For a recent conference at Wheaton College, the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals (ISAE) included Mennonites as one of the Christian "Confessional Traditions," along with the Lutherans, Catholics, Orthodox, Reformed/Presbyterians, and Episcopalians. Do Mennonites belong in such confessional company? Or has the Anabaptist/Mennonite tradition largely anti-confessional? Has the Anabaptist/Mennonite tradition served rather to undermine, rather than to support, commitment to traditional religious creeds and confessions?
As the theological forum in this issue illustrates, Mennonite scholars today passionately disagree over such questions. Ben Ollenburger, professor of biblical theology at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, originally presented the lead essay as one lecture in the annual Martin H. Schrag lectureship series last year at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. Ollenburger argues that Anabaptist convictions were "grounded in orthodox confession of the Triune God," a fact that modern Mennonites tend to obscure with their strong focus on ethics. Two of the scholars that Schrag critiques, J. Denny Weaver and Gerald Biesecker-Mast of Bluffton College, respond with spirited arguments for their viewpoints. Also joining the discussion are Duane Friesen and Brett Dewey of Bethel College. In the book review section, Mark Jantzen's review of Karl Koop's book on Anabaptist-Mennonite confessions addresses some of the same issues.
Julie Hart's essay in this issue narrates and analyzes an incident of conflict and reconciliation that arose from a public witness at the Shalom Mennonite Church in Newton, Kansas. The church's prophetic witness about the injustice of Israel's settlements on the West Bank of Palestine, as surely as about other controversial issues, can bring on stresses in the local community as well as in the congregation itself. Hart's essay records a case of unusually creative and successful conflict management.
Bradley Siebert's short story in this issue, "Boys' State Interview," recounts in fiction two situations that young Mennonite pacifists have often imagined. How would I explain my position to a skeptical board of inquiry? And what would I do if my mother or girl friend were violently attacked?
John Esau's "How My Mind Has Changed" essay in this issue continues a series that will continue in future issues of Mennonite Life.
Note: Bruce Leichty has offered several corrections to statements in Jim Juhnke's review of Ingrid Rimland's book Demon Doctor in the March 2005 issue of Mennonite Life. Leichty says Ernst Zundel was not "extradited" to Germany but was "deported illegally from the United States and subjected to a show trial in Canada, at the conclusion of which he was also deported from Canada, branded a racist and threat to Canada's national security."
Leichty also says that Zundel never sought United States citizenship. Nor has Leichty provided him with a "legal defense." However, Leichty does "now represent Ingrid and Ernst in a legal action they filed against the United States and its agents."