Wednesday, August 28, 2013

From United Methodist to Baptist to Anabaptist

Over on Near Emmaus Brian LePort has a great conversation going about his journey from Pentecostalism to Anabaptism. Brian sees parallels between his own experience and that of Greg Boyd, whose megachurch has recently undergone the discernment process of whether or not to join Mennonite Church USA. For more on Boyd's story, see the excellent video below.

In the comments section of Brian's post I added some of my own thoughts and experiences as a recent Mennonite "convert":

I grew up United Methodist, and over the course of the last five years found myself identifying with a wide array of traditions—Wesleyan, Episcopalian, three different kinds of Baptist, and even Quaker. But upon attending a Mennonite church, I was immediately overwhelmed with the sense that I was “home,” theologically, socially, and ethically speaking.

I only have two main critiques of the Mennonite church, and I assume these issues are present in the wider Anabaptist tradition, as well: 1) As you briefly touched on in your post, there is a definite bias toward “ethnic Mennonites” as opposed to us mongrel converts, although I have never been anything but welcomed and accepted at my particular church. 2) In my particular church, we often favor social liberalism over strenuous theological or intellectual reflection. I have been frustrated a lot recently with our church’s preference of Sunday morning “book studies” and “novel readings” rather than Bible studies and theological discussions. Because of our historical commitment to nonviolence and social justice, I find that Sunday school far more often than not engages nonfiction journalistic texts about race and incarceration in the U.S. rather than studies in cruciform hermeneutics. However, this may not be universal in the Mennonite church, let alone Anabaptism, and perhaps this is all just one Bible student calling the grapes sour because my Sunday school class doesn’t like to talk about the same things I like to talk about.

That being said, I never wanted to officially “join” a church until I began identifying as a Mennonite. I’m at home now, and regardless of my criticisms, I feel committed to my new identity and my new community of faith in a way that I have never committed myself to a church before.

Brian noted that he has experienced similar frustration with book studies at his own church. Maybe the problem isn't the church as much as it is two Bible nerds griping to one another.

It appears that Mennonite churches are experiencing an influx of young evangelicals who are fed up with crusty mainline denominationalism and are instead looking for something new. The question has now become, How is the Mennonite church going to deal with these evangelical "expats"?

For more on my own journey to identifying as a Mennonite, see my post on Near Emmaus, Why I Am A Mennonite. Do you have experience with the Anabaptist theological tradition and/or the Mennonite church? What was your journey to Anabaptism like?

1 comment:

  1. You might want to engage Tyler Tully's post as well... He actually, from an insider in MC USA, puts forward a number of things that MCUSA should address.