Does Mennonite Matter?

By John Stoltzfus, Franconia Conference Youth Minister

Dale Schrag at Salford. Photo by Ben Wideman.

Does it matter being Mennonite? According to Dale Schrag, “It depends.”

Dale, who is campus pastor and director of church relations at Bethel College, spoke to this question at a seminar for youth and adults at Salford Mennonite Church on April 11.  He elaborated by saying that it depends on what we mean by being Mennonite.

Schrag quoted Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches who said, “Mennonite is a beautiful adjective but an idolatrous noun.” We need to understand being Mennonite as an adjective description of Christian. In addition, in the Mennonite tradition it is essential to understand the Anabaptist theological distinctiveness of our tradition.

He named four central markers of Anabaptist theology from Harold S Bender’s Anabaptist Vision of 1944:

  • A distinctive reading of the Bible that is centered in Christ
  • A distinctive approach to discipleship, following the teachings of Jesus
  • A distinctive understanding of community
  • A distinctive commitment to nonresistance in the reconciling love of God

Dale concluded by emphasizing that being Mennonite matters because of what we have to offer to a world that needs Jesus.  Our particular understanding of the gospel of shalom (peace) and of how Jesus calls us to live is a gift to offer to our broken world.

Some questions to consider as we continue to unpack the question identified in this seminar.

  • How can we engage our children and youth in talking about what it means and why it matters to be a Mennonite Christian in today’s world?
  • How does this distinctiveness make a difference in how we practice our faith?
  • What difference does it make in how we read the Bible, live as community, relate to our neighbors, and engage in mission in our world?
  • How does being Mennonite help us to be faithful in following in the way of Christ?
  • What testimony do we have to share?
  • How can we hold these convictions with an open hand in a way that is inviting and winsome and good news to our neighbors and to a hurting and broken world?

Watch the full presentation: