Pace e Bene Blog

"Neo-Anabaptists" and wineskins for God's new world

‘Anglican-Anabaptists’, ‘Charismatic-Anabaptists’, ‘Emerging church-Anabaptists’, ‘Baptist-Anabaptists’, and even ‘Mennonite-Anabaptists’! :)

I’ve just returned from the bi-national executive board meeting of the “Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand”, or AAANZ (sounds impressive hey!).  For those that are going… “Anna who?”  An explanation of this important tradition which for many is providing a ‘new’ (but ancient) wineskin for the 21st century.

Anabaptism is the longest consistent witness to communal nonviolence in church history. Known as the ‘radical  reformation’ for insisting that Luther, Calvin and others didn’t finish the work they started, the Anabaptists called the church to be filled with the Spirit of God’s new creation and live practically the Sermon on the Mount in the valleys of daily life. In short, To live like Jesus.  the Anabaptist witness to the way of Jesus – the way of nonviolence— stretches over 500 years lasting longer than the early churches witness to nonviolence of the cross (300 odd years).

In Australia, the UK and elsewhere, people calling themselves “Pentecostal Anabaptists” or “Restorationist Anabaptists” or “Methodist Anabaptists” doesn’t signify a switching of denominations. Rather it signifies a conversion within their own tradition to a Christianity that rejects all domination. This ‘conversion’ is not based upon modernist liberal or fundamentalist assumptions but rather seeking a deeper immersion into this story which expresses the alternative nonviolent paradigm that is found in discipleship. A desire to see God’s love flood all areas of life; spirituality, sexuality, economics, ecology, personal transformation, political transformation… everything! A movement that longs to walk in the ways of Jesus Christ, rejecting the sword of violence and accepting the towel of service. 
Today this ‘kingdom movement’ of justice, peace and joy is often referred to as the “Emerging Peace Church movement” or the “Anabaptist impulse”. Wess Daniels, a budding theologian in the Emerging Peace Church movement (of the Quaker variety) has written on Neo-Anabaptism and it’s relationship to the ‘emerging church’:
  •  Emerging Peace Church Model (Or Open Anabaptism):

    This model of the emerging church stresses the non-conformist tendencies of Jesus, and thus the church should follow in his footsteps through non-violence, love of enemy and caring for the poor. This one may be closest to a kind of [what in the US is known as] new monasticism that has so often been written about in recent times. While there are people from the various peace churches involved in this type of church, there are also people from a variety of traditions who are seeking to contextualize the Gospel within our culture. This group does not accept any one style of culture as being good, thus their non-conformist attitude is directed at modernity and postmodernity alike. They see Jesus (and his incarnation) as their primary model for engaging culture. They are influenced by Wittgenstein, Barth, Bonhoeffer, John H. Yoder, McClendon and Nancey Murphy to name a few. In this group you will find people like & the">Jarrod McKenna and the Peace Tree, Shane Claiborne, some Mennonites, Rob Bell’s Mars Hill, Submergent, Jesus Radical and convergent Friends, to name a few. This group is counter any kind of Christendom styled church and thus would be sometimes for and sometimes against institutionalization, and would see contextualization as important only up to the point that it remains ultimately an extension of Jesus’ ministry and message.

The famous story of Anabaptist martyr Dirk Willems who risked his life to save his drowning pursuer may serve as icon for the prophetic role Anabaptism could play in the larger church today. There is a ground swell of people from diverse Christian traditions who feel Anabaptism (once heavily persecuted by a Christianity comfortable with violence) might be in the 21st century offering a hand out of the  waters of Christendom, Empire, Militarism, Individualism and dualism which threaten drowning the church. 

Ironically these neo-Anabaptists from other traditions may wake parts of the continuation of this 16th century movement who have become comfortable with the Powers and traded their nonconformist witness in for the comfort of generic-Americana-evangelical-mush, completely unaware of the Empire and it’s flags that they have unknowingly become comfortable with. Sadly some even think their tradition lies in their ethnic identity not in their emersion into God’s nonviolent dream for creation breaking into history in Jesus.

But as Isaiah has announced “God is doing a new thing” and a fresh wind is blowing.

To become a part of this exciting conversation drawing on this amazing tradition contact Mary or Mark at AAANZ@iprimus.com.au

Behold, I am doing a new thing.
Even now it is springing to light.
Do you not perceive it?
A way will I make in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert!”


Picture of user Jarrod McKenna
Perth, WA
Australia