In a previous post I asked a question and wanted to know folk’s opinion about Anabaptism in relation to Evangelicalism/Protestantism. In The Naked Anabaptist, it is presented that Anabaptism is somehow neither of those other categories. But it seems this ain’t so cut and dry.
1) We call ourselves “The Third Way”… and, BTW, it goes beyond being Mennonite, but being Anabaptist. suffice it to say, not all Anabaptists are Mennonites… and I would also add that, really, not all Mennonites are Anabaptists. I know a number of churches with the Mennonite name that act a lot more standard evangelical protestant with a bit of pacifism tossed in for good measure.
But the indication of “neither Protestant nor Catholic” is accurate in historical perspective… We come from a tradition that is not rooted in the reformers like Luther and Zwingli.. nor are we rooted in the Roman Catholic tradition. Instead, it’s more the “radical reformation”, meaning trying to get back to the root of things, back to what the church was intended to be like from the beginning. That’s what makes Anabaptists “a third way”… while we still have our “institutional church” structures, there is a reason why the buildings are typically called “Meetinghouse” and not “church”… because we believe the church is not in the institution, building, hierarchy, etc., of the formalized institution but is more out and among the people.
So… key difference… traditional Protestant like Anglican, Lutheran, UCC, Reformed, Episcopal, Methodist… even Baptist, Pentecostal, etc., are still based primarily on an organized, Christendom dependant institutional church. Anabaptism/Mennonites are less concerned about the institution than they are about living Christ-centered lives 24/7…
2) Yes, we are evangelical. Anabaptism from the start has always been looking to bring people into the circle around Jesus… no, we’re not Evangelical like Billy Graham, Saddleback, etc., where Evangelical is more a denomination than a description… but we are evangelical in that we do look at the great commission in Matthew 28 as being an important factor… we are called to make disciples. So… yes, we are evangelical… but we’re not right-wing, Republican, God-and-Country evangelical. heck, to be a REAL Anabaptist, we’re not Democrat, Communist, Libertarian, Green-Party, etc., either…
A good book to read (if you’re looking for more books) is an older one from 1980 called “The Third Way” by Paul Lederach. Might be hard to find but I’ll bet your Mennonite church should be able to find it for you.
Thanks for your thoughts on this Rob.
This is part of an ongoing exploration of Mennonism. To start at the beginning, visit here.