ELKHART, Indiana (Mennonite Mission Network) – Three authors with connections to the Paris Mennonite Center in France had books published in 2017. These publications contribute to the ministry of increasing materials available to the more than 230,000 French-speaking Anabaptists who desire to deepen understanding of their faith. [See associated story on the creation of the French-language online Anabaptist seminary.]
Anne-Cathy Graber, an associate staff member of the Paris Mennonite Center, is an itinerant Mennonite pastor and participant in Chemin Neuf, an ecumenical Catholic community. Graber published her doctoral dissertation, Mary, in which she compares Pope Jean-Paul II's treatise, Redemptoris Mater, with Martin Luther's commentary on Mary's Magnificat. In addition to the Catholic-Lutheran dialogue, Graber also includes Baptist and Pentecostal voices. When asked in an interview why a Mennonite did her doctoral dissertation on Mary, Graber said she wanted to expand our understanding of the salvation.
"Systematic theology is usually abstract and the links with daily life aren't very clear," Graber said. "Mary is very concrete. I discovered how salvation isn't only at the cross, but in the incarnation. It is wonderful good news that God chose a woman; God wasn't afraid of bodies."
Neal Blough, presently working at the Paris Mennonite Center, has served with Mennonite Mission Network since 1975. Blough wrote Les révoltés de l'Évangile [Gospel Rebels] about Balthasar Hubmaier and the origins of Anabaptism. The book traces the development of Swiss Anabaptism through the narrative of Hubmaier's career. As a Catholic priest and theologian, Hubmaier was attracted to the Zwinglian Reformation, then became part of the Peasant's Revolt before playing an important role in the birth of Anabaptism. Hubmaier did not agree with the nonviolent position adopted at Schleitheim in 1527.
In De l'esprit au salut [From the Spirit to Salvation], Denis Kennel's published doctoral dissertation compares two 16th-century Anabaptists, Hubmaier and Pilgram Marpeck. Kennel maintains that these two theologians portray a more "optimistic" view of the human condition than most reformers did and, thus, introduced the relationship between God's grace and human responsibility into Reformation theology. Kennel is a Mennonite pastor and the director of the French language department of the Bienenberg seminary in Switzerland. He is also chair of the Paris Mennonite Center board.
"It is significant that all three books were published by Les editions du Cerf, a Catholic publishing house," Blough said.
That French Catholics are paying attention to Mennonite authors is a new phenomenon, Blough said. He attributes this to the quality and quantity of previous Mennonite writings in the French language.
An example of the work mentioned by Blough is a series on Anabaptist history and theology (Perspectives anabaptistes), which has published 20 titles.