When the early Brethren in Christ read all parts of the Bible, they found Jesus. As Anabaptists, they embraced the call not just to believe in Jesus but to follow Him in a life of Christocentric behavior. One could say, then, that the Anabaptists were the original WWJD people; in every situation they asked, “What would Jesus do?” Then they followed His lead. Their message communicates in this century, when at least some people hate religion but love Jesus.Luke Keefer, Jr. (1940–2010) Ashland (Ohio) BIC
Without question the new stream of Evangelicalism has muted much of our Anabaptist heritage. We believed we could learn from [Evangelicalism] discretely, adopting only what we felt was of value. But the stream had more force than was anticipated. We have not domesticated it as we did Wesleyanism; instead it has domesticated us.
We must determine that we will not let this source dominate us in a way that the previous three did not. We have been Anabaptists with a difference, Pietists with a difference, and Wesleyans with a difference. We must now be Evangelicals with a difference.
We cannot just return to a previous age of Brethren in Christ identity, for the truth is that we must also be Brethren in Christ with a difference. Part of the canvas of our identity must exhibit fresh paint, where the Spirit of God is brushing us into the portrait He would have us be. Even so, work, Lord Jesus! Let Thy will be done in us.Scott Elkins Canoe Creek BIC (Hollidaysburg, Pa.)
Competing theologies are not just seeping into our historic three-stream synthesis, they are burying us under a tidal wave. Without strong leadership and a clear back-to-the basics movement in our theology and practice, we will lose our distinctives much more rapidly than we can imagine. I agree with Dr. Keefer that we need to continually strengthen our ties with other Wesleyan and Anabaptist groups. In my humble opinion, we must also stand on the shoulders of those Brethren in Christ that came before us, in theology and in practice. Together, bound by a shared theology, we can push forward as a people, innovating new forms of ministry, following the movement of the Spirit, and engaging the world for Jesus Christ.Elizabeth Claassen Thrush Upland (Calif.) BIC
I have observed something surprising over the past few years in the Brethren in Christ pursuit of Evangelicalism. We have been wrestling—on the one hand articulating Core Values that reaffirm our Anabaptist stream, yet on the other hand seeing those Anabaptist distinctives fade. (For example, the 2006 Church Member Profile* showed that while 88 percent of respondents identified peacemaking as a central theme of the Gospel, only 25 percent said that it is wrong for Christians to fight in any war.) As we have been engaged in this identity crisis, suddenly Evangelicalism itself slows down and catches a whiff of something “new” and enticing—and it smells a lot like Anabaptism.
These excerpts were adapted from essays included in the August 2012 volume of the Brethren in Christ History and Life journal, with permission from the editor. For information about how to subscribe to the journal, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*2006 Church Member Profile—a study of members in three denominations, conducted by the Young Center of Elizabethtown (Pa.) College and coordinated by Donald B. Kraybill. Visit bic-church.org/cmp to view the full CMP 2006 results.