Paper Presented to Anabaptist Seminar — Eastern Mennonite University — April 8, 2006
My introduction to Anabaptism came nearly thirty years ago when I first discovered that there was a Mennonite congregation in my hometown, Eugene, Oregon. I had just started reading John Howard Yoder and was anxious to learn to know actual Mennonites. The pastor of Eugene Mennonite Church, Harold Hochstetler, loaned me several of his books. I especially remember Guy Hershberger’s The Way of the Cross in Human Relations and the festschrift for Harold Bender that Hershberger edited.
Not too long afterwards, I ended up at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and studied Anabaptism with Yoder and C. J. Dyck. A couple of years later I was able to teach Anabaptism for the first time in a congregation. I served as interim pastor at Trinity Mennonite in Glendale, Arizona, and taught a course mainly for people new to the Mennonite faith. Several senior members in the congregation, including Guy Hershberger himself, also sat in on the class. Strong affirmations I received from Guy meant a great deal to me.
Anabaptism as a resource for ethics and pastoral ministry
From the start, my main interest in the Anabaptists was ethical and pastoral. My interest in Mennonites came out of a desire for faith that underwrote peacemaking and community-building. Yoder and Hershberger directed me to the 16th-century Anabaptists as an important resource for embodying those concerns. I have always been interested in the connections between the events told in the Bible, the events of the 16th century, and our own quest to live faithfully. I never felt comfortable with the idea that one could approach the 16th century in a fully objective way. The questions I have asked of the 16th century (as of the Bible) have always been self-consciously along the lines of what might I learn for today from those events. Continue reading