Mennonite Church USA

Invitation from Mennonite Publishing Network to help revision resources for 20 and 30-somethings

This is a invitation to the YAR community from Byron Rempel-Burkholder, and editor at Faith and Life Resources/Mennonite Publishing Network. Feel free to contact Byron directly or leave your response in a comment.

We at Mennonite Publishing Network need your help in creating resources that nurture spirituality among 20- and 30-somethings. Our traditional existing medium is Rejoice! magazine, which offers daily meditations on Bible texts, along with denominational prayer requests. Rejoice! is relatively successful among middle and older adults, but it is attracting only a small segment of younger adults to its readership. (more…)

Levi Miller, peace and justice and the Mennonite chattering class

crossposted from As of Yet Untitled

Dried Love in the Mist seedpods

For the last few weeks, I’ve been wrestling with how to respond to Levi Miller’s column on "peacenjustice". My first reaction was one of anger and frustration. No wonder the Mennonite church has had such a hard time integrating peace and justice into our whole denomination! The director of our publishing house mocks it as a buzzword and sees it as a product of "cultural chatterers." Miller seems to see shalom (the bible’s word for peace and justice) as a little more then a worn out fad. It was much loved by the Sandinistas and Sojourners in the ’70s, but it is time to grow up and move on.

Over the weeks, I wrote several paragraphs expounding on my outrage at an old white guy maligning a theology of liberation that challenges the unjust status quo. (more…)

What Does It Mean To Be Anabaptist?

I’ve got some new friends who had never heard of anabaptism. So I wrote a summary of what I understand Anabaptism to be. Look it over. What would you add or subtract? What would you nuance differently?

And if you aren’t anabaptist, what questions would you have?

The Anabaptist tradition
In 1525 the reformation of the church in the West was just beginning. There was a lot of excitement about Luther’s reforms, not least of all in Zurich, Switzerland. Zwingli was leading the city leaders into a reform there based on Scripture alone, but many of the reformation’s supporters there didn’t think that Zwingli was going far enough. They noticed that when he spoke about certain issues, that he was more interested in his theological point, rather than actually brining the church back into obedience to Jesus. So they baptized themselves in the name of Jesus, making each other citizens of Jesus’ kingdom instead of any kingdom on earth. This movement grew, and they were called ana-baptists by their enemies, because it was claimed that they would re-baptize their members. But in reality, the Anabaptists affirmed that they were spreading the one true baptism—an entrance into God’s kingdom through true understanding and not just assent to the society of the church. This movement has continued to this day.

What Anabaptists Believe:
1. Jesus only
“No one knows the Father except the Son”
Anabaptists hold to no theology except that stated by Jesus himself. Even as Jesus supersedes the Old Testament law, Jesus also rules over all theology that the church itself created, whether that by Paul or by Calvin or by N.T. Wright. And the focus of our belief is not a Jesus we create—such as a glorified, theological Jesus or a model of a historical Jesus or a cultural Jesus—but the Jesus of the gospels. Thus, the four gospels lead us to interpret all things through the words and life of Jesus.
Since Anabaptists affirm the superiority of Jesus, we also recognize the weakness of all things human to achieve truth or justice. Thus, any particular denomination or creed is only in a process of getting closer to or further from Jesus, but no church could ever be complete in and of itself. Various governments may attempt to achieve justice, but they all fail. Schools attempt to teach truth, but no matter how precise they are, they fail to achieve the full truth that Jesus gives us. (more…)

What do you know about Ervin Stutzman?

Yesterday, the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board named Ervin R. Stutzman the next executive director of Mennonite Church USA. Given that we’ve had three posts (by ST, by me and by Steve K) and 15 comments here on YAR about the search process for this position, I thought it would be worth talking about whether or not this appointment meets your expectations and hopes.

But the first step is finding out more about Ervin. I, for one, have never heard of him before. Do any of you know much about him? The highlights from his official bio in the Mennonite article include:

Some Thoughts About Reforming the Church

This is in response to a discussion on “A Platform for MCUSA”. https://young.anabaptistradicals.org/2009/04/09/a-platform-for-mcusa/
I got to thinking about something there and it got so long, I decided to post it seperately.

I suppose pretty much everyone on this forum is interested in reforming the church. Perhaps we don’t all agree at exactly what this reform looks like, but we agree that it must be done. There is a lot of talk here, but little action. It is time to make some changes. (more…)

Resurrection hope for new Mennonite Church USA executive director

I was originally writing this as a comment responding to the Search for next Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA post by ST, but it got quite long and so I posted it on As of Yet Untitled too.

Over on Young Anabaptist Radicals, we recently had a post asking for opinions and thoughts regarding the search for a new Mennonite Church Executive director. I asked to hear more about the job of the current executive director and Dave S responded with an overview of the work Jim Schrag does. One of the things that struck me about his response was the amount of time Jim spends focused on structures. Dave mentions "agencies, conferences, schools… many groups, convention planning, several boards, committees and leadership groups, and so on".

Reading Dave’s comment led me to a clearer sense of my hopes for the new executive director: that he or she can facilitate the de-bureaucratization of Mennonite Church USA and its agencies.

(more…)

A Platform for MCUSA

I have been involved in some pretty strange things—a church planter of an all-homeless/mentally ill congregation; encouraging leaders of a mosque in Bangladesh to re-think Jesus; dumpster diving for Jesus, and so recently becoming the poster child for dumpster diving in Portland (Check out http://www.portlandmonthlymag.com/issues/archives/articles/0409-holy-diver/ and read a recent article about me—heck, just look at the pics!). Stuff like that. But when I got a call from MCUSA a week ago, that took the cake.

Someone nominated me to be the Executive Director of MCUSA.

At first I figured it must be a joke. Who would, in their right mind, think that I—radical pastor who has to bite his tongue every time he speaks to a middle class person—would make a good Executive Director? Someone just did it for a lark, I thought. Or perhaps I was recommended by someone who just wanted to shake things up. Well, that would do it. Me as taking Jim Schrag’s place? Just unthinkable. (more…)

Search for next Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA

Given all that we’ve talked about here, maybe there are some opinions on what the next Executive Director should do? Who it should be? How they should act? What salary (if any) they should be paid?

This is a chance to weigh in to the process. The search committee is consulting far and wide across the Mennonite church. Feel free to add your voice in the comment section below. (more…)

Caution: Mennonite Church USA Institutional Politics Ahead

One of the items discussed by delegates at the Mennonite Church USA churchwide assembly this month in San Jose was an resolution proposed by a group called Menno Neighbors. It is an informal group that meets once a year and they have a pretty active listserve. The resolution was changed to a statement for discussion by the resolutions committee of the executive board so there would not be a vote, just discussion. I was one of delegates that signed in support of this statement (didn’t get on the printed copy because I signed to too late).

The resolution is a call for conferences to stop disciplining congregations for differences in interpretation of the Confession of Faith from a Mennonite Perspective and was written largely in reference to a number of congregations that have been disciplined or expelled from their conferences for being publicly welcoming and affirming of LGBT members (most recently Hyattsville Mennonite in Maryland).

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Young Adults Present Statement of Visions at San Jose

Roxy Allen and Jeremy Yoder present young adult visions at San Jose 2007

The following statement was drafted and presented at the San Jose 2007 Convention in response to an invitation from MC USA Executive Leadership for feedback from BikeMovement and associated conversations regarding young adult visions for the Mennonite church:

Young adults have been called the future of the church. We come before you today to say that the future has already begun.

We come from varied walks of life. Some of us went to Mennonite colleges, some of us did not. Some of us are connected to our home congregations, and others are finding it hard to connect to any congregation. We have built relationships that transcend geography. We are using the new medium of the Internet – including sites like the Young Anabaptist Radicals blog and the Anabaptist Network on Facebook – as forums for conversation, debate, and community. We are seekers in our faith and full of complex questions. (more…)

Our hopes and dreams for church

Hello YAR internet community,

A quick plug for “BikeMovement the Documentary – A young adult perspective on church” that will premiere at San Jose 2007 Mennonite convention and be available for sale on-line in about a week. For those of you who don’t know, BikeMovement was a group of young adults who biked across the United States last summer talking about young adults and church. (BikeMovement involves more then just this, including a recent biking trip through Asia, but for the purpose of this post, I’ll focus on young adults and church in North America.)

BikeMovement has been asked to share 5-7 minutes during the delegate session on the topic, “What are hopes and dreams of young adults for the future church.” While we’ve conversed with young adults all across the country, finding an answer to that question is a rather daunting task since it sometimes feels like we are all over the board on that question.
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Rich Mennonites in an age of hunger

This past week, the executive board of Mennonite Church USA gave its approval for a $9.8 million building campaign. The new building, which will be built on the grounds of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, will house both the offices of MCUSA and Mennonite Mission Network. MMN had approved the proposal back in July, but the board of MCUSA held back, wanting more information. You can read the full news release here.

I personally know (and respect) two of the members of the MCUSA board, so I need to tread somewhat carefully here, but I’m still not convinced that a new building worth $6 million (the rest will cover operating costs) is the best way to go. (more…)