Mennonites or 'Ethnonites'?By Chris Lenshyn and Robert Martin
A post by Tim Nafziger published at TheMennonite.org explored the relationship between ethnic or cradle Mennonites and what he calls, ACFs — Anabaptist Camp Followers.
Nafziger quotes one such ACF, Mark Van Steenwyk:
I’ve met folks who have been Mennonites for decades who still feel like outsiders. We welcome folks with our words but often push them away with our actions and cultural hang-ups. To be a Mennonite, for me, means accepting the reality that I’ll never be as Mennonite as other people.
The following conversation is compiled from recent blogs in the Anabaptist community in response.
From Chris Lenshyn:
Is there such a thing as an ‘ethnonite?’
The practice of Mennonite as ethnicity, and the practice of Mennonite as faith tradition is a tension felt in many Mennonite circles. I remember my father, a Mennonite pastor for 18 years, reflecting on the implications of being, what he referred to as ‘a non-Mennonite, Mennonite.’ It wasn’t ethnicity that connected my father with the Mennonites, it was the practice of its wholistic, radical, peace theology.
There is 500 years of practice in Mennonite history. Stuart Murray calls this an ‘earthed history.’ Within those 500 years is the richness of experience and the birth and development of an ethnicity.
Today — as people continue to wonder and explore Mennonite Anabaptist faith — ethnicity as part of a rich, earthed history, is both gift and burden.
Mennonite Anabaptist practice which facilitates a deep radicalism tends to come face-to-face with the ‘way things have been done before’ of ethnicity. It appears that to be an ‘ethnonite’ is to carry an unrelenting commitment to a past that is not informing the present. Rather, it is a past that is losing its grip on the present by carrying on with what Van Steenwyk calls, ‘cultural hang-ups.’
It’s tragic really, to think that in some circles, to not be Mennonite by ethnicity is to be slighted in community.
For Mennonites to grow in this particular time and place is to invite all people, no matter what ethnicity, to participate in the practice of Mennonite Anabaptist theology.
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