The Mennonite Church (USA) and other Anabaptist groups are receiving more attention these days, but do they know how to handle it?
The Mennonite Church (USA) and other Anabaptist groups are receiving more attention these days, but do they know how to handle it?

I watched this talk (see below) by Greg Boyd titled “From Baptist to Anabaptist” with great interest. He converted to Christianity through the Oneness Pentecostal movement (as did I). He transitioned into a Baptistic form of American Evangelicalism (as did I). He finds himself engaging with Anabaptists now (as do I).

Much of what he said resonated with me. I haven’t come to the point where I feel comfortable identifying as Anabaptist (even more so, Mennonite) because in some sense it feels as much like engaging a new culture or ethnic group as it does engaging a new denomination or branch of Christianity, i.e., it is hard to adopt an identity that is perceived to be something earned by birthright. (In many ways I remain far more comfortable discussing Christian theology with Pentecostals and evangelicals.) While I have come to appreciate much of what the Anabaptist tradition has to offer I was particularly taken by Boyd’s observation that Anabaptists (as whole, not every local Church, per se) have become accustom to being marginalized and therefore to being cautious of outsiders. Now that many people are beginning to investigate the Anabaptist tradition in light of the perceived collapse of Christendom in Europe and North America it seems as if many Anabaptist communities are not quite sure what to do with this attention.

I think as an E/evangelical exploring Anabaptism Boyd says some important things and he does a fine job of framing the challenge faced by Anabaptist as regards opening their arms and embracing some of the change that will come with welcoming those who are not born and raised Anabaptist. There are those who have been exploring this somewhat foreign tradition, and while we find much to affirm, we are still a bit unsure of some things  (he jokes that he thought Anabaptists/Mennonites were “liberal Amish,” which incidentally was my perception as well). If you get a chance to watch it let me know your thoughts. If you have come to embrace an Anabaptist tradition or you’re exploring Anabaptism I’d like to hear your story. Here is Boyd’s talk:

(FWIW, I appreciate that the local Church that hosted this event has aimed to find a way to remain distinctly Anabaptist while also embracing the catholicity of the Church. I admit that one of my great concerns with Anabaptism is sectarianism. I don’t mind a group living by their convictions. I do care to see some humility as regards the work of the Spirit across denominational lines. This was part of my disgust with Oneness Pentecostals: they claimed to be the only true form of Christianity. I can’t buy that. I have very loose allegiance to any particular group because many stripes of Christianity—be it Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Pentecostalism, the Methodists, the Baptists—each of these groups emphasize something with which I agree or something I find valuable and worth considering. When one group declares a monopoly on the Gospel (whether by word or deed) it worries me deeply because my own experience has been that the Spirit is working among all these communities and beyond these communities.)

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