Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mennonite Brethren

I knew the Quakers were pacifists. These are the famous folk who die in the first line in war because they volunteer as medics but take to heart Jesus' command, Love your enemy.  Obviously I"m not as good a Christian as the Quakers and belong to what was formerly a state church, Church of England, so it had to somehow water down Christs teachings to allow Montgomery to rescue the Americans in WWII.  Episcopaleans in the US believe Patton saved Montgomery.  I'm an Anglican and we know the Canadians were the inspiration that was needed to hold the western front together.  None of this is pacific. It's also not very mennonite.
The Mennonites are known as the peace church because of their committment to nonviolence.   The Amish are also Christians known for non violence.  It obviously takes a whole lot more courage to belong to a Peace Church.  I'm Christian as regards to 'starting a fight'. I come in Peace but if someone wants to scrap I remember that Constantine made Christianity the state religion because the Roman Legions had almost all converted to Christianity by that time.  Christians kick ass but we confess our excesses, and feel guilty about nuking our neighbours if they attack us first. We almost all have neck pains from turning our cheeks but in the end we stand like England with our backs to the wall and come out on Crusades.
The origins of the Mennonites are the Christian Anabaptist denominations.  Frisian Menno Simons (1496-1561) formalized the teachings of the Swiss founders. Mennonites have been persecuted by Catholics and Protestants alike.
I remember them growing up in Winnipeg.  My rancher grandfather thought the Mennonites great farmers. They were outstanding in academics and great supporters of culture. Collectively Winnipeggers knew the incredible contribution that Mennonites had made to their community.  That said I didn't know much about them. One of my most accomplished musician and artist friends was the son of a famous mennonite minister but all I thought of him beyond his obvious brilliance was that he was trustworthy.  Mennonites were always 'solid' in a way.  I thought they were mostly German too.  Frisian is a Germanic tribe.
Meno Simons born 1492 was a Roman Catholic Priest in a war torn land.  He questioned 'transsubstantiation"  Transsubstantiation says that the bread wafer at eucharist actually physically changes to the body of Christ.  This apparently got Men Simons to read the scriptures. When a fellow was killed by the church for preaching 're baptism' Meno investigated the scriptures and found no place for 'infant baptism'.  His brother was killed as an 'anabaptist'.  Anabaptist is derived from the latin 'one who baptizes over again'.  Anabaptists further believed in the literal interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount so this precluded them from taking oaths, participating in military actions, and even participating in civil government.  Hutterites were another group that descended directly from the Anabaptist.
From my experience in Winnipeg I knew already that there were conservative and liberal Mennonites so like all Christian denominations there is some wiggle room to accomodate some diversity in their midst.
Menno Simons quit the Catholic church, read Martin Luther, and got himself baptised the way John did to Jesus and the scriptures recommend. Being raised Baptist, a group very distinct from Anabaptists, I was 'christianed' as a child, dunked and sprinkled as a baby, but only had a 'real' 'Baptism' as an adult when I could decide for myslf whether I thought all that Christianity bit a hoax or that Jesus was who he said he was, God on Earth.  Menos Simon then was ordained by the Dutch Anabaptists.
Menno Simons teachings are so influential that Baptist historians have described history as divided into three periods, 'before Menno, under Menno and after Menno".  Menno was a protestant reformer like John Calvin. Menno advocated strict state/church separation.  In comparison to Calvin, Simons saw human perfectability as attainable after conversion while Calvin stressed an Augustinian theology of human depravity.
The Mennonite Brethren Church was established among Russian Mennonites in 1860.  They emphasized Christ as a personal saviour. Because of the Russian Revolution significant numbers of Mennonite Brethren moved to the United States, Canada, Paraguay and Mexico.  Currently there are 300,000 believers in congregations in more than 20 countries. The largest number are in India.
Bethany College in Saskatchewan is a major Mennnonite College developed in 1927.  It offers a bachelor of arts degree and bachelor of Christian Studies.
Columbia Bible College is a Mennonite Brethren Bible School with religious affiliation to Anabaptists and located in Abbotsford, British Columbia.  It offers a Bachelor of Arts program as well as 1 year and 2 year certificates in Christian Studies.
The Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg was the one I was familiar with because of the high standard of academic scholarship. It offered a Master of Arts in Theological Studies as well as Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Business Administration and Bachelor of Music.  Mennonites have been outstanding in musical endeavours.

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