With vigor and forthrightness sociologist Calvin W. Redekop analyzes the socioreligious and historical factors that turned the group most commonly known as Evangelical Mennonite Brethren into reluctant Mennonites.
Sensitive to the complicated reasons that lead a denomination down a given path, he probes the identity conflict and confusion that brought about the separation of the EMBC from Anabaptist teachings.
The deep desire of the original founders for revival and renewal coupled with a life of discipleship was carried across the ocean from Russia to the United States and Canada. Here it slowly yielded to the evangelical/fundamentalist movement sweeping the country and making the evangelistic/missions thrust most important.
The EMBC lacked a clear theology of church. Without a critical mass to develop its own institutions, leaders were trained in various schools. Missionaries were sent out under a large number of societies.
Small overtures were made in the early years to merge with the (Old) Mennonite Church and the Evangelical Mennonite Conference (Defenceless Mennonites), but always there was a hesitancy about the Mennonite connection.
When the hoped-for-growth did not occur, Mennonite ethnicity became the scapegoat. The EMBC separated from Mennonite Central Committee. The fragile identity of the group was further weakened by changes in name. The church removed "Mennonite" from its official name, convinced that ethnic and cultural factors deterred evangelism. Today it is known as the Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches. Membership is declining.
writing is a challenge to church bodies who feel
rejection of Anabaptist/Mennonite teachings is essential
for growth. It shows that a strong self-conscious
identity is essential to forward movement.
This book is a fascinating mixture of
historical narrative, sociological analysis, and moral
passion. Through it runs a theme of irony and a sober
warning. Redekop's story of the Evangelical Mennonite
Brethren shows that church revitalization can come at the
high cost of losing original core values.
While the Fellowship of Evangelical Bible
Churches is a tiny denomination, in Calvin Redekop's
masterful treatment the story of how and why this group
abandoned its Anabaptist commitments becomes a valuable
case study of small reform movements that lose their way
while seeking to survive in the marketplace of American
religion. In the process, Redekop provides much evidence
of both the rich diversity of religious life in the
United States and the power and appeal of American
Leaving Anabaptism orders:
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