Stories: How Mennonites Came to Be

Stories: How Mennonites Came to Be
by John D. Roth, Herald Press, 2006.
Find this book here.

If you want a short, non-textbook, easy-to-read summary of the Anabaptist faith tradition, this would be a good choice. John D. Roth does a great job of sharing this powerful story of faith, conviction and God’s faithfulness.

It was very interesting to read about the different areas and times when Anabaptist groups were formed. Mennonites, Amish, and Hutterites all have similar origins in the 16th century radical reformation. But Roth begins at the beginning, tracing the global church story of conflict and renewal.

As he begins his book, Roth confesses the limitations of story as a medium. He states three of his assumptions as he writes:

  1. History matters
  2. We remember selectively
  3. We can learn from conflict 

Roth takes this story into the present day and examines the work of Anabaptists around the world and how the church has grown in places like Africa which is now home to more Mennonites than North America. He also spends a chapter on current relations between Mennonites and other Christian traditions.

It is clear that the Mennonite story is one of struggle and living life on the margins. Although most North American Mennonites are no longer persecuted as their ancestors were, Mennonites in the global south are facing those challenges everyday. We have much to learn from our brothers and sisters, those who lived before us and those with whom we commune today.

Notable Quotes:

“I write this book because I am deeply committed to the health, well-being, and ongoing renewal of the Anabaptist-Mennonite church. Yet I am keenly aware that Mennonite history cannot be read in isolation from the history of the broader church. Clearly ours is not the only story of Christian faithfulness.” (p.19)

“So questions for North American Mennonites inevitably arise. As citizens of wealthy and powerful nations, what responsibility do they bear to brothers and sisters in the church who live in great need? And how might those Mennonites in relatively poor countries share their gifts with those from more affluent regions?” (p.206)