When I began looking for an Anabaptist congregation, I was immediately drawn to the San Antonio Mennonite Church here in the Alamo City. Truth be told, I probably would have stayed within our house-church if it werenâ€™t for the fact that many of our families were moving. But as necessity compelled me to search for a tribe, the Anabaptist emphasis on Jesus discipleship, servant minded non-violence, and its history of persecution welcomed me. Iâ€™m glad we found a home in the MCUSA.
Having grown up as the son of an ordained minister in the Southern Baptist Convention, I was frightfully aware of the denominational politics our family encountered having served under two SBC Presidents. But Anabaptism offered more than that, with less, or so it seemed.
Theda Goodâ€™s recent ordination seems to have served as a sort of catalyst in the ever growing divide between the young and old, urban and rural MCUSA membership. But from my location, these reactionary reverberations seem to find their epicenter on the conservative side of the aisle while the almost certainly inevitable LGBTQ ordination seems to originate on the progressive side. Regrettably, I feign to even use the binary language associated with progressive versus conservative politics, but it seems that such language indicates that we have already bought in to the us vs. them mentality that dominates our American culture.
What about the Third Way?
Iâ€™m perplexed as to why weâ€™re having this conversation in the first place. Looking at arguments from â€œboth sides,â€ I keep asking myself, â€œwhere is Jesus in this?â€ I see Jesus in the calls for humility and servanthood. I see Jesus in the cautionary language encouraging dialogue instead of schism. But I donâ€™t see Jesus in the Soddom and Gommorah rhetoric, and neither do I see it in the practice of ordination.
January 3, 2014
activism, Anabaptism, Bigotry, Church, Class, culture, Current Events, empire, Exclusion, Faith, Gender, Leadership, LGBTQ, Mennonite Church USA, neo-Anabaptism, Privilege, Race, Schism, Sexism, Social justice, The Bible, Tolerance, Tradition
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Originally posted at Koinonia Revolution.
Schleitheim Congregational Order:
â€œOf all the brothers and sisters of this congregation, none shall have anything of his own, but rather, as the Christians in the time of the apostles held all in common, and especially stored up a common fund, from which aid can be given to the poor, according as each will have need, and as in the apostlesâ€™ time permit no brother to be in need.â€
â€œThey who would enter into life must come through love, the highest commandment; there is no other way through the narrow gate, Matt. 22:34-40; John 14:1-14. Hundreds of Scriptures and many witnesses make it very clear that whoever wishes to have the precious and hidden jewel must go and sell everything, yes, hand over everything they possess, Matt. 13:45-46; Acts 2:43-47. Different interpretations of these texts have been given because people want to keep what they have, but we cannot deny the work and power of the Holy Spirit, by which the apostles set a firm example in the first church in Jerusalem and three thousand were added, Acts 2; Acts 4:32-37.â€
â€œWhoever claims to belong to Christ in love, but cannot give their possessions to the community for the sake of Christ and the poor, cannot deny that they love worldly goods, over which they have only been placed as caretakers for a time, more than Christ. Therefore Christ says, blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, Matt. 5:3.â€ (more…)
December 20, 2013
Anabaptism, Community, Economics, neo-Anabaptism, poverty, Social justice
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It is strange that I live in Pennsylvania, a state with a strong Anabaptist population and history, but in my county (Allegheny) there was very little presence. Part of the problem is that I live in western Pennsylvania, while the historic Anabaptist populations primarily settled in the east, on the other side of the Appalachian Mountains.Â Until the 1960â€²s, there were no Mennonite congregations in my countyâ€”the nearest Mennonite community was in the next county. There were a couple Brethren congregations, but it was still mostly the same.
It was in the late sixties, when a small community from various backgrounds and denominations began to meet that things started to change. This small community admired the Anabaptistâ€”specifically Mennoniteâ€”vision, and the called themselves â€œPittsburgh Mennonite Church,â€ even though they did not belong to a Mennonite denomination at this point. A little while later, they decided to join the Allegheny Mennonite Conference of the Mennonite Church, and it was with them that an Anabaptist movement started in my area. (more…)
December 12, 2013
Anabaptism, Church, Emerging Church, Evangelism, Faith, Mennonite Church USA, neo-Anabaptism, New Monasticism
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When I look at my life so far, I realize that I really shouldnâ€™t be a Christian. I grew up in a culturally Christian environment, where neither of my parents really cared about religion, and the few experiences I did have with the church growing up were not good ones. Add to that the fact that I am part of the generation called â€œMillennials,â€ which tends to be less religious than previous generations. In all respects,Â I really shouldnâ€™t be a Christian.
What changed was that I discovered Jesus.Â I found the radical, subversive, Sermon-on-the-Mount Jesus, and I just couldnâ€™t let him go. My mother, who dislikes religion, has found my affection for this strange character particularly frustrating. She wanted me to be a teacher, or perhaps a professor. I chose to be a pastor. She wanted me to be concerned for material goods and financial stability like she is. I have a habit of not caring much for money. I also collect different Bible translations and theology books, which also annoys her.Â My faith is foolishness to her. (more…)
December 6, 2013
Anabaptism, Blog, Discipleship, Dumb Stuff., Emerging Church, Faith, neo-Anabaptism, New Monasticism
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There was one text in the Bible that has been the most influential on my life. It was this text that really helped convince me to become a Christian, and it was this text that brought me into radical politics. The passage I am referring to is the Sermon on the Mount.
It was when I was in middle school that I was first introduced to this famous sermon, and it ignited my interest in the gospel. By reading its words, I fell in love with the man who spoke them, and I wanted to apply the sermon to all aspects of my life. It was a big reason that I became interested in left-wing and anti-war movements as well. It would be years later, when I read Leo Tolstoyâ€™sÂ The Kingdom of God Is Within You, that I really started to realize just how much was packed intoÂ Matthew 5-7.Â Recently, a friend of mine who I know from bothÂ Young Anabaptist Radicals andÂ MennoNerds, said,Â â€The Sermon on the Mount or Plain is the Christianâ€™s constitution.â€ I think there is a lot of truth to that. (more…)
November 13, 2013
Anabaptism, Church, Economics, empire, Ethics, neo-Anabaptism, Nonviolence, Politics
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This is the final installment of a three-part overview of the life of Pilgram Marpeck, Anabaptist radical and lover of Christ.
From 1532 to 1542 , Pilgram and Anna Marpeck wandered from German city to city, Pilgram getting an engineering job here and there, and trying to encourage local Anabaptists wherever he went. He wrote letters and held meetings in various places.
In Moravia, where there was the greatest freedom for Anabapists to thrive, Marpeck found the greatest level of dissension between the different groups of Anabaptist. It is there that Marpeck realized that the greatest enemy of the true Christian church is not persecution, but disunity.
â€œUnity is the highest adornment of love. This treasure, unity, brings with it all other virtues and treasures, namely peace, joy, comfort in the Holy Spirit, as well as humility, meeknessâ€¦ I do not write this to accuse you but to entice you to emulate the true and proper humility in Christ.â€ (Marpeck, p.216)
November 3, 2013
Anabaptism, Four Streams of Anabaptism Series
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1528 was a busy year for Pilgram Marpeck. He was married to Anna, he was baptized as an adult and accepted into the leadership of Anabaptist circles. His former liege, Archduke Ferdinand, heard about his full conversion to Anabaptism, and sought to arrest him. Pilgram and Anna decided to leave the area under Ferdinand, and so decided to move to Strasbourg.
Strasbourg had just become a Lutheran city, choosing as their preacher Martin Bucer, a former Dominican and now a strong advocate of the Reformation. However, Strasbourg was known as a city that was open to discussion and a variety of Christian thinking, so Marpeck and many other Anabaptists found their way to the city after being persecuted in other nearby cities.
Marpeck was one of the few immigrants of means, able to purchase a house and to provide for some of the other Anabaptist refugees. He also held a regular Anabaptist meeting in his house. He was welcomed by the Anabaptist community, to such a degree that Bucer later said he was seen as a â€œgodâ€ among them.
By 1530, after working in a variety of towns, Marpeck was hired by Strasbourg to work for the city. By this time, the city was actively persecuting Anabaptists, arresting whole churches and banishing them. Marpeck himself had not been given any official notice, nevertheless, his position as a civil engineer with the city must have been at best precarious. Certainly his Anabaptist fellows must have questioned his loyalty to his church when he was working for their persecutor, and having taken a vow of loyalty to the city.
However, Marpeck was actually furious at the Lutheran preachers and officials of the city, and many other German provinces. Their acts of persecution in the name of Christ was directly against Scripture, and Marpeck wrote a pamphlet in opposition to this action with the tame title of, An Expose of the Babylon Whore, written about the Lutheran persecution of other Christian beliefs. (more…)
October 27, 2013
Anabaptism, Four Streams of Anabaptism Series
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Earlier this month, Charity Erickson wrote an article, “Peace Reformation = Humble Leaders” that offered some questions and challenges for neo-Anabaptists around leadership and the roots of this growing movement. The response, in the comments on her post and on social media, was cantankerous. I followed up with her to do an interview, the fifth in my Anabaptist camp followers series. My questions are in bold. Crossposted from As of Yet Untitled
What does neo-Anabaptism mean to you?
Charity: I understand neo-Anabaptism to be an ecumenical movement that is inspired and influenced by Anabaptist thought. This influence isnâ€™t confined to traditional Anabaptist thought as expressed in documents like the Schleitheim Confession; it includes the critique of power that we get from post-modernism and post-colonialism. These critiques are not native to Anabaptist thought. In many ways, they are not native to Western thought. But they are good critiques; they are Spirit-guided, I think.
How did you first come across neo-Anabaptist thought and practice?
Charity: When I was 11â€”around 1996â€”I joined the Bible Quiz team at my Christian Missionary Alliance church. We memorized a lot of scripture; but we also had these t-shirts that we inherited from a group that had recently split off from our church to focus on their urban ministry in Minneapolis, which included communal living, serving those struggling with poverty, and fostering interfaith dialogue. The t-shirts were black with an anarchic kind-of symbol on the front, and the words, â€œResistance is Futile.â€
October 26, 2013
Anabaptist Camp Followers, empire, neo-Anabaptism, Power, Privilege, Race, Sexism
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This multi-part post is the third in the Anabaptist Streams series here on Young Anabaptist Radicals, in which weâ€™ll be looking at different streams of early Anabaptism and making connections with our own context. The series will feature different authors over the coming months and is loosely based on Rodney Sawatskyâ€™s model of four streams of Anabaptism. It features different authors over the coming months, each looking at a different stream. In this post and in the next two weeks we will focus on Pilgram Marpeck.
In 1520, Pilgram Marpeck, trained in civil engineering, was welcomed to the brotherhood of miners in Austria . After doing some favors to the Archduke Ferdinand over the next five years, he was appointed by Ferdinand to be mining superintendent over Rattenberg. As normal in such a position, Marpeck gave an oath of loyalty to Ferdinand, vowing to obey all of Ferdinandâ€™s commands and to obey all the laws of the land. In that charge he represented the Archduke in taking custody of rebels, and held the lives and deaths of the miners under his care in his hands.
In this time, the writings and controversies of Martin Luther enflamed Europe. Although his career and solid government connections would be effected by any strong religious conviction, he held conversations with young Lutherans and were convinced by their arguments. (more…)
October 19, 2013
Anabaptism, Four Streams of Anabaptism Series, History
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Douglas Jacobsen in his essay â€œAnabaptist Autonomy, Evangelical Engulfmentâ€ describes a Mennonite â€˜diasporaâ€™ in two senses. First is the sense that ideas and movements from other denominations and traditions have gone out from their homes and have settled among the Mennonites. Mennonite churches can feel very different, with charismatic, evangelical and even liturgical influences making their rounds. Second is the sense that Mennonite ideas and movements have gone out and settled among other Christian traditions of all sorts – Evangelical, mainline Protestant and even High Church.
I am part of this strange diaspora. On the one hand the faith communities I have been apart have been formerly Anabaptist. These congregations have come from traditions that at one time were Mennonite or still retain the name but who no longer bear any Anabaptist distinctiveness, having been caught up in the wider Evangelical movement. On the other hand in Bible College I was significantly influenced by Anabaptist ideas, read intensively of Anabaptist writers, with my vision for faith and community coming into close proximity to those that descend from Harold Benderâ€™s â€œAnabaptist Visionâ€.
Now when I say â€œI read intensively of Anabaptist writersâ€ I perhaps am being dishonest. It was really one Anabaptist writer who influenced my thinking and has shaped the way I look at things immensely: John Howard Yoder. As a young evangelical at odds with the social witness of the evangelical tradition I found Yoderâ€™s writings refreshing. Dare I even say life giving. Within my first year of bible college I recall reading at least five of his books. At the same time I observed other young evangelicals becoming excited with missional church writings, or the work of new monastics like Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Anyone familiar with book indexes could easily figure out that Yoderâ€™s shadow has been cast on these writings.
And hereâ€™s the thing: it was not just about thinking. It is about how lives are lived. For me Anabaptism as mediated by Yoder opened up doors for a radical discipleship that had only been hinted to in my congregations. For one thing it helped shaped a long-term commitment to a new monastic community in Kitchener-Waterloo I helped found. It helped me engage issues of poverty and injustice in new ways. In reinvigorated a commitment to pacifism, transforming the nonresistance I had inherited from my grandparents into a robust, articulate sense of nonviolence.
During my second year I stumbled upon the story of Yoderâ€™s abusive actions and the Churchâ€™s response. Needless to say I was disgusted and disillusioned. (more…)
October 17, 2013
Anabaptism, Leadership, Mennonite Church USA, Polemics, Privilege, Sexism, Theology
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It is my desire in the closing segments of my contribution to this series to address an issue that is controversial in nature. That subject being Christian separatism. When the average person that shows interests in Anabaptistica surveys the writings and beliefs of the Swiss Brethren they will pause at article IV of the Schleitheim Confession and immediately find some difference of opinion with itâ€™s content. It reads:
We have been united concerning the separation that shall take place from the evil and the wickedness which the devil has planted in the world, simply in this; that we have no fellowship with them,Â and do not run with them in the confusion of their abominations. So it is; since all who have not entered into the obedience of faith and have not united themselves with God so that they will to do His will, are a great abomination before God, therefore nothing else can or really will grow or spring forth from them than abominable things. Now there is nothing else in the world and all creation than good or evil, believing and unbelieving, darkness and light, the world and those who are [come] out of the world, God’s temple and idols. Christ and Belial, and none will have part with the other.
To us, then, the commandment of the Lord is also obvious, whereby He orders us to be and to become separated from the evil one, and thus He will be our God and we shall be His sons and daughters.
Further, He admonishes us therefore to go out from Babylon and from the earthly Egypt, that we may not be partakers in their torment and suffering, which the Lord will bring upon them.
From all this we should learn that everything which has not been united with our God in Christ is nothing but an abomination which we should shun.Â By this are meant all popish and repopish works and idolatry, gatherings, church attendance, winehouses, guarantees and commitments of unbelief, and other things of the kind, which the world regards highly, and yet which are carnal or flatly counter to the command of God, after the pattern of all the iniquity which is in the world. From all this we shall be separated and have no part with such, for they are nothing but abominations, which cause us to be hated before our Christ Jesus, who has freed us from the servitude of the flesh and fitted us for the service of God and the Spirit whom He has given us.
Thereby shall also fall away from us theÂ diabolical weapons of violenceâ€”such as sword, armor, and the like, and all of their use to protect friends or against enemiesâ€”by virtue of the word of Christ: “you shall not resist evil. (more…)
October 12, 2013
Anabaptism, Four Streams of Anabaptism Series, History, Uncategorized
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There is a growing movement of pastors, church planters, and churches around the globe who have become convinced that the center of the Gospel is a Jesus-looking God who calls his people to partner with him to advance a Jesus-looking kingdom. Â They sense that God is pouring out â€œnew kingdom wineâ€ that is bursting apart the tired old wineskins of Christendom. They sense we are at the cusp of a rising kingdom revolution that is going to radically alter what people identity as â€œthe Christian faithâ€ and â€œthe Church.â€ Â The majority of these leaders are both encouraged and discouraged. They are encouraged by the Jesus-looking kingdom revolution they see rising up, Â but discouraged by the lack of networking and partnership amongst others who share their convictions. –Greg Boyd and Mark Moore
Several weeks ago, Greg Boyd and Mark Moore hosted a network exploration meeting for Neo Anabaptist types in the hours leading up to the conference on “Faith, Doubt and the Idol of Certainty.” The conference, hosted by Woodland Hills Church, was slated to coincide with the recent release of Boyd’s latest book, Benefit of the Doubt. (which I hear is highly worth reading)
But it was the Neo Anabaptist “network exploration meeting” that became the basis of buzz amongst online Anabaptist circles as of late.
There certainly seems to be a need for cohesion among the emerging Neo Anabaptist churches and pastors across the country–something that goes beyond denominationalism, but can work in tandem with existing avenues (such as denominations) that many of us already have relationships with. Many think we have an opportunity to create a missional organization or association that empowers “the boots on the ground,” so to speak–a platform for Post Christendom theology and praxis.
Perhaps it is time to start bringing together minds and bodies in order to create a space for open resources, networking, and mutual affirmation. Still, the conversation thus far has given me pause, and so I want to highlight a few pitfalls to I think we should avoid as well as present a few proposals that cast some vision for the Post Christendom Reformation.
1) We need to acknowledge our privilege:
What I am not seeing so far is a space that creates agency for women, minorities, the marginalized as well as those who aren’t “big” theological personalities in the current Neo Anabaptist discussion. Let’s be honest: while I applaud Mark Moore and Greg Boyd for taking the initiative to invite Neo Anabaptist types intoÂ dialogue as an aside to this conference, I fail to see how hosting a “network exploration meeting” opens the space for the diversity the movement is already composed of, when the only ones who could attend such a meeting must have either
a) been conference town locals, or
b) have the time and means to fly to the Twin Cities and attend Greg’s conference. (more…)
October 9, 2013
Anabaptism, antiracism, Bigotry, Change, Church, Class, Community, disabilities, Education, Emerging Church, empire, Ethics, Evangelism, Exclusion, Global Church
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From its establishment, the Swiss Brethren separated themselves from Roman Catholics and Protestants. Their existential form of Christianity was something that the religious community as well as the general public could not fathom. While some aspects paralleled that of the Reformers concerning belief in other areas it was quite disturbing because of their otherness to outsiders.
The means in which they achieved their doctrinal and applied otherness was nothing new in and of itself. “They had come to their convictions like most other Protestantsâ€”through Scripture. Luther had taught that common people have a right to search the Bible for themselves” (Shelley 248). They reasoned if Luther arrived at his biblical and theological conclusions through a search of scripture there was nothing preventing them from doing the same. They began to gather and probe the Bible thoroughly trying their best not to let preconceived notions prevent them from discovering what the genuine will of God was for not just them but for every believer.
When venturing on their journey through Sacred Scripture the Swiss Brethren “discovered a different world in the pages of the New Testament. They found no state-church alliance, no Christendom. Instead they discovered that the apostolic churches were companies of committed believers, communities of men and women who had freely and personally chosen to follow Jesus. And for the sixteenth century, that was a revolutionary idea” (Ibid. 248-9).
These men and women did not seek Reformation for the Anabaptists saw the futility in trying to reform something that was beyond correction or change.
Their goal was the “restitution” of apostolic Christianity, a return to churches of true believers. In the early church, they said, men and women who had experienced personal spiritual regeneration were the only fit subjects for baptism.Â The apostolic churches knew nothing of the practice of baptizing infants. That tradition was simply a convenient device for perpetuating Christendom, nominal but spiritually impotent society (Ibid. 249).
They considered the undisputable church was a community made of disciples that was pursuing holiness and embraced the reality that they were called out by God and set aside for His purpose. The Anabaptists desired to influence the world by their example of “radical discipleship” even if doing so meant martyrdom.
In due course, the group codified their beliefs in order to differentiate themselves from other groups that held to the Anabaptist designation. On February 24, 1527, a conference was held at Schleitheim (Switzerland) and the Swiss Anabaptists adopted unanimously what is known as the Schleitheim Articles or Confession. Originally, it was termed the BrÃ¼derlich Vereinigung etzlicher Kinder Gottes sieben Artikel betreffend when translated the Brotherly Union of a Number of Children of God Concerning Seven Articles with Michael Sattler presiding. These articles contained seven points that was eventually dispatched to the Swiss and South German Anabaptist collectives in the form of an epistle. The seven principles addressed the following topics: (more…)
October 5, 2013
Four Streams of Anabaptism Series, Uncategorized
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This multi-part post is the second in the Anabaptist Streams series here on Young Anabaptist Radicals, in which weâ€™ll be looking at different streams of early Anabaptism and making connections with our own context. The series will feature different authors over the coming months and is loosely based on Rodney Sawatskyâ€™s model of four streams of Anabaptism. It will feature different authors over the coming months, each looking at a different stream.
In this prefatory portion as a substitute for addressing each notable member of the group that is presently known as the Swiss Brethren, I will address the assembly as a whole for to do otherwise would exhaust the allotted time for this entire series of presentations. Each of those member were vivid distinctive characters that laid the foundation of a movement that no only altered the Ecclesiastical world but ironically impacted the country that epitomizes the empire they challenged via their indefatigable ministry.
In the beginning during their tenure in Zollikon and St. Gallen they went by the designation â€œBrothers in Christâ€, it was not until later they became known as the â€œSwiss Brethrenâ€. Their antagonists “both Protestant and Roman Catholic, used the label Anabaptist (“rebaptized”) for the radical reformers because they baptized adults who had already been baptized as infants” (Kraybill 10). However, as mentioned formerly from â€œthe beginning in Zollikon and St Gallen they referred to themselves as “brothers in Christ.” Later, from some time in the 1540s, they were called the “Swiss Brethren,” the name being coined by two other Anabaptist groups that wanted to maintain an identity distinct from them â€“ the Hutterites and the Marpeck brotherhoodâ€ (Ibid.).
History acknowledges the Brothers in Christ (hereafter Swiss Brethren) as the principal Anabaptists that engaged in the first disciplesâ€™ baptism of the movement “in Zurich in January 1525 in an effort to create immediately a complete, uncompromising and uncompromised reformed Church” (Stayer The small group consisted of Felix Manz, Conrad Grebel, and George Blaurock among other like-minded believers. They severed ties from the Magisterial Reformer Huldrych (or Ulrich) Zwingli for the reason that they felt reforms was not progressing in an expeditious fashion.
September 28, 2013
Anabaptism, Four Streams of Anabaptism Series, Group Identity, History
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From a television personality saying that the poor are lazy to a megachurch pastor teaching that wealth is a blessing from God, in the West todayâ€”especially in the United Statesâ€”Christianity is often associated with individualism, capitalism, and personal profit. I personally believe that Christians are called to a different standard. Being Christian should mean following Jesusâ€™ example todayâ€”it should beÂ missional and based inÂ radical discipleship. This means that we should look to the example of Jesus and try to bring his example into our context today.
The early followers of Jesus were far removed from our American culture of rigid individualism and capitalism. On the one hand, they came from a pre-modern society, and on the other hand, they practiced a radical form of communityâ€”one that is described throughout the New Testament and several early church documents, and has been revived many times throughout church history. (more…)
September 26, 2013
Anabaptism, Community, Consumerism, Economics, Wealth
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