You may know Mennonites best as those people who drive horses and buggies and live "off the grid" as a way of preserving their faith as a community. But most Mennonites don't live that way. At TUMC, we're pretty ordinary folks. And you'll find vibrant and growing Mennonite congregations everywhere, from small towns to major urban centres across North America and around the world.
Mennonites have been around for almost 500 years, part of a Protestant Reformation movement called Anabaptism that rejected the allegiance between church and state, emphasized belief as a personal choice, and called for a radical way of living with peace, community and compassion, following the way of Jesus in daily life.
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Here are some basics of Mennonite beliefs:
Mennonites believe in the centrality and inspiration of the Bible and in Jesus Christ as the One sent by God to bring reconciliation between the Creator and a broken world. We try to emphasize the connections between faith, words and actions. We believe baptism and church membership should be voluntary. We also emphasize community, peace and love, helping others and being a diverse and multicultural church.
Mennonites believe peacebuilding is an achievable way of life. Because God is loving and just, Mennonites feel called to live lives that reflect this reality. We believe that peace and wholeness is a real possibility in time and space. It's how God intends us to live here and now, and we have been given all of the necessary tools to achieve this through our faith in Jesus Christ. Living as peacebuilders when war comes is not easy because many in our society believe it is foolish to refuse to defend oneself and one's country in the face of aggression.
Walking the talk. Mennonites have become increasingly recognized as leaders in the art of conflict resolution — even on an international scale. Mennonites have been involved in helping differing groups or factions talk to each other in places like East Africa, Northern Ireland and Central America. Mennonites were also involved in some of the early developments in offender-victim reconciliation organizations in Canada and the United States, and in promoting restorative justice as a way of responding to criminal and antisocial activity. Organizations such as Mennonite Central Committee, Christian Peacemaker Teams and Mennonite Disaster Service are channels through which Mennonite volunteers work in relief, development, peacemaking and restoration around the world. And locally, TUMC is involved in working with homeless people, refugees and nursing home care. One of the biggest challenges for Mennonites is speaking out about what we've learned along the way. Many are calling for Mennonites to speak more boldly — to talk the walk.
Mennonites recognize the value of "organized religion." Throughout history, religious faith has helped people understand life's meaning and encouraged cohesive social order. But at times the lines between church and state have blurred and the church has also been part of oppressive movements, suppression of individuals' rights and even wars. Some even feel religion is the greatest cause of war. This is a familiar issue for Mennonites. But we also recognize the need to be organized as a group of Christian believers. We try to be most concerned with trusting in the leading of God's Spirit in a way that reflects the life and teaching of Jesus. Inside each of us is a yearning to understand why we are here. Mennonites believe the answer lies in both believing in and following Jesus.
Mennonites are a global people. Once mostly of European heritage, Mennonites have become increasingly multicultural and multinational. The global Mennonite family now includes about 1.6 million members, with people of colour now the majority. We cherish our connections with vibrant churches in Africa, Asia and South America, with whom we connect through Mennonite World Conference.
We believe our emphasis on community is a positive response to the indifference of modern culture. In an era of mass marketing, uncontrolled consumerism, loneliness and growing violence, we are working to create a sense of community for ourselves and our neighbours. You are welcome to join us. We are not a closed group. We believe that the best response to cynicism, doubt and isolation is to invite both friends and strangers to share the burdens and joys of life together –in Christ's new community.
Adapted from an article by Ken Gingerich
You can learn more about Mennonite beliefs, values, culture and practices at these sites: