“The Midianite Hour” and more false impressions about Mennonites

News release
January 2, 2019

“The Midianite Hour” and more false impressions about Mennonites
Intriguing questions of 2018 at 20-year-old website, Third Way

HARRISONBURG, Va.—Third Way website (originally known as Third Way Café) was launched in 1998, just over 20 years ago now. It came about in part because of The Mennonite Hour radio program that began in the early 1950s.

The Mennonite Hour aired on both religious and secular stations across the United States and Canada, and many people had never heard of Mennonites. As listeners wrote letters to the broadcast requesting free literature and eventually Bible correspondence courses, they tried valiantly to spell the name: The Midianite Hour, Man of the Knight Hour, Moonlight Hour, Minnow Night Hour, and Midnight Hour, according to a partial history, Mennonite Broadcasts: The First 25 Years by Hubert R. Pellman, published in 1979. People often asked about Mennonites beliefs and practices.

Queries arrived by letter and phone, and eventually by email and online questions to Third Way website. A dozen or so staff persons and volunteers have responded to these questions about Mennonites over the years. By the end of 2018, the number of emails had reduced from hundreds to dozens, since the curious often just google their questions and find answers. But some persons have questions that are not easily answered in an online search—nor are they easy to answer for the current volunteer, Dennis Kuhns, a retired Mennonite pastor in Harrisonburg.

Dennis Kuhns, with assistance from Edith Shenk Kuhns, answers questions at Third Way on a volunteer basis.

Here is an overview of 10 questions Kuhns responded to in 2018, which can give churches a glimpse of what the public may wonder about Mennonites:

MEMBERS FROM THE ’50s? Is there a list of members from the 1950s? I have pictures of meetings from that time, and I think my family religion of that time was Mennonites, but in the newspapers it just read: nondenominational. However, when I was growing up, we would meet at other members’ homes and each would take turns reading from the Bible and telling how it had affected them that week. Just trying to find any connections. —Lynda

WHAT ABOUT BUDDHA AND MOHAMMED? Jesus preaches, “Love your enemies; do not hate, be reconciled.” How about this: Have no enemies. Following Jesus is one way, but there are better ways. What about the way of Buddha? What about Krishna? What about Mohammed? I’m not trying to argue with you or outsmart you. I just don’t like how Christians say that Jesus is the only way. Also, Christians say if I do not believe in God and Jesus Christ, then I’m going to hell. Also, how can we ascertain that Jesus specifically said, “Love thy neighbor” and all various commands? The Bible was written after Jesus’s so-called death. Also, I heard in documentaries that names like Paul, Matthew, and John are “pen names.” We don’t know their real names. I question the validity of the Bible. [name withheld]

RULES OF THE CHURCH. I am looking for a church in the area of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. I am also curious on the rules of the church. Thank you so much! —Gina

GOING MENNONITE OR AMISH. I am a 21-year-old female that is interested in going [into] the Amish and/or Mennonite community. I have never supported society and their ways of life and have become more fearful of where it may be heading. Ever since I can remember I have longed to learn how to live off of the land, farming and raising a family. There is a chance that I may be with child, my fiancé and I both do not agree with modern expectations in society and want to give our family the greatest chance of walking in the light of the Lord. —Sadie

RUNNING SHORT ON RENT. I was encouraged through my prayers to finally reach out for help. I started coming to your church and have been [there] several times, but my visits have been somewhat sporadic due to my health. I now find myself broken and in need. I will be having major surgery in several weeks but my sickness benefits have run out and I am struggling while waiting for my disability to come through. I am a single mom with a 16-year-old son and am running short on my rent and everything else. I don’t want to lose everything because of a short-term setback. I am college educated, have always been employed until a downsizing layoff about 14 months ago. I am writing to find out if the church can offer any kind of one-time assistance just to bridge the gap? —Tracey

MENNONITE RELIEF CAMPS IN WORMS? Would you know whom to contact about Mennonite camps near Worms, Germany, from 1944 to 1953? I have been looking online; however I cannot find anything. I do remember being in one, and a nice lady by the name of Snyder gave me a pair of white new shoes which I never forgot. Being 73 years old now, my relatives don’t have any knowledge. —Roswitha

GIFT FOR SINGERS? We have a wonderful community of Mennonites in our small town. They want to come sing for us at our home! I don’t know what to give them in return? —Valta

ENSLAVEMENT. Why are Mennonites against slavery?? —Ann

NURSING CULTURE PROJECT. I am a first-year nursing student and I have a culture project due Sept. 17 and my culture topic is Mennonites. I’d like to know what your beliefs are in regard to health and healthcare. Perhaps the church’s view on illness/health; pain; traditional or religious healing practices; concerns with modern treatment; increased risk of any particular disease; family dynamics; dietary considerations; respect; modesty; social concerns; hygiene; touch/personal space; end of life. —Kenya

FINDING JESUS. How do you know you found Jesus? —Tyriah

In addition to much historical and theological information on Mennonites at Third Way, several free daily, 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, Peace & Justice Support Network, and Goodville Mutual. The website is curated by MennoMedia on behalf of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada.

For a history of the first 10 years of Third Way website, Mennonite Mission Network still has a news release posted called “Third Way Café celebrates a decade.” Jodi Nisly-Hertzler, who responded to Third Way questions for several years, wrote Ask Third Way Café: 50 Common and Quirky Questions about Mennonites, published by Cascadia Publishing, 2009.

—Staff release

Melodie Davis

110 years in publishing and public media outreach for Mennonites

News release
November 14, 2018

Not so quiet in the land
110 years in publishing and public media outreach for Mennonites

HARRISONBURG, Va. — In the year 1908, inventor Henry Ford’s Model T automobile was first produced. Aviation enthusiast Wilbur Wright made a test flight of a flying machine that lasted almost two minutes in France. Theodore Roosevelt was winding down his second term as a popular U.S. president, and Wilfrid Laurier was prime minister of Canada. Also in 1908, Mennonite Publishing House (MPH) became an official church publishing effort in Scottdale, Pennsylvania.

This year, MennoMedia and its book imprint Herald Press are recognizing 110 years of serving the Mennonite church and broader public with magazines, books, and curricula.

Daniel Kauffman, editor of Gospel Witness (early forerunner to Gospel Herald and eventually The Mennonite), was instrumental in helping crystallize questions facing the church in the formation of a publishing business on behalf of the church. Those questions, recounted in the history volume God Uses Ink by John A. Hostetler, included “Would the institution become a burden to the church? Who would manage it? What should be the scope of its work? Where should it be started?” Kauffman’s vision (using the gender reference common to the time) expressed hope for “an institution . . . having each department headed by a man ‘full of the Holy Ghost and of wisdom.’”

“What a delight to celebrate this milestone anniversary and to reflect on all the changes to technology and media over the years,” said Amy Gingerich, current executive director and publisher at MennoMedia. “I am honored to be part of this organization as we continue to equip individuals and congregations to live out their faith.”

While Mennonite Publishing House started in Scottdale in 1908 as a publishing ministry of the former Mennonite Church, it has been part of various mergers over the years. In 2001, Faith & Life Press, the former General Conference Mennonite Church publisher based in Newton, Kansas, merged with Mennonite Publishing House to become Mennonite Publishing Network. Mostly recently, in 2011, Mennonite Publishing Network joined the public media agency Mennonite Media in Harrisonburg, a legacy of combined media efforts that include former radio programs such as The Mennonite Hour and Heart to Heart, TV spots, documentaries, and websites. That same year, the organization’s headquarters relocated to Harrisonburg.

Coincidentally, the organization’s offices in Harrisonburg are just 10 miles from the location of the very first Mennonite printing operation in the United States, in the village now known as Singers Glen. Owner Joseph Funk was the first known Mennonite to own and operate a printing press beginning about 1847; he printed and published numerous hymnals.

As an agency of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, MennoMedia publishes church and Sunday school curricula for children through adults, hymnals, three magazines including the Rejoice! devotional, religious trade books under the Herald Press imprint, and the Third Way website, offering online information and resources on Mennonites.

Herald Press has historically published books on Amish and Mennonite life and faith, numerous bestselling cookbooks, and popular titles on peace, reconciliation, community, discipleship, mission, spirituality, and theology. Today Herald Press focuses on acquiring highly readable, practical manuscripts that inform thoughtful faith and that call readers to take Jesus seriously—to follow his example in word and deed. Herald Press books, written by a diverse and theologically informed community of authors, target a wide Christian readership.

—Staff release

Attachment: Herald Press All-Time Top Ten Titles






Third Way’s 2016 Top 10 Quirky Queries

News Release
December 21, 2016

Third Way’s 2016 Top 10 Quirky Queries
Bonus list: Top 10 questions worth pondering

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ont.—Many millions of people will never pick up a book or magazine about Mennonites or enter any Mennonite church. But they will drop in anonymously to Third Way website (thirdway.com) to get a quick glimpse of what Mennonites are about.

Erwin and Angela Rempel, who previously worked many years in mission settings around the globe and for church agencies in the United States, volunteer for MennoMedia and responded to 60 to 70 email queries this past year, sometimes with multiple follow-ups. The site averages more than one thousand hits a day, nearing a third of a million annually. Third Way is one part of the media matrix offered by MennoMedia and its book imprint, Herald Press, based in Harrisonburg.

Six sponsors, Mennonite Mission Network, Everence, Abundance Canada, Mennonite Health Services, Conrad Grebel University, and Goodville Mutual currently help sponsor the all-free website, which was founded in 1998 to help dispel myths about Mennonites and to convey solid information. While a fluffier FAQ titled “What’s the difference between Mennonites and Amish?” gets the most clicks (146,000 this past year), the second most accessed section, “Key Teachings of Jesus,” is a meatier section that totaled 65,000 clicks this year.

The inquirers offer windows into the questions—and misconceptions—people still have about Mennonites. Here, in two lists, discover what people in the general public wonder about regarding Mennonites. (You might consider holding a small group or church school class discussion around these lists.)

Top 10 Quirky Queries at Third Way

  1. MENNONITE MOABITES? Were [Mennonites] from the Moabites in the Bible?
  2. BEARDS, MODESTY, AND COVERINGS. What is the view on beards for men? Modest dresses for women? Headcoverings?
  3. BUY A BONNET? Can you tell me where we might purchase a traditional Old Order River Brethren bonnet? So far we’ve seen several pictures but nowhere to obtain one. It would be a good and modest bonnet for a woman attending prayer services.
  4. MENNO VEGETABLES IN PERTH? Do you grow vegetables and sell to the public? Are you located in Perth, Australia ? Thank you for getting back to me.
  5. BC? Which year [was] Jesus Christ born?
  6. SEPARATE WOMEN AND MEN? Why do the women sit separate from the men at church services? I asked a young Mennonite roofer this question and he wasn’t sure why but sort of knew the answer. I’m curious as to why?
  7. INQUIRING NURSES WANT TO KNOW. I’m doing some research on the Mennonite culture for nursing school. What are your verbal and non-verbal communication patterns? Any slang/dialect? How do you view personal space (how close when talking to someone)? If you were in the hospital, would there be anything that you would want the nurse to do/not do?
  8. BLACK AND WHITE. I am an African American male who is married to a white woman. Do the Mennonites accept this marriage?
  9. INFANT BAPTISM? Why do some people baptize infants?
  10. WANTS TO FARM. I’m interested in becoming a part of a Mennonite community, in an agricultural community somewhere in the U.S.

Top 10 Probes Worth Pondering

  1. GOSSIP CAUSING LOSS OF FAITH. I am not Mennonite but my boyfriend is. I understand views on divorce in the Bible. . . . I just have one issue. I have been talked bad about, against and to my face. I have been through a lot in my life and faced a lot of demons. But none worse than my boyfriend’s parents. I am pained to say this but due to the way one Mennonite family talks, it’s forced an opinion on me and is causing me to lose faith.
  2. KINSHIP WITH AMISH IN ADELAID. I have been brought up as a Christian and I find what the Amish believe, from what I can see, is a lot closer to what I believe then what a lot of other Christians believe. Is there a church or discussion group or someone in my area that I would be able to discuss or have meetings or get together for some drinks of some sort every so often? I am from the southern suburbs of Adelaid, South Australia [Numerous inquiries this year about Anabaptists in Australia have been referred to Mark and Mary Hurst, workers Down Under.]
  3. DESPERATELY HOMELESS. I am a homeless woman, 41 years old. I am in desperate need of help. I have nowhere to live and I am having a very hard time finding work in the Leola, Ephrata, Pa., area. I clean houses and repair anything that needs fixing, refinish and build wood furniture and install wood and tile flooring. But I am having trouble and do not even have the money to eat anymore. I try so hard to be a good person and because of that people take advantage of me. I cannot live on the streets anymore and I have no family to help and I am feeling hopeless. [She was given a local help number to call.]
  4. THE BIBLE A JOKE? The Bible still has no credibility to me just because of how stupid the verses are. I couldn’t even name all the dumb things that are listed there that don’t make any sense and are just so laughable. It’s a joke that this is what people live by and believe. “The Bible is holy and sacred and God’s word.” Please. I highly doubt that this is what God wanted people to live by. This sounds like a mockery of God.
  5. HOPE FOR ME? I was raised Catholic. Many many years later I was rebaptized as a born-again Christian. I have lost my faith. But sometimes I still believe. I want to believe in Jesus. I want to believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. I want to believe that there is hope for me.
  6. IDENTITY QUESTIONS FOR MENNONITES. I am a student at Texas A&M University. What do you consider your identity to be as a Mennonite? What aspect of your identity do you want to be remembered by? What do you believe others in different cultures view your identity as?
  7. JUDEO-CHRISTIAN? Does the Mennonite church consider the United States a Judeo-Christian nation?
  8. MENNONITES AND JEWS. Two of my very dear friends are Mennonites. They shared with me that they are taught to love and help one another, especially the Jews. Could you provide more information regarding the Mennonite/Jewish relationship?
  9. WANT TO BE SAVED. I am looking to get saved. I was reading about the Mennonite church. I tried to find a church near Augusta, Georgia, but had no luck. Is there a Mennonite church in Augusta?
  10. ANGRY JESUS? I have heard Mennonites refer to Jesus as the Prince of Peace. According to scripture, did Jesus ever display signs of anger or violence?

MennoMedia Staff 

Photo Caption: Angela and Erwin Rempel volunteer on the annual Everence Day of Generosity for MennoMedia, and year round answering questions at Third Way website.

For more information on this news release:

Melodie Davis
MennoMedia 540-574-4874

For a book with 50 common questions asked over the years, see Ask Third Way Café 50 Common and Quirky Questions About Mennonites by Jodi Nisly Hertzler.

Ask Third Way Cafe