Manifesto of the Mennonite Anti-Mission Association

We are Mennonites (and fellow travelers) who reject the church’s mission activities.

We believe Christian mission, historically, goes hand-in-hand with cultural destruction. We love human diversity and seek to preserve it. Thus, we oppose evangelistic crusades and mission boards that proselytize, no matter how well-meaning they claim to be.

We reject the authenticity of the so-called “Great Commission” (Matt. 28:19-20). We simply don’t think Jesus said it. Most New Testament scholars doubt its authenticity as well, for a couple reasons. Firstly, any statements supposedly made by Jesus after his death must be called into question. Secondly, if Jesus told his followers to go out and convert the world, then the debate about the inclusion of Gentiles during Paul’s time makes little sense. To modern scholars, the “Great Commission” sounds more like the post-70-A.D. church talking than the historical Jesus.

We believe the missionary impulse contains an inherent contradiction. This is illustrated by the story of the Inuit hunter and the missionary. The Inuit asks the missionary: “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?” The missionary says: “No, not if you did not know.” To which the Inuit replies: “Then why did you tell me?” If we agree that God doesn’t reject those who’ve never heard the gospel, it follows that what causes unbelievers to be moved from a state of grace to a state of condemnation is the act of missionary preaching itself. Since most potential converts in the mission field reject the invitation to accept the gospel, it seems missionaries must be held responsible for more souls being lost than saved. Wouldn’t it be best to leave unbelievers alone, in their state of grace, in the first place?

We are persons who have developed friendships with folks from many paths and traditions: Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Moslem, Baha’i, Jain, Native American, Pagan, and more. We recognize the common emphases that make these paths more alike than they are different: mercy, compassion, loving-kindness, forgiveness, non-judgment, non-attachment to material things, etc. In our view, these emphases can only have one source: a divine one (regardless of whether it is acknowledged or not). We believe the Source who originally inspired the multitude of paths still approves of them today, without preference. So efforts to elevate one path over another are not only unnecessary, but should be viewed as evidence of spiritual arrogance and cultural aggression.

Therefore, we call on Mennonite mission agencies (in particular, Mennonite Mission Network, Eastern Mennonite Missions, and Rosedale Mennonite Missions) to:

1. Reevaluate their proselytizing work in light of modern understandings of the New Testament, and the realities of our multicultural post-christian world;

2. Change their mandate from converting the masses to helping preserve religious diversity around the globe; and

3. Begin sending people to foreign lands, not for the purpose of church expansion, but to investigate the truth and beauty in other cultures and bring those elements back for the edification and enlightenment of folks at home. Mennonite emissaries, not missionaries.

*****

The Mennonite Anti-Mission Association was created in July 2012.
Visit the “Mennonite Anti-Mission Association” Facebook page, and “like” us.
Manifesto last revised: July 6, 2012

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14 Responses to “Manifesto of the Mennonite Anti-Mission Association”

  1. one9 Says:

    there are many powers and aggressions
    i wonder what a seed of aggression looks like
    is it tiny and harmless looking?
    would i wish to nurture its growth?
    I hear Gramsci The Gardener is an expert in such things.

    We all would do well to heed 2P2 and pray without ceasing.

  2. DavidC Says:

    I don’t mean to troll, but I’m a bit disappointed that my comments from your last anti-missions post were ignored and this post followed shortly behind even more resolute than the first. Is that the model of dialogue that you seek to promote? Ignoring those with disagreement? Not sure this is the best direction for YAR to head, if this is indeed representative of YAR. Anyway, nothing personal, but I again register some reservations about this approach. Peace.

  3. HondurasKeiser Says:

    DavidC,

    Don’t you know? Dialogue isn’t CharlieK’s bag, it’s bomb-throwing plain and simple. When presented with thoughtful questions or rebuttals he simply ignores them.

  4. Tim B Says:

    I think it’s weird that CharlieK doesn’t attend a Mennonite Church but still feels the need to comment on their inner-workings.

    Charlie,

    I’ve mentioned before that you’re so far outside the norm of orthodoxy that I don’t think it’s fair for you to comment on the Bible as if you were a Christian.

    I have no problem talking to Muslims about their faith, but I don’t talk about it as one who has any sort of authority on it or over it.

  5. Joseph P Says:

    …and yet CharlieK IS trying to take Jesus seriously.

  6. Charlie K. Says:

    David C., I did read your comments from several weeks ago, and appreciated them. Your observations/questions seemed rhetorical to me. I didn’t feel I had anything to say in response that wouldn’t have been a repetition of things I’ve already said. If there’s a particular issue/question you want me to address, let me know.

    I will say this: Until such time as the Mennonite church (and its mission agencies) adopt a universalist perspective (believing God will save ALL, because no one is condemned), then I must assume that conversion of non-christians remains an essential part of the church’s agenda. And not just some non-christians, but ALL non-christians. As long as that’s the case, then other world religions are not safe from christian missionaries. I don’t care how subtle or “culturally sensitive” the approach is, the missionary always has conversion as a motive (now often a hidden one, because it comes wrapped inside a “material aid” blanket). But the message eventually comes out: “I’m OK with God, you’re not OK with God. You must change.” This is arrogant, hostile, and untrue (in my view). Only when christians let go of the conversion impulse can there be honest exchanges of views with other religions that are based on mutual respect and understanding.

  7. Charlie K. Says:

    Tim B., where is it written that one has to attend a Mennonite church in order to comment on its inner-workings? Do you really believe I have no right to express my view just because I don’t darken the church’s doorway on Sunday mornings? Come on, man. I know you’re smarter than that. :-)

    Of course I’m outside the norm of orthodoxy. I’m unorthodox, and unapologetically so. Is that bad? I’m shocked that being unapologetically unorthodox invites criticism amongst a group of so-called young anabaptist radicals. :-)

    Who said I’m a christian? I stopped calling myself that years ago. But I claim the right to call myself a Mennonite (if I want to), and an anabaptist, and a Jesus person. No one can take that right away from me. :-)

    Tim, when you talk to Muslims about their faith, do you not feel obligated to tell them they won’t make it through St. Peter’s Gate if they don’t adopt your faith? (I assume you believe that. If you don’t believe that, I’d appreciate if you’d say so, explicitly.)

    If I were you (believing christians alone have the corner on God’s salvation plan), I’d lay awake at night worrying that when I got to St. Peter’s Gate I’d be confronted with a list of all the thousands of people I had opportunity to witness to in this life but didn’t (because I didn’t want to offend). How could you enjoy eternity knowing it’s your fault many others didn’t make it?

  8. DavidC Says:

    No worries, Charlie. It just seems that you have been the most active YAR blogger lately and so your perspective has kind of dominated. I was just making sure other voices were being heard as well. Peace.

  9. Charlie K. Says:

    Thanks, David. It’s not my intention to dominate the blogging at YAR. It doesn’t feel like I’m posting that often. Where is everybody else? There was a lot more going on in here a few years ago.

  10. AlanS Says:

    Wow, it’s been a really long time since I’ve hung around here, let alone written or commented on anything. Not sure why this one caught my attention.

    In anycase, Charlie, it might actually be worth your time to start having some conversations with various Mennonite Mission agencies (and no, they’re not all created equal) not because you’re critiques of classical mission aren’t incredibly valid and needed but rather that you may be pleasantly surprised to see that things are beginning to change. There is whole tidal wave of change sweeping over Mennonite institutions right now. It shows up in various language changes like Missional, Missio Dei, and others. The core of the change, however, is shifting from the old mentality of “we have Jesus, let’s go take him to the heathens” to a perspective of “God is working around the world, let’s get involved with what she’s doing”. My sense is that you’re reacting primarily to the former more than the latter. To which I’d say, good on ya. But, it’s worth knowing that things are in fact changing and it might be worth asking some questions of those who are on the inside first before leveling blanket critiques.

    Also, two unrelated, potentially snarky, and ultimately not very important side thoughts:
    1) For a statement that’s proposing a universalist attitude of “can’t we all just get along” (hyperbole noted here) the use of the term Manifesto seems to be a bit in your face. It just struck me as ironic.
    2) As far as claiming to be a Mennonite or Anabaptist, you’re probably right that if you choose to call yourself that and no one can stop you. However, just be aware that if you’re choosing to adopt those labels for yourself, they already come pre-defined (to an extent) and both of the terms “Mennonite” and “Anabaptist” are deeply Christian terms. Yes there is such a thing as an “ethnic” Mennonite (or varieties of ethnic Mennonites to be accurate). However I would say that any definition of Mennonite that doesn’t begin with the Gospel and following Jesus is a bastardization of the term and does a disservice to the discussion of what it means to be a Mennonite. Same for the term “Anabaptist”, by the way. That’s all to say that using Mennonite in the way you do is all fine and good, but it’s a loaded term that you’re trying to re-define. It’s kind of like the U.S. Flag. Yeah, I can read my own meaning into it that will placate my conscience, but at the end of the day it comes loaded with meaning and significance that has a very long history and is out of my control.

    Anyways, keep throwing bombs!

  11. AlanS Says:

    Oh, and as to why I haven’t been around. a) I got busy and b) I took a break after the whole conversation about many of the conversations here being dominated by white males. Seemed prudent at the time.

  12. CharlieK Says:

    AlanS, thanks for your response. I would be most appreciative if you could provide some links to some Mennonite institutions that, as you say, are ushering in a “tidal wave of change” with regard to mission work. Liberal use of a nonsense word like “missional” is significant of nothing, in my book.

    You assert that there’s a new perspective in the church, of “God working around the world, let’s get involved with what she’s doing.” Well, that sounds beautiful. But, I need to see some documentation, from some actual church literature, please.

    I know you can’t be talking about the work of Eastern Mennonite Missions, because the very opening of their “Philosophy of Ministry” says: “We share God’s love, empower Christlike leaders, and nurture Spirit-inspired partnerships to create transforming communities of worship among all peoples
    – so that the whole world will know Jesus Christ as Lord.” That sounds pretty much like the old “let’s bring Jesus to the heathens” to me.

    Same with Mennonite Mission Network. I found this on their website: “Our work is focused on partnering with others to equip missional congregations and their leaders to share the whole gospel of Jesus Christ in their culture.” Again, that language doesn’t represent much change from the practice of pushing Jesus onto the non-christian world.

    So if you can point me in the direction of some Mennonite organizations that are really doing something different, something more enlightened than the methods of the past, I would be most grateful. Thank you.

  13. AlanS Says:

    Hang around with Alan and Eleanor Krieder. Their newest book “Worship and Mission after Christendom” really lays this out well. And it’s worth noting, that they were “misionaries” in London for like 20 some odd years.

    Actually for that matter, find a missionary. Most of them who have spent significant ammounts of time elsewhere (formerly “the mission field”) find out that you can’t really “take Jesus” to anyone. They’ve been ahead of the church for generations on this one. One missionary couple I know who worked in Burkina Faso said something to the effect of “Helping the people in our village understand the Gospel more often than not meant helping them become better Muslims”. Long story, but there are many like that out there.

    Also, MCC does a pretty good job of this in general. Although you shouldn’t take my word for it, I’m on one of the regional MCC boards. I would say they do a pretty good job though.

    Hope that helps.

  14. Tim B Says:

    Tim B., where is it written that one has to attend a Mennonite church in order to comment on its inner-workings? Do you really believe I have no right to express my view just because I don’t darken the church’s doorway on Sunday mornings? Come on, man. I know you’re smarter than that. :-)

    Do you not see the irony here, Charlie? You make a post about how Christians have no right to take their ideas ‘over there’ but then defend your position to take your ideas to us. In fact, you come right out and say it: “Thus, we oppose evangelistic crusades and mission boards that proselytize, no matter how well-meaning they claim to be.” Aren’t you proselytizing here?

    If I were you (believing christians alone have the corner on God’s salvation plan), I’d lay awake at night worrying that when I got to St. Peter’s Gate I’d be confronted with a list of all the thousands of people I had opportunity to witness to in this life but didn’t (because I didn’t want to offend). How could you enjoy eternity knowing it’s your fault many others didn’t make it?

    I love how you always assume what I believe. I don’t do that to you, I at least have the decency to quote you, to verify what you believe before I respond, and to inquire of further information seeking your opinion. You’re the one that assumes what I and others believe based on whatever presumptions you’ve created in your own head. To me, you’re exactly like the mission you’ve complained about; You press your ideas on an outside group, assume their belief structure, and refuse to be a part of or understand those you’re preaching too.

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