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Where is my COMMUNITY?

February 9, 2005

I begin with an epigraph from Robert Bellah et al., Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (New York: Harper & Row, 1986), 84.

We find ourselves not independently of other people and institutions but through them. We never get to the bottom of our selves on our own. We discover who we are face to face and side by side with others in work, love, and learning. All of our activity goes on in relationships, groups, associations, and communities ordered by institutional structures and interpreted by cultural patterns of meaning…. We are parts of a larger whole that we can neither forget nor imagine in our own image without paying a high price. If we are not to have a self that hangs in the void, slowly twisting in the wind, these are issues we cannot ignore.

——-Robert Bellah et al.

So I continue the quest to discover how the Anabaptist story can be integrated into the whole story of historical, orthodox Christianity. My quest has led me to pick up Anabaptist History and Theology, by C. Arnold Snyder. If the Anabaptist movement represents the radical wing of the broader evangelical (Protestant) critique of Rome and medieval institutional Christianity, how can I embrace the whole body of Christ and still identify myself with a movement of dissent and separation from the medieval church.

My quest is to find myself in the community of saints that have been baptized into Christ. Bellah observes that “most Americans see religion as something individual, prior to my organizational involvement.” This view leads to an understanding of the church as an aggregate of the individual Christians who commit to each other to form a spiritual society.

I am about a quarter of the way through Snyder’s introduction to Anabaptist History and Theology. Not since my senior year at Christopher Dock have I delved into the Anabaptist story. Now it is not because I have to, but because I need to see how we can confess the Creeds of the Church (which presume a catholic understanding of the Ekklesia) and yet define ourselves by our distinctives. If we hold to a traditional Anabaptist ecclesiology that was defined by differentiation from Rome and mainline Protestantism, than how can we find communion with the rest of the Church from Pentecost to the Reformation.

What does it mean to be Mennonite? Does it just mean that I embrace the Church of the last 500 years? Can I be Mennonite and still include the Church Fathers and Mothers, the Councils of the first 1000 years within my hermeneutical community? Am I accountable to them and their witness, or just to the witnesses within my denominational stream?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. MistyMommy permalink
    April 28, 2005 10:00 am

    Amen Brother Brian! I applaud your comments on the events that took place in Ephrata on April 13th. As a member of the Church of the Brethren, I hold the belief that human sexual orientation is sometimes not a choice, but inborn. No, God did not create homosexuality, but Adam and Eve sinned and the human body has become increasingly imperfect since. Certainly, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other disease afflictions point to that fact.

    Alcoholism, clinical depression and homosexuality are realities as well. However, there are drinkers (even drunks) who are not physically alcoholic. There are sad people who are not clinically depressed and there are people who practice homosexual acts who are not born homosexual. The key is, indeed, tolerance; not for the acts themselves but for those who suffer with the “affliction” (for lack of a better word). I would like to point out that there are people born into alcoholism who do not take that drink! There are clinically depressed people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps and forge ahead with life (and sometimes seek medication to help with that). Therefore, I believe a homosexual who is in Christ, needs the support of his/her community of faith to quell the innate desires of physical acts of homosexuality. Also, as one who cannot then in good conscience take a mate of the opposite sex, the community of faith is there to provide love, companionship and yes, compassion. How lonely it must be for one inborn with a desire to mate with someone of the same sex, but who understands the biblical truth that such relationships are not of God. How will we ever reach the world with the gospel if we are not able to reach the lonely and hurting with the love of Jesus? And my brothers and sister, we are NOT able if we turn our backs on them and refuse to tolerate their inborn nature.

    If we see a filthy child, we don’t hate the child, we hate the dirt. Help the child with a bath and some warm clothing and a storybook, the child becomes even more loveable. Help a homosexual with an accepting Christian community, warm fellowship and bible study and he/she too will become loveable! Notice that the child hasn’t changed underneath and neither has the homosexual, but indeed, WE have changed the way we react to it and have thus followed the teachings of Christ.

    PS – I didn’t know what a blogger was, but I’m willing to be identified as such since I know I am neither anonymous nor “other.” Love in Christ, MistyMommy

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