Menno Simons called his followers to
become conformed to the image of Christ. But Menno's
image of Christ was a spiritual ideal manifested in godly living. He did not find it in the paintings and stained glass of the old established churches. Anabaptists had a well-deserved reputation as iconoclasts—the smashers of images. Mennonites became a plain people.
In this issue we hear voices of a new Mennonite debate about the role of images. Some Mennonites today, weary of the austerity of plainness and sensing a need for an esthetically richer worship experience, call for liturgical renewal. Some look to Orthodox icons for inspiration. The Mennonite Church USA Historical Committee recently offered
Mennonite Icons for sale, beginning with images from the Martyrs Mirror redesigned in Eastern Orthodox style. That offering triggered controversy. Is the very notion of
Mennonite Icon an oxymoron? Does it insult Orthodoxy and compromise Mennonitism?
Don Lemons, physics professor at Bethel College, in his essay,
Icons for Mennonites, testifies to his own enrichment by Orthodox icons. The essay is an adaptation of a presentation at a Bethel chapel service. Lemons invites Mennonites to learn from the Orthodox tradition.
We invited six Mennonites from varying backgrounds and perspectives to respond to Lemons' essay. The responses by Jeff Gundy, Reinhild Kauenhoven Janzen, Phyllis Bixler, Lin Garber, Rosella Wiens Regier, and John M. Janzen illustrate an intense current interest in this topic.
As the above mix of Mennonite writers' and scholars' responses to a non-Mennonite scholar affiliated with a Mennonite institution suggests, this journal traces a variety of streams of thought flowing through Mennonite contexts and networks. For example, the next essay on Schumann offers a converse example: it is by a Mennonite faculty member of a Mennonite institution but concerns non-Mennonite subject matter.
J. D. Landis, author of a fictional biography of Robert Schumann, has said that Schumann was
the epitome of the Romantic composer-subjective, passionate, spontaneous, emotional, transcendent, even, and certainly insane. Karen Bauman Schlabaugh's essay in this issue on Schumann as a representative of
Progressive Romanticism, was first presented as a faculty seminar at Bethel College. Online publication allows us to offer Schlabaugh's analysis as well as her illustrative piano renditions of Schumann's compositions. [Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen circumstances, the audio files are not yet available. They will be posted as soon as possible. Please check back.]
This issue also includes two historical essays. Jim Juhnke's essay about his father as a youth leader in the Mennonite Western District Conference (1937-1944) is a version of one part of his history of the William and Meta Juhnke family. James Peter Regier's student essay on the troubled course of Prussian Mennonitism has had the distinction of winning three awards: the John Horsch Contest of the Mennonite Historical Committee; the Anabaptist Research Paper Competition for Undergraduates sponsored by the Sider Institute for Anabaptist, Pietist and Wesleyan Studies; and the Kansas History Teacher's Association 2004 student essay contest. Regier's paper is also available online at the Sider Institute site.
The book reviews in this issue, by Malinda Berry and J. R. Burkholder, address significant Mennonite contributions to ecumenical dialogue about violence and nonviolence.