A never moving frame grounded in tradition and held up by suspenders

This morning Jonathan posted this comment over on the Young (White) Anabaptists Radicals post:

If you have any concern for new believers please read this…


It didn’t quite fit with the existing discussion there, so I thought I’d move it to a new post for further comments. If you click on the link, you’ll find yourself at MennoDiscuss, a lively forum for Mennonite conversations.

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The post that Johnathan wanted to draw our attention to begins with a repost of an open letter from fellow missionary of Johnathan’s named David Keeling. Here’s an excerpt:

We were ask to go to Peru and given the names and address of the people we met with, with the desire of building churches there because NO ONE was doing anything toward that end.

The people there ALL begged us. “Will you stat a church here?” and told us “the Mennonites and those working here have been coming for years and each have a different agenda and say that they are not going to, will you?” So we began trying to gather the people together and began teaching them, some began covering, one became committed to becoming an evangelist and another has come to the understanding of the cross and began walking in it. All things that any CHRISTIAN should become excited about. And how was this met with among the religious vipers of this day?

The letter seems to have have stirred up quite a bit of controversy on MennoDiscuss. Jonathan elaborated on why he originally posted the letter in a second post:

We posted this letter in the wake of situation in Peru which involved a certain “conservative” Mennonite group turning away certain “little ones” interested in learning The Gospel

This letter is not a backlash of bitterness as if we have been personally hurt by the Mennonite denominations. If we were to be bitter towards the Mennonite Churches than we would be guilty of not going our way and reconciling first, and then offering our gift of the Gospel.

Our concerns are not tainted with an “anti Mennonite” spirit. The term anti Mennonite spirit has become a cliché term used to ignore anyone who voices a concern toward you’re Church(es). We very deeply respect Anabaptism in it’s grass-roots. Sadly what we have found in Anabaptism is nothing more than a skeletal frame of what it used to be, dead and without life. A never moving frame grounded in tradition and held up by suspenders.

I thought this final sentence was a particularly vivid image. Johnathan goes on to invoke the pulpit-storming habits of Grebel and Blaurock in condemning the “hyper religious structures” rather then being content to content to “build pole-barns and eat shoe fly pie in a tucked away little farm house with a F-350 parked outside.”

If this sounds interesting to you, take a peak at the whole discussion. Johnathan if there are particular aspects of your message you’d like to highlight for folks here at YAR, I’d welcome further specifics on how your concerns with Mennonites. I’d also be interested to hear more about what aspects of the early Anabaptists you find inspiring.

Comments (13)

  1. Johnathan

    “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said…

    Poll: Does the Mennonite church reach out enough?
    I’m gonna put a poll on this, but give your comments! Do we often become to much of a “tight knit” group and not reach out to our neighbors and those we come in contact with? Sure we go on mission trips and we send missionaries, but how about in our own communities?
    – Raun

    That is one thing that majorly bugs me about our churches. We hear these great messages about reaching out and being witnesses to those around us, but do we do anything?????? Nope. We sit there and talk about what we could do. No that’s not always true- many churches have great ministries like kid’s clubs and summer bible school- but I really think we could do a whole lot more!!

    I couldn’t agree more!!! We spend so much time quarreling and preaching at each other and no time working on saving those around us. I heard once that the only way a church will grow (as proven by history) is to be on fire and reach out, or to be persecuted…
    – Raun

    Mennonites and Amish have had isolationist and separatist ideas for years and years, why should we be surprised at the fruit?

    Have you heard Chester Weaver’s message at the Minister’s Meetings on anabaptists? Currently, the Ab/menn are thought of as nice people who work hard, make good food, and nice quilts. The early anabaptists were thought of as people who disturbed the peace because of their radical beliefs. How do we get that back?

    I don’t think that the Conservative Mennonite church as a whole does enough of this. We just talked about this last Sunday in Sunday School. Why don’t we do enough of this?

    …Well, would you want to join a group that fights amongst itself all the time…

    I suspect that we fight each other because we don’t have the message.

    When the majority of churches get started out of splits…when the church’s patterns of growth correlate with our birth rates, we are in the maintenance mode instead of focusing on reaching out.

    I do agree with jlapp that we as a people have lost vision. Sure, we do a lot of good, I’m not against any of it, I’m just saying that we seem to be too content with living undisturbed lives and not willing to break out of our comfort zones to show Christ’s love if it means an economic sacrifice. Sadly, I put myself at the top of the list for this shortcoming.

    I had the opportunity, no, the privilege to work with a non-mennonite christian in a incarcerated(both of us) environment for about two months. One day, this after many days of discussions involving our faith and lifestyles, he looked at me with genuine tears in his eyes and asked, why couldn’t I have been influenced by your people years ago already? His impression of menno’s had been that we are closed to the outside, unattainable.

    I think we give the impression to lots of people that we’re closed to non-mennonites. We hear folks ask sometimes if you can be a mennonite if you’re not born a mennonite and we’re like, “Of course.” But to tel you the truth, I can easily see why they get that impression. I mean, how many times in a year do we have non-mennonites into our homes? For one, I don’t have them very often, specially not for meals. I go visit sick people in my community, call them onthe phone and of course, witness every now and then, but to really lay down my life, befriend them on a day to day basis, and especially invite them to church, I’m not doing that. And I feel like I need to. Jesus gave so much of His time, His resources and everything He had for us. Then why am i not laying down my life in the same way?

    …This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth”.

    It seems ironic that this forum is dedicated to Mennonites for the purpose of arguing The Faith rather than helping those outside to understand the The Faith.

    In regard to what we have stated previously we want to make it known that we are not bitter, we are angry. We are not personally hurt, we are trying to make it known that your organizations are guilty of turning little ones away from the faith.

    I personally attest to this. Four years ago I was converted through the efforts of an Evangelist named David Keeling. Previously to our meeting David had been a member of The Fellowshippers in Fairview Missori. While David was with this congregation David would go street preaching on Friday and Saturday nights on a particular intersection in Springfield Missouri, this location is known for it’s bar scene. Often David would preach until late in the evening to the bar crowd, it is known that these crowds do not frequent this area until 9 or 10 pm and it isn’t uncommon to see people into the late hours of the night.

    While David was with this group he and several other brothers preached at this particular venue using signboards, preaching to the professing “christian” college students out getting drunk. The Mennonite church sharply disagreed with this form of evangelism. The church voiced its concern by imposing a 10 o’clock curfew on David and the other Brothers. As stated before this venue is not active until 9 pm, David explained this to the ministry, they wouldn’t budge. In effect they attempted to bring an end to the street preaching.

    This venue was 1 hour away from David’s home. The curfew would effectively require David to leave the venue a 9pm to be home by 10pm. This would not allow any time to talk to anyone. David did not comply with the ministries curfew (I owe m soul to this decision).
    Eventually the ministry moved to excom David, not everyone in the church agreed with this action to excom this man of God. Never the less the ministry moved to excom David because he was unwilling to “submit” to them.

    There were 3 other men that I am aware who did not cast a vote in the excoming. All of them were put on proving, 2 of them were later excomd and 1 was forced to change fellowships. After the excoming David continued to street preach choosing rather to obey God rather than men, it was because of this decision that I am talking to ou now.

    It was 4 years ago that I was getting ready to go to a party with my friends, I had just visited the bar where my girlfriend worked when I walked out ont he street and saw a man holding a sign that read “The Party Ends in Hell!” if my memory serves me right.

    This man I met was David Keeling, wespoke and he shared things with me from the Word of God that I had never heard before in the evangelical denominations. He shared what the Kingdom of God was, what it meant to follow Jesus and bear The Cross, and what it meant to find you’re life and lose it and how we are to lose our life to find it. Praise the Lord I never heard anything like that before! I asked David if he had a church, he responded “yes, there are just a few of us however”. It was a Saturday night in July.

    My girlfriend and I attended the next morning where we saw coverings and very modest dresses, men who were full of the Word of God and ready to share it Word with us. My girlfriend and I continued to attend, she quit her job at the bar, took her lip ring, tongue ring, nose ring and ear rings out, put a dress and a covering on.

    At that time I was working in a bar as a “roadie” moving drums and guitars off and on stage for the rock venues coming and going. I had an apartment full of guitars, a head full beautiful long blonde hair and my main mode of transportation was a skateboard. Anyhow I cut my hair, gave up my job at the bar and started preaching on the same street I met David on.

    My girlfriend and I lost all of our friends, they thought we had lost our minds. Rumors spread that we had joined a cult and I was guilty of brainwashing Becky (my girlfriend).

    Becky, and I had a hard struggle with fornication, but after yielding it to God and dying to our desires we were baptized into Jesus’ death and raised to new life. We were later married in October.

    Today Becky and I are working as missionaries in the Philippines, we have given our lives away to share what the Lord has taught us through David. I do not say this to boast of myself but to show that David’s effort has borne fruit. Becky and I owe our very souls to David as Paul said that a certain mans souls was owed to him in the book of Philemon.

    Wherefore I renounce you’re organization, every faction of it. I will, and do clump you’re organizations together as a whole because you all treat the gospel the same way. You smother it and kill it! You kill anyone who comes into your organization with any light. Just as the Jews stoned Stephen and the Catholics burned the early Anabaptists you kill prophets and preachers with bans and excommunication’s. You effectively condemn Christians to Hell with these Godless bans. You have become tyrants, no different than the Jews or Catholics. You have become exactly what you separated yourselves form 400 years ago.

    If David Keeling would have listened to your Churches Godless counsel our blood may very well have been on guilty hands. You are enemies of the Gospel.

    I’m afraid most of you have missed the point we are trying to make. This is not personal, I am not hurt, I don’t need healing, I have been healed, and that not of you’re efforts.

    I am trying to tell you these things because I desire to see the heroic Anabaptists that I have read about in the Fire in Zurich Hills and the Martyrs Mirror, I have read the Biography of Conrad Grebel and I want to meet men like him. Sadly the ones I have met were rejected by your “churches” and dubbed as rebellious, “having an atni-mennonite spirit”, unwilling to submit etc..

    If you have any concern for new believers wake up and quit looking at us as if we are hurt and need to go to Fresh Start. Instead throw away the old wineskins and old garments, put on new. This is what Grebel and Blaurock did. Throw down your corporate 49 handled crosses and take up your own. Turn the world upside-down and stand for the truth by going outside the camp and suffering with our Lord in whatever way that means.

    You can visit our website at http://www.churchofthephilippines.com

  2. Johnathan

    Just wanted to clarify that each of the quotes on this post were taken from Mennodiscuss.

  3. TimN (Post author)

    Johnathan, you highlight this quote from a writer on MennoDiscuss:

    The early anabaptists were thought of as people who disturbed the peace because of their radical beliefs. How do we get that back?

    What are some of the ways you believe Anabaptists are called to “disturb the peace” today?

    I see that you are based in the Philippines. How do you the model of early Anabaptists calling you to respond to those who are being persecuted and killed by the Filipino government?

  4. Johnathan

    simply preaching the “upside-down” values of the Kingdom of God will get us in trouble.

    It’s really easy to see injstice in Govts. But the real injustice is in the Churches.

    See, that’s exactly what I’m trying to communicate to you.

    The tyrnats we are trying to make you aware of arent fascist dictators wearing red berets living in a third world country, theyre right in front of your face every sunday morining.

    These tyrnats arent gunning people down with bullets, they use a bible.

  5. j alan meyer


    I couldn’t agree with you more. However, we probably don’t see eye to eye. In fact, I would consider you one of the “tyrants” running around using the Bible as a weapon of injustice against the outcasts of society–those whom Jesus ate with and loved.

    I don’t mean to usurp this thread as another LGBT conversation, but it makes me sick to read your website filled with false information and messages of hate, and then to hear you talking about the tyranny and injustice of the Church.


  6. TimN (Post author)

    Johnathan, I’m sorry you’ve had such a bad experience with the Mennonite church, but letting yourself be consumed by righteous judgment has it’s risks.

    In this case I have to agree with J Alan that your excoriating rebuke of tyrants in the church is an indictment of your own narrow, dismissive writing on homosexuality. It seems to me your essay does a pretty good job of gunning down people with the bible.

  7. Johnathan

    sorry you feel that way,



  8. Sean F

    I think it would be a shame if the conversation ended here. Whatever you think about Johnathan’s consistency, he still has something valuable to say, and I don’t want the conversation to end here. The question I want to ask is “Is there a place for pulpit-storming in our Church?” Have we left room for a Benjamin Lay among our churches, or would we all rather be John Woolmans?

    Personally, I’d love to see some more passionately rebellious in-your-face prophets running around our churches, even if they weren’t always perfect. Better excited and misguided than bored and right, I say. Alan and Tim, would you be willing to storm a couple of pulpits for LGBT issues and risk getting kicked out?

    I do think it’s worth pointing out that prophets are rarely sent to those outside the Body. In my opinion, only those who love us and really agree with us on most things will be willing to listen to a strong rebuke or able to benefit from it.

    I think we probably do need both Woolmans and Lays, but I’d be interested in what other peoples’ thoughts are. What do we mean when we call ourselves radicals within a very established Church?

  9. Adam

    Part of the problem is when (as in this case) the pulpit thumpers can’t take a dose of their own medicine. It is hard to hear when you are shouting.

  10. j alan meyer


    Good questions. I won’t apologize for challenging Johnathan, but I doubt that either Tim or I wanted the conversation to end here. That seemed to be Johnathan’s choice, and I find his reaction surprisingly supportive of Adam’s observation. I’m sorry he isn’t willing to respond to people who disagree with him and openly challenge what he has to say.

    At the same time, I agree with you that some of his comments weren’t totally off the mark.

  11. Johnathan

    I dont mind a rebuke, I appreciate them. I want to walk in whatever light is shown to me.

    I havent responded because I am on Philippne time, and a few of my days have been spent sharing with others.

    I dont want to adress the article on homosexuality because that isnt the topic we are discussing, although I realize you disagree with it, and that causes you to feel I am inconsitent.

    Perhaps I need to share more about this article so that you dont feel I am inconsitent, then again perhaps that wouldnt relly resolve anything.

    Perhaps it would be easier to shrug all of this off if, if it were coming from an incosistent, unbalanced “hater”.

    Well, it would be, so I wont try to defend my position on homosexuality because you probably want an out from this anyhow. Because of course you are right and I am wrong, I wont argue because your right anyhow.

    You know your right, it dosent matter that little ones have been turned away from the faith. And it dosent matter that the mennonites are responsible for it either.

    However I will try to cast a little light on a remark made previously:

    “..However, we probably don’t see eye to eye. In fact, I would consider you one of the “tyrants” running around using the Bible as a weapon of injustice against the outcasts of society—those whom Jesus ate with and loved…”

    Mathew the tax collector, was he a sinner durring his supper with Jesus? No, he left his job and responded to Jesus’s call to follow him. When the pharisees asked why does Jesus eat with sinners Jesus told them I came for the sick.

    It seems the pahrisees compltely missed the fact the Jesus called them exhtortioners and robberds all the time. Yet they thought Mathew was a sinner… Was Mathew really a sinner? Yes, but he turned from it and was following Jesus.

    What about the woman at the well, did Jesus eat with her. No, but he asked a drink of her and then offered her living water. When the woman asked Lord give me this living water Jesus told her “you have been married 5 times and the man you are with is not your husband”.

    Did Jesus love her, yes. But he showed her His love by rebuking her and showing her the sin that seperated her from God. And this He did in a very blunt manner mind you.

    How about the woman taken in Adultery? Was she taken in sin, yes. Is this account meant to show Jesus’ mercy for sinners or is there a bigger principal we can glean from it?

    If we read the accounts of the woman taken in adultery we see that Jesus tells the pharisees to cast the first stone if they were without offense. None of which did this, why? Because they were all guilty of adultery as well, how do we know this? Because Jesus accused them of it all the time!

    The stone accusation was meant to open the eyes of the religous people, not the sinner. Sinners know they are sinners, religous people seem to think theyre off the hook cuz theyre religous.

    What can we learn from this? I hope we can.

    What about Zacheus, was he a sinner?

    He was a man zealous to repent and make things right with those he wronged. Zacheus was walking in the light.

    In conclusion the New Testament never tells us of an account in which Jesus dines with a person given to sin, living in it, walking in it.

    he ates with these people because He chose the company of people willing to turn from their sin and walk in the light. Perhaps this is why he ate with these people, because they werent blinded by their religion and supposed Jewish (aka Mennonite)righteousness.

    In short I dont buy your commnet about Jesus being a push-over ready to eat with a flaming homsexual cuz He loved sinners so much.

    I tend to think your rather diluted in regard to your preception of who Jesus really was. Pehaps you need to read your Bible more than hippy gospel publications. But then again Im a hater right.

    Maybe you like these hippy publications becasue they make you feel good about a non judgmental Jesus instead of a Jesus returning in flaming fire tkaing vengance on all who do not know God and will not obey His Gopel.

    Anyhow, perhaps I am a quack, bursting at the seams with inconsistency, a hater on top of all of that. Or maybe like Jesus I love you enough to show you that your group(s) are really in error and need to change.

    You have been married five times and the man you are with is not your husband.

    Has is ever occured that this was the living water Jesus offered to the woman, repntance.

    Your groups are guilty of turning people away from the gospel, how radical are you young anabatists? Are you willing to do soemthing about this or just shrug me off like a hater, and go back to your happy little life talking about the Gospel rather than fighitng for it…?

  12. Jeremy Yoder


    I sense in you this fervent desire to be a prophetic voice. While you and I probably will never agree about some of these “hot” issues, I do think you have some important things to say and I do appreciate your willingness to engage us.

    But I believe that a prophetic voice without love and compassion is not truly a prophetic voice. I’m not saying that you are not a loving person, but whatever compassion you may feel for us is overwhelmed by the anger in your posts. I see anger at stupid church politics, anger at the treatment of Mr. Keeling, anger at US Mennonites indifferent at your own salvation. You are communicating this anger and frustration to us instead of your urgent concern about salvation. As long as you use that kind of tone, I’m afraid your calls will fall on deaf ears.

    I’m not telling you to weaken your convictions, but when we engage people with love and respect, they are more willing to listen.

    In regards to your comments about social justice — those of who work towards the “upside down kingdom”, believe we are fighting for the Gospel because the Gospel calls us to pursue justice.

    Mathew 25:34-

    34″Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    37″Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    40″The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

    41″Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

    44″They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

    45″He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

    I believe Christ calls us to feed the hungry, visit the prisoners, house the strangers and eat at the table with sinners.

    I don’t believe that it should be an issue of evangelism vs. social justice. BOTH are critical to discipleship of Christ


    In response to all the responses in these letters i would encourage us all to learn the prophetic rebuke and message given to us by the prophet teacher named Isaiah. In chapter 58 he is calling us to lift our voice like a trumpet (trumpets are loud and clear) tell my people there transgressions and the house ofJacob there sins. Is this the fast I have chosen for you?, ask theLord. Ye fast for strife and debate, exacting all your labors, doing your own things on this, my holy day. Instead we are called and commanded to loose the bands of wickedness, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, call the destitute (detestable) to our places. Then your (our) light will shine. I encourage us all to prayerfully meditate on these words in the old and consider how the teachings of our Lord and Saviour mirror these earlier sayings of Isaiah. The Kings mercy and justice be upon us all, judgement begins at the house of God. The Lord will judge His people though you seek him daily and delight in His ways. Peace be with your spirit.

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