Why are we “Mennonite Brethren” so afraid or ashamed of our denominational name? Is there something traumatic or otherwise negative about “Mennonite”? This name issue started many years ago when, as a kid, I recall my parents and their friends and relatives talking about MB churches changing their names to “Bible” or “Community” church. The question being discussed was if they should be kicked out of the conference.
Those churches still carry those names some six or seven decades later, with fewer members now than then; others gone from the scene, somewhat defeating the theory that it is our name that damages our image and makes growth difficult. Now, churches retaining “Mennonite Brethren” in their local church name are in the minority within the conference and now our conference related agencies also feel the need to get on the bandwagon.
Some years ago, Mennonite Brethren Homes where I now reside became Palm Village. Mennonite Mutual Aid later became “Everence,” a word that my computer spell check still indicates as being misspelled. Recently MB Mission felt it was time again for yet another name change, this time, completely eliminating denominational identity from its new name, “Multiply”. There is discussion in the political world about “identity politics” while we “Mennonite Brethren” work diligently to eliminate our identity.
There’s nothing sacrosanct about the words “Mennonite” or “Brethren” but the words “Everence” and “Multiply” also have no “sacred” definition. Are these Mennonite/Mennonite Brethren agency name changes an indication that we are headed for a denominational name change? Several of our “sister” conferences have already taken this kind of action. Evangelical Mennonite Brethren became Evangelical Bible Church; Mennonite Brethren in Christ became Missionary Church. Are we next? Do we care? Will it make us better in what we’re about?
It seems we are spending much of our time and effort trying to think of the most eye catching or unique sounding names for our churches and conference ministries and what roles men and/or women can, cannot and/or should or should not play, instead of concentrating our time and effort on what God has actually called us to be about.
This article has been posted by Christian Leader staff. The Christian Leader is the magazine of U.S. Mennonite Brethren.