“New Monkery”

My father is doing research on the history of Anabaptist in Augsburg, Germany, the town the Confessio Augustana was proclaimed in 1530, in which the new Lutheran church proclaimed its faith and also some condemning of Anabaptists. The dialogue between Lutherans and Mennonites is still suffering from this. During World Conference Assembly in Asunción this year Ishmael Noko said “[the Lutheran church] is like a scorpion, we still have this poison [the articles about condemning Anabaptists] we just didn’t use it for a long time, but it’s still there” Recently the Lutheran World Federation officially apologized.

But that’s actually not what I wanted to write about. Augsburg was also a major Anabaptist center in the 16th century. That’s why the local reformator Urbanus Rhegius wrote a pamphlet “against the new baptist order” in which he claims that the Anabaptists are actually just a “new monkery”, an argument made in many writings against the Anabaptists. The claim is that they only make the same things as the monastic orders did, just with families.

I don’t know too much about the New Monasticism movement, I read Shane’s first book, but I guess the name wasn’t knowingly a reminiscence on the Anabaptists.

Comments (8)

  1. Mark Van Steenwyk

    Those that coined the phrase “new monasticism” for this current movement (like the folks from the Simple Way, Rutba House, etc.) may not have made that connection, but a number of communities are intentionally drawing from Anabaptist sources and inspiration. Personally speaking, when we founded Missio Dei (www.missio-dei.com) six years ago, we did so deliberately drawing from Anabaptism, Franciscan Spirituality, and liberationist perspectives. A couple of years ago, we formally became a Mennonite congregation. By any definition, we fit within the New Monasticism category, and have abiding respect and relationships with both Anabaptist communities and monastic/mendicant communities.

  2. ST

    thanks for the post ben jammin.
    mark, can you explain what you mean by the word-concept “mendicant”? i googled it, but didn’t get info that i could quite comprehend/apply to the monastic/mendicant communities that M-D relates to.


  3. Mark Van Steenwyk

    Mendicants are those in religious orders that don’t own property and are usually not “cloistered.” Technically, groups like the Franciscans and Dominicans and others aren’t “monastic” because monastic life is a cloistered life.

    So, when I say that Missio Dei is inspired by both mendicant and monastic communities, I’m basically saying that we’re inspired by those traditions that flow out of Benedictine spirituality and practice as well as those that are influenced by Franciscan spirituality and practice.

  4. Josh B

    I often argue just this in Roman Catholic circles ie. that had the Reformation not caught on, many of these Radical Reformers would have been a monastic movement within church. Keep in mind that Michael Sattler was a Benedictine monk, and even Menno himself was a local priest. The ascetic ideas of the Roman Church (mendicant or cloistered) took on grand new forms when they were combined with the concept of Priesthood of All Believers.

    The New Monastics take their moniker not from any Catholic source or polemic, but from Bonhoeffer in Life Together based on his reflections on the Alternative seminary he founded.

  5. Mark Van Steenwyk


    The “New Monastics” aren’t monolithic. Though the name has been branded, there are folks from all sorts of backgrounds that are appropriating monastic language from different sources. Some folks take it from Bonhoeffer. Some take it from Alistair MacIntyre’s “After Virtue.” Others are just connecting the dots on their own. The mendicant movements were called “new monasticism.”

    Personally, I don’t think it is a helpful phrase. I prefer to place the newest movement within the larger history of radical intentional communities, which have almost always existed. In North America, it might be better to call it the Protestant Worker Movement.

  6. Josh B


    Of course those who have gathered under the umbrella of New Monasticism are not monolithic. They are contextual, which is one of the 12 markers they recently identified (moving to the abandoned places of the empire). As contextual, they nurture practices which respond to the needs of themselves and their neighbors.

    As for the source of the name, those who self-idenitify as New Monastic are clear about the origination of the name in Bonhoeffer. At the same time, MacIntyre’s argument for communities of practice played a significant role in the formation of Rutba House and Simple Way. Also, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is clear about his own connections to Anabaptism, especially through his witness in Iraq with CPT.

    MacIntyre has been greatly influential in a number of ways, including the thinking of Hauerwas and the Practices Program at Valpo in Indiana. These two streams of through can hardly be called monastic or mendicant, or even moves toward intentional communities like Catholic Worker.

    I was not speaking to the wider phenomena of intentional communities such as yours. What New Monasticism has done is bring together a number of local communities and provide the space for common support and exchange of ideas.

    I am curious where you have seen the Mendicants referred to as New Monastics? Certainly, theirs was a new form of asceticism, but they also did not claim novelty. In fact, the Dominicans modeled their rule of life on the Augustinian Rule. They are more appropriately identified as renewal movements. (At least as far as I understand their birth in the 13th century).


  7. Christina Wilson

    I was wondering, would any of you have any Franciscan readings you would recommend? Are the best things to read actually written by him, or about him? In regards to living “radically” or something similar.

  8. bjo matson

    Yes, read St Francis’ works, definitely! He was a radical who was hated by the Church at that time! He brought a new level of purity. Poverty, chastity and obedience were his rule. I am a self avowed Franciscan who was raised Brethren. So much the same! I have Converted and I have tried to join the Secular Franciscan Order but I have had trouble making their minimum requirements through no fault of anyone’s really. I took my own vows anyway and I am happy. I call my old trailer where I have dedicated my life to the homeless humans and animals around me The Hermitage! Pax et bonum, Barbara Jo Matson

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