Author Archive: TimN

YAR Tag line contest for 5th anniversary

As we approach our 5th anniversary (August 31st), I’m please to announce a tag-line contest. For the last 5 years, our inconspicuous tag-line has been “A Metaphorical Molotov.” I’ve decided its time for something new and I’d like your help coming up with something suitably funny and incisive. So between now and August 26th, post your ideas here in the comments. On Friday, I’ll post the suggestions in a pole and you all get to vote on your favorite. If you no one else has any ideas, we can just spend the next 5 years watching out for Amish Pirates.

Also, think of something interesting to write about on August 31st.

What the London rioters and the early Anabaptists have in common

Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled.

Tottenham High RoadTottenham High Road by Nicobobinus Some Rights Reserved

Last week, riots and looting moved through neighborhoods in London that I know well. The broken windows, fires and shouts of “I want a satnav*” were juxtaposed with a familiar map that I bicycled through to work for nearly two years. I found myself turning to Facebook to reach out to friends in those neighborhoods and processing my thoughts through comments on my favorite blog.


Christian Peacemaker Teams 25th anniversary celebration

I haven’t posted anything in the last month, partly because I’ve been doing planning and prep work for our upcoming Peacemaker Congress this fall (October 13-16). The theme is Re-imagining Partnerships for Peace: A 25th anniversary celebration. It’s going to be a wonderful opportunities to connect with others who care about peacemaking on the margins and help CPT think about its next 25 years. Come join us!

Speakers and presenters include: Tony Brown, Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, Elaine Enns, Ched Myers, Fathiyeh Gainey, Angela Castellanos and Mohammed Salah.

The event will be hosted by Reba Place Church in Evanston, Illinois, USA.

A report on the Anabaptist Missional project gathering at Laurelville

crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

This weekend I was at Laurelville Retreat Center in Mt. Pleasant, Pa., participating in "Renewing the Story: Anabaptism and Mission for Today," a gathering organized by the Anabaptist Missional Project. The Mennonite had an article about this group of young adults a few months ago.


On the first evening of the gathering, founding member Matt Krabill introduced some of the history of the group. They first met together as a group in November 2009 in Harrisonburg, Va.

"We noticed that we were predominantly Anglo, male and seminary students, and that this wasn’t ideal for our goal of being a church in mission and so its something we want to change," said Kraybill, speaking of this first meeting. "We were paralyzed by the fact that we weren’t diverse, but at the same time we didn’t want to not talk."

Anabaptist Missional Project (AMP) has had two regional gatherings since then, as well in Elkhart, Ind., and Lancaster, Pa., respectively. Kraybill also shared a list of issues that have come up through those meetings.

  • mass exodus of young adults from rural areas
  • widespread nominalism (disaffection and driftedness)
  • political polarization
  • false dichotomy between peace church and missional church
  • waning peace position in some/many churches
  • Mennonite identity in light of "newer membership"


Haunting straight Mennonites moderates, pt 2: crisis and conciliation


I’ve been reading the thread of comments in response to my post on Anabaptist Ghosts on The Mennonite. I think the concerns by the Aaron Kauffman (read his comment) and Harold Miller (read his comment) are shared by others as well and need to be addressed.

As I understand them, one of the key arguments that Kauffman and Miller are making is that my focus on social advocacy and confrontation is “cutting [me] off from any word of wisdom that other parts of the Body of Christ might have to offer.” In other words, their claim is that the haunting social advocacy and confrontation, as I am describing it, does not leave room for dialogue.


Haunting straight Mennonite moderates: the Christian tradition of confrontation

This piece is cross-posted from As of Yet Untitled

In this month’s editorial in The Mennonite, editor Everett Thomas quoted Mennonite Church USA executive director Ervin Stutzman as follows:

“The experience of Pink Mennos at Columbus in 2009,” Stutzman said, “introduced a new level of engagement in controversial matters … The techniques of social advocacy and confrontation that we have taught young adults in our schools has come to haunt our church’s most visible gathering, to the end that convention-goers feel immense pressure to take up sides against one another on [homosexuality].”

Mennonite pastor Amy Yoder McGloughlin has already written quite eloquently and diplomatically on how Ervin’s words ignore the real ghosts who haunt the Mennonite convention. So I’d like to focus particularly on Ervin’s use of the term, “haunt,” to refer to the use of social advocacy and confrontation by Pink Mennos. As a Mennonite, I find social advocacy and confrontation at the heart of the gospel and at the roots of my Anabaptist tradition. To suggest that those of us who sought to embody this tradition as Pink Mennos at Colombus were “haunting” the convention is highly problematic.


Report from CPT Aboriginal Justice Delegation

crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

One of the things I’ve noticed in my work as outreach coordinator for Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) is that the least well known project is CPT’s work with aboriginal peoples here in North America. So this spring I decided to spend time on the Aboriginal Justice team in order to support the team better and understand the struggles of our indigenous partners.

I just returned from Kenora, Ontario, home of one of Ontario’s major paper mills and supply town for many indigenous communities in the area. We also spent a week at Grassy Narrows, also known as (the reserve of the) Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabe.

During my time at Grassy Narrows, for the first time in my life I saw first hand the continuing effects of the 500-year history of colonization and genocide on this continent. It’s a testimony to the effectiveness of white settlement and ethnic cleansing; I had never come face to face with these realities before in a personal way.


Patterns of this World, part 3: Patriarchy, Pacifism and Powerlessness

Stained Glass at Cathedralis SS. Michaelis et GuduLae

In the first article of this series, I did a broad overview of the bureaucratization trends in the Mennonite Church. In the second article, I looked specifically at the philosophy of institutions put forth by J. Lawrence Burkholder and practiced by James Brenneman and Howard Brenneman as presidents of Goshen (Ind.) College and Mennonite Mutual Aid respectively. In this third part I’ll look at the history of this thought in the Anabaptist tradition as well as Mennonite and feminist critique of Neihbur and Burkholder. I’ll continue to draw heavily from The Limits of Perfection: A Conversation with J. Lawrence Burkholder as well as The Feminist Case against Bureaucracy.


Patterns of this world, part 2: Breakfast with Burkholder


When we left the first part in this series, I promised that the second part would look specifically at Mennonite educational organizations and the case of James Brenneman and J. Lawrence Burkholder. However, I’d like to start by giving some background on J. Lawrence Burkholder and his influence with another Mennonite institution: the institution formerly known as Mennonite Mutual Aid (MMA), now Everence.

I first became familiar with this story in Keith Graber Miller’s piece “Mennonite Mutual Aid: A Margin of Difference.” In it he tells the story of MMA adopting the practice of underwriting. The practice meant that healthier people would pay less for their insurance policies and sicker people would pay more or be denied coverage all together. It was seen by some in MMA’s leadership as necessary for the survival of the institution. Underwriting had become the norm among most insurance companies at the time. But in practice, it would have a painful impact on sick or at-risk people who would be denied coverage, and it was difficult for those in MMA who were responsible for denying them aid in their time of need. In 1988, an MMA task force went so far as to say that strict underwriting was “contrary to the mission of MMA.” The report also said, “We are caught between those conflicting needs of serving the church and being a sound business.”


Patterns of this World: Institutions and Bureaucracy among the Mennonites, Part 1

A few weeks ago, I referenced Romans 12:2 in a comment on SteveK’s post on fire codes and faith. Tim B questioned whether this was a relevant passage. This post represents my further thoughts on the passages relevance to bureaucracy.

Jesus is the Answer

“In the world, but not of it.” This is a concept long embraced by Mennonites in style of dress and rejection of other “worldy” trappings. But in the last 50 years, the stance of mainstream Mennonites has changed dramatically. Embracing radio, television and lipstick, we’ve come to see our Christian distinctiveness through our dissenting view on war, our commitment to simple living and our Christian service. Unfortunately, in our rush to engage the world on these issues, we have uncritically embraced a piece of this aion (Gk., spirit of this world) far more dangerous then lipstick and ties. That is: institutional structures and bureaucracy.

Tim, you might say, aren’t you being a bit over-dramatic? Can institutional structures really hurt anyone? Aren’t they just neutral tools that can be used for good or ill?

In this first part of my series on bureaucracy and institutionalism, I’ll draw on three writers to make my case. The first is Kathy Ferguson in her book, The Feminist Case Against Bureaucracy. (more…)

Will we standby while Mubarak’s thugs massacre protesters in Egypt?

Egypt angry day 02

Like many of you, I’ve been watching closely as the events in Egypt unfolded this week. When the protests first began on Tuesday of last week it seemed like it might be a brief flare up, quickly repressed like so many others. But momentum grew through the week and the brutality of the police proved ineffective in preventing mass protests after prayers on Friday.

Then on Saturday, the olice left the streets and the media stories began to talk about “looting” and “lawlessness”. It’s clear now that the regime’s hope was that things would get so chaotic that people would beg the police to come back. To encourage this, undercover police joined in the looting and thousands of criminals were released from jail according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). “Mubarak’s mantra to his own people was that he was the guarantor of the nation’s stability. It would make sense that he would want to send the message that without him, there is no safety,”said Peter Bouckaert, the emergency director at HRW.


Mennonite Church USA, Phoenix 2013 convention and Anabaptist networks and alliances

Goose Sunset on Hampstead Heath

On Saturday, the Mennonite Church USA executive board decided to hold the MC-USA 2013 convention in Phoenix, thus saving the $300,000 deposit $460,994 (source: MCUSA staff) that otherwise would have been lost. Any delegates who feel unsafe (or uncomfortable) meeting in Phoenix due to Arizona’s targeting of the Latino community will be shepherded to a “satellite” gathering at an unspecified location. Thus, their marginalization will move from the realm of metaphor to a literal, physical fact. The decision is a real triumph of institutional logic.

As I read the news in my inbox this morning, I felt something inside me drop. I realized that I had let myself hope that the executive board might listen to the clear message from Iglesia Mennonita Hispana and many others. I had let myself hope that this decision would be different from the decision to move ahead with the building in Elkhart last year. I let myself hope that the institution could re-member itself as the beloved community and take a prophetic stand with a real cost.

If you’re looking for a further critique and de-construction of the decision, I recommend, Andy Alexis-Baker’s piece Becoming Anabaptist: A Protest to the Mennonite Church. I want to focus elsewhere in the remainder of this piece.


YAR Christmas Reflection

Nativity and Advent Candles

Dear Friends, Enemies and Pirates,

This Christmas I want to let you know that I’m grateful for this little corner of the internet that you create through your presence and participation. It’s been more then four years since a group of us came together around the idea of a blog for Young Anabaptist Radicals. Most of the people in that group are long gone and many others have come and gone in that time. Some of us are still around, but stretching the definition of Young, Anabaptist and/or Radical. Fortunately, we never quite agreed on what any of those words meant to begin with. (more…)