Shifting definition of “Ethnic”

First things first.  Being Mennonite has nothing, repeat NOTHING, to do with ethnicity.  Being Mennonite, or any other version of Anabaptism, has to do with a particular understanding of faith, religion and God.

That being said, I offer the following observation on the use of the term “ethnic” within the Mennonite Church.

One one hand: I am an “ethnic” Mennonite.

I grew up in central Kansas.  Within a 50 mile radius from the Hesston/Newton area there were over 100 different Mennonite settlements.  Each of these groups came from various parts of Europe during the 1860’s to 1890’s.  They could hardly be described as a homogeneous group, even though today they all happen to all be seen as white/european/Americans.  To be fair, the central Kansas Mennonites are also not the same as the northern Indiana Mennonites, which are not the same as the east coast Mennonites.  Nevertheless, I grew up knowing that I was part of a group known as “ethnic” Mennonites.  In my childhood consciousness that meant, primarily, that we ate weird food, had weird last names, kept track of genealogy to the 14th generation, had grandparents that spoke German and a variety of other things.  Above all, however, the term “ethnic Mennonite” referred specifically to a group of white people who emigrated from Europe to the United States.

On the other hand: I am not an “ethnic” Mennonite.

While the origins of Anabaptism, and thus the Mennonite church, come out of a Northern European context, the Mennonite church has begun to deal with the changing racial landscape of the churches that make up it’s constituency.  (The effectiveness  and completeness of this integration should certainly be discussed further at a later date)  In the struggle to describe the different parts of our church we have settled, intentionally or unintentionally, on the term “racial/ethnic” to describe the non-white parts of the Mennonite church.  The term “racial/ethnic” is somewhat of a catchall term that is not fantastically specific by any means.  “racial/ethnic” simply seems to mean “not-white”.  As far as I can observe, from my viewpoint as a white male, the use of the term “racial/ethnic” does not really allow for a nuanced understanding of the differences and tensions within and between the various cultural groups that get lumped into this category.  For example, the term “racial/ethnic” neglects the various shades within the Hispanic communities in the church.

I offer these observations simply to name a phenomenon that I’ve noticed.  I’m not making an value judgment on the use of “ethnic” in either sense.  I simply find it interesting.  I also do not yet know what it means to have the same word used in very different ways.  So, I ask you all; does this actually matter?  What are the implications of the use of this word?  Is it worth being more specific in our language?  If so, how do we go about changing the use of it?

Thoughts?

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19 Responses to “Shifting definition of “Ethnic””

  1. Robert Martin Says:

    I consider myself to be an “ethnic” Mennonite. In my mind, the definition of “ethnic” in this context is that I belong to the specific culture of North American Mennonite. I treasure pot-luck dinners, have fond memories of “knotting comfort”, I live for shoo-fly pie, whoopie pies, etc. Within 10 minutes, I can find a social or familial connection with any other “ethnic” Mennonite by playing the “Mennonite game” (and I’m pretty darn good at it). Some of that comes from my Swiss-German ancestry.

    But most of the time when I use the term “ethnic Mennonite” it is in criticism of that self-same culture to which I belong. Too often there’s an exclusionary nature in the more traditional congregations that, if you can’t play the “Mennonite game”, then you are some how a lesser class of Mennonite. If you can’t trace your family back at least 4 generations within the congregation, you end up, for the most part, on the outside of the congregational culture and, if you have anything to say in those wonderful 3-hour long church meetings, your words are taken with a large pile of salt because, well, we don’t know your parents.

    I think we can be Mennonite in theology without having to be Mennonite in ethnicity. But too often our Mennonite ethnicity is put on the same level as our theology (which I can say some critique on our pride on our theology as well) and we end up being exclusionary, not on principles of faith, but simply on “who you know.”

    Does the term “ethnic” matter? Yes, I think it does. Not in the sense where we need to define in more detail what it means to be “ethnic” Mennonite. Instead, we need to spin the negative connotation of “ethnic” in that it is an exclusionary term and that, anytime it is brought up, it should be brought up in the context of correcting the exclusion that it causes.

  2. Joseph Penner Says:

    Alan, thanks for bringing this up; I’ve had a number of conversations about this recently and know that there are some strong opinions out there.

    I think the straightforward answer to your more specific question is that “racial/ethnic” is an official term used by the Church, whereas the term “ethnic Mennonite” is used colloquially and would not be endorsed by the Church: there is no confusion of terms because “ethnic Mennonite” is a misnomer.

    But there are infinitely more things to say…

    “racial/ethnic”

    At the Convention in Columbus concern over this terminology was raised in a forum where “young adults” had the chance to ask questions of MCUSA Executive Board members. The response was simple: this was the term that the “racial/ethnic” Mennonites agreed upon and chose for themselves.

    Enough said.

    Well, almost…one still wonders if it’s helpful that we categorize people in the first place. What does it say about our church when we feel the need to designate each other according to racial or ethnic boxes?

    I can appreciate the importance of acknowledging the real differences of privilege that race or ethnicity can afford to people in our society and of working intentionally to correct that in our Church life, but somehow it just doesn’t feel right to glance at your skin and know that you belong on one side of the line or the other.

    But it’s not as if we’ve fabricated the idea of a distinction. We know that being non-white is very different in our society than being white in ways that are more fundamental than the nuances within the white or non-white groups. Furthermore, I believe that it is a trait common to all humanity that we desire to embrace and honor our distinctives, not ignore them for the sake of a presumed homogeneity. Perhaps the question then is do Mennonites announce with equal pride, “I am a racial/ethnic Mennonite from Pasadena,” as they do, “I am an ethnic Mennonite from central Kansas?”

    And are the outcomes of our acknowledgement of racial/ethnic distinctions helpful?

    As a case study, Pink Menno has received criticism for being out of touch with the voice of racial/ethnic Mennonites (who are more commonly opposed to gay marriage in the church than “white” North American Mennonites). What would it look like to be sensitive in a healthy way to the power imbalances of race and ethnicity? Does it mean toning down one’s outrage at the exclusion of LGBTQ Mennonites because, hey, we probably have a lot to learn if we would get out of our arrogant cultural box and listen to racial/ethnic Mennonites?

    To me this seems like an example of the distinction being unhelpful. Most white Mennonites are opposed to “inclusion,” some racial/ethnic Mennonites are in favor of “inclusion.”

    So what is the point of the distinction and what are some examples of positive outcomes?

    “ethnic Mennonite”

    I think we all know that this is a risky term. Yet it means something to many of us. I suspect that many so-called “ethnic Mennonites” find themselves caught in the tension of being a part of a body that in theory is a religious community defined by participation and choice but that in practice has lived itself out as an ethnic community defined by cultural distinctives. I feel that an “ethnic Mennonite” who does not want to practice the faith ought not be faulted for still wanting to claim his/her heritage. But then what does a person do when his/her ethnic community starts calling itself back to its theoretical ideals? I’ve heard people seem to suggest (in the interest of respecting all those who have chosen to be Mennonite) that “Mennonite” as an ethnicity is a myth, which to me seems unfair to those who were raised in the thick of Mennonite’s ethnic manifestations but can’t endorse the Confession of Faith.

    I think I actually disagree with the notion that being Mennonite has only to do with “a particular understanding of faith, religion and God,” and nothing to do with “ethnicity.” First of all, it’s impossible to ascribe the exact same understanding of faith, religion and God to two different people (much less a whole Christian denomination). Second of all, if we could define a Mennonite understanding of faith, religion, and God, it would certainly be possible to hold a similar understanding of those things and not be Mennonite. Being Mennonite can never be formally defined; it has to do with saying that you are Mennonite and then explaining why.

    I think that in practice people experience “being Mennonite” as a combination of embracing certain ideas of faith, religion and God, and appreciating a certain historical foundation of “Mennonite” as carried into the present by a group of people that inevitably brings with it ethnic traits. Though there is certainly a reality to the idea of “non-ethnic Mennonites” feeling left out or second class, I more commonly hear “non-ethnic Mennonites” speak with reverence of the peculiar cultural/ethnic traits that they found in Mennonites. Furthermore, I have heard from Mennonite converts who felt genuinely appreciated for the unique gifts that their different backgrounds afforded them to bring.

    I think we all appreciate how ideas of faith and God can be communicated through narratives, rituals, and cultural practices. To me these things are integral to the vitality of the Mennonite Church and ought not be forsaken. Of course ethnicity should not be a prerequisite for becoming a Mennonite; and “ethnic Mennonites” need to be wary of how their words and actions can inadvertently exclude others. But I don’t see any value in trying to erase the reality of a Mennonite ethnicity.

  3. Skylark Says:

    Changing the term to “not white” would probably be more honest, but would it be helpful?

    “Mennonite” may not be an ethnicity, but it most certainly is a subculture.

    As a side note, I can also play the “Do you know my grandparents?” game pretty well, but not usually within Mennonite circles because my extended family isn’t Mennonite. My grandparents still know just about everyone on the planet (I think.) The Mennonites will have really arrived when they can also claim they know Jack and Lois Bruce. ;-)

  4. AlanS Says:

    Perhaps I should clarify my first sentence.

    I certainly resonate with the idea that certain subcultures of white anabaptists of european descent have come to be known as “Mennonite”. I would be among those who have argued that there very much is an ethnicity called “Mennonite”. I come from a large church in central Kansas that has had genetics studies done on its members because we are so “close knit” and have kept excellent genealogical record for the last 300 years or so. So if anyone can make an argument for the existence of a subculture known as “Mennonite”, even to the point of real genetic differences, it would be me. That being said, I have come to learn some key problems with the idea that being Mennonite is an ethnicity.

    The first is that there is an incredibly inconsistent definition of “traditional ethnic Mennonite”. I find it interesting that Robert (sorry for picking on you) defines “ethnic” Mennonite in terms of food such as whoopie pies and shoo-fly pie. I too would define my ethnic culture in terms of food but it is in terms of zwiebach, verenike, bohne peroge, poppy-seed roll (not bread), and a whole bunch of other really weird food. In fact the core activity of the MCC sale in Hutchinson, Ks revolves around standing in very long lines just to get a taste this food. Then two years ago I moved to Elkhart, In and attended their MCC sale and stood in shock to find that the Mennonites their not only didn’t have any really distinctive food and had never heard of the food that was so core to my identity. What I came to realize was that the food that I understood as “ethnic” was either russian or swiss-volhenian. The food aspect is representative of a larger problem: each of the white groups of Mennonites who reside in the states each think that their “culture” is shared by other white Mennonites throughout the land. In the same way that “racial/ethnic” fails to recognize the complexities of non-white existence, “ethnic” fails to recognize the complexities and differences of white existence. I find that when describing Mennonite ethnicities in general it is more helpful to describe people as swiss, puerto rican, african, dutch, african-american, swiss-volhenian….mennonite. Some of these groups are white, some are not, all are unique.

    The other problem with using the term “ethnic” to describe any Mennonite is that it is fundamentally un-Anabaptist. We belong to a version of Christianity that, from the beginning, explicitly says that it is not good enough just to take on the faith of your parents. Every generation must decide for themselves to follow Christ. That is the point of Believers Baptism. For the name “Mennonite” to have become associated with an ethnicity, in any way shape or form, is an affront to what it means to be Anabaptist. To put it another way, if Menno Simons would see what has become of his name, he would be pissed off (and then would probably excommunicate us).

    So, yes, on some level the term “Mennonite” can accurately be used to describe certain groups of people who have their own subculture. To say that those groups of people still retain a connection to the version of faith in Jesus Christ known as Mennonite is a another thing completely. Anyone who has worked in pastoral ministry with any group of “ethnic” Mennonite will attest to the fact that there is often little connection between the culture and the faith.

    Let me also introduce a different term that has recently provided some good ground for me. “First-Generation Mennonite”, or then also 3rd-gen, 10th-gen 14-gen and so on. I’m sure it’s not perfect but it seems to describe people new to the faith in a way that sees them as fully Mennonite. It allows for a differentiation between people who have grown up in the Mennonite world and those who haven’t but also allows for the new people have more generations of Mennonites follow them as they pass on the faith. Maybe it’s not helpful. It’s gained some intellectual traction with me. What do you think?

  5. Ben Krauß Says:

    thanks for sharing these thoughts, Alan, it reminded me of something that happened during the Assembly of the Mennonite World Conference here in Asunción that just ended yesterday.
    It was an awesome time, I met many Young Anabaptist Radicals and even got input from official sermons and workshops which gave me hope that we’re maybe not that messed up as a church.
    Of course also some stupid things happened that made me consider leaving - but in general it was a surprisingly good conference.

    I’ve been here in Paraguay since February doing a school exchange to learn Spanish and get to know Paraguayan culture - which is why I think I had a deeper understanding of some things that happened - with which I will now come to my point.

    In Paraguay there are basically three groups of Mennonites:
    - white, Low-German speaking Mennonites, who exactly fit the description of “ethnical Mennonites” and who came there in the beginning of the 20th century through migration from Russia over Germany and Canada. When they arrived they were poor refugees from the Soviet Union, who started to farm and are now the wealthiest group in Paraguay
    - indigenous Mennonites, who were missionated by the immigrants. They speak their languages such as Guaraní, Nivacle, or Enhlet. They live in extreme poverty, being unemployed, or working for the white Mennonites on their ranches, in their homes
    - hispanic, spanish speaking Mennonites, who were also missionated by the immigrant Mennonites. They are also mainly poor, but in a bit better situation than the indigenous.

    In Paraguay the term “menonita”-Mennonite refers only to the “ethnic” Mennonites (Low-German speaking immigrants) - which is why my church here in Paraguay - a poor hispanic church - doesn’t even have “Menonita” in its name!

    In this situation the 15th Assembly of the MWC took place - and I was deeply surprised that an indigenous pastor Ditrich Pana (amazing - the indigenous adopted the “ethnic” Mennonites names and spell them as they sound) was invited to preach on Thursday’s evening service.
    His text was Acts 2,46-47, the first church (one verse before Luke mentions that the first Christians had everything together) - so I expected him to preach on the missing comunion between “ethnic” Mennonites and indigenous (and hispanic) Mennonites, concerning church life (they are segregated), but also missing economical support.
    But he simply and simple preached about the importance of community and told one story, which made me first gasp and then laugh out loud, but most non-Paraguayan people did not understand it:
    “Outside of the congress a cop asked me (Pana, who really looks indigenous) if I were also “menonita”, to which I said, WITH THE HELP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, yes, I am also menonita.”

    Most people outside of Paraguay did not understand the significance of this, but every Paraguayan participant, and even the newspapers that reported about the Assembly understood it.

    If the 15th Assembly has changed anything it has changed this: Mennonites in Paraguay are NOT only white and Low-German speaking.

    PS: If you refer to people as Mennonite since x-th generation what about those heretics marying outside of the Mennonite world? Is their progeny degraded to 2nd generation Mennonites?

  6. AlanS Says:

    Ben, thanks for your insight.

    On your PS, I hope that I was not saying that being 2nd generation (or any other generation thereafter) means that they are degraded in any way. I was hoping that the language would provide a means of recognizing different connections to the tradition while still seeing all of them as equally Mennonite. On some theological and metaphorical level I hope we all consider ourselves “1st gen” Mennonites, namely in the fact that each generation has chosen for itself to follow Christ. On the other hand, there are many who have grown up in churches and cultures that have been “mennonite” for long periods of time. My hope is to find a way to recognize the differences but yet say that a Hispanic church plant that only has maybe 2 generations of Mennonites in it (or a white church plant for that matter) is still fully Mennonite in they way that a church who has been Mennonite for 14 generations is. Maybe the language of xth-gen fails a bit, but I was trying not to set up any system of value judgments but rather to find a way to work towards full inclusion.

    I hope that helps clarify what I was trying to say.

  7. Ben Krauß Says:

    Alan,
    no I didn’t understand it you would degrade them - maybe I have to make use of the “-sign for irony.

  8. Skylark Says:

    I would probably be one-and-a-half generations of Mennonite, then. :-P My parents started taking my family to a Mennonite church when I was 13. They are still at that church. I am not. Although, there’s the aspect of “Can I still call myself Mennonite if I’m not an active part of a Mennonite church?” and I haven’t resolved that one. There are parts of the United Church of Christ that I really like, and my Mennonite experience on those issues was driving me crazy, and there are parts of my former Mennonite congregation that I miss.

    Ironically, I could probably be considered fourth generation UCC… if you count my dad as the third generation even though he hasn’t been back to a UCC church for any significant time since college.

  9. David Hiebert Says:

    Your observations fit my feellings exactly! Even though my parents were both born close to where you live [Gossel], I have never lived there. My religious feelings and views have been influenced by living with many people who were Mennonite by faith. However, some of the most significant influences, times when I saw things just a bit differently, came during contact with people who were not Mennonite–or at least not the same brand of Mennonite as my parents.

    As I grew up, we were “GC Mennonite”. The majority of the Mennonites I met at Goshen College were “Old Mennonite”. Niether of those lables mean much now.

    Sociologically, I suppose there are people with distinct ethnicity and probably could fit in an “ethnic Mennonite” group. I don’t think I’d fit, since foods and many practices have not continued into my present family.

    In he end, “ethinic Mennonite” is one of those phrases that is a shortcut to nothingness. Unless is it defined for the specific place it is used, I feel it is so general that it means nothing more than “John Doe” or “the average person in the pew”.

  10. Stephen Anderson Says:

    I am not an ethnic mennonite, but discovered years ago that what the Holy Spirit had taught me, He also taught some whom the world called Anabaptists. The question I have for you all is do you stand in with Jesus as Menno did, or are you radicals of the Munster tradition?

    It seems to me that support of the LGBT agenda and protests at military sites are nothing but the radicalism of the world, the cutting edge of sin. As Menno clearly understood, unless you are born again, you cannot even behold the Kingdom of God, and certainly not follow Christ in the way of the cross.

    Cultural religion is worthless, as is radicalism that flows out of the spirit of this age. Are you disciples of the Son of Man or the man of Sin?

    disciples-of-jesus.net
    stephen@bordermission.com

  11. AlanS Says:

    Stephen,

    sooo, I’m confused a bit. You seem to pose a question here - “are you disciples of the Son of Man or the man of Sin?” Yet when I went to your website to check out what you believe, you seem to have already condemned everyone here. (full text below)

    So, are you asking a question, or making a point? Actually, I’ll be more clear. It’s obvious that you’re making a point. What kind of response are you looking for from me or others here?

    “Beware of disciples
    of another Jesus”

    I was browsing discipleship sites today and ran across Young Anabaptist Radicals. It quickly became apparent that these are not disciples of Jesus as Menno Simons and others were and are, but are more related to the carnal revolutionaries of Münster. It ought to be clear to any person born of the Spirit that the support of the LGBT agenda is of the world and not of Christ. These young people have mistaken the spiritual radicalism of the Man of Sin for following the Son of Man. Religious zeal is no proof of the new birth. Crusading for peace, justice, and civil rights is perfectly acceptable to the spirit of this age. It is the transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ that saves us from sin, and not leaving us in sin, that is hated by the world. A defining mark is that Christ calls the homosexual to repent and be saved from his sin, while the spirit of this age calls for us to repent, accept, and embrace the homosexual and his sin.”

  12. Stephen Anderson Says:

    Actually, I posted that material after visiting here. It seems to me that this site is not radical at all, except in the sense of radically conforming to the avant-gard of the world. The only way to be truly radical is to be born again. Until then, you remain a creature of the world, and of the system.
    Should we go to the prisoners on death row, bringing a home made apple pie and a new suit of clothes? And call this the love of God?
    Behold, the whole world is under the sentence of death. Unless you can offer a pardon and a new life, you offer nothing of value at all.
    What I write, I write in love. I dont care if you are LGBTQ or old line Amish, if you are not born of the Spirit you are dead in trespasses and sins.
    No one can take up his cross and follow Jesus apart from the new birth. And no one can enter into Christ and His covenant without passing through the waters of repentance. Those who whitewash sin are the friends of the world, and the enemies of God. “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent.”
    Love in Christ - really
    Stephen

  13. Tim Baer Says:

    9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

  14. AlanS Says:

    Thanks Stephen,

    You should know that the people who contribute to/interact with this blog are most certainly not a homogeneous group. Because of that, I would most certainly not claim to speak for anyone but myself. I do know that there numerous discussions contained within the archives of this blog that would bear that out. I hope you find your way to some of those to further your understanding of the beliefs and character of this group.

    As a relevant side note, the scripture text that I’m working with for my sermon this week is from I Kings where Solomon asks for Wisdom from God. I am humbled to see that this great king knew enough to recognize that he was not God and did not have all of the answers. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of the Lord means that we do not confuse ourselves with the one who truly has all the answers. As a fellow leader withing God’s church I pray that we both might have enough humility to recognize that we are both fallible human beings and that our understanding of the Bible and of God is just that; both ours and fallible. One of the more wise people I know once said that “Doubt is not the opposite of faith. The opposite of faith is absolute certainty.” Peace be with you.

  15. Stephen Anderson Says:

    And the serpent said to Eve, “Has God really said…?”
    Alan, let me ask you a question, Would your doubt be sufficient to cause you to lay down your life for Jesus? What do you hold in common with those the world called Anabaptists, who suffered death by flame, by water, and by sword because they valued obedience to Christ and His commands above their own lives? I posit their these had a different concept of “fear of the Lord” than that you propose. I you wish to chastize me because I dont have sufficient doubt about the One who saved me from drugs and death, so be it.

    Yes we’re both fallible, but that does not mean that both our interpretations of Scripture are equal. To affirm that would be to deny knowledge itself. What I object to is the coupling of the label Anabaptist with Anomianism, unless you identify yourself with Munster rather than Menno.

    I also suggest your confusion about the Scriptures, faith, and Christ, is evidence that you have not been born of the Spirit. “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit because they are foolishness to him.”

    I wonder if you perceive just how un-anabaptist this whole site is, in terms of Menno and those who suffered and died for the truth of the New Birth and to follow Christ. How would they judge you? And would you dare to even identify with them in their time? A Webpage banner is a cheap boast when the price is not blood and fire.

    I’m not writing this in anger, but in pain. The time of testing will come and I fear you will not be able to stand. May God heal your blindness and grant you true repentance unto life in His Son.

  16. AlanS Says:

    Stephen,

    Let me be clear about a couple of things.

    1) I am not attacking you or your faith or the transformation that you have experienced in your life. I give thanks to God for the way that God has worked in your life. Do not confuse my critique of what you have accused me of with an attack on your person. I am concerned with the content of what you are saying, not with personal attacks on your character. I would ask that you extend the same privilege to me.

    2) I am not one of the admins on this site. Nor do I fall into line with everything that is said or posted here. If you are going to categorize “us” as anything, you had better get it straight exactly who you are critiquing and for what reason. You have clearly not invested yourself enough to understand who actually makes up this community. Which brings me to my second point.

    3) You and I are not in community. In a Mennonite understanding, mutual accountability is a key value. The key part of that is that it is mutual. Simply posting a word of rebuke on a random blog post does not mean that we are in any way accountable to each other. And yes, I do consider physical proximity and relationship core to what it means to be accountability. Simply because we call ourselves Christians does not mean that we are in community and therefore can wield accountability. Remember, from the 16th ce., that while Anabaptists, Lutherans, Reformed and Catholics all called themselves Christian, they were most certainly not in community. A Mennonite understanding of Matthew 18 is rooted in the fact that rebuke and accountability is limited only to those who have agreed to be part of the community of believers. For everyone else there’s Romans 13. This also brings up another interesting question: are you willing to be chastised by me? If you are not willing to hear that I believe that your absolute certainty is in fact sinful and that you need to repent of that, then you are not engaged in Christian accountability but rather throwing stones at an easy online target.

    4) Correct use of history. You have referenced the difference between Munster and Menno. If you really understand both Munster and Menno then you will know that they are, in fact, tied to each other, rather than being opposites as you suggest. One of the key downfalls of Munster was the absolute certainty in the belief of the leaders in their understanding of the end times, the legitimization of violence God, and that they were the mouthpieces of Jesus. After the uprising had been wiped out and the Dutch Anabaptists had been scattered it was Menno who preformed a pastoral role in bringing them back together and forming them into a coherent group of people who were concerned both with inner spiritual regeneration and with care for their neighbors and enemies. You can’t have one without the other. It is also worth noting that, similar to the Munster group, Menno displayed an amazing zeal for the purity of the Church. He excommunicated large numbers of people. So much so that he was eventually chastised and excommunicated by Anabaptists who said he went to far. (Another side connection worth noting is that Menno’s brother was killed in the uprising at Old Cloister, a precursor for the assault on Munster)

    5) Do I live with enough zeal to go to my death? Hopefully, but honestly I don’t know exactly what I’d do in that situation. But neither do you. It is also worth noting that not all Anabaptists had universal responses when faced with torture and death. Many died valiantly for the Gospel of Peace. Many of them recanted to save their lives (some times multiple times). Using the suffering of the Anabaptists as a theological weapon is not acceptable.

    6) Brother, for the vehement and persistent critique of this site and the people on it I would have hoped that you would have done it with humility after having done your homework. You clearly have come uninformed and unwilling to slow down and listen before leveling your critique. Again, I am not speaking on behalf of the administrators of this site. On my own behalf I rebuke you to spend more time engaging in any community you wish to critique, submitting yourself as well to their authority.

    finally - I hope that we can continue to have respectful dialogue. However, until I hear more humility and desire for genuine understanding I will choose to bow out from this discussion. I felt it necessary to make some clarifications about the assertions you have made, but I will try to no longer engage. My understanding of this blog is that it is a place for constructive dialogue, not theological warfare.

    I pray that you will become more slow to speak as you grow in the Wisdom of God.
    Alan

  17. Stephen Anderson Says:

    I confess my error in lumping you all together. That was unjustified and unfair.

    But I suspect that as one not raised in the mennonite community, I might have a better persective on its origin and substance, (can’t see the forest through the trees syndrome).

    The only thing that Munster and Menno had in common was rejection of infant baptism and Menno’s brother. Munster was spiritualist, whereas Menno, Grebel, Manz, and their kindred were biblicists.

    And that was my point. To be Anabaptist in the sense Menno, or these others were is to be committed to the word of God, to following the words of Jesus and His Apostles above all else. This is why they broke with Zwingli.

    Jesus said “you must be born again.” Without this, there can be no community, no fellowship, no Church. People must first be reconciled with God before they can be reconciled with each other. The churches are filled with people who have never been born of the Spirit (I say this to my shame as a pastor). Going to church does not make one a Christian, nor does being raised in a Christian home. One must be born of the Spirit.

    I did not mean to imply that unregenerate people can not live “good moral” lives and even live and die for a “good” cause. 600,000 died in the civil war; uncounted millions in other wars, revolutions, and causes. But calling yourself an Anabaptist Radical (if you so identify) is easy when it doesn’t mean prison or a death sentence. But there is such a thing fashionable radicalism. In then 60s, to be young and radical was “in”. From what I see on the web, there are many people who are attracted to Anabaptism because of its “pacifism”, nonconformity, or the simple life. For these, Jesus is just a banner, not Savior and Lord.

    Here is the test: do we follow the Jesus of the Scriptures and obey Him and His Apostles, or not. Do we seek to become like Him in all things, conformed to Him and not society. Today, the acceptance of LGBTQs as members in the Church is a front line in the engagement between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness.

    Christians are to love LQBTQs with the love Christ has for all sinners, a redeeming love that seeks their restoration to wholeness and the undefiled image of God. Menno stood on the words of Christ and the Apostles and Prophets in demanding a repentance and faith that transformed the sinner into a saint, a new birth that produced a righteous life.

    Jesus made it very clear to all who would follow Him, that unless you love Him above ALL you will not be able to continue to be His disciples. It is this radical commitment to Christ that marks the Anabaptists of the Grebel, Manz, Blurock, and Menno sort as true Christians and true disciples.

    I have known true brothers and sisters who were called Lutherans, or Nazarenes, or even Baptists. But they were true brothers and sisters because they loved Christ above all and strove to follow Him. But I have known many, many more who believed they were Christians and lived conformed to the world and disobedient to Christ.

    Paul said “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test?”

    That is my purpose in writing these things: I fear that some here may be deceived as to whether they are in Christ. The Pharisees all believed they were the chosen people of God, the children of Abraham. Yet they opposed God’s Son and conspired with their enemies to but Him to death.

    If my concerns are misplaced, then as a true brother you will recognise this as love. But if you or any here can not understand the earnest concern about those who call themselves Christians or Anabaptists and yet think that those who lead a life that God calls an abomination are to be embraced as members in the Body of Christ without requiring true repentance, then my concern is justified.

    Those who are not born of the Spirit do not see the problem admitting LGBTQs or others practicing the works of the flesh into the Church, for they cannot see the Kingdom. Fellowship is no problem with the world for those are of the world, because the world loves its own. But it is a BIG problem for those who are called out of the world and no longer of the world.

    I do not mean that Christians can’t and don’t sin. But they cannot abide in sin. I do not mean a new disciple is fully conformed to Christ and not apt to walk in the flesh. But the Spirit will discipline him or her and urge them upwards. But if any so-called brother is [abides as] an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler, we are not even to eat with such a one.

    I have heard all the arguments by those that twist the Scripture to justify the LGBTQ lifestyle. These areguments only reveal the darkness the binds some minds. Jesus came to call sinners to repentance. Being gay or lesbian, or whatever qualifies rather than disqualifies one for the message of the Gospel. But to deny one’s sinfulness is to quench the Holy Spirit. Without repentance one can not be saved. Who loves LGBTQs more: those who deny their sin, or those who call them to repentance and salvation?

    once again in love
    Stephen

  18. AlanS Says:

    Stephen,

    I have read your response and noted your position

    good day,
    alan

  19. Joseph Penner Says:

    Seems that the main conflict here is over what we call ourselves. Stephen may have a point that the typical YAR contributor (if such a thing exists) ought not think of themselves as an “Anabaptist radical,” based on their divergence from historic radical Anabaptist theology and practice on certain issues. We would have to ask the creators/administrators of the site why they chose the name YAR. I see it to mean that we are Anabaptists (that is, we have chosen to own Anabaptism to some degree) and that based on our perspectives and desires we live on the fringes of its traditional core: within Anabaptism we are radicals. I can see where there is a conflict over the use of the term “radical” in this sense due to its historical usage to describe the original Anabaptist movement in the 16th century. I see Stephen’s point to be that the original Christ-centered movement of Anabaptists was very “radical,” while the 21st century liberal/progressive Anabaptist agenda is a mere acquiescence back to worldly values on some issues (not radical).

    I think that in general people should have the right to name themselves. I don’t see the point in getting upset over potential misrepresentation of Anabaptist radicalism. Most of the contributors to this site have a strong deep-seated identification with the movement that began with radical Christ-seekers in 16th century Europe who suffered extreme persecution and that was brought to them by parents or friends in 20th century America who experienced great freedom. They have the right to embrace their Anabaptist identity while seeking to redefine it. There is a huge gulf between us and the original movement. I feel like people on this site try to engage the idea of being Anabaptist in the 21st century with authenticity and integrity.

    Thanks to Alan for his point #3 regarding the nature of being in community. I really wish that Christians everywhere would allow the real-life dynamics of mutual accountability within the scope of authentic relationships to shape who they are, rather than presuming the existence of a clear, concise, God-delivered doctrine that should serve as a definitive umbrella under which every Christian must fit.

    I can understand how Stephen could feel the right to rebuke contributors to this site based on common association with “Anabaptism.” To me though Alan’s point wins out: we must grow with each other in respect and mutuality before we begin the process of accountability and rebuke.

    Truly we all need to be “born again” again and again as we ceaselessly grow in accountability to God and accountability to our sisters and brothers. The process never stops, no matter how much we think we know.

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