Formation théologique et identité anabaptiste
English version available
Mission has been central to the Anabaptist movement from its beginning in the sixteenth century to its global presence today. This engagement in God’s mission to and for the world continues to be facilitated by and stretched through dialogical missiological thinking and reflection. To these ends, Jamie Pitts and I as co-editors hope the relaunch of the journal Anabaptist Witness, previously known as Mission Focus, will drive the continuous evolution of the field of missiology, providing a place for a global Anabaptist and Mennonite dialogue on key issues facing the church in mission.
Mission Focus began in September of 1972 as a periodical edited by Wilbert Shenk at Mennonite Board of Missions. This brief mailer was sent out five times per year with a tagline that read, “For Mennonite mission leadership personnel. A new periodical.” Shenk’s first editorial named three reasons for the publication:
In 1979 the journal became a quarterly publication with the tagline, “Mission Focus: from a believers church perspective.” In 1993, Mission Focus transitioned to an annual publication under the auspices of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. Walter Sawatsky became editor in 1997.
With Sawatsky’s retirement in 2012, three agencies came together to discuss the renewal of Mission Focus, including Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Mennonite Church Canada, and Mennonite Mission Network. Jamie Pitts of AMBS and I were named co-editors in July of that year, tasked with the exciting work of leading this new partnership and the continuing transformation of Mission Focus. We are greatly assisted in our task by the six members of our editorial committee, which includes Malinda Berry, Steve Heinrichs, Matthew Krabill, SaeJin Lee, Gregory Rabus, and Isaac S. Villegas. We look forward to expanding global and organizational support and counsel in the years to come.
Sharing reflections, stories, and analysis of God’s redeeming and transforming work around the world, Anabaptist Witness will be published twice each year, in April and October. All content is now peer-reviewed and will be available freely online, as well as in print through Amazon. We hope to engage pastors and lay people, mission agency staff and workers, professors and students. The co-editors welcome written and other artistic contributions from all corners of the church that will help us explore the intersections of Anabaptism and mission. Calls for contributions will be circulated regularly and widely.
As we hope for this to be a global resource, we are exploring possibilities for publishing in multiple languages and providing translations online as resources allow. The lead article in this first issue was written and published in French, by Neal Blough, and an English translation is available on our website. We also hope for Spanish translations of some of our articles to be available online in the coming months. Many different country and ethnic perspectives are represented in this first issue, as well as a broad range of perspectives from Anabaptists of various denominational and organizational backgrounds.
This first issue explores Anabaptist and Mennonite identities — how they have evolved and how they might help us live into our communities and the work God calls us to. As an example, Blough challenges us in his article to find creative ways to teach and sustain an Anabaptist theological identity, one that is made real through daily discipleship and both passed on to our congregations as well as shared with other Christians. It is this shared identity as Anabaptists, he contends, that might hold us together through interchurch schisms, and allow dialogue with each other and the broader church.
Articulating what it means to be Anabaptist in Japan, Yoshihiro Kobayashi documents the motivations for writing the Hokkaido Confession of Faith and its implications for being faithful to the good news of Jesus Christ. He presents the confession as both a contextualization of what it means to be Anabaptist in Japan, and as a call to fellow Christians around the world to take seriously Jesus’ witness of radical inclusivity. These dynamics of articulating and contextualizing faith are continued in Evan Knappenberger’s article, in which he shares the newly released Shenandoah Confession. This confession was written by several young Anabaptists who participated in the Occupy Wall Street movement and were then challenged at the Intercollegiate Peace Meeting at Eastern Mennonite University to articulate their faith together.
While we explore new mission movements and the work of a younger generation, we intend to engage the writings and ministries of those who came before us. You will notice that there are several references in this issue to John Howard Yoder (1927–97), a Mennonite theologian whose work has been widely influential in Anabaptist and Mennonite missiology. We as co-editors affirm the need for critical scholarship on Yoder’s writings that takes account of his grievous sexual misconduct. As stated in our [Author Guidelines], we encourage the examination of normative theological claims in light of the lives of the persons or communities making them. We invite readers and contributors to help us discern the shape of responsible research and reflection on mission in the coming issues of Anabaptist Witness.
As missiology is cross-disciplinary in nature, this issue includes sermons, reflections on church planting, book reviews, and academic articles on theological education, theology, and history. This issue calls us to identify what our communities mean when we claim our Anabaptist identities. Furthermore, as in Ry Siggelkow’s article, it challenges us to go beyond reflection to renewed thinking that results in changed behavior, “living in expectancy of the coming of God’s kingdom.”
However you came across this renewed publication, I am glad it is in your hands or on your computer screen. Let us learn together as Anabaptists what it means to engage God’s mission and work in this world. On our website, you may read exclusive online content, sign up for emails, find calls for contributions, and see how you might further engage this resource.
Welcome to Anabaptist Witness.