know, either in person or from online discussion, others I do not but I look forward to getting to know you.

I have commented occasionally and long been a lurker, but this is my first foray into actually posting on YAR. God willing, I hope to do so on an occasional-to-semi-regular basis.

Let me get the necessary personal information out of the way first. I just turned 30 and am about to enter my second year in the Master of Arts in Theological Studies program, concentration in theology and ethics, at AMBS. Along with Gretchen, my wife, I co-direct a nascent ecological mission in South Bend, Indiana. I also do freelance web development and related tasks, though work has been a bit sparse lately. Last but not least, I am the facilitator for Christarchy! and the editor of Absolution Revolution, which is just beginning its second life as a group blog and (I hope) Christian radical knowledge base. Before all of these things, though, I strive to be a faithful disciple of Jesus, walking in the ways of peace. To be honest, I’m not very good at it most of the time.

I’m very good at the academic thing. I have a head for arguments and keeping together complex matters that might not at first glance seem to be related. I navigate the abstractions of philosophy and critical theory like a duck glides through water. I’m exceedingly humble as well, if you couldn’t tell. I’m not, however, nearly as good at making truths about justice, equality, love, and peace evident and concrete in my life. I’m not a very good peacemaker, and it’s very easy for me to get so wrapped up in the philosophical minutiae of an issue that I lose track of how the issue affects real people in actual life situations. It’s one thing, for example, to note the facts of racism as it expresses itself in my city through profiling and codes that, while “colorblind” in letter are in practice tools of oppression. It’s quite another to move beyond mere analysis and put flesh on the truths exposed. My hope is that y’all here can help me find ways to move beyond “just” doing theology to integrating theology into a lived existence where the way of Jesus is visible to those around me.

Peace be with you.

A Modest Proposal (or A Post-Yoderian Strategy)

Editor’s Note: 10 years ago, we kicked off this blog. Over the coming months, we’ll be hosting a series of posts reflecting back on the last 10 years. Thanks to Tom Airey, co-editor of our sister blog, RadicalDiscipleship.net for this second post in this series. – Tim Nafziger

DSC_0578
Caption: Tom (right) listening to Ched Myers during a conversation by a stream in California in 2011 with Elaine Enns in background.

by Tom Airey

When Young Anabaptist Radicals launched a decade ago, I was out West reading compelling scholarship from Walter Brueggemann, Brian McLaren, N.T. Wright, Marcus Borg and John Howard Yoder (WGWW: white guys with websites), moved by their mapping of a much needed “post-Evangelical” Christian terrain. I took their ideas at face value: meaning that I yearned to apply many of their convictions to my own ministry, marriage, church and vocation. But I frequently found myself day-dreaming about what these authors are like in real time. Of course, there’s always a gap between word and deed, but I was becoming more and more uncomfortable with my own SCS (Seminary Celebrity Sensationalism). We white male academics are the masters at hero-worshipping our favorite authors, pastors, scholars and philosophers. (more…)

MCUSA, what keeps us together? (part 2)

“During this period they began to read the Bible with the eyes of the powerless; and a person without power reads it differently from someone with power” (16).

The significance of Schleitheim: “They wanted to make it clear that their own Reformation was neither one ‘from above’, supported by magisterial authority, nor a Reformation ‘from below’, achieved with the help of revolutionary violence” (14).

Instead of going the route of the essentialists, I would rather think through the work of the historian Hans-Jurgen Goertz, especially his book The Anabaptists (London, UK: Routledge, 1996). According to Goertz, there was no “original form, an ‘Ur-Anabaptism’, which evolved while almost always preserving its essential qualities, despite the odd transformation or corruption. There was no ‘real’ Anabaptism in this sense” (34). Instead of looking for “bare essentials” (as Murray would have us do), Goertz doesn’t seem to believe that there is an Anabaptist scratch to which we can find our way back. Part of the problem with the essentialist approach is that it assumes a homogeneous theological point of origin for Anabaptism, and proceeds to manufacture a single strand of Anabaptist tradition purified of variety and difference. For Goertz, this approach fails to take seriously the theological heterogeneity of Anabaptists.

Part 2 is here: http://young.anabaptistradicals.org/2011/08/13/mcusa-what-keeps-us-together/

Celebrating 10 Years of Young Anabaptist Radicals

Editor’s Note: 10 years ago today, we held the founding meeting of Young Anabaptist Radicals and kicked off this blog. Over the coming months, we’ll be hosting a series of posts reflecting back on the last 10 years. At the end of that series, this blog will be converted into a personal blog for my own writing hither and yon on the internet. Thanks to Luke Miller for starting us off with this reflection. Contribution from other YAR contributors are welcome! – Tim Nafziger

by Luke L Miller

I noticed, back in the day, that newcomers to YAR would often feel compelled to explain how they felt those three word applied to them: Young, Anabaptist, and Radical. These statements usually read as confessions, how they might not be able to fully claim all these three traits without qualifications or complications. Yet there was always something so intriguing and right about their combination that drew people into conversation. For me, coming upon the site (I forget how that happened really) I felt I was continuing the conversations I had started in college (at Goshen) about the way faith and action could create social change. Indeed, in many cases that was literally true, as a number of the founders and main contributors to YAR were friends from college, and I relived how cool it felt to be joining with interesting folks in talking about changing the world. Now, looking back years later, it’s interesting that I find my instincts drawing me to reflect on precisely how these words strike me now, and try them on for size. (more…)

They Obtained Much Following

16th century German historiographer and reporter Sebastian Franck (1499-1543) wrote concerning the Anabaptists in his work Chronik (III, fol. 188):
The course of the Anabaptist was so swift, that their doctrines soon overspread the whole land and they obtained much following, baptized thousands and drew many good hearts to them; for they taught, as it seemed, naught but love, faith and endurance, showing themselves in much
tribulation patient and humble. They brake bread with one another as a sign of the oneness and love, helped one another as a sign of oneness and love, helped one another truly with precept, lending, borrowing, giving; taught that all things should be in common and called each other ‘Brother.’ They increased so suddenly that the world did fear a tumult for reason of them. Though of this, as I hear, they have in all places been found innocent. They are persecuted in many parts with great tyranny, cast into bonds and tormented, with burning, with sword, with fire, with water, and with much imprisonment, so that in few years in many places a multitude of them have been undone, as is reported to the number of two thousand, who in divers places have been killed….they suffer as martyrs with patience and steadfastness (Rise and Fall of the Anabaptists, 28).

Four Streams of Anabaptism

16298567045_4366f59e97_k

This is a cross-posting of a piece first posted eight years ago on my blog for The Mennonite. Since then we organized a series here on YAR looking at some of the historical groups that Sawatsky highlights. You can read the articles in that series here.

What if rather than one unified view of Anabaptist we instead looked at our tradition as containing many different streams, in the same way that Richard Foster finds different streams of Christian spiritual practice in Streams of Living Water.

Last week on Young Anabaptist Radicals I wrote about Gregory Boyd’s discovery of Mennonites as well as his dismay at our falling away from our roots. It provoked a lively discussion about percieved divisions in the Mennonite church and deviation by Mennonites from core Anabaptist values. One of the things that became clear in the discussion is that there are many different views of what the core Anabaptist values are and how they should be lived out.

Growing up as a Mennonite, I learned that the way we live our faith is tied to the experience of our predecessors in 16th Century Europe. Though I didn’t study it until college, Harold S. Bender’s Anabaptist Vision informed much of what I viewed as Mennonite. Writing in 1944, Bender defined the Swiss Brethren tradition as “the original evangelical and constructive Anabaptism” as opposed to the other streams of Anabaptism “which came and went like the flowers of the field.”

And so it was the story of the Swiss Brethren re-baptizing one another in 1525 in Zurich that I learned at the Mennonite high school I attended. Felix Manz, Conrad Grebel and George Blaurock were the founding fathers of our faith. As Mennonites today we should look to their example.

This summer at the Mennonite convention in San Jose, I heard an alternative to this model. At a workshop I attended, Dale Schrag introduced four different types of Anabaptism first proposed in 1992 by Rodney Sawatsky “The One and the Many: The Recovery of Mennonite Pluralism” published in Anabaptism Revisited; Essays on Anabaptist/Mennonite Studies in Honor of C. J. Dyck.

In the essay, Sawatsky acknowledges the dominance of Bender’s vision, but offers an alternative model for contemporary Anabaptism based on more than just the story of the Swiss Brethren. He identifies the emphasis of each stream and connects it with a different leader or group of 16th century Anabaptists.

Here’s what it looks like:

Anabaptist Stream
Emphasis
16th Century Corollary
Separationist
Social/cultural non-conformity to the world
Swiss Brethren with Schleitheim Confession
Establishment
Biblical nonresistance/personal holiness
Menno Simons
Reformist
Discipleship of Christ/service to the world
Pilgram Marpeck
Transformationist
Political/ideological nonconformity to the political powers
Hans Hut and apocalyptic Anabaptists

(more…)

C. Henry Smith on Mennonite church splits and schisms

C. Henry Smith

In his 1941 book, The Story of the Mennonites, historian C. Henry Smith describes the 1847 church conflict that led to a group of Mennonites leaving Franconia Conference to create Eastern Pennsylvania District of Mennonites. This new group eventually launched the General Conference Mennonite Church. In describing this schism among Mennonites, Smith observed a broader pattern:

It will be observed that the questions in dispute did not concern themselves with fundamental Mennonite doctrine. Mennonite quarrels never do. The new party did not differ from the old in its belief in adult baptism, non-resistance, opposition to the oath, rejection of secret societies, and for a time even in the retention of footwashing. The chief distinction lay rather in a more tolerant attitude of the “News,” as they were called by the “Olds,” toward the non-Mennonite world, both political and religious. (p. 602-603)

The “News,” led by John H. Oberholtzer, went on to adopt such radical innovations as Sunday School.

The roots of our ruptures

Why are Mennonites so prone to church divisions? (more…)

7 Radical Discipleship communities that have shaped my journey as an Anabaptist

Sapling growing in rock in forest

This was first posted on Geez Magazine. From February 16-20, 2015, I was immersed in the Between Seminary, Sanctuary, Streets and Soil: A Festival of Radical Discipleship. The gathering featured over 80 presenters from communities around the U.S. Their stories of radical discipleship inspired me to put together this primer of seven communities that I have visited and interacted with over the past decade. Each of them were represented at the Festival.

Beloved Community Center

Joyce and Nelson Johnson have lead the Beloved Community Center for over 20 years based on the vision and mode of Dr. Martin Luther King and inextricably rooted in the Greensboro, North Carolina. When I visited their community for in June 2011 I sat in on their “Wednesday table” where BCC staff and interns sit down with supporters and fellow organizers from the community to talk about what’s going on. I also joined one of the Bible studies and worship services that are a foundation of the centre’s life and work.

Their organizing work includes police accountability, economic justice, environmental justice, and community organizing. They see themselves as a “levelling place” for people from different racial and economic groups around the city of which 30% is African-American, 40% is white, and 30% is other (Latino, Asian and others). They were also instrumental in organizing the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which looked deeply into the November 3, 1979 Greensboro Massacre. Five members in an anti-Klan protest were killed by the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. Nelson Johnson was one of the leaders of the march and his 2011 account of the event includes footage from the massacre itself taken by news crews at the time.

Carnival de Resistance

The Carnival de Resistance flows out of the prophetic vision of Tevyn East and Jay Beck in conversation with many scholars, activists, and artists. In its residency form, it involves week-long convergences complete with nightly performances, a bicycle powered sound system, and a carnival midway. Sarah Thompson, Christian Peacemaker Teams executive director and CdR member, describes how the experience impacted her:

(more…)

Consistency in small things: Wrestling with the “A word”

Stamen and Petal of flower.

I wrote this piece on my blog for The Mennonite back in October 2012, but never got around to posting it here. I finished up my role of interim assistant director at 5 months ago and moved back to doing web site building. However I continue to ponder the themes in this post.

In September I accepted a position as interim assistant director with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). This role comes as a bit of a surprise, for a number of reasons.

As regular readers of the blog know, I’ve been outreach coordinator with CPT for four years now and I’ve thrived in the role. I love meeting with new people and connecting them with CPT’s work. I like coming up with creative initiatives and following them through to their conclusion. I’ve walked with all our teams in the process of finding a new mission, vision and values (and soon, a new logo). I like working with changing teams of people to accomplish shared tasks together. But I’ve never been comfortable with the term “administrator,” or the “A word” as I like to think of it. I’ve always preferred “coordinator” or “organizer” to describe my work.

But then it happened. I was sitting with Rod Stafford, long-time pastor at Portland Mennonite. We were talking through logistics of their church hosting Peace, Pies and Prophets in January. “There aren’t many peacemaker administrators out there.” he said, “I wish there were more.” And then the conversation went on.

(more…)

“Mennonite Women’s Posse”: How feminists organized for accountability for John Howard Yoder

Green plant and Tree trunk

In the new issue of Mennonite Quarterly Review, five essays look at John Howard Yoder’s systematic project of sexual harassment and abuse of women. Unless otherwise noted, the articles named below are part of the issue.

Rachel Waltner Goossen’s essay “‘Defanging the Beast': Mennonite Responses to John Howard Yoder’s Sexual Abuse” is the most extensive of these pieces. It is the result of an in-depth year-long study using previously inaccessible files. Her piece makes clearer then ever institutional complicity with Yoder’s abuse, starting in the late 1970s through the four year attempt to rehabilitate him that ended in 1996:

“As Marlin Miller and other Mennonite leaders learned of Yoder’s behavior, the tendency to protect institutional interests—rather than seeking redress for women reporting sexual violation—was amplified because of Yoder’s status as the foremost Mennonite theologian and because he conceptualized his behavior as an experimental form of sexual ethics.”

I’ve argued previously that this complicity continued up through the summer of 2013. At the time I asked “How do we develop a theology of power that give us ears to hear the voices of those marginalized and eyes to see the way we participate in their marginalization?”

(more…)

Fire and the Sword: An Adventist Finds His Roots in the Radical Reformation (Part 3)

Menno_Simonsz

This is the final post in my three-part series comparing Seventh-day Adventists and Anabaptists. Please see the introduction to Part 1 if you have not yet read it.

Part 1 looked at expectations about God. Part 2 considered expectations of Christians and the Church. Part 3 will look at our common expectations for the world. Since I know many Adventists are reading this series along with YAR’s regular readers, I hope it has helped each faith community understand the other a bit more. Naturally, there is still much to learn about each tradition beyond the similarities covered here.

Before beginning the final comparison, Tim invited me to make a few observations about the CBS television program that was the catalyst or spark for this series—“World Religions: Sikhs, Seventh-day Adventists, and Mennonites” (description, video, schedule). One of the few common features between the three faith communities is that to varying degrees we are outsiders to American culture or society. We struggle with how to be true to our faith’s demands about being different and somehow separate while still engaging and influencing society. To use a decidedly Christian phrase, How is an adherent of one of these traditions to be in the world but not of it?

The first thing that surprised me about the program was how short it was. With a mere 27 minutes divided between the three faiths, only the most basic information could be conveyed. At its best, the program may pique one’s interest, leading to more study. Hopefully no one turns off their TV or closes their web browser after watching it and says, “Now I understand the ___.” They would be mistaken.

(more…)

Foot-washing and Conscientious Objection: An Adventist Finds His Roots in the Radical Reformation (Part 2)

Painting_of_the_Foot_Washing_-_Santa_Maria_del_Mar_-_Barcelona_2014_(crop) (300x200)

This is the second in a three-part series comparing Seventh-day Adventists and Anabaptists. The CBS television program “World Religions: Sikhs, Seventh-day Adventists, and Mennonites” (description, program, schedule) provided the motivation for this series. Please see the introduction to Part 1 if you have not yet read it. As I explain in the introduction, this project was initially designed as a way for Adventists to learn about Anabaptist views, rather than the other way around as in this present series.

One additional item I probably should have acknowledged in Part 1 is that this approach may make it appear as though I believe early Anabaptism was uniform, with all believers under that label holding all particulars in common. This was certainly not the case, as readers of this blog know quite well (see the YAR “Anabaptist Streams” series, for example). A more detailed study would note the similarities and differences between the various Anabaptist groups and then compare these with Adventism. However, that approach is well beyond my ability to adequately pull off, so I will continue with the much simpler and less precise comparative methodology I used while taking Anabaptist History and Theology at AMBS.

Part 1 was lengthy because of the extended series introduction. This second installment is long because it covers several expectations about Christians, both individually and collectively. With that warning, let’s get to it. And again, I ask for patience with the lengthy quotes.

Part 2—Expectations of Christians and the Church

Both Anabaptists and Adventists expect believers to (a) voluntarily unite, (b) follow after Jesus in discipleship, (c) be baptized, (d) wash one another’s feet, (e) participate in the Lord’s Supper, (f) form a holy church, (g) study the Bible, (h) show compassion, and (i) not engage in violence.

(more…)