Friday, October 23, 2009

Denominations and Limiting Jesus

Jeff Long posted: I used to think that Mennonites had a cultural identity problem because their name did not denote meaning, but only connoted it. I now realize that this is just as true for Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopals and Foursquare. Their names don't denote any meaning either. These titles only have meaning to their members.

I believe that for those who grew up in a denominationally affiliated church it has become a pseudo-ethnic identity for them. I believe that members make adult decisions to be Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutheran because they grew up that way and it is their heritage even though their individual beliefs and practices aren't consistent with Reformed, Wesleyan, or Anglican heritage and theology.

We have followed in the footsteps of Europe and slid into a post-denominational era.

This raises serious questions about the roles that identity, historical heritage and denominational affiliation will play in church planting, evangelizing and discipleship.

What will it take for us to be faithful to the Anabaptist and more specifically Mennonite tradition now that our denominational names are societally meaningless and not useful in naming our congregations.

My response:
We should never have been about being "Mennonite" or "Anabaptist". We should have always been followers of Jesus as Lord. This means, in a sense, re-inventing the wheel with every baptism. What following Jesus in my context will look different than yours, and a homeless follower's life will look differently than a doctor's. Why limit ourselves to denominational titles? That actually limits conversation, rather than encouraging it. We should have more discussions about how we specifically follow Jesus rather than putting ourselves in a denominational box that limits our following Jesus to a stereotype.

Yes, it is good to work together, and it is good to be in community. But should that community be limited along denominational lines? Denominational support has borders. Mennonite money is limited to Mennonite groups, even if solid Anabaptist work is being done among the Presbyterians, the Methodists or, God forbid, non-denominational groups. Why should we narrow our focus to only one group of followers of Jesus? Are we not ALL one?

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