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

 

 

 

When googling an answer doesn’t quite cut it: ThirdWay.com’s quirky questions of 2015

News Release

JANUARY 13, 2016

When googling an answer doesn’t quite cut it: ThirdWay.com’s quirky questions of 2015
Relaunched website recovers robust traffic

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Angela and Erwin Rempel, volunteers

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ontario—In April 2015, Third Way website was relaunched. All visits to Third Way came to a standstill for a few days during the massive switchover, handled ably by 427 Design in Akron, Ohio.

By late 2015, daily visitors to Third Way were averaging 750 or more. After a slight and normal lag over the holidays, visitors have rebounded to more than 800 a day. In 2014, the site was averaging 500 to 650 visitors a day.

Erwin and Angela Rempel serve as volunteers who respond personally to the twists on questions that the site doesn’t answer directly, or when seekers are looking for a Mennonite church in an area where there aren’t many. Students ask for help with research for school reports, ranging from elementary to graduate school. The Rempels generally offer links to parts of the website or other sites that will answer their questions. When questions pertain to specific Mennonite beliefs, they respond in keeping with the current Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective.

The questions asked—and common search terms—often reveal still-pervasive curiosity and confusion between Mennonites and Amish. “Difference between Mennonites and Amish” is the most used search term for people accessing Third Way, but search terms about “who is Jesus” come up frequently as well. Five of the top 12 searches centered on Jesus in the last year.

The Rempels reported that by far the most compelling story and comment (no question) came from a woman named Haida, who gave permission for her comment to be shared more broadly:

“I don’t have the same faith as you (if anything I consider myself a Buddhist), but I have the utmost respect for your faith, and the way a lot of you walk the walk not just the talk. I was abandoned by my parents at the age of 16. I was babysitting two young children at this time; the family found out about my situation and without a moment’s thought invited me into their home. I was a severely neglected angry teenager who had no idea what a peaceful, loving home even looked like, and I found love in that home. They never judged me; they never tried to convert me; they just led by graceful example. That was 25 years ago and they are to this day my family. Out of all the Christian denominations, the Mennonite church is the one I respect and admire the most. I wish more people knew how much good honest work you do around the world. People can have such a negative, often justified reaction to Christians that I wish they had experienced a Mennonite interaction, ’cause you guys are different.”

ThirdWayCafeBelow are some of the more interesting questions Third Way received this past year (spelling and punctuation corrected, and names withheld).

RACE, LAST NAMES, AND MONEY. I am a Mennonite born and raised in South America. I do agree [with your site] that Mennonites are like that in Canada. But have you ever been in South America? It’s so sad and unbelievable how they treat each other depending on race, last names, and money. I am very proud where I come from. But [I] do not applaud what they do in some places.

GOOD STEWARDS OF THE PLANET? Jesus was all about nonviolence and [loving] God. Why is it that there are so many Christians [who] don’t seem to care about the earth? Doesn’t God wanted them to be good stewards on this planet?

MY BROTHER SAYS HE’S AN ATHEIST. Is my brother going to hell because he rejects Jesus (and all religions)? He is the most giving and caring person I have ever known. He is also very knowledgeable of the Bible, Torah, and Qur’an. He has an advanced degree in religious studies and went to seminary. He said that’s what made him an atheist. I am confused. Please help. Thank you.

SEEKS CONSERVATIVE CHURCH. I am looking for a conservative Mennonite church in my area. These are my beliefs: baptism of the Holy Spirit, no TV, no movies, no sports, limited Internet (I use it only to research things and check email). [The Rempels referred him to the Beachy Amish.]

WHAT ABOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT? Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues is important to me! I would like to know what Mennonites believe. Do you speak in tongues? I have Mennonite neighbors and coworkers whom I love and respect. I want to know but have been reluctant to ask. I love God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Thank you for listening.

NOT HAPPY WITH LEGALISM. I attend [name withheld] Mennonite Church. My son left the church at 21 and went away from us. My other is still a member but not happy with the legalism; neither am I. I am more unhappy because I am single and [don’t have] much common ground. Their main emphasis is on outward appearance and following standards than love.

DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE. I’m been married two times. Can I become a member?

DIDN’T USED TO DRESS PLAIN. Recently, when looking through old family photos after my mother-in-law’s death, we had the following question. Seems like our great-grandparents (1870–1920 or so) did not dress plain. The ladies wore jewelry and fancy dresses. Then the next generation, the grandparents, were all dressed in plain clothes. Any idea what brought about this transition?

MORAL OR IMMORAL? How do Mennonites determine which sexual relationships are immoral and which are moral?

VIRGIN BIRTH? Do the Mennonites believe that Jesus was born from the virgin Mary?

VISITING YOUR ARCHIVES TODAY. We are searching for genealogy family records. Please contact me as to when we could visit your church archives. We want to visit today.

MENNONITE PRAYER BOOK? I am a senior at Saint Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, and for my final exam in my religion class, I am doing a presentation on the Mennonite faith. I would like to include some traditional Mennonite prayers in my presentation, and I was wondering if some may be suggested to me.

WANTS A RIVER BRETHREN 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.

Third Way is a ministry of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada through the office of MennoMedia, with current major website sponsors Everence and Mennonite Mission Network.

MennoMedia Staff
Hi-res photos available

for more information on the news release
Melodie Davis
MennoMedia
540-574-4874
MelodieD@mennomedia.org

Third Way Website Gets New Look and Fresh Support (By Steve Carpenter)

Perhaps you’ve already noticed that MennoMedia’s premier website ThirdWay.com has a new look – http://thirdway.com  The website has been around since the late 1990s under the name Third Way Café. Some thought the coffee motif was getting a bit stale.1999 HomePage

(Just for fun, here’s a screen grab of the old home page. To read the print go to the Way Back Machine web archives, a great place you can find and reference most old websites.)

Over the past year we worked to freshen up Third Way and improve it’s functionality on smart phones and tablets, renaming it simply Third Way. Earlier in June, a news release announced some of the new sections and features.

ScreenShotHomePageJune3LaunchThe site engages those looking for information online about Mennonites, and serves as a portal for those seeking to live out their Christian faith through Anabaptist values such as simple living, acts of service, and an emphasis on community, justice and peace. Those five values, plus the broad topics “Mennonites” and “Jesus” are reflected in the seven sub-sections of the website.

For the first time, Third Way is offering Mennonite agencies and businesses the opportunity to become sponsors. Sponsorship of this website supports efforts to provide Anabaptist Christian values and information to a worldwide audience, and will also increase an agency’s or business’s exposure. We are thrilled that seven organizations or agencies have stepped up so far to support Third Way by becoming sponsors. There are three levels available: Site Sponsors, Section Sponsors and one Home Page Sponsor.

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Everence and Mennonite Mission Network have become Site Sponsors

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For their gift we include their logo with a hyperlink back to their agency’s home page on every page of the Third Way site. Section Sponsors get their logo on the home page and on every page of the section they sponsor. Thus far Eastern Mennonite University,

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Mennonite Foundation Canada,

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Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary

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and Mennonite Health Services

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have all stepped up as Section Sponsors.

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In addition, Conrad Grebel University is a Home Page Sponsor.

However, there are three sections still waiting for a company to sign on! The sections still available are Community, Service and Justice. If you know of a business or organization which might be interested in becoming a section sponsor of one of these three areas, the cost is $1,000 U.S. per year or $1,200 CDN. Leave a comment below or send me an email with your ideas and I’ll follow up.

Thank you for your interest. Be sure to sign up for a daily scripture, weekly media review, monthly peace story or other free inspirational emails from MennoMedia via Third Way.com by going to subscriptions.

Blessings in your work, worship and witness,

Steve Carpenter Director of Development and Church Relations

Steve Carpenter
Director of Development and Church Relations

SteveC@MennoMedia.org