EAF exists not simply to preserve a heritage but to advance a vision. We are convinced that the courage and convictions of Anabaptist Christians in the sixteenth century are traits worthy of emulation by believers at the threshold of the twenty-first century. We believe that the real value in studying Anabaptism is that it pushes us to go back even further and compare the character of contemporary Christianity with that of the first century. Church history, after all, did not begin with a baptism of water in a house in Zurich in 1525. It began with a baptism of fire in an upper room in Jerusalem around 30 AD. Sixteenth century Anabaptism was a part of a necessary course correction for the Christian community. It was a wake-up call for the church.
It is time to sound the alarm once again. Christianity in America is, in large part, lethargic and ineffectual. We have surrendered to the spirit of our age. We no longer initiate, we imitate. We pursue those causes and adopt those methods which seem to arouse interest and produce effects in society at large. We are guided less by "Is it right?" than by "Will it work?" or "How does it feel?".
In the face of a culture marked by secularism and relativism, the uncompromising example of the Anabaptists reminds us that it is possible to stand for truth against all odds.
Efforts abound to interpret Anabaptism for a contemporary audience. Most fail because they focus more on the historical phenomenon than on the dynamic, timeless spirit which energized that movement. Much of contemporary "Anabaptism," whether liberal or conservative, is marked by a legalistic obligation to conform to a prescribed pattern of behavior. Evangelical Anabaptism strives to recapture the spirit of the sixteenth century movement, build upon the same doctrinal foundation it rested upon, and develop a strategy for confronting our culture the way they confronted theirs.
Finally, a closing thought from the Dintaman article I referred to above.
"Perishing communities (and ideas) produce historians and sociologists and academic conferences. Flourishing communities produce preachers, missionaries and prayer meetings. Right now the Anabaptist Vision is producing lots of the former, few of the latter. Unless there is some way to put Pentecost into the Anabaptist Vision, its creative role in the Mennonite churches is exhausted." (op. cit., p. 50)
Sadly, we would agree. But we believe God has raised up the Evangelical Anabaptist Fellowship as one means of helping to restore a spirit of
Pentecost to contemporary Anabaptism and of introducing a new generation of Christians to the profound example of believers who were not afraid to live what they believed.
Who speaks for Anabaptism today? Because the spirit of this movement can energize the work of the kingdom at this crucial period in human history, we are pleased to say, "We do."