just an apprentice

the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Where is my COMMUNITY?

I begin with an epigraph from Robert Bellah et al., Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (New York: Harper & Row, 1986), 84.

We find ourselves not independently of other people and institutions but through them. We never get to the bottom of our selves on our own. We discover who we are face to face and side by side with others in work, love, and learning. All of our activity goes on in relationships, groups, associations, and communities ordered by institutional structures and interpreted by cultural patterns of meaning.... We are parts of a larger whole that we can neither forget nor imagine in our own image without paying a high price. If we are not to have a self that hangs in the void, slowly twisting in the wind, these are issues we cannot ignore.
-------Robert Bellah et al.

So I continue the quest to discover how the Anabaptist story can be integrated into the whole story of historical, orthodox Christianity. My quest has led me to pick up Anabaptist History and Theology, by C. Arnold Snyder. If the Anabaptist movement represents the radical wing of the broader evangelical (Protestant) critique of Rome and medieval institutional Christianity, how can I embrace the whole body of Christ and still identify myself with a movement of dissent and separation from the medieval church.

My quest is to find myself in the community of saints that have been baptized into Christ. Bellah observes that "most Americans see religion as something individual, prior to my organizational involvement." This view leads to an understanding of the church as an aggregate of the individual Christians who commit to each other to form a spiritual society.

I am about a quarter of the way through Snyder's introduction to Anabaptist History and Theology. Not since my senior year at Christopher Dock have I delved into the Anabaptist story. Now it is not because I have to, but because I need to see how we can confess the Creeds of the Church (which presume a catholic understanding of the Ekklesia) and yet define ourselves by our distinctives. If we hold to a traditional Anabaptist ecclesiology that was defined by differentiation from Rome and mainline Protestantism, than how can we find communion with the rest of the Church from Pentecost to the Reformation.

What does it mean to be Mennonite? Does it just mean that I embrace the Church of the last 500 years? Can I be Mennonite and still include the Church Fathers and Mothers, the Councils of the first 1000 years within my hermeneutical community? Am I accountable to them and their witness, or just to the witnesses within my denominational stream?



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