For the past five and one half years the primary work of the Evangelical Anabaptist Fellowship has been to define reality in a way that differs from the perspective of the contemporary Anabaptist establishment. (By "contemporary Anabaptist establishment" I refer mainly to the official agencies, institutions and organs of the denominations with which most of our members identify, the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church. Readers in other denominations may find that our commentary applies to their situation by extension.)
In this endeavor we have been energized by the spirit and example of our sixteenth century Anabaptist forebears. Like them, we are convinced that the consequences of a flawed and inaccurate definition of reality are enormous.
The Anabaptist community is not immune to the same explosive and potentially divisive issues which have rocked other denominations in the past 20 years. When EAF challenges the interpretation of those issues as put forth by the contemporary Anabaptist establishment, we are not simply being difficult, insisting on having our way. We are advancing a radically different definition of reality.
Virtually all of the potentially divisive issues with which denominations have wrestled in recent years came about when some, often a small minority, insisted that long-held convictions be re-examined and traditional positions be either amended or abandoned altogether. Once denominational and conference leadership adopted the cause, a change in the official position was only a matter of time. Thus divorce and remarriage, long-forbidden within the Anabaptist community, lost its stigma and is now as prevalent among Mennonites as in any other segment of society. Likewise the role of women in leadership, long a settled issue, has been "re-examined" in recent years. The traditional interpretation of New Testament texts has been set aside, and a new paradigm has become the de facto position of the denominations.
In both of the cases above, historical and traditional positions have been supplanted by new points of view based on revised interpretations of scripture.
When EAF challenges the interpretation of those issues as put forth by the contemporary Anabaptist establishment, we are not simply being difficult, insisting on having our way. We are advancing a radically different definition of reality.
And yet, so effective have the revisionists been in re-defining reality, that those who object to the changes are portrayed as contentious trouble-makers.
Then consider one of the most explosive issues ever to confront the denominations: homosexuality. Despite official statements by both the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church which should have settled this question once and for all, and despite disciplinary action by several conferences involving congregations who continue to receive practicing homosexuals as members, the issue is far from dead. That it keeps rearing its ugly head is due, in large part, to the fact that many within conference and denominational leadership question the official position statements. This assures that the issue will remain alive, and, if the pattern set by other issues prevails here as well, the de facto position of the denomination will eventually change. Meanwhile, those who object to the erosion of historical convictions and protest the imposition of revisionist interpretations will continue to be derided as narrow-minded, unloving and legalistic. Why? Because the establishment has successfully re-defined reality.