The Global Mennonite History Project
The Global Mennonite History Project (GMHP) was established by Mennonite World Conference (MWC) at its 13th Assembly held in Calcutta, India, January 1997. Shortly thereafter a coordinator and an Organizing Committee were named (see below). The reports of the coordinator to the Organizing Committee and to the Executive Committee of MWC have addressed the questions of purpose and style as well as preliminary publication data. This report is based on discussions at the Writers Workshop held in Fredeshiem, Netherlands, October 25 to November 2, 2000. As the project progresses there will be further extension and refinement. Responses to this report will be appreciated.
Purpose and Goals
At Fredeshiem we put it this way: "The purpose of the GMHP is to tell the story of Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches and in their regional and global relationships with the goal of nurturing a sense of belonging together, promoting mutual understanding, and stimulating the renewal and extension of Anabaptist Christianity world wide."
In order to achieve this high goal the GMHP will produce a five volume history of the worldwide Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches. These volumes, one for each continent, will concentrate on the period since 1850 and will be written by persons from the respective continents. Each volume will emphasize the following:
1. The development of the church: beginnings, organization, critical moments/events, leading personalities, institutions.
2. The context of the church: social, religious, political, cultural, languages, and changes in the course of her history.
3. The character of the church: theological emphases, worship patterns, preaching styles, hymnody, nurture program, sense of mission, vision for her future, relationships with the denomination and other groups.
Some of the questions authors will address:
1. How has the church been an expression of "good news"?
2. How does the church demonstrate an Anabaptist/Brethren in Christ/Mennonite identity?
We want these volumes to be written in such a compelling fashion that each will be considered required reading by both lay and commissioned leaders locally and in the world-wide church.
At a number of meetings with writers individually and again at Fredeshiem, we explored what themes ought to permeate these volumes. Each volume will have its own character and will emphasize themes most germane to that situation. Many of these themes are more specific than that noted above:
1. Ethnicity, class, caste, minorities.
2. Family, gender roles, children.
3. Social violence and war.
4. Conflicts and tensions in the church.
5. Relationships with government, participation in government and political movements.
6. Bibles, translation, other literature.
7. Education and leadership training.
8. Styles of leadership.
9. Church finances.
10. Militarism, conscription, conscientious objection to war.
11. Poverty, affluence.
12. Employment, unemployment.
13. Church discipline.
14. Church architecture.
15. Public perceptions and status of the church.
1. These volumes will deal with the historical period since 1850. The focus will be the church rather than missionary experience.
2. The end product must be useful to the churches particularly for leadership training.
3. Writers will be in tune with the church with an appreciation and understanding of the Anabaptist tradition of faith and practice.
4. Writers will recognize the need for humility in coping with diverse expressions of the faith amidst profound cultural differences.
5. The Anabaptist tradition and movement will be seen as part of the larger Christian movement noting the deep interdependence.
6. These volumes will accent relationships and solidarity among the Mennonite-Brethren in Christ family of churches.
7. These volumes will be based on fresh empirical research, much of it based on oral sources, as well as utilizing relevant published material.
8. As first time histories, these volumes cannot be assumed to be definitive but we hope they can provide a base line for further research and revision.
9. There will be a degree of critical analysis, observing change, success, failure in the lives of the churches.
10. There will be a frank recognition of the need to redress the balance in conventional church history by emphasizing the local and regional character of churches in Africa, Asia, Latin America.
11. During the process of writing, each writer and the local conferences will seize the opportunity to develop an archive of materials for this and subsequent research.
12. Writers are encouraged to recover as many stories as possible in the history of the churches and to use these as a base for their writing.
13. As historians of the church we are eager to have the support of the church through careful and critical reading of each manuscript. Readers will be both church leaders and regional church historians.
14. The current timetable which appears feasible is to have the volumes on Africa and Latin America completed (printed, translated) in 2003, Asia in 2004, and (hopefully) Europe and North America in 2005. Writers for Africa, Asia, and Latin America are presently at work on these volumes
While this project is sponsored by Mennonite World Conference, it has been clear from its establishment that the project has to develop its own funding base. Even at this point it is not clear what the final needs will be. In order to raise funds with some integrity, we developed a few guidelines:
1. Each major writer will be guaranteed a salary for one year at appropriate local salary levels.
2. All expenses of the writers will be covered: travel, secretarial, a laptop computer, camera, hand-held tape recorder, supplies, etc.
3. The project would provide editing and translating for each volume. The project will translate each volume into English, French, and Spanish. Other translations will have to be done by the local church.
4. Each volume should be of a size useful for teaching purposes, hence about 300 pages. There will be photos, bibliography, appendixes, and an index.
5. The administration of the project should be by volunteer staff. The work of the Organizing Committee will be done by e-mail, telephone, and where travel becomes necessary, funded if at all possible by other sources.
6. Priority will be given to the Africa, Asia, and Latin America volumes. Europe and North America can be delayed if necessary. (At Fredeshiem the decision was made to go forward with the Europe and North America volumes. )
We have been envisioning a total project budget of at least $400,000. It is now clear that we will need $300,000 for the Africa, Asia and Latin America volumes. This will cover personnel costs, travel, equipment, secretarial, translation, editing, publication. At this time, November 2000, we have raised or have commitments of $260,000. We need $40,000 more to complete the first three volumes and substantially more than the envisioned $400,000 to complete all five volumes.
In addition to individual contributions, a number of agencies have made significant contributions. These include Mennonite Central Committee, MMA Fraternal Funds, United Service Foundation, Algemene Doopsgezinde Societeit (Dutch Mennonites), Mennonite Historical Society (Goshen), Mennonite Foundation Canada, Goodville Mutual Insurance Co., and a number of Mennonite Historical societies.
Special recognition should be given the ADS (Dutch Mennonites) and Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary who have or will sponsor workshops for the writers. Their substantial grants covering both travel and hospitality are in addition to the project budget.
The project continues to need funds. We invite large and small contributions which should be sent to a MWC office.
Inquiries regarding this project should be sent to the Coordinator: John A. Lapp, 13 Knollwood Drive, Akron, PA 17501, USA (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: 717-859-4412). Contributions should be sent to Mennonite World Conference, 50 Kent Ave., Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N263R1 (or to) MWC, 8, rue du Fosse des Treize, 6700 Strasbourg, France.