A few weeks ago, someone who has been worshiping at a Mennonite church for nearly a year, and who had no prior exposure to or experience with Mennonites, remarked to me that, while they had deeply appreciated their time with the community, it seemed to them that Mennonites were basically people who did lots of good stuff and liked to do things together. It is a common enough sentiment. Many expressions of Anabaptist faith can come to seem like little more than an ethical system designed to produce Christ-like behaviour and character with little, if any attention, paid to the indwelling presence of Christ and the ongoing power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Read more
Posts from the ‘Anabaptism’ Category
We have a tendency to want to create a God in our own image who we can then emulate.
These were the words of Perry Yoder, professor emeritus of the newly renamed Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, at a theological studies conference put on by Mennonite Church Alberta that I have been attending in Calgary over the past few days. We have been talking a lot about how we read the Bible—about the presuppositions that inform our interpretations, about how our various traditions dispose us toward certain possibilities, about what to do about seemingly irreconcilable texts, and myriad other issues around reading and understanding Scripture. Including, as the quote alludes to, the constant temptation to read Scripture with an eye toward the God we expect (or would prefer) to find. Read more
Over at the Mennonite Weekly Review’s “The World Together” blog, writer and activist Bert Newton has written a really thought-provoking piece on “the crucial question” when it comes to religion. So many debates and conversations on the nature of religion and irreligion focus on “belief in God” or its absence. Newton helpfully probes the common assumption that this is the central question, and asks us to ask harder and more honest questions about how and why we invest in the formation and maintenance of the views we hold about the world.
Part of this week was spent at a gathering of Alberta Mennonite pastors just north of Calgary. The drive alone would have made the trip worth it. I had forgotten how spectacularly colourful autumn in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains can be! More importantly, though, it was a good opportunity to connect with new colleagues, as well as to get a sense of some of the strengths, challenges and theological perspectives of a conference that is still fairly new to me. Read more
I’ve been thinking a fair amount about narratives recently, for personal and professional reasons. On a personal level, I suppose major transitions in life always afford the opportunity to re-evaluate things—where have I come from, where am I going, what are my reasons, what have I learned, how will it affect what may or may not lie ahead, what changes should I make, how is God guiding, shaping, and using my story, etc, etc. These are normal things to consider whenever we close one chapter and begin another. Read more
During my sermon yesterday, I made some remark about how such and such a way of looking at the Christian life was “in our theological DNA” as Anabaptists. I suppose the comment was meant to communicate that the stream of the Christian tradition from which we emerged has had a specific take on what discipleship looks like and that those of us who trace our lineage to the Anabaptist tradition are theologically hard-wired to embrace certain things. It’s almost as if we can’t help ourselves. Or can we? Read more
Every Wednesday in my neck of the woods, a handful of guys get together to talk and pray about God, life, work, marriage, and whatever else happens to come up before breakfast. One member of our group is a lawyer, and today we got on to the topic of justice and the irregular and inconsistent nature of its application in the Canadian system. To cite just one example (among a handful we talked about), there were back to back court cases where hunting an animal out of season resulted in a (much) more severe punishment than a clear cut case of spousal abuse. Amazing. Read more
Today, a friend passed along a couple of sourceless yet memorable quotes about conversion and the idea that being a Christian is about Jesus being our “personal” saviour (I’ve reflected a bit on the language of “personal relationships” with Jesus before here). Given that Mennonite Brethren issues have been on the menu here over the last little while, and given that the early MB’s were very interested (perhaps at little too interested?) with issues of personal conversion and assurance of salvation, I thought these would be worth passing along: Read more
So, Celebration 2010 (a recognition of the 150th anniversary of the Mennonite Brethren family held in the Vancouver area this past week) has come and gone and I find myself in reflection mode. One of the topics that generated significant discussion and debate was the nature of our Mennonite Brethren identity. Are we evangelical Anabaptists or Anabaptist Evangelicals? What is it, exactly, that we gather around as people from such diverse contexts? Is it theology? A shared history/common story? Is it relationships that have formed between people and communities over time? All of the above? And what happens if/when these individual commonalities and relationships begin to break down, as some see to be the case in the Canadian MB context? Read more
Well, summer is here and the posting around here continues to be somewhat sparse. This week I am in the Vancouver area attending Celebration 2010, our Mennonite Brethren denomination’s 150th birthday party. I have been spending the week with people from around the world learning more about MB identity and celebrating the ways in which God has worked in our collective story. Read more
Well, what I originally intended to be a relatively brief blog series has turned out to be a three-month odyssey of procrastination, but we have finally arrived at the seventh and final of Stuart Murray’s seven core convictions of Anabaptists (from The Naked Anabaptist): Read more
Perhaps surprisingly, despite the fact that I earn my living at a Mennonite church, very little of my formal education was devoted to learning about Anabaptist history and theology. I took one year of Bible College at a Mennonite school when I was 19, but that was about it. I studied philosophy at university and deliberately chose to pursue graduate studies at an inter/trans-denominational institution. I received bits and pieces of the Anabaptist story along the way in my studies, I read the occasional book by a Mennonite author, and I almost always worshiped in Anabaptist churches so it wasn’t like I was clueless. But I’ve never exactly swam in the deep end of the Anabaptist pool. Read more