Why I Am An Anabaptist Christian

Call to Worship from February 23, 2020

Written by Faith Bell

Today is Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference Sunday. In light of that, I was reading through the booklet What is An Anabaptist Christian? I have skimmed through this before, but this week was the first time I read it through. I encourage you, if you have not read it before or if it has been a while since you have read it, to pick up a copy. (You can go through the pdf version here.) It gives the history of the wider Christian church and also goes into detail on the Anabaptist perspective that I will briefly touch on today.

I listened to a podcast episode this week on scapegoating. It is easy to point a finger at what others are doing wrong in an effort to define and elevate our own selves. The modern example we often refer to is the Nazis scapegoating Jews for the economic issues present in Austria and Germany. But the podcast brought the idea a bit closer to home. When I have trouble sleeping, I blame the temperature in my apartment or I look to melatonin as a solution. I look for anything outside of myself that is the problem and the solution. The harder thing would be to ask myself what are the thoughts racing through my mind that keep me alert and awake? Where do these thoughts come from? And what will I do differently so that the deeper things can be addressed?

It is easy, it is comforting, to find the problems everywhere but myself, to understand myself by what I am in opposition to or what I struggle with.

It is easy, it is comforting, to define ourselves by what we are not.

It is more challenging to define ourselves by what we are. That invites honesty and complexity. So I want to give start worship today with an acknowledgement of who we are.

The What is An Anabaptist Christian? booklet starts with this statement: 

“Christians with an Anabaptist perspective on faith and life have existed from the very beginning of the Christian era. Even today, in nearly every group of churches and perhaps in nearly every congregation, there are people who have understandings of the Christian faith similar to those held in the Anabaptist tradition. Anabaptist is a way of being Christian. Just as there are Anglican, Baptist and Lutheran Christians, so there are Anabaptist Christians.”

We are in the body of Christ as one expression within that body. And within our way of being there are three core values:

  1. Jesus is the center of our faith.
  2. Community is the center of our life.
  3. Reconciliation is the center of our work.

What I like about being an Anabaptist Christian is that we are willing to hold creative tension. We read scripture privately, but we also incorporate community in the interpretation because our own blindspots may have us miss the richer message. We look to the Bible for truth, but we interpret through the spirit of Jesus as the guiding light. We stand for peace to reconcile ourselves to God and others to show that there is a different way. This may mean questioning those in power or even laying our life down for the sake of peace, as Jesus did. 

So here we are, Fairhaven. A community varied in gender, color, age, class, and ability. A church among the Indiana-Michigan conference that is filled with other churches of varied people, languages, and backgrounds. In turn, this conference is part of a national and global Mennonite church within the larger body of Christ. We have different perspectives. We have different personal needs. And yet though we differ, we work together, like a family, like a body. We do this not because it is easy. Not because it isn’t complex. We do it because Jesus, who is the center of our faith, did life among all kinds of people as he demonstrated reconciliation. And Jesus calls us to follow.

So in that spirit of a body dancing unified in our diversity, we are going to read this morning’s call to worship.

Leader: We are the body of Christ!
Baptized in one Spirit, we are members of one body.
All: Many and varied in gender, color, age, class, and ability,
we are members of Christ’s beautiful body.
Leader: None of us can say to another, “I have no need of you.”
All: For only together can we find wholeness.
Leader: None of us can say to another, “I will not care for you.”
All: For we are connected like muscle and bone.
If one suffers, we all suffer. If one rejoices, we all rejoice!
Leader: Thanks be to God who, in Christ, has made us one.
All: Let us worship God!

  • Michael Hayes

    Great Ana-Baptist commentary!