Intern Kendra Litwiller pauses from her research work with the homepage of Third Way Cafe.
Third Way Café website has been going since 1998 but we here at MennoMedia, and the predecessor organizations of Third Way Media, Mennonite Publishing Network, Mennonite Publishing House and Mennonite Media/Broadcasts have long been the frequent recipient of questions people ask about Mennonites and Amish.
Longer ago, the questions came by mail and phone, but now mostly (but not always) come by website forms or email. The internet offers helpful anonymity where people can ask their questions. MennoMedia is blessed and happy to have volunteers Erwin and Angela Rempel, long time experienced Mennonite agency employees or mission workers, fielding most questions for us as they respond from their home. Below is a sampling. Names have been changed to protect the inquirers. Some spellings and grammar were also changed to improve readability. But if you ever wonder what kinds of things people want to know about Mennonites, here goes. (We don’t share the responses that Erwin and Angela give in order to protect them from having to give long defenses of their responses,
but be assured they do an awesome job, and some types of answers are given in the book Ask Third Way Cafe: 50 Common and Quirky Questions about Mennonites by Jodi Nisly Hertzler—who did this job for about 10 years.)
Questions from the past year at Third Way Café
REINDEER ACCEPTABLE? “I have a Christmas book about Santa Claus and his reindeer that I would like to give to the children in a Mennonite family in my neighborhood. Is that theme acceptable? I am not sure of the family’s line of thinking, although the women wear long dresses and the simple cap. I do not wish to offend.” –A friend
CHRIST HAD PEOPLE FIGHT (?) “I believe that as an American I have a duty to defend my country, and if this means serving in the military as I did it should be done. Christ even had his people fight. I wish to know if my belief would hinder me from your church. I basically believe along your lines.”—Tom
WORD OR DEED? “I am a religious studies student in Auckland, New Zealand. Recently I have become very interested in the Mennonite Church USA. I was wondering, in this church whether evangelization is generally practiced through example and interaction (indirect) or through explicit proselytizing (direct)? Also, could you possibly tell me if your church permits inter- Christian and/or inter-religion marriage? It would be great if you could answer these questions, I haven’t been able to find the answers. Thank you very much for your assistance. –Susan
HOW TO DRESS FOR A VISIT? “My family and I are wanting to get more info on the Mennonite beliefs. I am wondering if we were to visit a church do we have to dress a particular way?” –Carrie
STUDENT REQUEST “I am a high school student from Louisville Kentucky. For my world religions class this semester, I have to research a certain religion. I am actually doing my project on the Amish, but I thought you could hopefully help me answer a few questions I have:
- First if all, how are you, as Mennonite, similar to and different from the Amish?
- Along with that, what practices do you have in common?
- Do you have the same belief system as the Amish and also mainstream Christianity?
- How do you differ from the Christian Church?
- What are the main things you can tell me about the Amish?
- Do people sometimes convert from Amish to Mennonite or the other way around?
- How do you personally feel about the Amish?
I hope this doesn’t take to much time out of your day! I really appreciate your help! Thank you! Have a nice day!! :)” –Francie
LONGING FOR COMMUNITY “How does one become, or can they, join the Mennonites? (Ohio). I am a struggling grandmother raising 2 grandsons, 4 and 2, and when I can find somewhere for us to live (homeless right now but looking in Ohio or somewhere) I would like to find one of your churches and check into being one of the community.” –Karen
KOREANS VISITING ANABAPTIST SITES “I am Seung (Victor) Jin Kim, who teaches church history at Korea Baptist Theological University/Seminary, Daejeon, South Korea. This summer (2013) I am going to lead our students (team of around 25 males and females) to the places of the reformation in Europe for 12 days. We plan to visit Waldshut-Tiengen in order to search for some traces about Dr. Balthasar Huebmaier who served a Roman Catholic Church as a pastor at Waldshut during the approximate period of 1523-1525 and sometime turned himself to Anabaptist leader, expelled from the Roman Catholic Church and moved to Moravian territory, and finally burned and martyred at Vienna, Austria in March 1528. Could you write me the name and address or email of the Church? Also, I am informed that there is a Baptist Church in Waldshut-Tiengen somewhere. Could you either give me the name and address or email or homepage of the Baptist Church there? I hope I can get email reply and precious information from you. Thank you much.”—Victor
[The Rempels consulted with Myron Augsburger and John Ruth to send Victor (real name) some helpful information.]
KNOW MORE “I was born and raised Christian, not to any certain sect such as Baptist or Pentecostal etc but have been learning about other religions and would like to know about becoming Mennonite. Please advise. Thank you.” –Dan
BAPTIST STUDENT “I’m a Baptist Bible College student and I’m very convicted about becoming a Mennonite for some reason but not just a church but a community of conservative Mennonites. I don’t really know much but I would like to know how to find communities and know a little about them. Thank you.” – Michael
GOOD NEWS? “How can I achieve the good news of the gospel?” –Jessie
IDAHO MENNONITES “I noticed that there are 13 congregations of Mennonites in Idaho. I would like to know where they are I would love to attend a Sunday service. Please get back to me soon thanks.” –Jenna
Those are the highlights of some of the questions Erwin and Angela have dealt with in the last year. And they try NOT to do “homework” for students, but instead direct them to links at Third Way Café where people can do their OWN research and analysis.
Erwin and Angela say, “There have seen several unusual or strange ones, and amusing ones, as well. We wish people would give more background and reasons for their questions.”
At Third Way Café/MennoMedia, we’re working hard at reimagining and relaunching Third Way Café for the mobile age and beyond. Sometimes these things take awhile when you have much on your plate, personally and organizationally. So we thank God for volunteers like Erwin and Angela (and they appreciate your prayers!).
This email previously went to a long list of pastors and churches interested in this type of information. Please feel free to forward it, link to it, print it out, or include in your church newsletter to share with anyone you feel might be interested!
And if you have a question you’d like answered, here is the place to go!
One more thing: Please join our Third Way Cafe Facebook page where you get a fresh Anabaptist related-quote every weekday morning, and current items of interest posted almost every afternoon.
With Facebook’s changing algorithms, even if you’ve liked it in the past, 80 percent of you are not seeing the daily quotes and updates, so to see them on a regular basis, you have to like or comment frequently and then Facebook knows you’re interested! And it helps us too!