The Most Mennonite Church in Ithaca

Today is the final post in this series on the various stream of the Christian Church. And we are going, to begin with, a bit of inside baseball. 4 Streams After the Reformation, 4 distinct streams branched off from the Catholic Church, Anabaptist, Anglican, Calvinist, and Lutheran. John Wesley, who founded Methodism, came from the […]

by bob

Sep 8, 2021

Today is the final post in this series on the various stream of the Christian Church. And we are going, to begin with, a bit of inside baseball.

4 Streams

After the Reformation, 4 distinct streams branched off from the Catholic Church, Anabaptist, Anglican, Calvinist, and Lutheran. John Wesley, who founded Methodism, came from the Anglican Church, and much of the Pentecostal movement came out of Wesleyan/Holiness.

So, while this series of posts have highlighted how I have been part of almost every significant stream of Christianity, in fairness, I have never had any connection with the Lutheran Church (although I did perform a wedding in a Lutheran church in Ithaca). When I was in the Vineyard, I was told that about 2/3 of the pastors are Calvinists and 1/3 Wesleyan, but the vast majority of where I was located was very clearly within the Wesleyan camp.

When I was pastoring the Ithaca Vineyard, Cornell’s InterVarsity staff worker began attending the church. At one point, we were discussing why he ended up at the Vineyard, and he said that he grew up in a Mennonite church that his dad pastored, and we were the most “Mennonite church in Ithaca.”

Of course, my immediate thought was, “but we use electricity, and I definitely don’t wear one of those hats”?!?

Clearly, I had/have a lot to learn.

I grew up in Western New York, where it was common to see Amish riding through town on a horse and buggy. But to be honest, I knew next to nothing about Anabaptists, other than that post-Reformation, they were persecuted by just about everyone.

Mennonite?

Now, if I’m going to guess why he considered us the most “Mennonite church in Ithaca,” there were likely a few things.

We placed a strong emphasis on being Jesus-centred. Our focus was not on getting people to believe certain things or do certain things; instead, it was on orienting people towards Jesus, trusting that as people began taking steps toward him, he would meet them. (This is something I should write on, but I’ll leave it here for now.)

We stayed out of politics and culture wars. I was connected with a group of Vineyard pastors who were located in urban centres (or University towns), and there was a strong focus on finding a third way rather than jumping into many of the polarities churches often find themselves in. (I wrote about this idea last week.)

Additionally, he would have seen an emphasis on the priesthood of all believers and a commitment to simple living on the part of many in our congregation.

Discovering a Connection

After landing in Ireland, I read a couple of church planting books by a British guy, Stuart Murray. Without question, there are two of the best I’ve read on the topic (and I’ve read a few.) Then after one of my Master’s courses, a lecturer suggested the book “The Patient Ferment of the Early Church,” by Alan Kreider. I could say it is one of the best books I have ever read, but instead, I’ll say everyone I know who has read it lists it as one of the best books they have read. Of course, shortly after, I discovered that they are both Anabaptists. (Kreider died in 2017.)

That brings us up to last year. We were approaching Advent, and I wanted to find online devotional material to share with our church community. I ended up on an Anabaptist website from Canada (Be In Christ). After digging around a bit, I discovered a group of churches called Reunion that is working to start a network of churches similar to what we are doing here in Ireland. I’ve been able to connect with them a few times. It has been an encouraging connection.

(of course, I’m not Canadian, but I grew up near Buffalo, so we got Canadian TV, and I loved Curling, Hockey Night in Canada & especially SCTV.)

Additionally, I found a network of individuals and churches who are either Anabaptists or feel a strong connection to a Jesus-centred approach called The Jesus Collective. (That link will take you to a page with articles and videos as they will do a better job describing themselves and Anabaptism than I will!). Jesus Collective has provided a lot of learning and relational opportunities, which are huge for us, as you know by now!

Through Jesus Collective, we’ve connected with a group of people here and in the UK who seem to be thinking and ministering very much like we are. And I have yet to see one of those hats!

One quick story.

One of the other leaders at the Table and I met a few years ago with the head of the Evangelical Alliance in Ireland to talk about various church planting stuff in Ireland. One of his questions was, “How do a Baptist guy and a Vineyard guy end up working together?” While I didn’t have words for it then, it’s clear now that what I wrote about here is central to the answer.
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In case you’re curious, this doesn’t impact our relationship with Communitas. One of the things we love about Communitas is that they encourage collaboration and partnership with other organisations, which, you can probably tell if you’ve read through these posts, is a high value for Liz and me as well.

Anyways, that’s me. I hope you have found the journey enjoyable. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Photo by Azinumoto on Unsplash

What about…

I grew up in Western New York and have started and led missional church planting efforts for a little over 30 years. As you might gather, I have opinions about the church, and I share some of them here.

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