If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away---Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Short Review of The Naked Anabaptist by Stuart Murray

Stuart Murray has written a significant introduction to the Anabaptist tradition stripped of the cultural and ethnic baggage associated with the groups descendant from the 16th century movement (Mennonites, Hutterites, Amish). Murray’s reflections on the Anabaptist tradition grow out of his work with the Anabaptist Network, begun in 1991 in the United Kingdom, which in turn emerged from the groundwork done by the London Mennonite Center. The Anabaptist Network affiliates with leaders and congregations, predominantly from other church traditions, who are interested in drawing from the wellspring of Anabaptist thought. This book emerged as a resource for answering many questions arising from those interested in the Anabaptist tradition.

The major chapters of the book present the essence of the Anabaptist tradition through reflections on seven core convictions, which are more contextual theology than doctrine. I can only briefly outline them: 1) Jesus is our example, teacher, friend, redeemer and Lord; 2) Jesus is the focal point of God’s revelation; 3) Western culture is slowly emerging from the Christendom era, which distorted the gospel; 4) The frequent association of the church with status, wealth, and force is inappropriate for followers of Jesus and damages our witness; 5) Churches are called to be committed communities of discipleship and mission, places of friendship, mutual accountability, and multivoiced worship; 6) Spirituality and economics are interconnected; 7) Peace is at the heart of the gospel. Also included is a chapter on Anabaptist history, a final chapter on the weaknesses and limitations of the Anabaptist tradition, resources, and a study guide.

As one who was first attracted to Anabaptism from outside its historic ethnic traditions, this book resonated with my own long held view that the Anabaptist tradition is a treasure for the post-Christendom church and for its ancestors who have often taken it for granted or who, like the biblical Jacob, have sold their “birthright” for a pot of Evangelical beans.

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