Six Anabaptist denominations, known for their emphasis on peace and social justice, met last month to discuss evangelism. By the end of the four-day event, it was clear that traditional soul winning would have a higher profile in the historic peace churches.
The gathering, called “Alive … ’85,” drew more than 1,500 pastors, church executives, and laypersons to Denver. Represented were the Brethren Church, Brethren in Christ, Church of the Brethren, General Conference Mennonites, Mennonite Brethren, and the Mennonite Church. The denominations’ combined U.S. and Canadian membership approaches 400,000.
Conference speakers affirmed Anabaptist-Pietist distinctives. But conferees were urged to move beyond an emphasis on social compassion, nonviolence, believer’s baptism, and personal piety to proclaim the gospel unapologetically.
Keynote speaker Myron Augsburger, moderator of the Mennonite Church, told the gathering: “If you think you can be New Testament in peace and social concerns without being evangelistic, then you are mistaken.… You cannot preach the Cross fully without preaching about peace and reconciliation … without bringing people together.… The church needs to model before the powers of the world that various nations, races, and cultures can be one fellowship in Jesus Christ.”
Diversity was evident among the participating denominations. The Brethren in Christ, for example, is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals, while Robert Neff, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren, serves on the National Council of Churches’ governing council. General Conference Mennonites and Church of the Brethren representatives tended to press for a prophetic and social edge in evangelism. Other groups accented personal ...1
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