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. (more…)