May 10, 2006

Great Sermon...Better Timing

Over at Neotheo(b)log, Daniel has posted a sermon he preached on the national day of prayer for the city in front of the mayor and all the big wigs. I love the sermon, and I don't think there would be better timing for it than right now. Daniel is my honorary hero of the week for this one.

In response to his sermon, I wonder how netheoblog would answer,
"Should Christians seek positions of power?"

"Do churches operate on the principle of results, rather than truth?"

I'm always torn when it comes to Christians in positions of power, because many times the structures they are in allow for little change even if one wanted to institute it. Also, I quess this hints on the bigger question of the Christian role in the world. Are we to adapt the anabaptist model of seperation or what?

Great sermon! Go check it out!


tim said...

Ouch! As a person new to the Anabaptist tradition, I'm familiar with the reputation of being the "quiet in the land". However, I'm not sure that most Anabaptists are proud of that designation, at least not in present times. I see a growing movement of people wanting to engage in the society around them and using language like "city on a hill" or "candle in the darkness".

Having said that, it is fair to say that most Anabaptists are deeply skeptical and concerned about accepting political power or responsibility. Primarily, its a question of allegiances. Its also about being true to one's convictions--is it possible to oppose violence as a means of change AND reject the prevailing economic order AND wield power in society where the first allegiance is not to God?

More and more, I hear Anabaptists yearning for engagement with the powers that be, wanting to return institutions to their divine purposes, and speaking truth to power. There is widespread awareness that withdrawal is not only irresponsible, but unfaithful. I hope we continue to walk in this direction.

JoeBum said...

I did not mean that as a stab to anabaptists. What i was referring to was the tradition of anabaptists to seperate from society, to the point that one cannot serve in the government.

I find it suprising that present day anabaptists are wanting to engage with the powers that be, because of the tradition of seperation.

I was reading the Schleitheim articles written back in 1527 (i think), and this seems to be the main theme over all the others. It's a rather short article, and it might be a profitable read for you as a new anabaptist.

The main interaction and mission of anabaptist communities occur in commerce, that's why so many anabaptist communities build furniture to sell.

I don't really agree with this seperation principle, so hopefully the anabaptist communties you are in are moving beyond it, or using it differently.

tim said...

Thanks for the reference to the Schleitheim articles. I hadn't read them previously. For others, they can be found at:

Again, I'm new to this Anabaptist thing, but from my readings, a few things bear mention.

* The early Anabaptists were almost wiped out by martyrdom. In fact, the Anabaptist witness was extinguished in many places (especially much of present-day Germany) due to persecution by Protestant groups. From what I understand, the decision to separate was a reaction to this persecution--a reaction born out of pain and sorrow (and a desire to live!).

* Although it might be true that the interaction and mission of some minority Anabaptist groups (such as the Amish and conservative Mennonites) is through commerce, this is certainly not true for most present-day Anabaptists. A majority of us live in urban areas and engage in the life/struggles of our communities.

You're right on when you describe it as a "tradition of separation". It seems that most established denominations are trying to overcome the stifling, unfaithfulness of one or more traditions from their past. For Anabaptists its separation. However, in most places, we are no longer persecuted, so this tradition no longer makes sense.

JoeBum said...

I have to disagree with you, in the sense that anabaptists seperated in reaction to persecution.

The principle of seperation (from what i can see, and it may not be as important to modern anabaptists) grew out of several things, and was deeply imbedded into the theology overrall.

One, is that they reject infant baptism, which in the 16th century, meant rejecting the state. adult baptism was a sign of this seperation.

Also, in rejecting the union of church and state, the anabaptists were rejecting "territoriality." Instead of territory, the ban and bread become much more important to them.

their eschatology was very imminent in the sense that they believed like the NT believers, that they were living in the end times. therefore they needed to seperate from the unbelievers.

Also, this idea of seperation flows out of their ecclesiology, in that community was more important than coming together every once in a while.

The community was unattached to any land (anti-territory) therefore they could move together, and also enforce discipline with use of the ban (which was effective b/c there is no assurance of salvation, rather there is gelluesenheit (sp?))

Seperation may have been a reaction, but it was so deeply imbedded that some if not most anabaptists reflect it in some way.

I would love to interact with you some more, so i could learn about your anabaptist community, and see how what they think about seperation.

tim said...


You are absolutely correct. I realize now that I haven't been thinking about separation in the same way. I'm not sure if I can adequately explain this but I'll try...

I was thinking of separation more in the sense of disengagement. As a result of the persecutions, many Anabaptists simply stopped interacting with the larger world. The sense of mission and evangelism died. They became known as the "quiet in the land".

That's the separation I was thinking about. You're description of the theology and ecclesiology is right on. Most conservative Anabaptist groups are still living out that understanding. Groups like Mennonite Church USA (the denomination of my congregation) are attempting to reclaim their tradition in the present context and engaging in a process of self-examination. The question I hear over and over is: what did Jesus teach? How did the early church live out those teachings? That conversation seems to be guiding the evolution of MCUSA more than anything else.

Come visit anytime you like!

JoeBum said...

i really appreciate some other things from anabaptist theology, like the idea of suffering towards salvation, or just making salvation a telos, an end to move toward. Gelleusenheit (sp?).

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