This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Renewal from within

I am disappointed to hear of groups leaving Mennonite Church USA. Every individual, congregation, conference, denomination and renewal group falls short in some way. If not now, they will in the future. In Lancaster County, Pa., alone I’ve heard there are more than 56 Anabaptist groups. Many were established to bring renewal but then themselves spawned new renewal groups. Do we really need more? Could we not work for renewal from within? Sociologist Ernst Troeltsch wrote of the church-sect cycle. After existing for some time, nearly every religious group has groups break off because they want renewal — often defined as recovering the original vision and maintaining purity. The cycle then repeats itself with the new groups. Motives are complex. Some are spiritual, and some are searching for power and control. The concern is expressed that MC USA is giving in to culture. But separation is a predictable cultural phenomenon and is thus also giving in to culture. Jesus would not have needed to pray for oneness for groups where everyone believed the same things. That comes naturally. Unity in diversity, centered in Jesus, is a gift from God. I wish our faith were strong enough to wait to divide with the hope that our leaders, guided by the Holy Spirit, will help us maintain Christ-centered unity.

John W. Eby
Lititz, Pa.

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