Stuart Murray is part of a growing network of Anabaptist thinkers in the Post-Christendom era of the United Kingdom. Stuart’s own story of an Anabaptist in a Baptist church is an example of the new reality where Anabaptist thinking has seeped into mainstream church traditions. Christians from all denominations are taking on Anabaptist values and are fusing them with their own.
In this book, Stuart gets at the core convictions, principles and values of Anabaptists in his context. He longs to get at the essentials by studying the history of Anabaptism from the 16th century and how they (Mennonites, Hutterites and Amish) live today.
Stuart and the Anabaptist Network have worked out 7 core beliefs of Anabaptism from their context (p.45-46):
- Jesus is our example, teacher, friend, redeemer, and Lord. He is the source of our life, the central reference point for our faith and lifestyle, for our understanding of church, and our engagement with society. We are committed to following Jesus as well as worshipping him.
- Jesus is the focal point of God’s revelation. We are committed to a Jesus-centered approach to the Bible, and to the community of faith as the primary approach to the Bible, and to the community of faith as the primary context in which we read the Bible and discern and apply its implications for discipleship.
- Western culture is slowly emerging from the Christendom era, when church and state jointly presided over a society in which almost all were assumed to be Christian. Whatever its positive contributions on values and institutions, Christendom seriously distorted the gospel, marginalized Jesus, and has left the churches ill equipped for mission in a post-Christendom culture. As we reflect on this, we are committed to learning from the experience and perspectives of movements such as Anabaptism that rejected standard Christendom assumptions and pursued alternative ways of thinking and behaving.
- The frequent association of the church with status, wealth, and force is inappropriate for followers of Jesus and damages our witness. We are committed to exploring ways of being good news to the poor, powerless, and persecuted, aware that such discipleship may attract opposition, resulting in suffering and sometimes ultimately martyrdom.
- Churches are called to be committed communities of discipleship and mission, places of friendship, mutual accountability and multivoiced worship. As we eat together, sharing bread and wine, we sustain hope as we seek God’s loving kingdom together. We are committed to nurturing and developing such churches, in which young and old are valued, leadership is consultative, roles are related to gifts rather than gender, and baptism is for believers.
- Spirituality and economics are interconnected. In an individualist and consumerist culture and in a world where economic injustice is rife, we are committed to finding ways of living simply, sharing generously, caring for creation, and working for justice.
- Peace is at the heart of the gospel. As follows of Jesus in a divided and violent world, we are committed to finding nonviolent alternatives and to learning how to make peace between individuals within and among churches, in society, and between nations.
Stuart offers hope for the North American church, whose future in the Post-Christendom era seems as uncertain as ever. He does not minimize the limitations of Anabaptism, but allows these theological convictions to shine. It is easy to see how anyone, from any tradition, would be able to become Anabaptist.
“Sixteenth-century Anabaptists embraced a passionately Jesus-centered approach that impacted every aspect of discipleship.” (p.55)
“Lives of faithful discipleship were not a result of striving to earn their salvation, nor a cause for pride, but evidence that God was truly at work in them.” (p.58)
“…evangelism is much simpler than we think - telling the story of Jesus and letting him speak for himself.” (p.59-60)
“The association of the church with status, wealth, and force continues to alienate people from the gospel.” (p.86)
“Many leave their churches because the ‘fellowship’ on offer is insipid or institutional and falls far short of friendship.” (p.105)