Note: This essay offers reflections on “The Purposeful Plan,” a document written to guide the Mennonite Church USA some years into the future. It was discussed at the last national convention in Pittsburgh in 2011. It has been or will be discussed by individual Mennonite congregations, by delegates within regional conferences this summer and as I understand it will be discussed by delegates at the national convention next summer in Phoenix. Below are some of my reflections on the document. I hope they will generate helpful conversations
“We believe that God is calling Mennonite Church USA
to develop a culture of high expectation for people who call themselves members of the church.
Each church will provide a welcome
to seekers, skeptics, doubters, or explorers
and invite them to become fully committed disciples of Jesus Christ,
meaningfully engaged in God’s mission in the world.”
I love this quote from the “Purposeful Plan” of the Mennonite Church USA. It names very well why I became an Anabaptist over thirty years ago, got my first Master’s degree at AMBS, became Mennonite and now happily teach at a Mennonite seminary myself. It also names what I have seen as descriptive of a number of the churches I have been a part of throughout my Christian life, beginning at age 17. I am always delighted to be a member of a Christian community that holds a vision before us that entails high expectations (while, in the midst of this, offering a broad welcome to potential disciples). As Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it, “[The gospel] is costly, because it calls to discipleship; it is grace, because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs people their lives; it is grace, because it thereby makes them live.” Knowing what this means, in its fullness, requires a lifetime. But that journey is a part of what constitutes the Christian life.
I know that some regional Mennonite conferences will be discussing “the Purposeful Plan” this summer. And in fact it is specifically designed to shape our conversations about our identity as a Church over the coming years. I wanted to offer some reflections on the document for two interconnected reasons. First, I am called to be a theological teacher within our Church. And second I have some questions about the document. In a sentence, my concern is that I don’t think the Purposeful Plan, as a whole, articulates the “high expectations” named in the two wonderful sentences I quoted at the top of this page. (more…)Read the rest of this entry »