STOCKHOLM, Sweden (Mennonite Mission Network) -- As Anabaptists in a country without an historic Anabaptist presence, how do you find a community that is essential to practicing your faith? In December 2009, a group of about 40 people gathered in Stockholm, Sweden to work at answering that question and to participate in the first physical gathering of the Scandinavian Anabaptist Network. This newest network is one of several that have sprouted across the globe as Anabaptist Christians seek support and fellowship with others who share their convictions.
“Anabaptist networks are appearing in other parts of the world and have potential to be significant grassroots kingdom movements,” wrote Tim Foley, Mennonite Mission Network’s director for Europe. “These networks are an effective way (with a minimum of overhead) to resource Christians who have discovered Anabaptism to be crucial for their understanding of discipleship and mission.”
Tom and Disa Rutschman, Mission Network partners in Jokkmokk, Sweden, participated in the Scandinavian network meeting, which included authors, peace activists, theology students and seminary professors, all of whom are interested in the radical nature of Anabaptist faith expressions. Margot and Stephen Longley, who partner with Mission Network in Finland, also attended.
The fledgling Scandinavian network invited Stuart Murray Williams to speak at their first official gathering. Murray is active in the Anabaptist Network in the United Kingdom, a partner organization with Mennonite Mission Network. His presentations to the Scandinavian Anabaptist Network were focused on the nature of post-Christendom, mission in post-Christendom and the core convictions of the U.K. Anabaptist network.
Arne Rasmusson, the noted Swedish Anabaptist theologian, attended the meetings and reflected on Murray’s words. “Something like the diaspora ecclesiology of [John Howard] Yoder, though it may take different forms, seems necessary for a church that wants a measure of freedom from its bondage to Christendom,” he said.
In addition to speaking, Murray also led seminars with local church planters, reported Jonas Melin, the current network organizer.
“Stuart Murray taught on church planting in practice,” wrote Melin in his blog. “He went through twelve different models, and looked at the strengths and weaknesses of different models, giving concrete examples and practical tips. Many testified that they recognized themselves, had ‘aha experiences’ and helped each other to move forward.”
For the Rutchmans, the meeting provides a new way to connect and build a virtual community.
“This is an exciting development,” wrote Tom Rutschman. “Mainly we will meet via computer, even though there will be occasional gatherings. The feeling of the group is that there needs to be Anabaptist literature written in Swedish; right now we are working on formulating our core convictions.”