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Anabaptists and Ecumenism

I mentioned earlier Rowan Williams’ charitable comments about the Anabaptist/Mennonite stream of the Christian faith, and the important contribution it bears for the rest of Christianity as a whole. While I appreciate Williams’ comment greatly, the occasion — not the comment itself — reminded me of what I think is a common problem in the way in which Anabaptism tends to be “appreciated” in certain ecumenical circles (like the Ekklesia Project, for example).

It goes something like this: Anabaptism is important and helpful because, out of all the streams of the Christian tradition, it is the one that can teach us about how important it is to be pacifists. Thus, we the way that the Anabaptist witness is appropriated is generally by Catholic or mainline Protestant Christians embracing pacifism while remaining unchanged in regard to other theological distinctives. A good example of this is the Mennonite-Catholic dialogue group, Bridgefolk, which describes itself as “a movement of sacramentally-minded Mennonites and peace-minded Roman Catholics who come together to celebrate each other’s traditions, explore each other’s practices, and honor each other’s contribution to the mission of Christ’s Church.”

Note the way this is set up: Mennonites have got peace and Catholics have got sacramentalism. Let’s slap the two together for extra ecumenical awesomeness! The Bridgefolk self-description goes on: “Together we seek better ways to embody a commitment to both traditions. We seek to make Anabaptist-Mennonite practices of discipleship, peaceableness, and lay participation more accessible to Roman Catholics, and to bring the spiritual, liturgical, and sacramental practices of the Catholic tradition to Anabaptists.” Again the mode of ecumenism at work here is clear: Mennonites have some good stuff to say about “discipleship” and “peaceableness” while Catholicism has got it figured out when it comes to “spiritual, liturgical, and sacramental practices.” All we need to do is appropriate these lovely elements and, viola! we have the perfect new instantiation of the Christian faith!

Now, to be sure I appreciate the way in which the contributions of the Anabaptist tradition to nonviolence and peacemaking are being appreciated by other elements of Christianity. I am truly thankful for this and I’m sure a lot of good comes out of groups like Bridgefolk. However, I think this sort of “reception” of Anabaptism is often a way of not actually taking Anabaptism seriously. The Anabaptist tradition is not, first of all, about “nonviolence” but rather about the nature of discipleship, the church, the world and the meaning of Christ’s Lordship. You can’t divorce Anabaptist’s theology of peace from their commitment to things like believer’s baptism, voluntary church membership, congregationalism, the rejection of clericalism, and yes, opposition to certain understandings of sacramentalism. To do so is to fail to take the tradition with any real seriousness. The same is true for Anabaptists and Mennonites who quickly latch on to quasi-Catholic enthusiasm about sacramental theology. (Indeed, most of what I’m saying here applies, vice-versa, to free churchers who think they can appropriate whatever elements of Catholicism they find compelling, a similarly-common tendency.)

The only point I really want to make here is that the assumption of some sort of easy give-and-take between the free churches and the establishment churches (Catholic or Protestant) is profoundly misguided. The Anabaptist tradition isn’t just “there” to provide mainline churches with a handy theological pacifism any more than the magisterial traditions are there to give free churches a nice way to think sacramentally. The divisions are much deeper, much more real, and indeed must more theological than such sorts of ecclectic ecumenism of convenience tends to acknowledge.

58 Comments

  1. Derek wrote:

    Halden +1

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 5:38 pm | Permalink
  2. This is absolutely right on. Well said.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Permalink
  3. Halden, I’m so glad you posted this. I come from a ‘free church’ background where believers baptism is incredibly important and hierarchy is anathema. Through various circumstances I have found myself in the Episcopal church. Although in most ways I find myself leaning towards the Roman Catholic Church, the things that hold me back tend to be in common with the anabaptist tradition. Without you pointing it out, it’s easy for me to have your “ecclectic ecumenism of convenience”.

    That said, I’m not sure I can really help it. That’s partly a hangover from my non-denominational Christian Church/Church of Christ upbringing (“Christians only, but not the only Christians”) and partly just growing up capitalist.

    There are worse things than Christians appreciating each other, but I’m not sure appreciating how deep their divisions are is on the list. Maybe it is.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Permalink
  4. Nate Kerr wrote:

    I’m very glad you posted this Halden. Just last night, I was thinking about Williams’ comments and was wondering to what extent the real challenge of the Radical Reformers was being really being taken here, especially as regards Anglicanism — viz., the challenge to “establishment.” It could be argued that it is precisely the forbidding of oaths (the seventh and final of the Schmalkald articles) that is at the heart of Anabaptism. To the extent that Anabaptists themselves accept this “ecclectic ecumenism of convenience,” they aren’t quite any longer the Schwarmer that Luther took them to be.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Permalink
  5. I think you’re absolutely right about the heart of the Anabaptist challenge to the larger Christian tradition and the problem of Anabaptism for ecumenism. And we still don’t get it. None of the established churches (or quasi-established like Mainline Protestants in North America) have figured out how to be church in a post-Constantinian world. And to regard Anabaptism as only relevant for its pacifism fails to take its critique with any seriousness.

    But then, what do I know? I’m a former Mennonite and now Episcopal priest.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 7:10 pm | Permalink
  6. Halden wrote:

    Joey, I think for me the point is that “appreciating each other” needs to be a substantive work in which the full reality of who we all are is brought to the table. But most Anabaptist-sympathetic Catholics aren’t comfortable talking about believer’s baptism or anti-clericalism as real issues open for discussion, much as most Catholic-sympathetic free churchers aren’t really open to entertaining papal infallibility or the sacrament of orders. The result ends up being that we just affirm in the other what we already affirmed in ourselves and we just happen to share. That, to me is the central problem of the eclectic ecumenism of convenience (I think I like that term, I’ll have to remember it).

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 7:10 pm | Permalink
  7. myles wrote:

    YES! Thank you, Halden. To take the pacifism of the Anabaptists apart from the baptismal commitments and their quibbles with metaphysical commitments that are not Christologically articulated is to not take the Anabaptist claims on their own terms.

    I wonder how much this logic is present, thus, in arguments which present the “historic peace churches” as losing their way, then, when they reject straight pacifism, i.e. the complaints that some Mennonite congregations are no longer pacifist. In what sense is pacifism the percieved apex of Anabaptist identity, and in what sense is the appeal to pacifism as the apex of discipleship following someone else’s criteria for what Anabaptists are? In Mennonite conversations, much of this goes back to Harold Bender’s Anabaptist Vision, I think, though there are other roots to this identification of Anabaptism with an irreducible pacifism.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Permalink
  8. Andy Alexis-Baker wrote:

    I second this. We are more than a vocation or a conscience pricker. If Rowan Williams appreciates us then call his people out of the military. Otherwise, it is kind of claptrap.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Permalink
  9. Halden wrote:

    Yeah. It irks me to no end when mainline Christians (Protestants especially) treat the Anabaptists as their monastic heroes who are there to inspire, but not fundamentally challenge.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Permalink
  10. Wilson wrote:

    Is there a way Rowan could have described an ecumenical relationship with anabaptist traditions (in his position as A of C) that would not have positioned them as contributing ‘this or that’ to the ‘ecumenical discussion’? It seems that it is in the limited nature of our ability to speak ecumenically that force reductionisms of unhealthy sorts. To speak ecumenically (for the most part) means to speak at an institutional level, which in large part means to speak on a national level. These are all levels of communication that seem distant from the primary concerns of particular traditions and so when these traditions choose to speak in manners such as these, problems and reductionisms arise.

    That is to say, I think your critique of Rowan’s language of anabaptism should be directed more toward the institutional means of ecumenism today which force deficient language. Yes, anabaptism is more than pacifism, but so is every tradition more than that which is an efficient description for it.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Permalink
  11. Derek wrote:

    For the mainline I think Anabaptists represent this romanticized ideal that resonates in the “depth of their being,” but in the end can’t be reconciled with their Niebuhrian realism. And if they are really honest, they don’t want it to-I think in a way they look at Anabaptists as this really cool retro toy, kind of like wearing Woody Allen glasses. If I were an Anabaptist, I think I would be offended if any of this crew ever said they “appreciated” our contribution.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Permalink
  12. I think you’re right and that this needs to be said to Anabaptists as much as to anyone else. I fear that faithful discipleship is being downplayed in Mennonite circles in favor missional success–and that the increase of non-pacifist Mennonites is a symptom.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 1:15 am | Permalink
  13. Nate Kerr wrote:

    Wilson:

    A propos to your comment, I really think that Donald MacKinnon brings out perfectly how the problem with “ecumenism” from the Anglican perspective is bound up with the problem of “establishment.” See “Kenosis and Establishment” and “Is Ecumenism a Power Game?” in The Stripping of the Altars.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 1:20 am | Permalink
  14. Jason Knott wrote:

    This is the regular way of being “inclusive” and “celebrating diversity.” Go to something that doesn’t fit into the system (capitalist “democracy”) and say, “you too can contribute [to the system].” The unspoken proviso is always “as long as you give up opposing the system.” Say “no thanks” and you’re a curmudgeon, fundamentalist, or worse.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 5:06 am | Permalink
  15. Gene McCarraher wrote:

    Halden and all my other (fondly appreciated) Anabaptist brethren: I didn’t post a comment on the original Williams lecture, but I thought at the time that it was a gently condescending statement. And as a Roman Catholic I take all your points about the way the Anabaptist tradition is treated by the mainstream Christian lineage. (Reminds me of the way Reinhold Niebuhr wrote about Quakers and other pacifists: you’re so right, but you’re so irrelevant.) Frankly, I’m getting a bit tired of hearing from St. Rowan: as Andy says, if he’s sincere, then tell Anglicans to stop shilling for the war machine (and, I’d add, sell all your stock and give away the proceeds).

    That said, my question is: so where do we go from here? If the Ekklesia Project approach is unsatisfactory (and I have other sorts of problems with EP), how do get beyond a mere “dialogue” which ends up being nothing but the re-assertion of positions already held and a group hug at the end?

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 6:10 am | Permalink
  16. Ted Grimsrud wrote:

    Thanks, Halden. I agree with your points. I think part of your challenge is to Anabaptist-types to do more work thinking through how their theology is distinctive all the way down—and then engage with those of other traditions. Mennonites certainly seem to have always had a reluctance to engage others where the differences are on the table; this might mean avoiding the engagement or, when there is engagement, avoiding the differences.

    There is an on-going debate among Mennonites about whether there are distinctives that go all the way down. It seems that most Mennonite theologians I know don’t think there are. One prominent exception is Denny Weaver—but his work is generally put down by the younger scholars.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 6:38 am | Permalink
  17. myles wrote:

    Ted, it seems that among Weaver’s work, it’s this nonviolence which gets identified as the central marker, the mark by which other doctrines or positions get judged, only exacerbating the problem.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 6:54 am | Permalink
  18. Ted Grimsrud wrote:

    I can see why you would say this, Myles. Weaver can certainly be read this way. I think, though, his argument is a different kind of argument.

    He’s saying that the central insight of the Anabaptists was to see the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus as the heart of everything (including ecclesiology, soteriology, doctrine of God, political philosophy, etc.). The best shorthand way to characterize the message of Jesus is nonviolence (i.e., love of God and neighbor). I’m thinking where Weaver discusses his broader agenda the most carefully is his book “Anabaptist Theology in the Face of Postmodernity.”

    So, when Weaver talks about “nonviolence,” he (like Yoder, his teacher) has in mind much more than simply the refusal to kill. He believes that this shorthand way of speaking of message of Jesus provides an extremely useful angle for engaging all elements of theology and ethics.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 8:03 am | Permalink
  19. Are Anabaptists the “Free Range” chickens of carnivore Christianity? (or more like ‘Tofurky?’).

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 8:31 am | Permalink
  20. adhunt wrote:

    I’m not so sure that I agree with Andy or Mr. McCarraher about Rowan needing to ‘clear the temple.’ One of the reasons that his arch episcopacy has been continually attacked from both ‘sides’ is because he refuses the ‘prophetic’ role, either for “orthodoxy” or for “inclusivity.” The key, as I see it, to understanding his way of leading lies in his extensive practice and interaction with the Christian spiritual tradition, exemplified in, for instance his book on the Desert Fathers “Where God Happens,” wherein there lies a deep need to avoid self-deception with respect to ones motivations when judging others, and in the manner in which Christ is revealed and mediated to us by other Christians.

    As a matter of fact I’ve read interviews where Rowan has explicitly said that he’d like to see the Church of England take new positions on war, money and sexuality…but again and again he says that such change does not lie in his purview alone.

    Institutional patience is Christian patience.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 9:37 am | Permalink
  21. Jason Knott wrote:

    Dan–

    I was thinking they’re the identity politics theorists of Christianity. Check out this link: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-politics

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 9:39 am | Permalink
  22. Halden wrote:

    Gene, to be honest I’m not sure where we go from here, if by “we” we mean some sort of large-scale institutional understanding of our respective communions, such as they are. Where we go, as brothers and sisters who discover one another precisely as brothers and sisters, despite our institutional separation, is another matter altogether. Perhaps where we go together involves things like selling possessions together and giving to the poor, finding ways to partner in mission that do not merely involve common-denominator agreements. Or, perhaps most interesting — and I think some of our conversations (yours and mine) on this blog have done this to some degree — processing together our own critiques of our own traditions.

    It seems to me like mission to the world has to be key to how we go forward without being superficial. It may be precisely that as we serve the poor, wash feet, and sell possessions together that we will discover more profoundly how we are given to each other in Christ and what that means for the divisions between us.

    What do you think?

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 9:43 am | Permalink
  23. Halden wrote:

    Umm, sure.

    Daniel, I think the truth is that the Anabaptists, carnivorously speaking, are barbecued ribs. They cannot be assumed to be free range because they often get thrown in jail and/or burned at the stake.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 9:47 am | Permalink
  24. mshedden wrote:

    As a Mennonite minster I have a love/hate relationship with this kind of stuff. On the one side we don’t own pacifism or radical discipleship, so Rowan doesn’t even have to look to our tradition for that but he could go other places. I think it is generous that people want to explore our history as they consider living peaceably in the world (although it is very much less than perfect history.) And at the same time I feel like Halden where these gestures appear as some sort of Niebuhrian compliment that we aren’t suppose to take as a compliment. Halden is right about our many other commitments that help sustain our peaceful witness but even as a Mennonite I am sure I want the Church of England to take all those on, but they could at least consider them as what has enabled us. I think it would helpful to reread Huebner’s account of ecumenism in a Precarious Peace and reconsider his use of Yoder. I think the Archbishop might constitute ecumenism “from above” rather than “from below” (I think those are the terms he uses).

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 9:52 am | Permalink
  25. Hill wrote:

    It’s hard for me to really care about ecumenism, due in part to many of the issues outlined in this thread, but I think it should be mentioned, how many instances of “discovering one another precisely as brothers and sisters despite our institutional separation” have been facilitated by these formally fruitless ecumenical encounters. That is already more that I expect from most things in life. So the problem may actually lie in having expected anything from formal ecumenical activity in the first place. It’s really just an excuse for us to hang out, or at least, we should strive for it to be that.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 9:52 am | Permalink
  26. Hill wrote:

    I’ve been increasingly convinced that, as you say, the only way forward is, put in RC terms, the corporal works of mercy. After that, maybe we can start to think about the spiritual works of mercy, and then way after that, “ecumenism,” which, at that point, could actually mean something.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 9:58 am | Permalink
  27. Halden wrote:

    I agree. And what strikes me as interesting is that, in my experience, the ecclectic ecumenism of convenience often serves, not to facilitate hanging out, but to render it unnecessary. As long as we know that we all “affirm” certain things in common it becomes less pressing to really deal with each other in the proper “hanging out” sense of togetherness.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink
  28. Halden wrote:

    Tony, I am in no way convinced that “Institutional patience is Christian patience.”

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 10:01 am | Permalink
  29. adhunt wrote:

    …neither am I convinced that taking others discipleship and growth in holiness into ones judgment or control (as it would be if Rowan were to ‘smash the idols’ as ABC) is conducive to the Gospel.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 10:04 am | Permalink
  30. Halden wrote:

    Yeah, I agree that discipleship, by definition cannot be taken control of. I’m not really talking about Rowan Williams as such at this point. Just saying that “institutional patience” is not something inherently Christian, nor does really anything in the Scriptures tend to support this idea.

    “Institutional patience” tends to be preservation of the status quo more often than anything else. Just saying.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 10:08 am | Permalink
  31. adhunt wrote:

    Well that is of course a very anabaptist way of looking at institutions :)

    But I would venture to say that what I’m saying is relevant to the topic, especially as one of the things being said is that sometimes a nod such as Rowan’s to anabaptism is slightly condescending. The response from Andy and Gene was that Rowan should be giving the clarion call of discipleship to the C of E or the Anglican world. To which my response is that such a thing is an abuse of his office which is a unifying and pastoral role.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 10:15 am | Permalink
  32. Halden wrote:

    Very anabaptist. And biblical to boot!

    And I think this gets at the heart of the problem. The quest for ecclesial unity outside of “the call to discipleship” is fundamentally idolatrous (Babel). If the calling people to the discipleship of the crucified is “an abuse of his office” then screw the office.

    There’s simply to realistic way to read the gospels and come out with the idea that “office” should mitigate following Jesus.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 10:33 am | Permalink
  33. adhunt wrote:

    We could go down infinite paths with this. I think the idea of a discipleship or holiness with fixed immutable content forming a dialectic of judgment to be itself, ironically, a religio. When I read St. Paul, for instance at the end of Romans or in the Corinthian letters, I see that the life of discipleship takes a far more variable form of compromise birthed from living together in love…the ministry of reconciliation is a legitimate ministry as the office of reconciliation is a legitimate exercise of authority.

    How is this attitude toward other Christian sects not itself an indulgence in the same thing you just complained about? You’ll take the insights from other Christian traditions but refuse the form of life? The knife cuts both ways you know.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 10:45 am | Permalink
  34. Halden wrote:

    I don’t see how things like, say, killing people are a legitimate form of “compromise birthed from living together in love.” This isn’t some thing “fixed” or “immutable” in the sense of a static possession or law, but simply to say that some things are in fact excluded by the call to discipleship. Whatever “love” means it cannot mean murder, torture, or rape. That isn’t some sort of totalizing statement. To throw that up as a smoke screen is just that: a smoke screen.

    If some things were not excluded by Christ’s call there would be no content whatsoever.

    We are one only in Christ, and in Christ’s call to discipleship. To other concepts of “unity” and “office” the Gospel says no. As do I.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 10:50 am | Permalink
  35. Myles wrote:

    I was thinking more like the chicken nuggets of carnivore Christianity: easily consumable (as in Williams’ assessment), and no one really knows what exactly they’re made of. I mean, are McNuggets really the same thing as what you get at Raising Cane?

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 10:51 am | Permalink
  36. Halden wrote:

    But to be clear, I appreciate Anglican theologians like Williams or MacKinnon precisely at the point where they are really the least Anglican, or at least the most critical of the establishment of which their tradition partakes. That’s decidedly different from cherry-picking pacifism from the Mennonites.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 10:57 am | Permalink
  37. adhunt wrote:

    Well you can keep your cultically pure community of real disciples then Halden. I’ll stay in the Church of sinners.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 10:59 am | Permalink
  38. Halden wrote:

    Oh come off it. Its precisely in acknowledging the call of the gospel that we know ourselves as sinners and cast cultus aside as a mode of self-affirmation.

    Why does talking about discipleship’s importance always make you so angry?

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 11:01 am | Permalink
  39. adhunt wrote:

    I’m not angry. I’m frustrated. The importance of discipleship is something that weighs on me every day just like it does you. But it sometimes seems too easy for you to develop crisp categories. See above, you appreciate Anglican theologians when they are “least Anglican.” I’m so glad that you’ve got it figured out what “Anglican” is cause I’m still confused as hell about it.

    Similarly with discipleship. Somehow you think discipleship is necessarily antithetical to how Christians organize to proclaim and act on the Gospel. As has been pointed out, pacifism is not a mennonite possesion, and it can and has existed in the very communities that you seem to think incapable of properly responding to the Gospel in such a way.

    Unity, as a matter of fact, is one of Paul’s primary concerns so to call it on the floor as non biblical simply reinforces my own thought that the law/gospel-religion/gospel dichotomy becomes the primary view over the whole of the bible, which is simply too reductionistic for my tastes.

    The problem, for me, isn’t in my own supposed reactionary stance to your discussions of discipleship, but in assuming that the life of holiness has a fixed life. Seriously though, you talk about the Church not having it’s own life, but in fact, you think discipleship does have it’s own life. I can’t reconcile those the way you seem to be able to.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 11:14 am | Permalink
  40. Halden wrote:

    It was you who set up the opposition between “the call to discipleship” and “office which is a unifying and pastoral role”, not me. I’m saying precisely the opposite, that whatever unity or pastoral practice we engage in must be continually subjected to Jesus’s call to discipleship.

    I’ve never said that unity is “non biblical” only that our unity is only in Christ and his call. But somehow that seems to be consistently problematic to you. Why?

    I’ve also said nothing whatsoever that would lead anyone to think I am “assuming that the life of holiness has a fixed life” (whatever that means). All I have said is that the call to discipleship is not an empty cipher that has no content. To be sure we do not know everything that discipleship will mean as we seek to follow Jesus. But we do know some things that it does NOT mean, right? Should we leave the door open on torturing babies? Is that too “fixed” a conception of “holiness”?

    Or is making the call to discipleship an empty cipher that can simply be sidelined for the sake of “office” truly central to your thought here?

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 11:20 am | Permalink
  41. adhunt wrote:

    Thanks for being patient with me Halden.

    I’ll try and quickly re-contexualize what I’m trying to say here.

    So with reference to your main point that appreciation of Mennonite pacifism requires taking seriously Mennonite life, Andy and Gene indicated that this taking-seriously in Rowan’s life would look like a call to put down all Anglican arms, or sell Anglican possesions;

    To this I said that I disagreed, that pastoral ministry is not reducible to public proclaimations, and that there are legitimately Christian reasons that Rowan has acted like he has and why he does not ‘demand’ that Anglicans conform to his own convictions. That is, my disagreement isn’t with the content of non-violence but with how Christians exercise authority with respect to the Gospel’s call. To put it another way, it seemed obvious to some that since we should be non-violent, then the only appropriate content of discipleship for Rowan is to call for an Anglican exodus from the military.

    So let’s bring it back to a Scriptural example. As I read the conversation so far, one would expect that, since eating meat or observing special days is nothing on account of Christ, then not eating meat or observing days, thinking it a matter of piety, ought to be denounced as self-righteousness and a refusal of discipleship’s call. But that’s not what he did.

    Likewise, it might be assumed that the continued possesion of Anglican cathedrals is antithetical to the life of discipleship, “these could have been sold and the money given to the poor.”

    My point is that things are not so clear and unity does not in fact reside solely in being called, but is commanded in imperative form all throughout the NT.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Permalink
  42. Gene McCarraher wrote:

    Halden, Hill — I agree that these ecumenical problems are the sort that can only be “resolved,” if at all, in practice. (“By their fruits ye shall know them,” to quote a famous Galilean.) I think you’re right, too, to note that we often discover affinities by critiquing our own traditions.

    Another possible source of reconciliation is the study of the earliest Christian intellectuals. A lot of Catholics, evangelicals, and Anabaptists have been rediscovering them of late, and I find that those writings are often the source of considerable inspiration, discussion, and discovery of common ground.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Permalink
  43. Sorry, I guess my analogy was a bit off, it’s more like Anabaptists are the Vegans, and RWilliams/‘progressive’/liberal types, what have you, entertain an elective affinity for the vegan-vegetarian/ PETA ethic, and are glad someone is taking a stand, but eating “free range” is about as far as they are willing to go, that and paying a few cents more per lb. so the chickens get to mill around the exercise yard of the slaughterhouse a few days before execution (like hitching my Hummer up to a team of horses on Sundays as an ecumenical nod towards the Amish). Free range ethics are the ‘just war theory’ middleground between Tofurky ( a disgusting simulacra) and the holocaust of Thanksgiving.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Permalink
  44. DCL Driedger wrote:

    The Gift of Difference is quite relevant to this discussion. This thread greatly influenced my reflections on it. I just put up the fist part of a review today. The book has many limitations but exhibits a type of space where no middle ground is presupposed and in the end very little is found. This is done however with no ‘call to arms’ against the one in dialogue with . . . at least Milbank has not issued it yet!

    Friday, July 30, 2010 at 7:06 am | Permalink
  45. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    This is hilarious.

    Friday, July 30, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Permalink
  46. Andy Alexis-Baker wrote:

    wonderful post.

    Friday, July 30, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Permalink
  47. Chris Donato wrote:

    I think you’re right to look askance at such things, Halden. It appears disingenuous, not least because there has been vibrant non-violent or pacifist movements within the other (larger) branches of the Christian church. Why don’t those Catholics (or Anglicans) point to their own pre-medieval (or post-Reformation) past? It’s in there!

    The added benefit would be promoting non-violence on its own biblical and traditional terms, rather than facing the very real accusation that we’re making light of the deep divisions between Anabaptists, et al. In other words, Anabaptists don’t own pacifism.

    Sunday, August 1, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Permalink
  48. myles wrote:

    Who knew that potlucks were the ultimate example of ecumenism?

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010 at 6:59 am | Permalink
  49. In another devastating blow to Christian unity, Anne Rice has “Quit the church.” One can find one pastor’s response here: http://blog.sojo.net/ at Sojourners. There are rumors she has been spotted at Driscoll’s church @ Mars Hill. Enticed away from Catholicism by Driscoll’s latest defense of Christian cage fighting and the transubstantiating possibilities of his jumbotrons, see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddFbELpXTcg&playnext=1&videos=jCJFTemnygE I reckon you Mennonites are gloating a bit here, from her interviews she sounds like she has been reading a bit of Yoder, be a pretty feather in your cap and a way to stick it ‘Il Papa’ if y’all could reel her in!

    Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Permalink
  50. Andrew wrote:

    You may (or may not) find it interesting to know that the founder of “Bridgefolk,” Gerald Schlabach eventually became Catholic as a direct result of dialog with “peace-minded” Catholics through the work of Bridgefolk.

    Sunday, August 8, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Permalink
  51. Thanks so much for the info Andrew, I had no idea there was a movement like “Bridgefolk.” And I haden’t heard of Schlabach. I have ordered his book (have any here read it?) and I would be interested in what any Mennonites here about think of ‘Bridgework’ and Schlabach. So, for any Mennonites thinking of converting here is a story from last week. A woman that works at the deli where i get lunch is also a altar server at the local RCC, she serves with her husband and 14 yr old daughter. I mentioned to her how pleased I was to see her whole family serving. She said they enjoy it, and with the whole family involved she doesn’t have to worry about her daughter being left alone with the priest, oh vey.

    Sunday, August 8, 2010 at 9:05 pm | Permalink
  52. Myles wrote:

    You mean his most recent book on Protestantism? I thought the book on the whole was good, but his “Protestant Principle” he opposes, as exemplified in Tillich, seemed to be a straw man.

    Monday, August 9, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink
  53. I ordered the one called “Unlearning protestantism.” Is that representative of his work? How is he/it received by Mennonites, for the most part?

    Monday, August 9, 2010 at 6:17 pm | Permalink
  54. Myles wrote:

    He’s done a wide variety of things: Augustine, ecumenism, a peacemaking effort called Just Policing….so, I don’t know if there’s a work that’s “representative”. He’s a Mennonite convert to Catholicism, and leads–as others have noted–a group called Bridgefolk, a Catholic-Mennonite dialogue. I can’t speak to his reception, but I tend to like his stuff; I just thought the “Protestant Principle” wasn’t necessarily the place to begin for a critique of Protestant thought; Tillich’s ecclesiology isn’t the strongest among Protestants, so if we’re going to argue ecclesiology, why begin with the PP as the best Protestant ecclesiology has to offer?

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010 at 11:02 am | Permalink
  55. Tripp wrote:

    There seems to be a (slight) trend among Anabaptist theologians who study the 4-15th centuries to convert to Catholicism. Do with that what you will, but it has always been something of an inside joke of sorts–based on some truth. Yes, Bridgefolk is an attempt to highlight the importance of unity within the church as well as consider what would have to happen in order to fully come together. I’ve only been to one actual conference so I can’t say much. The only thing I remember is this awesome Irish priest/monk, whose accent was totally indiscernible, and he had the coolest superhero-type robes ever, and he kept falling asleep during our conversations. Apparently, his robes did not protect him from the Mennonite practice of long-winded speeches.

    Monday, August 23, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink
  56. joel mason wrote:

    R.O. Flyer and I attended a Bridgefolk gathering and one of the leaders led a session in which he put the martyr’s mirror and the lives of the saints on stands next to each other. he then proceeded to tell stories from each (complete with pictures in the mirror of mennonites being burned while dominicans looked on with approval). he ended in tears, saying something like “we have to do something about these stories, this history, we have to connect about it. until we do, i’m not sure what ecumenism means.” now that’s realism.

    Sunday, August 29, 2010 at 10:23 pm | Permalink
  57. Talk about “ecumenical awesomeness,” seem like only yesterday we were scraping Thomas More’s brains off the floor and here I am watching a live video cast of the Pope at Westminster Abbey! It’s just a matter of time before we ‘bridgefolks’ get Benedict’s picture on a box of oatmeal!

    Friday, September 17, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Permalink
  58. Bud Atwood wrote:

    Hill, where can I read something about the RC idea of “corporeal works of mercy,” esp. as it relates to ecumenism? Thanks.

    Monday, September 20, 2010 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

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