Posts Tagged Gary Bryson

Why I Am An Anabaptist – Part 12

Posted by on Friday, 9 March, 2012

Gary Bryson hosts a program about anabaptism on ABC Radio National called “The Anabaptist Vision“…

[Part 12 of a 12-part series]

Show: ABC Radio National
Full Podcast: The Anabaptist Vision
Date: 6/17/07
Host: Gary Bryson
Guests: Jarrod McKenna, John Hirt, and Thorwald Lorenzen

 

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Transcript:

Jarrod McKenna: What does it mean that we’re living in an age where Christianity is no longer the dominant religion? And while some are lamenting that, saying ‘That’s awful, and don’t you realise that this is a Christian country and that’s why only Christians should be welcome here?’ Some of us are saying, ‘Hang on a sec., maybe we were never supposed to be in control. Maybe that was never our role.’ It’s certainly not what Jesus called us to and maybe instead of responding to refugees by this kind of Christendom lens which says, we’re in control, we’ve got to make sure history turns out right, responding in a way which is faithful to Jesus, where we welcome the stranger, we welcome the outcast, we welcome the refugee, but not just the refugee, that we respond personally to those issues.

Gary Bryson: Jarrod McKenna. Anabaptism it seems, not only resonates with contemporary concerns of peace and justice, but offers Christians of all denominations an opportunity to centre their faith in openness and tolerance towards others. It’s a great testament to the Anabaptist confession of faith, that despite many years of cruel persecution and withdrawal, tolerance remains one of their greatest legacies. Final words on this Encounter from John Hirt and Thorwald Lorenzen.

John Hirt: What can we learn from the Anabaptist tradition as a third way today with regard to the way that the world is run? The Anabaptists were also about reconciliation. They wanted people to be reconciled to each other. Obviously for them in the beginning, this was necessary because they were getting slaughtered all over the place without a chance to express their loyalty to the things that are good and right within any given state, and so they wanted people to talk and to converse and the Swiss even say that much of their great democracy, their confederation of democracy is owed to Anabaptist beginnings. If we’re about reconciliation, then we cannot be about viewing hatred and enmity as the form of social orthodoxy, the way in which much of the world seems to be divided today, it’s us and them. [But] not according to the New Testament, not according to the Anabaptists. We are the people among whom Christ has come to reconcile us all to God. Ephesians Chapter 1, Verse 10. In the fullness of time to bring all things into unity. This is one of the texts that they love. So the way that Anabaptist theology would play out in the world today in its non-violence, it would be, how can we be reconciled to each other and how can we not begin by hating the other, or making the other into someone who is differentiated by me in terms of, they’re the evil empire, they’re the other. No, no, no, this person is my brother, this person is my sister. The Anabaptist line, ‘I would die for the right for a Jew to be a Jew or for a Turk to be a Turk’. You can’t have that kind of notion in your head and go and want to rape and plunder and declare war on someone, it’s just against the whole tradition.

Thorwald Lorenzen: Where do we see the presence of Christ today? And here the Anabaptists would say, we see it first of all in our conscience, in our commitment of faith. Then we see it in the community, and then the community needs to be open in love and compassion and mission. And therefore, our commitment to each other, our commitment to Christ, naturally flows into a commitment for peace and justice in the world. But on the other hand we have to realise we cannot simply copy what they did in the 16th century to our century. We should not use radical in the sense that we need to be different, we need to be faithful to what we have committed our conscience to. And that makes us committed at the centre, but very open and accepting at the margin.

Why I Am An Anabaptist – Part 11

Posted by on Friday, 9 March, 2012

Gary Bryson hosts a program about anabaptism on ABC Radio National called “The Anabaptist Vision“…

[Part 11 of a 12-part series]

Show: ABC Radio National
Full Podcast: The Anabaptist Vision
Date: 6/17/07
Host: Gary Bryson
Guests: Jarrod McKenna and Chris Marshall

 

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Transcript:

Jarrod McKenna: Since the Constantinian shift in the church there has been a change in Christians’ thinking where they think that the role of the Christian in the world, be it George Bush or Tony Blair or whoever else, has been, Christians should rule, Christians should be in charge, we’re the good guys. And that’s completely foreign to the early Christians and to the Anabaptists as well. They would say that our role is not to rule the world but to be a lived-in community, a sign of a world transformed. So that’s a fascinating model. How do we stay in these places which are clearly not transformed, which clearly participate in oppression and a destruction of creation? How do we stay in those places without participating in them ourselves, even if it means we become wedged between these two worlds? These are practical nitty-gritty issues of day-to-day living that we talk about, and we discern the Spirit’s movement as communities. This has been the witness of Anabaptism, the witness of the early Friends, Quakers, the witness of the early church. And also you find it in places like the Base communities of the Catholic liberation theology on the ground level where people are opening up the scriptures and going ‘How do we live this out? What does that look like in our situations of day-to-day life’?

Gary Bryson: Jarrod McKenna, one of the founders of the Peace Tree Christian Commune in Perth, and also the founder and creative director of ‘Empowering Peacemakers in Your Community’.

The Anabaptist focus on post-Christendom poses a particular problem for mainstream Christianity. If Christianity is indeed no longer at the centre of power, should it continue to behave as though it is, or should it be reconceived, in Anabaptist terms, as a church that operates at the margins? Chris Marshall.

Chris Marshall: In many ways Anabaptism is an idea that’s found its day. I mean if you think, what is the contemporary context of the church at this time of history in Australia and New Zealand? What is the world that we live in? Well it’s one that’s characterised I think by the demise of Christendom. Now after a 1500 year period where it was assumed that the church, state and the culture were all part of the same mix, and that one was a Christian by virtue of belonging to a Western European Christian society – that’s what we mean by Christendom – but that really has unravelled and has pretty well disappeared, certainly in the Western world. And churches that have for 1500 years assumed that reality are kind of left, spinning really, to know quite what it means to be church now in this new world. And a tradition that has always emphasised voluntary commitment and nonconformity has something to say to us in that context.

We’re also in a context of growing secularisation, certainly at an institutional level in society, of growing pluralism, in terms of religious beliefs and practices, and I think in this kind of confusing pluralist relativist, secularist world that we live in where the church has been pushed to the fringes, many people are rediscovering, I think, the Anabaptist ideal of dissident communities of faith who commend the gospel to society by lifestyle as much as by theory, a lifestyle that is committed to non-violence, to justice, to peacemaking, to sharing and so on.

Why I Am An Anabaptist – Part 10

Posted by on Friday, 9 March, 2012

Gary Bryson hosts a program about anabaptism on ABC Radio National called “The Anabaptist Vision“…

[Part 10 of a 12-part series]

Show: ABC Radio National
Full Podcast: The Anabaptist Vision
Date: 6/17/07
Host: Gary Bryson
Guest: Jarrod McKenna

 

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Transcript:

Gary Bryson: Jarrod McKenna is a young Christian activist involved in peace and social justice issues. He is one of the founders of the Peace Tree Christian Commune in Perth, and also the founder and creative director of ‘Empowering Peacemakers in Your Community’, or EPYC, an organisation which runs non-violence training programs for young people. For his work with EPYC, Jarrod was awarded last year’s Donald Groom Peace Prize.

He’s inspired, he says, by Anabaptist ideals.

Jarrod McKenna: Out of that has come lots of crazy adventures. I’ve been at Pine Gap, the US military base 20 kilometres outside of Alice Springs to being roughed up by police on national TV to my mum’s horror at Baxter Detention Centre, to being part of the catalyst for a Christian community in one of my neighbourhood’s lowest socioeconomic areas, to doing the work I do with young people.

Gary Bryson: It’s fair to say that you’re part of a group of very radicalised young Christians who are taking on issues of peace and non-violence in the much more engaged ways than perhaps we’ve seen in the last few years.

Jarrod McKenna: Yes, I think for us that has come out of not thinking of these things in terms of issues but thinking about it narratively in terms of what is it for us to be submerged, or baptised, as the Anabaptists would talk of in this narrative of this Jesus, this Jesus who turns over tables, this Jesus who preaches love of enemies, not bombing our enemies. And out of that has come this life; we’re daring to imagine a world transformed.

Gary Bryson: How do you understand the notion of discipleship today?

Jarrod McKenna: Discipleship for the early Christians and discipleship I think for this emerging church movement, which is drawing on Anabaptism, is about what it is to follow Jesus in ways that are empowering and life-giving, ways that speak of a world transformed, where we see in our lives as communities, what a world would look like turned upside down, what would a world look like where instead of power being understood as something which we lorded over them, as Jesus put it, but again, I think the Spirit is speaking a word to the church, in the world that this time in history that says, ‘Not so with you”, not so in terms of power being simply about oppressing others in terms of manipulating others, in terms of coercion, but this power that we see revealed in the resurrection of Jesus, this non-violent power that this new world has actually, this new creation has begun.

Gary Bryson: So what does an Anabaptist-inspired community look like to you?

Jarrod McKenna: For us, an Anabaptist-inspired community is a community that is drawing on the Anabaptist tradition, looks like living in communities together where no-one is in need, where we’re able to provide an economic alternative to the economics of greed and scarcity that surround us and the rest of society, and out of that, a generosity that with experience from God can actually provide for others as well in housing the homeless, in providing a place to stay for people who otherwise wouldn’t have a place to stay. In terms of growing our own food, in terms of living on the land in such a way where eco-spirituality no longer becomes an abstract but becomes a daily practice, of no longer simply trusting on the empire to provide our daily bread but what is it to seek our daily bread in ways that don’t participate in the oppression of other people around the world. So linking together, seeking alternatives, just very, very ordinary and yet very rare and special.

Why I Am An Anabaptist – Part 9

Posted by on Wednesday, 7 March, 2012

Gary Bryson hosts a program about anabaptism on ABC Radio National called “The Anabaptist Vision“…

[Part 9 of a 12-part series]

Show: ABC Radio National
Full Podcast: The Anabaptist Vision
Date: 6/17/07
Host: Gary Bryson
Guests: Mark Hurst, Chris Marshall, and Jarrod McKenna

 

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Transcript:

Gary Bryson: Anabaptism is most prevalent today in North America, where the Mennonites in particular form strong church communities. But in Australia and New Zealand this kind of denominational Anabaptism is practically non-existent. What does exist in our region is a growing awareness of Anabaptist principles amongst Christians from many different traditions. As a pastoral worker for the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand, Mark Hurst is actively working towards this goal.

Mark Hurst: If we go back historically, the church denominations that came to Australia and New Zealand came out of Britain, and there were no Anabaptist churches in Britain at the time of settlement in Australia and New Zealand. So historically, there are no Anabaptist denominations in Australia-New Zealand. So it’s a fairly new idea. When my wife and I came to Australia in 1990, we were sent by a Mennonite mission board, and there were some people in Sydney that wanted to start a Mennonite church, but we started meeting people all across the country who said ‘We don’t necessarily need another denomination in Australia, but we are interested in this movement, this Anabaptist movement, and what it’s about. And ever since then, even in our literature, we talk about, ‘it’s not another denomination’. In some ways we are trying to influence the broader church in Australia and New Zealand in an Anabaptist way, bringing the Anabaptist perspective into the broader church scene.

Gary Bryson: Is it possible in essence to be Anglican and Anabaptist or even Catholic and Anabaptist?

Chris Marshall: I don’t only think it’s possible, I think it’s desirable, [though] I wouldn’t want to be heard at any point to be saying that only the Anabaptists have true Christianity, or that the mainstream traditions have somehow completely lost the plot and we have nothing to learn from them. It is, I think, as you said, a set of ideas, a set of commitments, a set of priorities, a set of instincts almost, that can work itself out in almost any tradition. I think it’s certainly possible for these Anabaptist convictions to express themselves in a Presbyterian and an Anglican and a Catholic and for that matter, Baptist world. What I find is that people come to these sort of commitments or conclusions quite independently of any knowledge of Anabaptism. They come to them just in virtue of their own growth and journey and reading and study and so on. And then they discover there’s been a tradition around for the last 500 years that has said this sort of thing. And one of the common – in fact I’ve used it on myself before I realised this was quite common – for people from a non-Anabaptist background, which is everybody in our part of the world really, who discover Anabaptism, they feel like they’ve come home. The metaphor of coming home, of feeling that what I have come to believe as the essence of Christian commitment, there’s actually been people saying this for a long time, there’s a label I can hang on my convictions.

Jarrod McKenna: This whole journey has got to do with my introduction to the Anabaptist tradition and how it kind of solidified a lot of things which used to be tensions for me.

Why I Am An Anabaptist – Part 8

Posted by on Tuesday, 6 March, 2012

Gary Bryson hosts a program about anabaptism on ABC Radio National called “The Anabaptist Vision“…

[Part 8 of a 12-part series]

Show: ABC Radio National
Full Podcast: The Anabaptist Vision
Date: 6/17/07
Host: Gary Bryson
Guests: Mark Hurst, Chris Marshall, and John Hirt

 

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Transcript:

Gary Bryson: The over-riding authority then for Anabaptists was and is the New Testament. All scripture is interpreted according to the teachings of Jesus Christ as they understand them. Perhaps the most important consequence of this is a fervent commitment to non-violence.

Peacemaking was and is in many ways one of the more radical expressions of Anabaptism, isn’t it, and it’s also one of the most controversial, and one of the other reasons that people were persecuted?

Mark Hurst: Yes. The Anabaptists in the 16th century and since have refused to join military forces, often refused to join police, and this goes back to an understanding of what the church is. For many Anabaptists, in the 16th century and even today, when they look at church history and they look at Constantine, rather than seeing that as a high moment in church history, they see that as the fall of the church, and they see the introduction of Christendom as something that they were against, that linking of church and state. So from the very beginning, they said no, the church should not be linked to the state, and because of that then, as Christians they didn’t get involved in the political forces, and particularly the police and the army, that they would use lethal force to enforce their ways.

Chris Marshall: When you come to the issue of violence, I think a huge cleavage opens up. As I understand the teaching of Jesus – and this is open to dispute, not everybody would agree – but as I understand the teaching of Jesus, he did reject coercive violence, he did encourage his followers to turn the other cheek, to go the second mile, not to use the sword. And when you say well, if that’s the case and we look at Christian history, why has the church been so caught up in violence? To this day the dominant Christian position on war is the ‘just war’ theory, which believes that under certain circumstances, war is all but obligatory, and that it is not inconsistent with discipleship for Christians to participate in that. And so how does that square with the teaching of Jesus? Well, we either have some way of limiting the teaching of Jesus to personal conduct or to private areas so that it is no longer an obstacle to fighting a war, or we ignore it. So to take this seriously I think is quite radical.

Thorwald Lorenzen: It is very important that the church – actually all of religion, but in our setting, the church – has a clear peace witness, because we know that all over the world religion is functionalised to validate violence and war, what the state is still using as a political instrument. And here all religions are invited today, to make a clear commitment to non-violence.

Chris Marshall: The commitment to peace, the commitment to non-violence flows from an understanding of the teaching of Jesus. The Anabaptist tradition by and large said, well, this means that followers of Jesus must not be involved in lethal coercion, and I guess a corollary of that is if you’re not going to be involved in war, then it’s not enough just to withdraw into a kind of separate community of pacifism, but you also need to be committed to peace-making.

Thorwald Lorenzen: Today, as you know, for instance in the church’s stance with regard to the war in Iraq, there was basically a unanimous opinion of all the churches, and all the church leaders, to oppose the war. So we have reached the stage today where in light of modern military technology, most or perhaps all churches would agree that war is no longer an institution by which we need to do politics. So in a sense, the Anabaptist vision today has become ecumenical.

Why I Am An Anabaptist – Part 7

Posted by on Monday, 5 March, 2012

Gary Bryson hosts a program about anabaptism on ABC Radio National called “The Anabaptist Vision“…

[Part 7 of a 12-part series]

Show: ABC Radio National
Full Podcast: The Anabaptist Vision
Date: 6/17/07
Host: Gary Bryson
Guests: Chris Marshall and John Hirt

 

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Transcript:

Gary Bryson: At the core of all this is the idea of discipleship then, isn’t it, what you might call the hermeneutics of obedience, the belief that knowing the truth of scripture is contingent upon obedience to Jesus’ call to discipleship?

Chris Marshall: Well, what the Protestant Reformation rediscovered in particular was the role of faith. Luther’s personal conversion really, was a discovery of the fact that we are justified by faith, and that’s fine, there’s no problem with that. But the feature that I think the Anabaptists made more central was not faith or grace or the sacraments – I mean all of which they accepted – but what they saw as central was discipleship, was the image in the gospels of following Jesus, and not just following Jesus in terms of beliefs about Jesus, but actually following him in terms of an emulation of his lifestyle, his values, or his commitments. And so discipleship has always I think been more important in the Anabaptist tradition than theology really, than belief. Not that beliefs aren’t important, but the key issue is; is one committed to obey Jesus when he talks about these very hard things like violence. An understanding I think captured in a saying by one of the early Anabaptist leaders which was that no-one can claim to know Christ unless he follows him in life, that the knowledge of Christ really is dependent on a commitment to follow him. It’s only as one obeys the teaching of Jesus and as one is committed to obeying the teaching of Jesus does one truly understand the teaching of Jesus.

Now in our own day I think in the kind of world that we live in today, that understanding, that knowledge is not something that we acquire in a purely abstract, reflective, rationalistic way, but it is actually influenced by what we do. That’s something that we are far more comfortable with in the world. I think the Anabaptists saw it 500 years ago.

Gary Bryson: Another development of the time was what we today might call radical congregationalism, based on the authority of the gathered church, and the rejection of hierarchy. This was a distinctive feature of early Anabaptism, and remains so today.

Chris Marshall: The Catholic church was centred around the Majesterium which is the hierarchy of the church, its theologians, its bishops, its Pope and so on. The Protestant churches to some extent broke from that, but the role of the minister or the scholar leader was still pretty important. In the Anabaptist communities it really was the gathered community of believers who saw themselves as brothers and sisters and who didn’t accept a kind of clerical limitation on ministry. This is not unique to the Anabaptists, there have been many congregational movements that have sprung up since the Reformation. But this was a novelty at the time.

John Hirt: It’s problematic really. I mean you could just have the pooling of ignorance. It could be, ‘what I think is right at the time’. You end up with what people call the plain reading of the text, and at the worst, the Anabaptists’ interpretation via the gathered community could be a very literalist interpretation, and because they were a scattered as well as a gathered community – they literally were forced to live in Täuferhöhlen, ‘teufel’ in the German means devil, but they had to live in caves, and if you go in and around Zürich , you can actually go to these cave places where they were forced to live. They were pretty much peasant people who for the main were uneducated, and so, often, without wanting to aggrandise or adorn them too much, they could come up with pretty mad interpretations of the text, and they always needed, if you will, to come back to their scholars. And when their scholars were burned and drowned and murdered in the most dreadful ways, they really missed out a lot. But through it all, it has to be said that the wisdom of God and the commitment to discipleship shone through even where they weren’t in the presence of sound theologians. The gathered community was visited, if you will, with the wisdom of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Why I Am An Anabaptist – Part 6

Posted by on Sunday, 4 March, 2012

Gary Bryson hosts a program about anabaptism on ABC Radio National called “The Anabaptist Vision“…

[Part 6 of a 12-part series]

Show: ABC Radio National
Full Podcast: The Anabaptist Vision
Date: 6/17/07
Host: Gary Bryson
Guests: Mark Hurst, John Hirt, and Chris Marshall

 

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Transcript:

Mark Hurst: For many of the churches in the reform tradition, orthodoxy would be the important thing. For those in the Anabaptist tradition, orthopraxy is important, right practice, rather than right belief. The Anabaptists would have agreed with the reformers on many doctrines and many beliefs, but for the reformers, the main question was how do we get saved? And the Anabaptists agreed with most of those answers, but then they went on to say What do we do now that we are saved? What are we saved for? So that was part of what made them different than some of the other Reformation churches and Christians at that time, stressing that yes, now that we’re saved, we’re saved for a life of good works, and that means getting involved with the poor, that means getting involved with those who are marginalised, and that means living in a world without power, and joining in with those marginalised giving up that power.

Gary Bryson: Mark Hurst. For Anabaptists, following Christ has practical consequences. John Hirt.

John Hirt: One of the most misused books in the world is the Bible. You can make the Bible justify just about anything, but if you take the proclamatory, the charismatic heart of scripture, if you come to the interpretive key of the New Testament, you’re unable to do that. Let me illustrate. Without a doubt, the interpretive key, the hermeneutical key of the New Testament out of the Apostolic Confession is how does what you intend to do or what you say you are doing, how does it match the mind and the heart of the crucified and risen one? So how could you be a homophobe, if you are matching your life and your view of others to the mind and the heart of the crucified one? How can you declare war on people? How can you not care for the environment and for the whole world in which we live? How could you be a racist? How could you be differentiated against the poor, how could you not be in sympathy and in solidarity with our Aboriginal people because of their just cause? If your interpretive key is the same as Jesus, if you follow the way in the path of the crucified one, then life is viewed totally differently and to the Anabaptists, we owe that as a great debt.

Chris Marshall: All Christian traditions are Christocentric in the sense that all Christian traditions focus on the person of Jesus Christ as being essential to what Christianity is on about. It’s Jesus that makes Christianity not Judaism if you like. That Christocentrism has often worked itself out at a kind of doctrinal level or a more abstract level that Christ is central because he achieved salvation through his death and resurrection. Or Christ is central because he’s the sort of lynchpin in God’s overall covenantal dealing with the human race. It’s been often expressed at a more abstract level. For the Anabaptists, it was expressed at a strongly ethical level which is to say that Christ is central because he shows us how we are to live, and we must seek to imitate his way of living. In fact in many Christian traditions, there’s been a real ambivalence about this idea of the imitation of Christ because people fear that it brings Christ down to the level of being merely an example, a very good human being. But in the Anabaptist tradition it’s very central, that Christ demonstrates by his own life and articulates in his own teaching, the way we too, if we follow him, should live.

Why I Am An Anabaptist – Part 5

Posted by on Saturday, 3 March, 2012

Gary Bryson hosts a program about anabaptism on ABC Radio National called The Anabaptist Vision

[Part 5 of a 12-part series]

Show: ABC Radio National
Full Podcast: The Anabaptist Vision
Date: 6/17/07
Host: Gary Bryson
Guests: Mark Hurst and Chris Marshall

 

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Transcript:

Gary Bryson: The early Anabaptists were often forced to live in caves and in the wilds of mountains and forests. Many thousands died in the persecution that followed the turmoil of the Reformation.

Mark Hurst: This movement very quickly became a missionary movement, and spread across Europe, and at that time where you had State churches, you didn’t need to have evangelism because everybody was a Christian, and if you had these people coming around saying ‘No, you need to convert to this’, they also then became a problem for the State authorities.

Gary Bryson: The Reverend Mark Hurst is a Mennonite missionary based in Sydney. He and his wife Mary have for many years been the pastoral workers for the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand.

An important figure in the development of Anabaptism was Menno Simons, the man who gave his name to the Mennonites.

Mark Hurst: Menno Simons was a Catholic priest in the 1500s, and in his local area there was the Peasant Rebellion going on, and he observed that, and even in his writings he was saying that he spent most of his time drinking and playing cards and his faith hadn’t really been internalised, but when he saw people dying for their faith in the Peasant Rebellion, it caused him to look again at what he believed, and he had a conversion experience and he actually joined these Anabaptists.

And then he had very pastoral gifts, and he quickly became one of the leaders in the Anabaptist movement at that time. They labelled Anabaptists as Mennoists, or Mennonites, as followers of Menno, but it was really a derogatory name given to them, just like you would have Calvinists or Lutherans, the Anabaptists that were part of the movement that Menno was involved with became called Mennonites. But Menno spent the last 25 years of his life in hiding and on the run, he had a price on his head. So he travelled around meeting with Anabaptist groups but always having to do that hiding and moving from house to house.

Gary Bryson: Persecuted in Europe, many Anabaptists fled to the New World, where its various branches make up what is known today as the historic peace churches. These include Mennonites, Hutterites and the Amish, along with the Quakers, who developed their tradition separately from the Anabaptists.

So how can we understand the distinctive theological features that make up Anabaptism? Well, like all Christian traditions, the Anabaptists are said to be Christocentric – focused on following the teachings and actions of Jesus Christ. For the Anabaptists though, this has both an ethical and discipleship dimension.

Chris Marshall is St John’s Associate Professor in Christian Theology at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

Chris Marshall: As well as the kind of ethical Christocentrism, a feeling that Jesus teaches us how to live, and we must take literally what he says, also there is the kind of hermeneutical Christocentrism which is that when we read the Bible, and we try to work out what in the Bible is still God’s word for today, because the Bible’s a very diverse document and has lots of violent bits in it, how do we decide how the Bible is relevant for today, that one of the key tests is it must be consistent with the way of Christ. So what we read in Scripture that is not consistent with the way of Christ, no longer has authority for today. What we read in any part of Scripture that is consistent with the way of Christ, continues to be God’s word for today.

Why I Am An Anabaptist – Part 4

Posted by on Friday, 2 March, 2012

Gary Bryson hosts a program about anabaptism on ABC Radio National called The Anabaptist Vision

[Part 4 of a 12-part series]

Show: ABC Radio National
Full Podcast: The Anabaptist Vision
Date: 6/17/07
Host: Gary Bryson
Guests: Thorwald Lorenzen and John Hirt

 

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Transcript:

Gary Bryson: What sort of people were they in the main? What sort of social backgrounds did they come from?

John Hirt: Well they were mostly, I mean apart from their few scholars, they were just very ordinary people, particularly the first few folk, I mean in that first grouping, we now call them Swiss Brethren, so they were farmers, they were ordinary village folks around Switzerland. If they had intellectuals, they never lasted long because they were slaughtered, and that’s why the history of the Anabaptists hasn’t really been written until pretty much modern times. If it ever was written, it was only written by the power elite, by people who weren’t sympathetic to the Anabaptists. So they were ordinary folk who decided they were going to take Jesus seriously and that meant in the countryside, or wherever they were, they started to form their own worship. So this is their own church meetings.

They really stressed the idea of the priesthood of all believers. They had some interesting little ways of putting this. They had three ‘no holies’. One was no holy person. So this was in reaction to the magisterial church, whether it be a bishop or the pope. There was no holy person. All people who follow Jesus are deemed to be holy, so the priesthood of all believers, this is the gathered community of faith, so no holy person was the first one. No holy time. All time, according to Anabaptist theology, is holy, there is no separation between sacred and secular. So all time is God’s time in which you are called to be obedient and faithful. There’s no holy time; well of course this had to do with the Roman Catholic view of transubstantiation that when the bell is rung, suddenly this becomes the body and blood of Christ in the time of the Eucharist. Well the Anabaptists said ‘No, all time is holy’. And their last concept was no holy thing. And of course this was to do with the wafer, the body of Christ. Well it doesn’t mean they didn’t believe that they weren’t holy elements in life, but these were reacting statements if you will, to what they understood to be the problem with particularly the Roman Catholic part of the church. So no holy thing meant again, that all of life is sacred, and that all of life, because it’s sacred, is part of what they referred to in their own way as the cruciformity of God, what one of the great contemporary theologians in Anabaptist theology, John Howard Yoder refers to as ‘the cruciformity of the cosmos’. Because Christ died for all, for all things, not just for human beings, but for all things, Christ has saved and redeemed all, and therefore he’s harkening back to this notion of the Anabaptist concept, there’s no one thing that’s holy; everything is holy, everything is valuable and precious in God’s sight.

Thorwald Lorenzen: The authority question is quite clear. The authority is the Bible but not in a fundamentalist way. The Bible read through the story of Jesus. So the New Testament is given precedence over the Old Testament. This was important in regard to the reformers, because the reformers, when they have conversation with the Anabaptists, they would say ‘You must first affirm the authority of the whole scriptures, because they stood for infant baptism and for the institution of war from the Old Testament. So there was a clear commitment to the story of Jesus as it is reflected in the Bible, but since they lived in a situation of persecution, both the New Testament, and their situation, demanded an intentional commitment to each other. So the two scriptural verses which are important are the church as the gathered community, and where two or three are gathered in the name of Christ, then he is in their midst. Those were the two verses which shaped their understanding of church.

Why I Am An Anabaptist – Part 3

Posted by on Thursday, 1 March, 2012

Gary Bryson hosts a program about anabaptism on ABC Radio National called The Anabaptist Vision

[Part 3 of a 12-part series]

Show: ABC Radio National
Full Podcast: The Anabaptist Vision
Date: 6/17/07
Host: Gary Bryson
Guests: Thorwald Lorenzen and John Hirt

 

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Transcript:

Thorwald Lorenzen: While the reformers needed the state in order to succeed with the reformation, they would not have succeeded if they would have denied infant baptism, and would have denied the institution of war. And at this point, the Anabaptists – the word ‘Anabaptist’ means re-baptises, and it was given to them by their enemies, so the emphasis is not baptism, the emphasis is to take faith in Christ seriously, what they called ‘following Jesus’, what we may call discipleship today. And living this discipleship in an intentional community. But both discipleship and intentional community has to be a decision, and this decision was celebrated in baptism. And since the New Testament does not support infant baptism, but speaks about believer’s baptism, so they took this over to celebrate their faith in Christ.

Some of the magisterial churches say infant baptism is very important because it is a symbolic representation that we are saved by grace alone. And actually, it is, you know, that’s a beautiful symbol. But the Anabaptists said grace is not just thrown at people, grace is the invitation to follow Jesus. Faith is holistic, it needs to be lived with our whole body, with our whole life.

Gary Bryson: From the very beginning then, Anabaptist ideas set them irrevocably against the power of the state. They put the authority of Jesus over the authority of kings, opposed the church hierarchy or priesthood, and refused to swear oaths or fight wars.

In the mood of the times, their interpretation of scripture was thus deeply political and highly suspect in the eyes of the authorities, both Catholic and Protestant.

John Hirt: The Anabaptists, in saying We will not acknowledge the power of the state, were really quite remarkable champions of democracy and freedom of religion. When they were dragged before the magistrates, they would stand in court and their response to the charge of being disloyal to the state and disloyal to the church – the church and state being one and the same, no separation – in their crude Swiss-German, they would say two words: nicht Vorsteher, which literally means ‘no master’. My only master is Christ and I will die before I will believe that the world is made of two kingdoms, the kingdom of this world and then the kingdom of God. There is only one kingdom and that is the kingdom of Christ. And so they therefore became, if you like, insurgents within the society, they were viewed as dangerous, dangerous people who would create all sorts of societal instability.

Why I Am An Anabaptist – Part 2

Posted by on Wednesday, 29 February, 2012

Gary Bryson hosts a program about anabaptism on ABC Radio National called The Anabaptist Vision

[Part 2 of a 12-part series]

Show: ABC Radio National
Full Podcast: The Anabaptist Vision
Date: 6/17/07
Host: Gary Bryson
Guests: Thorwald Lorenzen and John Hirt

 

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Transcript:

Thorwald Lorenzen: Up to the fourth century, the church and Christians were pacifists. In the 4th century, with the victory of Constantine on the Milvian Bridge, just before his military victory, Constantine had a vision of Christ, and in this vision, he was asked to fight the battle under the banner of the cross, and he did this and he won. And this military victory has become a major influence of the Christian church. Under Constantine, the church began to have privileges, the clergy began to have privileges, the church was used to unify the Emperor, and ever since this marriage between church and state has determined the history of the church. In the Reformation, in theory, this history was finished, but it is still living on in the state churches in many countries today.

Gary Bryson: Thorwald Lorenzen. It was a commitment to pacifism that first set the Swiss Anabaptists up against the mainstream Reformation. In Switzerland the Reformers were led by Huldrych Zwingli, one of the major Reformation figures alongside Luther and Calvin. The issue had quickly divided the country, canton against canton. But the Anabaptists resisted Zwingli’s call to arms against the Catholics. John Hirt.

John Hirt: Zwingli as a Protestant reformer in the Canton of Zürich was keen to raise an army to fight against the Catholic Cantons; tragically in the history of Christianity, here’s the church at war, fighting among itself, and it was slaughter and slaughter and slaughter all over the place. Zwingli therefore, wanted to get everybody he could into his army, to fight the Catholic Cantons. He happened to have two best friends, two of his best Biblical scholars, one a Greek scholar, the other a Hebrew scholar, one was Conrad Grebel, and the other guy called Felix Manz. They were both ardent Christians, who like a lot of people at the time said that there’s something more to what Jesus says than us being behoven to the state, or to be given to killing and to that whole process of what the world expects of us. They of course were seen by Zwingli as being betrayers, and when he began to raise an army, these two allies of his, two of his best scholar friends, said to him, ‘We cannot fight because it is not lawful for us to fight. We are followers of Jesus.’ And they chastised Zwingli – he didn’t take that kindly.

Then, to cut to the chase, the argument became about well, who belongs to the state and who doesn’t belong to the state? And at that point, Zwingli said, ‘If you’re baptised as an infant, you belong to the state’, and at that point the Anabaptists started to say, ‘Wait a minute, if that’s what infant baptism is about, me being behoven to the state, that’s a problem.’ And so that’s when the whole discussion really picked up.

Why I Am An Anabaptist – Part 1

Posted by on Monday, 27 February, 2012

Gary Bryson hosts a program about anabaptism on ABC Radio National called The Anabaptist Vision

[Part 1 of a 12-part series]

Show: ABC Radio National
Full Podcast: The Anabaptist Vision
Date: 6/17/07
Host: Gary Bryson
Guests: John Hirt and Thorwald Lorenzen

 

Download

Transcript:

Gary Bryson: Menno Simons was one of the leaders of the early Anabaptist movement. He was a Dutch cleric who gives his name to the best known of the Anabaptist groups today, the Mennonites.

Early Anabaptists were persecuted not only by the Catholic church, but by Protestant reformers, who regarded Anabaptist beliefs as crossing the line to heresy. So what were these beliefs, why were they considered so dangerous, and why are they still important today?

The core of the Anabaptist vision is found in the key ideas of the separation of church and state, adult baptism, radical discipleship, the authority of the gathered community, and a fervent belief in non-violence. As we’ll see in this program, these are ideas which are today informing a new generation of Christians committed to political and social change. Anabaptism is not a sectarian creed, but is instead a theological vision which can inform the practice and faith of Christians from many different traditions. More controversially, it is also a vision which seeks to redefine the role of the church in our everyday lives.

John Hirt: Historians of the Reformation referred to the Anabaptists as the radical reformers, or the left-wing of the Reformation.

Gary Bryson: The Reverend Dr John Hirt is the Uniting Church Chaplain for the University of Sydney and the University of Technology, and we’ll also hear from the Reverend Doctor Thorwald Lorenzen, Professor of Theology and principal researcher, the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University.

John Hirt: They got their beginnings in 1525 in a little village called Zollikon, which is not too far from Zürich in Switzerland. And their big concern was that the reformers were not reformatory enough. When the reformers talked about reformation, the Anabaptists talked about restitution. They wanted the church to be restored right back to the New Testament faith.

Thorwald Lorenzen: When we speak about Anabaptists today, we generally are speaking about the peaceful Anabaptists who were in Switzerland, in Southern Germany, and in Middle Germany and Holland. We’re not speaking about the more violent eschatological Anabaptists who were in Münster, people like Thomas Müntzer. So we have to distinguish between various Anabaptist movements. The Anabaptists which I’m talking about in Switzerland and Germany, they would agree with the major reformers like Huldrych Zwingli in Switzerland and Martin Luther in Germany, in their response to the Catholic church. They would agree with the reformers, but they felt that the reformers’ commitment to the authority of the Scriptures was not radical enough.

Gary Bryson: The radical restitution demanded by the pacifist Anabaptists was a call to return to the values and precepts of the early Christian church as they saw them: pacifism, discipleship, free acceptance of the faith through adult baptism, and a separation of church and state.