Anabaptist Identities in a Changing World

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Anabaptist Identities in a Changing World

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:

  1. Controversy among Mennonites about the nature and purpose of mission;
  2. The need for critical analysis of new missionary endeavors; and
  3. The need to study the Bible, church, history, and current context to guide missionary work.

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.

Jamie Ross

Articles in this issue

Academic article by Neal Blough

Formation théologique et identité anabaptiste

English version available

Academic article by César García

A Vision for Global Mission amidst Shifting Realities

Academic article by Jason Greig

Striving towards Dependence

Academic article by Yoshihiro Kobayashi

The Hokkaido Confession of Faith and Mission in the Japanese Context

Reflection piece by Evan Knappenberger

The Shenandoah Confession

Interview by Carmen Andres

Evangelicalism, Anabaptism, and Being the Church in a Post-Christian Culture

Reflection piece by Robert Thiessen

Dignity in Cross-Cultural Relationships

Sermon by David Driedger

A Re-Opened Ending

Academic article by Ry O. Siggelkow

The Nothingness of the Church under the Cross

Academic article by César Moya

Mennonites and Theological Education among Indigenous Churches in Ecuador

Reflection piece by Sharon Norton

Belong, Believe, Behave

Reflection piece by Jeanne Jantzi

Taking the Longer View

Reflection piece by Walter Sawatsky

On the Way to Living Globally

Book review by Chris Lenshyn

Colin Godwin, “Baptizing, Gathering, and Sending: Anabaptist Mission in the Sixteenth-century Context”

Book review by David Driedger

John Howard Yoder, “Theology of Mission: A Believers Church Perspective”

Book review by Chris Sabas

J. Denny Weaver, “The Nonviolent God”

Book review by April Yamasaki

Willard M. Swartley, "Health, Healing, and the Church’s Mission: Biblical Perspectives and Moral Priorities"

Book review by Aaron Griffith

Mark R. Amstutz, “Evangelicals and American Foreign Policy”

Book review by Alain Epp Weaver

Kwok Pui-lan, “Globalization, Gender, and Peacebuilding: The Future of Interfaith Dialogue”

Academic article by Neal Blough

Theological Education and Anabaptist Identity

Exclusive online content
Version française disponible

Reflection piece by Jacob Landis

Putting Faith into Words

Exclusive online content

Reflection piece by Stuart Murray Williams

Urban Expression

Exclusive online content