Menno Simons shook off attentions of the painted woman, turned from the Roman church, and set his face toward the barns and hedges where he would minister to Anabaptists, who were persecuted by Romanist and Reformer alike.

Some 4,000 Mennonites, heirs of the tragic story of the “Reformation’s left wing,” sat watching this and other portions of their history re-enacted last month in this, the 400th anniversary (by some datings) of the death of Menno, the converted Dutch priest who was to lend his name to the “rebaptizers.” The pageant had been written for the centennial of the 52,014-member General Conference Mennonite Church, meeting for its 35th triennial conference at Blulffton (Ohio) College. Five days later another Mennonite college town, nearby Goshen, Indiana, played host to the other of the two largest Mennonite bodies—the 83,204-member Mennonite Church (often called “Old Mennonite”), assembled for its 31st biennial general conference.

Bluffton, in contrast to Goshen, saw several vigorous debates—on such matters as capital punishment and biblical inspiration. Much discussion but less debate preceded adoption of a statement calling for a permanent U.S. ban on nuclear bomb tests and equating them, along with war, with sin, inasmuch as “they belong to the war preparations scheme.”

One speaker pointed out that manufacture of rifles could as well be included on such grounds. For Mennonites are generally pacifists, and as one of the historic peace churches, they suffer from the iniquitous, but common, identification of pacifism with modernism. Mennonites have largely remained evangelical and express weariness with the pragmatic drifting of liberal social ethics toward and away from pacifism, contingent ...

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