Welcome to the third on-line issue of Mennonite Life. As before, we look forward to your feedback on this continuing experiment in Mennonite studies.

To what distinctive mission is God calling the Mennonites in the 21st century? What Anabaptist Vision can nurture and empower the church in our time?

On 15-18 June 2000, some one hundred persons gathered on the campus of Bethel College to wrestle with questions such as these. They were participants in a symposium entitled An Anabaptist Vision for the New Millennium: A Search for Identity. Sponsored by the Fransen Family Mennonite Foundation of Normal, Illinois, the symposium sought to bring together a broad spectrum of persons for whom the questions posed above matter -- persons from academia, persons from all business and professional walks, persons from the church, persons with a heart for the church. These participants worshiped together, dialogued together, struggled together in the search for an Anabaptist/Mennonite identity that would shape this people of God in the new millennium.

The symposium program included eight plenary sessions, twenty-eight presenters, eight worship services, and much discussion. The presenters included eleven professors (representing seven different Mennonite colleges and seminaries), six pastors, seven students, three church agency employees, and one businesswoman. They included an African Mennonite, an Asian Mennonite, an Hispanic Mennonite, and an African-American Mennonite. They included MCs, GCs, MBs, and one Kleine Gemeinde Mennonite. The worship sessions ranged from a capella four-part harmony, to praise songs, to jazz piano and saxophone, to liturgical movement with candles, to electric guitars. There were readings, reflections, even the sharing of phylacteries.

Clearly, this was no ordinary academic conference, with polished, carefully footnoted papers ready for publication in the proceedings of a scholarly conference. Of the twenty-eight presenters, twenty-six were limited to fifteen minute manifestos on their assigned topic. They were asked to prepare presentations designed to be heard, not read. From the very first manifesto to the last summary, however, the presentations were thoughtful, profound, passionate, and sometimes deeply moving. They generated a great deal of discussion, much laughter, and not a few tears. It was clear to us that this symposium was a gift to the church that must be more widely shared.

This issue of Mennonite Life is one way that sharing takes place. Presented here are the manifestos from three of the sessions at the symposium:

  • all four manifestos from the opening session on A Search for Identity
  • all four manifestos from the the session on Theology and Church
  • and two of the four manifestos from the session on Worship.

The authors prepared their manifestos for oral presentation. They have been edited only slightly for publication. To share the flavor of the original presentations, we include audio recordings (in mp3 format) for 3 of the manifestos:

(Unfortunately, we don’t have streaming audio capability yet.)

In addition to the ten manifestos presented here, the complete set of twenty-eight presentations will be published by Pandora Press, Waterloo, Ontario. The book will be titled Anabaptist Visions for the New Millenium: A Search for Identity, edited by Dale Schrag and James C. Juhnke.