In the most recent edition of the Missio Dei series, titled “New Anabaptist Voices,” one writer asks the question, “Will Los Angeles be one of the new Anabaptist centers in the 21st century?”
The writer, Juan Francisco Martinez, an associate provost and director of the Hispanic Center at Fuller Theological Seminary, continues: “Listening to the Anabaptist story in places like Los Angeles is a great place to begin thinking about Anabaptist expressions and models of church for our context today … it challenges us ‘old’ Mennonites to discover the importance of retelling our story in the 21st century.”
Martinez is one of the seven essayists featured in the 27-page booklet aimed at giving voice to the rising tide of Anabaptists who have come to the faith as adults. Many of the writers are pastors of immigrant and ethnic-minority churches, which represent the growing edge of modern Anabaptism in the United States.
According to James Krabill, Mission Network’s senior executive for Global Ministries and Missio Dei editor, the members of these churches are helping Anabaptists all over the country understand their faith more deeply.
“These stories show that many immigrant churches have a deep understanding of what Anabaptism is,” Krabill says.
For example, Hyun and Sue Hur co-pastor a small Korean house church in Temple City, Calif., called Church for Others. They say in the book that they were drawn to Anabaptism because of the answers it provided to the most pressing challenges facing churches in the Korean homeland.
“Among (these concerns) are issues of nominalism, individualism, and conflict resolution,” they wrote. “The search for biblical answers to these concerns drew us to the Anabaptists.”
The Hurs also say that modern-day immigrants resonate with the story of the early Anabaptists, particularly the persecution the Anabaptists experienced.
“Although immigrants in the United States don’t experience persecution in quite the same way as the early Anabaptists, we can identify with the struggle of displacement and the need to depend on the hospitality of neighbors to survive the immigrant experience,” the Hurs write in the book.
A parallel southern California Anabaptist experience is that of Tommy Airey, who, along with Lindsay, his wife, was looking for a different expression of faith after becoming jaded by “the conservative evangelicalism we had grown up in.” It was through courses taught by Anabaptists at Fuller Seminary that they were turned on to Anabaptism.
“We became hooked on the disciple-making, simple-living, peace-loving, revolutionary-subordinating radical reformers,” he writes. “… We came to see this ‘minority report’ of the body of Christ as the most compelling brand of Christian faith available.”
Matthew Krabill and David Stutzman, both graduate students at Fuller Theological Seminary and the editors of the new issue, write that southern California, with its rich mix of cultures, is a microcosm for what is happening within the church around the world. Their experience with Anabaptists from many different backgrounds inspired this volume.
“We hope that these stories demonstrate new incarnations of Anabaptism and mission ways that point to the Spirit’s movement among people in the city,” Matthew Krabill said.
For Stutzman, the volume is personal.
“All of the contributors are people that we have gotten to know since moving to Los Angeles in 2006, so it was personally meaningful to see them be able to share their stories with the broader church, and also give expression to the dynamism of Anabaptism in the urban context,” he said.
Missio Dei is a resource published three times a year by Mennonite Mission Network. Its purpose is to invite reflection and dialogue about God’s mission in today’s world.
Those interested in using the resource in small-group or Sunday school discussion can order copies at the Menno Media website. It is also available free for download in English and Spanish at the Mission Network website. The issue comes with study questions to guide group discussions.
Ultimately, James Krabill said, the reflections in this booklet will aid churches in celebrating and sharing Anabaptism’s particular contribution to God’s work in the world.
“My hope is that this resource would motivate Mennonites to reach out to those who are broken and looking for community—that it would energize people to share with their friends and neighbors their life in this community and their life in Christ,” he said.
For immediate release.
Mennonite Mission Network, the mission agency of Mennonite Church USA, leads, mobilizes and equips the church to participate in holistic witness to Jesus Christ in a broken world. Media may contact Andrew Clouse at firstname.lastname@example.org, 574-523-3024 or 866-866-2872, ext. 23024.