How do you express nonconformity to the world but be involved in world need?

This has been the question for Mennonites since the former followers of Ulrich Zwingli founded the first Anabaptist congregation in 1525. And it is the compelling issue of the day for the younger generation of Mennonites that is wrestling with acculturation, non-resistance, the doctrine of separation of church and state, the social gospel, and evangelism.

“The church hierarchy is attempting to hold the line culturally, but youth are attempting to define their own identity—what it means to be one’s brother in the twentieth century,” said an under-25 spokesman for the (Old) Mennonite Church, the largest of the Mennonite bodies in the United States and Canada.Among the score of Mennonite bodies in the United States and Canada, the four largest are the (Old) Mennonite Church, with 94,755 baptized members; the General Conference Mennonite, 55,034; the Mennonite Brethren, 31,780; and the Old Order Amish Mennonites, 23,025. Altogether, the Mennonite movement has about 250,000 adherents in the United States and Canada and another 250,000 in the rest of the world. The very traditional, German-speaking, non-missionary-sending Amish are to be clearly distinguished from the other bodies. They are the unreconciled descendants of a division dating back to the 1690s in Switzerland. “Our parents are concerned we might be involved in the world,” continued Stuart Showalter, public relations director of Eastern Mennonite College, one of the denomination’s two college-seminary combinations. “We are concerned we might not be involved at the right point. Our parents were concerned we would be contaminated; we seek contamination and we seek to eliminate it.”

Mennonites have ...

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