What people wonder about Mennonites: Top 20 questions asked in 2017 at Third Way

News release

December 28, 2017

What people wonder about Mennonites: Top 20 questions asked in 2017 at Third Way

HARRISONBURG, Va.—Suppose your job is to answer impossibly complex questions, sometimes dealing with theology and even eternal destiny. How do you respond?

This was the volunteer task of Erwin and Angela Rempel, now retired mission workers

Angela and Erwin Rempel also volunteer on the annual Everence “Day of Generosity” for MennoMedia.

who served two Mennonite agencies in the U.S. and abroad. They are now “retiring” a second time, this time from answering the myriad questions sent to Third Way website. Third Way is dedicated to conveying information about Mennonites and related Anabaptist groups to the general public.

Since 2012, the Rempels responded personally to questions sent to the website. Third Way was originally launched in 1998 and is curated by staff of MennoMedia as part of its publishing platform on behalf of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada.

Dennis Kuhns and Edith Shenk Kuhns.

Dennis Kuhns, a retired pastor in Harrisonburg, will fill the position vacated by the Rempels as of January 1. He will generally answer questions in keeping with Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective and guide questioners to find answers at Third Way and elsewhere as needed.

A recent story came from Third Way’s outreach:

“I am so happy that I found the courage to visit the Chicago Community Mennonite Church across the street in my neighborhood here on the West Side of Chicago. I first attended the church in the late spring/early summer of 2017. I was a bit apprehensive at first, as I am an African-American and the Mennonite community that I worship with is about 99 percent white. However, after relaxing myself and keeping an open mind, I found it easy to converse with other parishioners and visitors at the church. Pastor Alison and Rev. Celeste immediately welcomed me with open arms and open hearts. They are both to be commended as great women of God. I am STRONGLY considering becoming a member of the church in 2018. Thank you and God bless you.”

Here in no particular order, are 2017’s top 20 questions as determined by staff, asked at Third Way (with minor edits for spelling and grammar) and names withheld.

DRIVE AUTOS? Do Mennonites drive cars?

CHRISTIAN TRUTHS? What are the truths in the Christian faith?

CLOTHING, SMOKING, AND DRIVING. How do Mennonites and Amish differ in their clothing? How come I see some smoking but they cannot drive? Isn’t smoking considered of the world?

WHAT PILLARS? What are a set of rules Mennonites have? Commandments, pillars, moral code?

WWJD? How does Jesus want me to live my life?

UTOPIAN MENNOS? I am doing a research project in school about Utopian Society and I decided to do it on your community. I was wondering if there was anything that you would like to tell me in depth about your community.

FAMILY MEMBER SHUNNING. Why do Amish practice shunning instead of showing Christ’s love for all? Especially when it’s a family member?

DOCTRINES? Is your doctrine the same as the Baptists? Are you Calvinist?

ALDOUS HUXLEY ANYONE? How is your religion similar to the book Brave New World?

KEY TEACHINGS? What are the key teachings of Jesus on the Church?

MULTIPLE PARTNERS? After spending a good amount of time with my Mennonite friend, she has told me that herself and a lot of 25-35-year-old Mennonites don’t marry because it is more fun to have multiple partners, your wealth is yours, plus you are really liberated. It seems things are really changing.

JOIN MENNONITES? We would really like to join the Mennonites. My fiancé and I have been together for six years and will be married. We have both been married before and I know that is looked down on in the community. We have five children and really want to raise them for God. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to be part of the community.

BORN IN SIN? I have often heard at church and from many who call themselves Christians that we are “born in sin” because of Adam and Eve, yet I have never found anything in the Bible that says so. Not a word. What does your church teach about that and what Bible verses support that view?

DID JESUS DIE WILLINGLY? How can we say that Jesus died for our sins? He was persecuted because of our sinful nature. He didn’t suicide. Right? So how can we say that Jesus willingly died on the cross? He says that he was persecuted because he always stood with the right. So how [was] he sacrificed for our sins? What’s the purpose of this belief? What are we expected to believe about Jesus?

A JEANS GUY. Is there a “dress code” for Sunday services? I’m thinking of attending Sunday service at the [name deleted] location, however I don’t really have church clothes. It’s more of shirt and jeans thing in my life at this time.

SABBATH IN TASMANIA? What day is the Sabbath and do you have churches in Tasmania?

SATURDAY WORSHIP? Why don’t you worship on Saturday as indicated in the ten commandments?

STILL HAVE TO GO TO SCHOOL? My friend and I are strong believers in Mennonite living style and way of life. We live by their beliefs already; we are wondering how we fully live the style of a Mennonite? We are 14 and are wondering where we would live and if we would go to school still?

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE? Have Mennonites done research on domestic violence in the U.S.?

DIE AN ATHEIST? If everything happens as according to God’s plan, and I die as an atheist as according to his plan, why do I go to hell?

In addition to much historical and theological information on Mennonites at Third Way, numerous free weekly or monthly email subscriptions are available at thirdway.com/subscriptions: Media Matters, Living Simply, Wider View, Daily Scripture and Stories of Peace. Third Way sponsors include Mennonite Mission Network, Everence, Abundance (Canada), and Goodville Mutual.

The Rempels have written a combined memoir of their lifetime mission work, titled Unexpected Invitations: Surprises, Adventures, and Opportunities in Mennonite Ministry, available here: http://unexpectedinvitations.com/

—Staff release

Melodie Davis, News manager

 

MennoMedia

540-574-4874

melodied@mennomedia.org

 

 

 

God’s Country wins award of merit from Christianity Today

December 13, 2017

God’s Country wins award of merit from Christianity Today

HARRISONBURG, Va.—God’s Country, a 2017 Herald Press book by pastor and author Brad Roth, received an award of merit in Christianity Today’s 2018 book awards. The winners were announced December 12 and appear in the magazine’s January/February 2018 issue.

The award came in the church/pastoral leadership category, one of 13 categories for honorees. In each category the magazine chooses one winner and then honors a second book with an award of merit. Christianity Today calls the award winners “the books most likely to shape evangelical life, thought, and culture.”

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God’s Country is thoughtful and artfully written,” Jared Wilson, one of the judges, said of the book. “Roth draws wider lessons about the minister’s vocation from his reflection on the specific, narrower context of rural ministry. Any pastor can find a wealth of knowledge here about the needed posture, pacing, and perspective for caring for God’s people.” Will Willimon of Duke Divinity School endorsed the book, saying that “Brad Roth has done a wonderful, unusual thing: he has thought about the rural church in a way that combines both honesty and hope.” Theologian and futurist Leonard Sweet wrote the book’s foreword.

Author Brad Roth serves as pastor of West Zion Mennonite Church in Moundridge, Kansas. He is a graduate of Augustana College, Harvard Divinity School, and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. He and his wife, Lici, have two sons.

Herald Press’s 2014 book Christian. Muslim. Friend: Twelve Paths to Real Relationship, written by David W. Shenk, won a Christianity Today book award in 2016 in the missions/global church category.

God’s Country: Faith, Hope, and the Future of the Rural Church is available from Herald Press for $16.99 (paperback) at 800‑245‑7894 and $13.99 (ebook) at the Herald Press webstore, www.HeraldPress.com, Amazon, and other online sources. Canadian customers can order from CommonWord (877‑846‑1593), Parasource (800‑263‑2664), and elsewhere.

For more information, contact LeAnn Hamby at 540‑908‑3941 or LeAnnH@mennomedia.org.

Herald Press Anabaptist prayer book now available on app

Nov. 21, 2017

Mobile app extends global reach of Herald Press Anabaptist prayer book
Format and versatility appeal to users across cultures and Christian traditions

By Annette Brill Bergstresser

ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — Users in 15 countries across six continents have downloaded a new free mobile app version of Take Our Moments and Our Days: An Anabaptist Prayer Book in the four weeks since its launch on Oct. 23.

The app contains the entire text of both print volumes of the prayer book — Ordinary Time and Advent through Pentecost — which were published in 2007 and 2010 by Herald Press in collaboration with the Institute of Mennonite Studies (IMS), the research agency of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana.

“In its new electronic guise, Take Our Moments is a resource for people on the go and for ad hoc groups,” said Eleanor Kreider, an author and former long-term mission worker in the United Kingdom who was part of the editorial group that developed the prayer books at AMBS over a period of seven years. “Being able to offer the content via a free app also removes barriers of cost and shipping.”

Kreider noted that the morning and evening prayer services — whose Anabaptist “flavor” is conveyed through the predominance of Jesus’ voice, space for communal reflection on Scripture, and the choices of Bible readings — have appealed to users across various cultures, languages and Christian traditions.

Members of the AMBS community gather in the Chapel of the Word for weekly prayers with Take Our Moments and Our Days, an Anabaptist prayer book published by Herald Press in collaboration with the Institute of Mennonite Studies. (Credit: Annette Brill Bergstresser)

She recalled a time when she and her late husband, Alan Kreider, were asked to lead morning prayers for an ecumenical workshop and chose to use the prayer book.
“We were astonished at the universal delight in Take Our Moments,” she said. “The Anglicans recognized the overall structure of the Daily Office, the Baptists liked the emphasis on biblical words, the Pentecostals felt at home with the free prayers and the Mennonites loved to pray through the songs.”

The Ordinary Time volume — which contains a four-week cycle of prayers based on the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, Jesus’ parables and Jesus’ miracles — has been published in French and Korean. Kreider is aware of German, Spanish, Lithuanian and Japanese Christians who are using the services, too.

She said she has heard many reports of both individual and corporate uses of the prayer services, from committee meeting devotions, morning worship for small congregations and pastoral prayers to personal and small-group prayer times.

“A married couple who had never prayed together because of differing pieties found they could now do so, using the prayer book, because it provided both prescribed biblical wordings and places for free prayers,” she said.

She added that families who have never held devotions have told her that the prayer book has enabled them to enjoy reading Scripture and praying together, with school-age children helping lead and younger ones offering their own prayers of thanks and petitions.

“Also, young people who are embarrassed to pray aloud in free fashion have responded positively to the format,” she said. “Several voices can lead, and the petitions can be filled in with simple words or silence.”

IMS Managing Editor Barb Nelson Gingerich, who oversaw development of the app, said that users of the print volumes had been asking for a digital version. Gifts from several donors, including the Anabaptist Foundation in Vancouver, British Columbia, made it possible for IMS to contract with James Stuckey Weber to design it. It’s available for both Apple and Android devices.

The app’s settings enable users to select which version of a doxology, a scriptural canticle and the Lord’s Prayer they wish to use, Gingerich said. Both the books and the app identify songs of praise and response to the readings in each service. (The books include musical settings composed by James Clemens of repeated parts of the services.) Introductory materials and indexes are also included.

Gingerich said she finds it easy to use the app in orienting newcomers to the prayer practice. For more than a decade, she and her husband, James Nelson Gingerich, have hosted weekday morning prayer services in their Goshen, Indiana, home using the prayer book.

“Usually we’re helping newcomers find their way with ribbons, flipping pages, etc., all the way through, but the app is user friendly and easy to navigate,” she said. “Everything you need is in one place.”

Currently the app is only available in English, she noted.

“Right now, the app is pretty basic,” Gingerich said. “When it is used more widely, we’d like to get a sense of what people would value in terms of enhancements.”

Ron Ringenberg, AMBS vice president and CFO, is a prayer book user who said he was “a big proponent” of the digital version. He’s excited about the portability and accessibility of the app and said he plans to use it with his small group and also when traveling.

“The idea of making use of the intelligence of the smartphone for this purpose makes a whole lot of sense,” he said. “I’m thankful that there are individuals who thought it worthy to fund the development of the app.”

Marty Troyer, pastor of Houston Mennonite Church: The Church of the Sermon on the Mount, is another prayer book user who has welcomed the app version.

“Over the years the Anabaptist Prayer Book has shaped how I see myself as a Christ-follower, energized my public witness as a peacemaker and aligned me over and again with the God of love and shalom justice,” he said. “What is my identity in Christ? Who and how is God in the world? And how can I use my best gifts to join God in spreading that beautiful good news? The Anabaptist Prayer Book eases us from the stuck pattern of prayer as list to prayer as becoming.” Troyer is the author of another Herald Press book, The Gospel Next Door, published in 2016.

Suggestions for enhancements to “Take Our Moments and Our Days: An Anabaptist Prayer App” can be sent to Institute of Mennonite Studies (ims@ambs.edu). To learn more, see www.ambs.edu/prayerbook.

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AMBS educates leaders from a variety of Anabaptist and other Christian traditions, both on campus and at a distance. Areas of focus in the seminary’s master’s degree programs include pastoral ministry, chaplaincy, Christian formation, theology and peace studies, conflict transformation, international development and environmental sustainability leadership. More than 2,500 alumni serve as church, organizational and community leaders in Elkhart County and around the world. Learn more: ambs.edu

AMBS news contact
Annette Brill Bergstresser, abbergstresser@ambs.edu, 574.343.6709

This article also appears online where it was originally released: www.ambs.edu/news-events/news/1622837/mobile-app-extends-global-reach-of-anabaptist-prayer-book