Updating The Naked Anabaptist: New five-year edition released

October 14, 2015

News release

Updating The Naked Anabaptist
New five-year edition releasedNakedAnabaptist5th

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ontario—Five years ago, Stuart Murray’s book The Naked Anabaptist made waves with its look at the central beliefs of Anabaptism and their relevance for Christians today. Now Herald Press has released a new edition of the book, drawing in stories and perspectives from North America and the global church.

The Naked Anabaptist: The Bare Essentials of a Radical Faith examines seven core convictions of Anabaptism, looking beyond the traditions of Mennonite, Amish, and other historically Anabaptist groups to the development of this Christian tradition rooted in Jesus and his teachings. It shows an alternate, healing path from the temptations of societies mired in materialism, individualism, nationalism, and state violence.

Murray, chair of the Anabaptist Network in the United Kingdom, originally wrote The Naked Anabaptist primarily for a British audience unfamiliar with Anabaptism. “I was very surprised by the interest among North American readers,” he said. “This revised edition is oriented more to North America, with examples of the application of Anabaptist convictions in this context.”

The new edition features an updated resource section on Anabaptism. Murray expands and updates his definition and discussion of Christendom, the historic melding of church and state that 16th-century Anabaptists reacted against as they sought to return to a biblical vision of voluntary belief and church membership.

Like the original edition of The Naked Anabaptist, this revised edition reaches out to seekers and to any Christian hungry for a biblical faith rooted in Jesus. Murray steps away from the ethnic understandings of church that have sometimes become part of historically Anabaptist groups, turning instead to Anabaptist biblical understandings that have sparked interest from the emerging church movement, historic denominations, and new Christian movements.

Stuart 1In The Naked Anabaptist, Murray does not call for shifts in Christian denominational allegiance. Instead he shares the values of authentic discipleship, heartfelt worship, sacrificial service, simple living, and radical peacemaking that he finds in historic Anabaptist beliefs and at the heart of Jesus’ gospel vision.

Murray calls for Anabaptist churches to recover a missionary and evangelistic vision for the future. In societies that are both increasingly secular and multifaith, the Christian challenge is to learn afresh to tell the story of Jesus and his teachings, Murray says. Like the original edition of The Naked Anabaptist, this revised edition helps provide Christians with some of the historic tools for that present-day task.

Murray has a PhD in Anabaptist hermeneutics. He is the founder of Urban Expression, an urban church planting agency with teams across Great Britain, the Netherlands, and the United States.

Gregory A. Boyd, pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota and author of The Myth of a Christian Nation, writes in the foreword to The Naked Anabaptist, “Murray offers this dialogue not to try to get people to join the Mennonites or any other Anabaptist group but simply because it’s to the advantage of both Anabaptists and the rising tribe of kingdom people to learn from and support one another.”

The Naked Anabaptist is available for $14.99 from MennoMedia at 800-245-7894 or www.MennoMedia.org, as well as bookstores.

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When Anabaptist winds blow in from who knows where

Last weekend, at the annual gathering of Mennonite Church Manitoba, I was honoured to have coffee with the British speaker, Stuart Murray Williams. Stuart is author of one of our current bestsellers, The Naked Anabaptist, and he has authored or co-authored three other titles that we have published. The latest, released this past fall, is The Power of All: Building a Multivoiced Church (coauthored with his wife Sian).

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Stuart Murray Williams and Byron Rempel-Burkholder; photograph by
Evelyn Petkau, for Canadian Mennonite

Naked Anabaptist cover.inddWe were meeting in Winkler, a town where “Mennonite” still is associated with a mix of Anabaptist faith and a particular German-Russian ethnic culture brought by Mennonite immigrants in the last century and a half.

But here’s the thing that fascinated me as we talked: Stuart was invited by Mennonites in Canada to help rejuvenate them in their own sense of identity and mission. Isn’t it strange that a Baptist from the United Kingdom is given such a role? And this wasn’t the first time: Stuart has done this repeatedly in other Mennonite heartlands in North America.

On the weekend, Stuart preached about the need for pioneers like the apostle Peter who found himself opening the church doors to Gentile believers.  He spoke of the need for denominations—including Mennonites—to change or die.

Stuart’s books, along with his global speaking tours and his church planting work in the United Kingdom, all focus on what it means to be the church in a world where Christianity and the church no longer have a dominant influence in society.  Canada, and increasingly the US, seems to be following the UK toward a day when secularism dominates in the public square, and the church has lost members and influence.

Some of us who were raised in the Mennonite church find it gratifying that other Christians are discovering and promoting the Anabaptist theology that our congregations have stewarded for five centuries.  But some find it disconcerting that these same people are then looked to as resources for our own renewal. Why can’t cradle Mennonites be the source of that renewal?

Well, we can, and we are. We have good seminary programs and our ranks include influential leaders and thinkers. Our publishing activities are robust for our relatively small size. Yet let’s confess that no one has a corner on any movement of the Spirit. Today, as in the 16th century, an Anabaptist understanding of the church and Christian discipleship is catching hold among a whole variety of people. This is due, in part, to Mennonite academics like John Howard Yoder and social activists like Vincent Harding who have shared their gifts with the world.

Stuart is one of the leaders in the growing Anabaptist Network in Britain. The network has roots in the teaching and presence of North American Mennonites in Britain in the last few decades (Alan and Eleanor Kreider and others)—but the network has taken a life of its own. Today it is composed of people—many of them influential scholars and church leaders—who have been smitten by an Anabaptist understanding of faith, even though they remain in their own denominations.

A number of these folks have spearheaded the After Christendom series of books that we at Herald Press are currently releasing for the North American audience.  So far, we’ve published Worship and Mission After Christendom by Alan and Eleanor Kreider, and Reading the Bible After Christendom by Lloyd Pietersen.

These books join a cluster of Herald Press titles that come from people who love Anabaptism and yet are grounded in other traditions. Keep an eye, for example, on our Challenge to the Church series of John Howard Yoder writings compiled by three editors, two of whom are Christian Reformed.

I find it refreshing when new perspectives and new energy come from groups that aren’t so encrusted with the religious traditions that we’ve inherited—precious and instructive as they are. Sometimes the new winds blow in from Britain. They often come from the newer churches of the global South, in the Mennonite World Conference.  They also waft in regularly from North American Christians looking for theological alternatives, for authentic New Testament faith, and even a new denominational “tribe” to belong to.  We are only enriched when we welcome them with open arms.

Learn more from excerpts from The Naked Anabaptist.

—Byron Rempel-Burkholder, managing book editor

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