I have been in conversation with an number of Neo-Anabaptists who are trying to make sense of who the Mennonites are; one of the groups originating in the Anabaptist movement from the 16th Century. One of the questions was about how leadership is/was chosen for local congregations. Since I grew up in the Mennonite Church, it got me to thinking how much the Mennonite church has changed since my childhood.
I decided to make a list of the all the changes I have noticed. I divided them into three sections, 1) Related to church life, 2) Related to public life and 3) Related to personal morality. If the item begins with a “no,” it means that many Mennonites now do these things. Just a few caveats. I avoid listing the changes in traditional dress codes and use of modern technology. I am listing these changes without commentary. I think some are good and some not so good. The changes probably all come from greater assimilation into the larger US American culture. Many who grew up in the Mennonite Church will have had different experiences from mine, depending on their conference and region. Some Mennonite groups still adhere to many of these principles.
Related to church life and organization
1. Paid leadership instead of volunteer
a. 4-year contracts instead of lifelong commitment
b. Chosen by search committee rather than by lot
c. Leadership from outside the congregation instead of from within
2. Footwashing at every communion service
3. A preparatory service before communion
4. Change from teaching on non-resistance to nonviolent resistance
5. No following of the lectionary for worship, no Advent or Lent emphases
Related to public life
1. No holding of a political office
2. No serving on a jury
3. No study of law
4. No voting
5. No joining of service clubs like Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Elks, etc.
Relating to personal morality
1. No purchasing of life insurance
2. No alcohol consumption
3. No wedding bands
4. No dancing
5. No participating in organized sports (unless church-related)
If you grew up Mennonite, you might have other non-dress and non-technology-related changes. What is missing on my list?
If you are a Neo-Anabaptist, you may be wondering about the rationale for some of these principles. What are your questions?