By identifying ourselves as evangelical Christians, we in EAF declare that we choose deliberately to adopt a particular social agenda-one that is based on personal responsibility not nebulous societal influences. Thus we do not apologize for naming abortion and homosexual activity as sins which threaten the integrity, indeed the very existence, of our theological communion and even our nation.
Why do we focus on these two sins? Is it because they are more heinous than other evils such as adultery, pornography, racism or injustice? Not at all. It is for three reasons. One, our opposition to these other evils goes without saying. We share the universal repugnance of the Christian church toward these sins. Two, we are amazed, even appalled, that a communion (such as the MC and GC) so committed to the sanctity of human life, would be more vocal in defending the right to life of condemned criminals facing capital punishment than defending a similar right in the case of the innocent unborn. And three, while homosexual activity may be no more heinous than adultery, pornography, or any other sexual sin, we are not aware of any movement within the Anabaptist community calling for the endorsement of adultery or pornography as acceptable Christian practice.
Not The Beginning Of The End
For many of you who will read this issue of the EAF Newsletter, what I have written so far is familiar, simply a restatement of a position and a perspective with which you agree. It expresses a major reason you have chosen to identify yourself as a member of EAF. For many others, however, the use of the term evangelical raises red flags. They perceive an organization's open identification with the broader evangelical community to signal the "beginning of the end" of anything distinctly Anabaptist about that organization.
I find that reasoning difficult to comprehend. Around fifty denominations hold membership in the National Association of Evangelicals, ranging from the Assemblies of God to the Presbyterian Church in America to the Evangelical Free Church to the Wesleyan Church. To my knowledge, none of those groups fears the loss of denominational identity or an erosion of theological heritage as a consequence of identification with the broader evangelical community.
Obstacles To Overcome
Two obstacles, however, stand between many Anabaptist/Mennonites and this larger body of believers with whom we have so much in common. The first is denominational pride. We are convinced that we have a lock on the truth, particularly as it relates to faithful discipleship. We imagine a contamination or a dilution of that "truth" if we encourage greater interaction with the evangelical community. The other obstacle is fear. Many Anabaptist scholars and leaders recognize the power of the evangelical perspective to expose the error of theological liberalism and neoorthodoxy (two major influences on contemporary Mennonite theology) when it is presented honestly and systematically. Without minimizing any major tenet of historic Anabaptism, evangelical doctrine undercuts many "neo-Anabaptist" presumptions about Christian faith and discipleship.
EAF is convinced that neither of these objections ought to stand as a legitimate impediment to the development of stronger ties between Anabaptist/Mennonites and other evangelical Christians. And, for the reasons outlined above, we identify ourselves, without embarrassment or reservation, as Evangelical Anabaptists.