What does it mean when Mennonite Brethren say we are evangelical and Anabaptist? At the recent Southern District Conference convention, several speakers addressed this important question. It’s good to remind ourselves what this means since today many use the term “evangelical” as a definition of a political group, those who hold to certain political principles. But that’s not how we desire to use this word.
So, for us, what is evangelicalism? A major tenet is the belief in being “born again” or becoming a redeemed, regenerated child of God through faith in Jesus and what he accomplished at the cross and upon his dynamic resurrection. We believe this redemption is a gift of God’s grace. It means there has been true repentance and belief. We become new creations through Jesus.
We believe in spreading the gospel message to unbelievers. In today’s evangelical churches there is often a significant emphasis on spreading the gospel through mission work globally and domestically. We Mennonite Brethren have this strong missional focus.
Evangelicals believe Jesus will return. Although there are different interpretations of when and how this will occur, we believe in a triumphant return of Jesus.
Another core belief is a high regard for the Bible. As evangelical Christians, we believe in the Bible as the infallible word of God, and that it is the final authority for Christians.
In the booklet, “What is an Anabaptist Christian?” Palmer Becker says that Anabaptist is an invented name meaning “re-baptizers.” It was given to 16th century Christians who saw little value in the practice of infant baptism and adhered to adult baptism upon confession of faith.
Anabaptist Christians hold many beliefs in common with other believers. We believe in the triune God who is both holy and gracious, the humanity and divinity of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit and the church as the body of Christ.
What are the “sacred” core values of Anabaptist Christians? That Jesus is the center of our faith, community is the center of our lives and reconciliation is the center of our work. We have an ethic of love and value peacemaking.
Jesus is the center of our faith: This means being a Spirit-filled person who is obeying Jesus in daily life and being transformed to become Christ-like in daily attitudes and lifestyles. In addition, the Bible is interpreted from a Christ-centered point of view. We see Jesus as the final authority for faith and life.
Community is the center of our lives: The early Anabaptists’ strong sense of belonging to Jesus and their loyal support of each other helped them to live devoted ethical lives in the context of a hostile world. In today’s world, Christians with an Anabaptist perspective understand that forgiveness is essential for community.
Confession and forgiveness remove the barriers that prevent fellowship with God and with each other, and Scripture is interpreted within the context of community.
Reconciliation is the center of our work: We believe that Jesus came to reconcile all those who would respond to God and to each other. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught his disciples that peace and justice come through loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you.
This means we believe that we are to help reconcile people to God and to take the initiative to do our part in reconciling others to him. In addition, we are to help reconcile people to each other. Reconciling people not only to God but also to each other is at the center of our work, and forgiveness removes the walls of offense.
Partaking in the Lord’s Supper together becomes a fellowship experience made possible by the forgiveness that we have received from God and each other.
Much more could be said, but basically this is who we claim to be as evangelical/Anabaptists. Is this the way we are living?
Don Morris is the USMB national director. He and his wife, Janna, live in Edmond, Oklahoma, where they attend Cross Timbers Church.