Anabaptist convictions

A series of short explanations of the central convictions that make up a contemporary “Anabaptist sensibility”:


I. God

  1. God is a God of persevering love who creates and sustains life
  2. Jesus witnesses to this creative love in definitive ways
  3. The Spirit of God continues the creative and life-sustaining expression of this love
  4. All true expressions of God’s involvement in the world are consistent with the way of Jesus
  5. The basic rule of human life is found in the command to love the neighbor
  6. We may rest in our identity as beloved children of God
  7. God’s love reaches to the ends of the earth

II. Discipleship

  1. Authentic Christian faith finds expression through commitment to Jesus’s way of love
  2. Like with Jesus, his followers will oppose the Powers-that-be when they are unjust
  3. The path of discipleship is one of joy
  4. Jesus identified with those labeled “unclean;” his followers will do the same
  5. Jesus’s message of simplicity and care speaks to the wealthy in calling them to challenge inequality
  6. Jesus’s message of a life of witness continues through the immanence of the Spirit of God

III. Spirit

  1. The Spirit of God breathes life into the created world
  2. The Spirit goes between God’s creatures to enhance our mutuality
  3. The Spirit accompanies those who seek to live loving lives
  4. The Spirit reflects God’s character in its nurturing, relationship-enhancing, and compassionate presence
  5. The Spirit of God is present in all faiths insofar as they serve mercy and healing justice

IV. Bible

  1. The Bible tells the story of God seeking to heal the world through God’s people
  2. As God is especially clear in the account of Jesus, that becomes the lens for reading the Bible as a whole
  3. The Bible’s main mode of address is a gentle invitation not authoritarian rules
  4. The Bible communicates most of all through a coherent story, not isolated words or verses
  5. The Bible is to be used carefully with the recognition that what we say about the Bible is all human interpretation
  6. The Bible witnesses to the on-going revelation of God’s healing work that remains in harmony with Jesus’s way
  7. Any interpretation of the Bible that leads to harm should be seriously questioned
  8. The Bible’s content reflects God’s attentiveness to vulnerable people; our interpretations should do likewise

V. Peace

  1. Followers of Jesus are called to imitate his way and seek peace and healing, not retaliation and punishment
  2. Love is the most important human value, no other loyalty can outweigh the call to love everyone
  3. Our world is profoundly shaped by the idea that violence brings “salvation”—making violence a rival to God
  4. Jesus’s message of active love underwrites active nonviolence that leads to social transformation
  5. Since violence is learned behavior, we seek to support peaceable strategies with hope that they will work

VI. Community

  1. Communities of faith exist in order to witness to the ways of love, not as ends in themselves
  2. To be faithful, communities of faith must manifest that love in all internal and external practices
  3. The locus of discernment for communities of faith is face-to-face involvement
  4. Structures beyond local congregations exist primarily to serve the vitality of the local groups

VII. Welcome

  1. Throughout, the Bible affirms hospitality as a necessary earmark of authentic communities of God’s people
  2. Biblical hospitality emphasizes welcome for vulnerable and marginalized people
  3. “Vulnerable and marginalized people” today include sexual minorities
  4. The clarity of the Bible’s witness to hospitality is much greater than the clarity regarding same-sex relationships
  5. Congregations and conferences promote inhospitality when they disfellowship inclusive people

VIII. Interfaith

  1. That the one God (named variously) is the God of all peoples is reinforced in the Bible
  2. Jesus modeled openness toward diverse people who understood God differently from him
  3. Christians historically have justified violence against people of other faiths—thus going against Jesus
  4. Followers of Jesus share common ground with those of other faiths who feel the call to love the neighbor
  5. To relate openly with people of other faiths leads to growth in one’s own faith convictions
  6. The way of Jesus is truthful and open to ways of God’s wisdom in the world

IX. Creation

  1. The Bible teaches that God created what is as an expression of God’s goodness
  2. The love of God may be witnessed in varied ways throughout creation
  3. God continues to sustain life and seeks to bring healing to brokenness
  4. Biblical creation theology is not in tension with evolutionary science
  5. God does not relate to creation coercively; God endows creation with a great deal of freedom and purpose
  6. Humanity shares with God responsibility to care for other creatures; domination is sinful
  7. Current dynamics in the global economy that further enrich the powerful and hurt creation violate God’s will

X. Empire

  1. From Egypt to Rome, the Bible portrays people of faith as constantly under the threat of imperial domination
  2. Empire’s deadly response to Jesus reflects the idolatrous character of centralized political power
  3. Citizens of the United States face strong temptations of give their country loyalty due only to God
  4. Economics of exploitation of nature and workers are linked with Empire and reflect alienation from God
  5. To follow the Lamb in witnessing boldly to the ways of love and healing justice is the calling in Empire
  6. Followers of Jesus recognize that their loyalty to his way of shalom takes priority over national citizenship

XI. Seeking truth

  1. Christians confess that God’s truth has been revealed in Jesus; we know this truth by following his way
  2. Truth defines a process more than a static end point; truthful ends are approached through truthful means
  3. The moral relativism of American power politics contradicts Jesus’s truthful message of love (including enemies)
  4. Communities of faith seek truth as they discern in ways that respect differences and include those on the margins
  5. Openly to express our differences and honestly deal with conflicts prompts growth toward the truth
  6. Truth cannot be separated from the earthen vessels who embody the Spirit of god
  7. Because we all may know the truth only imperfectly we can’t certain enough to justify violence

XII. Eschatology

  1. [more to come]

Additional themes? Re. supercessionism and thinking about OT; stronger emphasis on environmental justice, restorative justice, racial justice, sexual justice; rituals/sacraments; anarchistic understandings of power and leadership.

Links to various blog posts and other articles related to Anabaptist convictions:

“Anabaptist” but not “Christian” (or “Mennonite”): A thought experiment [Part 1] April 9, 2019

“Anabaptist” but not “Christian” (or “Mennonite”): A thought experiment [Part 2] April 10, 2019

The “essence” of Anabaptism July 22, 2014

Should Anabaptists be evangelical? June 11, 2012

Practice-oriented vs. doctrine-oriented theology: An Anabaptist proposal 2011

Whither 21st century Anabaptist theology 2007

Anabaptism for the 21st century 2006

An Anabaptist Vision for the 21st Century—Some Propositions [A manifesto created by MennoNeighbors, July 2005]

Anabaptist faith and American democracy 2004

From 16th-century Anabaptism to Mennonite Church USA 1995