BROMSGROVE, England — Participants at the Anabaptist Theology Forum applauded when Eleanor Kreider walked into the room. Some considered her a spiritual mentor or close friend. Others had never met her but had been influenced by the work she and her husband, Alan, did in the United Kingdom.
The forum organized by the Anabaptist Network U.K. April 11-12 brought together nearly three dozen Anabaptist-minded people from across England and Scotland, including American Mennonite expatriates living in the U.K.
The theme, “Exploring the Legacy of Alan Kreider,” honored the former Mennonite Mission Network worker who died in May 2017, leaving a spiritually rich mark on the U.K. — including fellowship groups, the London Mennonite Centre, Wood Green Mennonite Church, the Anabaptist Network and the development of the theology forum and subsequent Centre for Anabaptist Studies, based at Bristol Baptist College.
The Kreiders first moved to London in 1965 for academic research and began their mission work, giving leadership to LMC together in 1974. After more than a quarter of a century introducing many people in the U.K. to the values of Anabaptism through teaching, relationships and advocacy, they returned to the U.S. in 2000.
The forum was a mixture of theological papers, sharing of stories, an occasional hymn and table conversations. Eleanor — affectionately called Ellie by many participants — who often spoke publicly alongside Alan, shared candidly about the Kreider technique of co-speaking.
“We were a hermeneutical community of two,” she said. “And we never planned the ending.”
Centre for Anabaptist Studies director Stuart Murray Williams, who commenced the forum by sharing reflections on how Alan Kreider made a distinctive contribution to the Christian community in the U.K., noted his ability to connect with people from various backgrounds.
“One of the outcomes of that is that the Anabaptist Network is remarkably ecumenical,” he said.
Like Pilgram Marpeck
Such diversity was represented in papers presented by Christopher Rowland, Church of England vicar and professor at University of Oxford; Lloyd Pietersen, New Testament scholar and lecturer on the Anabaptist master of arts modules at Bristol Baptist College; Brian Haymes, Baptist theologian and former president of the Baptist Union of Great Britain; and Carol Wert, Eastern Mennonite Missions worker.
A student at the Centre for Anabaptist Studies, Wert presented a paper written to fulfill requirements for her master of arts program, which outlined the 16th-century Anabaptist leader Pilgram Marpeck’s views on leadership and limitations he placed on leaders.
Asked to present the paper by her course lecturers, Wert said it was the only paper not explicitly linked to the Kreiders’ legacy.
“I quickly realized while listening to Stuart’s overview of the Kreiders’ U.K. ministry and Ellie’s own stories about her life and ministry partnership with Alan that he exemplified the same qualities I’d found in Marpeck: a pastoral heart, humility, patience, visible fruit and open-mindedness,” she said.
The Centre for Anabaptist Studies, launched in 2014, offers modules on Anabaptism, supervision for postgraduate research on Anabaptist-related themes and annual lectures and webinars. The master’s degree course is offered online.
Wert heard about the center while attending an EMM missionary retreat in Quarryville, Pa., and coming across an article in Mennonite World Review. She became the center’s first master’s degree student and attended her first Anabaptist Theology Forum in 2015. Originally from Lititz, Pa., she has lived in Wales for nearly 20 years and is part of an intentional missional community in Cardiff.
“It’s been very healing to be here among people of the same values and perspectives,” said Veronica Zundel, a former member of Wood Green, which closed in 2016.
Members of the forum are considering reviving the defunct journal Anabaptism Today.