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Jan.–Apr. 1984 · Vol. 13 No. 1–2 · pp. 67–90 

Mennonite Brethren and General Conference Theology: A Common Center, a Single Foundation

Walter Unger

This article represents part of a longer paper which was presented at a Symposium on “Intermennonite Relations: M.B.’s and G.C.’s in Canada,” November 4, 5, 1983. The original footnoting appears, beginning with note 28 (p. 9 of the original manuscript.)
In the first section (not reprinted) Unger reviews Mennonite Brethren (M.B.) and General Conference Mennonite (G.C.) creeds and confessions (point (1)). In spite of the Mennonite reluctance to formulate a systematic theology, Unger points out that (in (2) “Implicit and Explicit Theology”) attempts to avoid careful and comprehensive theological statements border on obscurantism. We take up Unger’s discussion on theology at the point where the denominational differences are identified.

In addressing the theological enterprise, one finds a greater latitude in General Conference circles than there is in Mennonite Brethren circles regarding how one interprets or reinterprets Christian doctrine. G.C. scholars have greater liberty not only to question seriously, but also to deny outrightly some of the cardinal tenets of orthodoxy. The theological works of Gordon D. Kaufman, who is an ordained minister in the General Conference Mennonite Church and a Harvard professor, represents an extreme example of G.C. latitude. Kaufman denies the preexistence of Christ, His virgin birth, and His literal, bodily resurrection. Hallucinations convinced the early believers that Jesus had been raised from the dead, states Kaufman. 28

In his review of Kaufman’s theology, A. James Reimer warns against creating a kind of Christianity which accommodates itself to our modern culture rather than “perceiving the revelatory content and expression of classical Christianity as standing in judgment of all human ideology throughout the ages.” 29 How far Kaufman has moved in this accommodation process is revealed in his An Essay On Theological Method, where he states:

We no longer can settle theological issues by appeal to the authority of scripture or tradition. We must now undertake the much more difficult and hazardous task of deliberately and self-consciously constructing our concept of a God who is an adequate and meaningful object of devotion and {68} center of the orientation of human life. In doing so we are free to entertain on their own merits a variety of models for constructing the concept of God, and to accept or reject them without regard to their scriptural authorization. 30

Kaufman states that his theology grows out of the liberal traditions rooted in the Enlightenment and modern experience. 31

Some of Kaufman’s books have been used as texts in Mennonite schools, along with other texts written with similar presuppositions. The prominence given in the curriculum of these schools to issues arising out of modern critical scholarship has been questioned by many within Mennonite Brethren, General Conference and (Old) Mennonite circles. George Brunk II reviews this situation in his booklet A Crisis Among Mennonites, suggesting therein that Kaufman is a “wolf wrapped in Anabaptist wool.” 32

The extent to which the theology taught in Canadian Mennonite colleges has been shaped by modern critical scholarship is not a part of this study. However, William Klassen’s statement in the Journal of Mennonite Studies is intriguing and invites exploration. Klassen affirms, writing of Canadian Mennonite Colleges: “What is clear is that Mennonite theology and certainly religious studies have definitely tackled the critical problems and lived with religious realities in a post-critical stage.” 33

M.B.’s do not generally share the same openness that G.C.’s do to what Pannebecker calls a wide range on the theological spectrum. 34 For example, it is doubtful that Canadian M.B.’s would have invited a Jürgen Moltmann to give a series of lectures on one of their campuses as did their General Conference brethren. 35

Elmer Martens states that doctrinal purity is very important to the Mennonite Brethren and that “a strange fear grips the M.B.’s when the question of alignment with other Mennonites comes up. We seem to be afraid of being swallowed up or dominated by other Mennonite groups, thereby losing our doctrinal identity.” 36 J. B. Toews in his address at the 1982 Fresno Conference on Mennonite Pluralism stated that the Mennonite Brethren did not understand Anabaptist theology as leaving room for the wide range of theological thinking as do some Mennonite groups. Although Dr. Toews did not mention General Conference Mennonites as among these “other Mennonite groups,” the documentation of this address in the Mennonite Quarterly Review clearly indicates he had the G.C.’s specifically in mind. 37 Toews made it clear that:

The theology of Menno, the major source for the Mennonite Brethren understanding of Anabaptism, has not provided for them a “wide latitude of theological understanding.” {69} Theological considerations have made Mennonite Brethren selective in areas of inter-Mennonite cooperation. They have sometimes felt that some Mennonite groups have at times underemphasized essential aspects of New Testament truth as understood by the early Anabaptists. 38

3. COMMON DISTINCTIVES

In their confessional statements and in actual practice, I believe, (the above observations notwithstanding) that in the mainstream M.B.’s and G.C.’s hold the cardinal tenets of the Christian faith in common.

a) The Authority of the Scriptures

The Souderton Statement affirms: “We believe in the inspiration and the infallibility of the Bible as the Word of God and the only trustworthy guide of faith and life.” 39 The M.B. Confession of Faith 40 states the following:

We believe that all Scripture is inspired by God as men of God were moved by the Holy Spirit. We accept the Old and New Testaments as the infallible Word of God and the authoritative Guide for the faith and life of Christian discipleship. We believe that the Old Covenant was preparatory in nature, finding its fulfillment in the New Covenant. Christ is the key to understanding the Bible; the Old Testament bears witness to Him, and He is One whom the New Testament proclaims.

Ps. 19; 119:105; Luke 24:27, 44; Rom. 1:18-23; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Heb. 1:1-2; 8:5-13.

b) The Necessity of Conversion

Souderton affirms that G.C.’s believe “a Christian is one saved by grace, whose life is transformed into the likeness of Christ by His atoning death and the power of His resurrection.” The M.B. Confession of Faith states:

We are saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, convicts man of his sin and need for salvation. Those who repent of their sin and trust in Christ as Saviour and Lord receive forgiveness. By the power of the Holy Spirit they are born into the family of God and receive the assurance of salvation. Saving faith involves a surrender of the will to Christ, a complete trust in Him, and a joyful obedience to His Word as a faithful disciple. {70}

Acts 2:42, 46; Eph. 1:13-14; 2:8-9; 1 Tim. 2:5-6; Heb. 4:12; 9:15-28; 1 John 1:9.

c) Discipleship

The General Conference statement on this subject is the largest in the Confession:

We believe that Christ lived and taught the way of life as recorded in the Scriptures, which is God’s plan for individuals and the race; and that it becomes disciples of Christ to live in this way, thus manifesting in their personal and social life and relationships the love and holiness of God. And we believe that his way of life also implies nonresistance to evil by carnal means, the fullest exercise of love, and the resolute abandonment of the use of violence including warfare. We believe further that the Christian life will of necessity express itself in non conformity to the world in life and conduct.

The M.B. statement affirms:

We believe that Christians should live by the law of love and practice the forgiveness of enemies as taught and exemplified by the Lord Jesus. The church, as the body of Christ, is a fellowship of redeemed, separated people, controlled by redemptive love. Its evangelistic responsibility is to present Christ, the Prince of Peace, as the answer to human need, enmity and violence. The evil, brutal and inhuman nature of war stands in contradiction to the new nature of the Christian. The Christian seeks to practice Christ’s law of love in all relationships, and in all situations, including those involving personal injustice, social upheaval and international tensions. We believe that it is not God’s will that Christians take up arms in military service but that, where possible they perform alternate service to reduce strife, alleviate suffering and bear witness to the love of Christ.

Exod. 20:1-17; Matt. 5:17-28; 38-45; Rom. 12:19-21; 13:8-10: 1 Peter 2:19-23.

d) Believers’ Church

Both Mennonite groups participated in the 1978 Study conference on the Believer’s Church in Canada and representatives from each body were heavily involved in the program. 41 General Conference leaders seem to have given more attention to this Anabaptist distinctive than have M.B.’s. 42

Souderton states: “We believe that the Christian church consists of {71} believers who have repented from their sins, have accepted Christ by faith and are born again, and sincerely endeavor by the grace of God to live the Christian life.” Souderton was shaped by Fundamentalism and although this statement on the church contained key words in the orthodox vocabulary (“repented,” “accepted Christ,” “born again”), it strangely enough left out any mention of separation of church and state. Thus, by the mid-fifties, the G.C. brethren felt the need to elaborate and extend precisely this 1941 statement on the church. Among other points, the elaboration states:

  • We recognize that the Anabaptist vision of the church was to seek the restoration of the New Testament fellowship as a brotherhood of regenerated and disciplined believers whose faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • We recognize this view of the church involves the practice of believers’ baptism, scriptural church discipline, brotherly love and mutual aid, the separation of church and state, and the responsibility of giving individual and corporate witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ in the world. 43

The M.B. Confession contains separate articles on the church (with subpoints on organization, nurture, and discipline), Christian baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. The mission of the church and Christian ministries are also dealt with separately.

e) Mission

The next major study conference for the G.C.’s after the 1955 effort of defining the believers’ church was the 1958 Study Conference on Evangelism dealing with the issue of how the believers’ church extends itself. 44 Both M.B.’s and G.C.’s participated in Probe ’72.

Both Souderton and the Cornelius Ris Mennonite Articles of Faith (the latter a document of 76 pages in length in the English translation) lack a statement on the mission of the church. However, the Constitution and Charter of the General Conference Mennonite Church states that the number one purpose of the G.C. Church is fellowship of congregations committed to “proclaim Jesus Christ through appropriate ministries such as evangelism, missions, education, literature, service, relief, and community development to the end that persons may put their trust in God and receive Jesus Christ as Savior from the guilt and power of sin and serve Him as Lord in the fellowship of the church.” 45

The M.B. Confession of Faith under the article “The Mission of the Church” states: {72}

We believe that the command to make disciples of all nations is the primary task of the church. Every member has the responsibility to be a witness to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and to call men to be reconciled to God. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation and is able to meet the total needs of man.

Matt. 2:23; 11:5; 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; 2 Cor. 5:18-20.

Both Mennonite groups have a broad understanding of mission which combines word and deed, proclamation and practical aid. M.B. and G.C. cooperation in the work of M.C.C., as well as in the Council of Mission Board secretaries are examples of a united witness in propagating a common faith. Bolder steps of cooperation in mission are being called for from a number of quarters. 46

Of the aforementioned common distinctives, there has been, in the past, the opinion among many M.B.’s that their General Conference brethren were shaky in their theology of conversion (with the supposition being that M.B.’s have the correct understanding of this doctrine). I would affirm that M.B.’s and G.C.’s agree on the need for and centrality of conversion in the Christian life. Where differences have arisen is in the Mennonite Brethren emphasis on a specific mode of conversion, i.e., the dated, crisis conversion.

G.C.’s also believe in crisis conversion but make greater allowance for coming to faith in a less dramatic way and over a period of time. A 1955 study of G. C.’s in North America concluded that the quiet, inner-decision experience was most commonly among their members. 47 The Kauffman-Harder measurement of initial conversion experiences revealed that conversion was a majority experience in all five groups surveyed. However, the group with the highest percentage of initial conversion experience was the M.B.’s (93%) and the group with the lowest was the General Conference (65%). 48

G.C. historian Samuel Pannebecker affirms the fundamental place conversion and regeneration held in Anabaptist-Mennonite theology. “This single event,” he writes, “whether viewed from the divine or the human side or from both together, was so important that it was basic to all else in the Christian life.” 49 Whereas the reformers separated regeneration from moral change, “with infant baptism serving as the occasion for an inner spiritual regeneration which sometime later would produce the moral fruits of conversion,” 50 in Anabaptism the believer entered the new life “with a sense of absolute responsibility to obey . . . (and) hence amendment of life and obedience to the word of Christ was a necessary concomitant of conversion.” 51

The 16th century ideals regarding conversion were not uniformly maintained by Mennonites in subsequent years. Although voluntary {73} decision and adult baptism were retained, conversion became less vital. Pietism and revivalism brought a new emphasis on the necessity and spiritual significance of conversion became the main distinctive. These new Mennonite movements “provided a needed corrective to formalism and secularism but often carried a subjective emphasis on conversion as an experience for its own sake, and by itself, disconnected from the life of suffering and obedience of the martyr days.” 52

It is true, as Pannebecker observes, that the Mennonite Brethren were among those groups which put considerable weight on confessing the precise date of one’s conversion experience as a prerequisite for baptism and church membership. 53 However, it is noteworthy that the early fathers of the M.B. church had a very broad view of man’s salvation experience and, as was the case with their 16th century forbearers, were apparently more interested in observing a changed life than they were in the experience that had brought it about. Only one account of a conversion story of an early church leader has been preserved in the records. Due to subsequent influences, “dated” conversions took over as a prominent characteristic of M.B. theology. 54

Mennonite Brethren have recognized the need to restudy their understanding of conversion, particularly since the experience of the fathers was duplicated at younger and younger ages among the children but with a changed meaning. In his 1965 study of the Mennonite Brethren Church, Delbert Wiens suggested that M.B.’s were becoming more open to discuss how conversion comes about and more ready to recognize the validity of experiences other than “crisis” conversions. 55 Jake and Anne Loewen ploughed some new territory for M.B.’s in their 1969 study, “Can Child Conversions Last?”, subtitled, “Socialization and Child Conversion: A Personal Record.” 56 Particularly provocative in this study was the concept of the growth of the childhood conversion experience through gradual maturation, role rehearsal, self-discovery, and the progressive extension of the conversion commitment to new areas of life as they unfold. 57

Recently, M.B.’s have produced some excellent studies on conversion. Conversion: Doorway to Discipleship, edited by Henry Schmidt, contains eight essays reflecting a broad understanding of this experience. Hans Kasdorf’s Christian Conversion in Context projects the thesis that Christian conversion does not follow a stereotyped pattern but may take a variety of forms, both personal and multipersonal. 58 The October, 1980 issue of Direction is devoted entirely to the theme of conversion. 59

General Conference leaders have also endeavored to articulate a clear theology of conversion. C.M.B.C. president-elect John H. Neufeld’s, A Study Paper on the Meaning of Conversion, deals very lucidly with a number of concepts related to conversion, such as, {74}

depravity, original sin, accountability and the religion of childhood, as well as the religion of adolescence. 60 Cornelia Lehn’s study entitled, The Education and Conversion of Children, projects a theology of conversion not unlike that reflected in recent M.B. studies. 61 C.J. Dyck’s “New Life in Christ—in Anabaptist Perspective” appeared in a recent issue of The Mennonite. 62 The most in-depth study of those mentioned is Marlin Jeschke’s book, Believers Baptism for Children of the Church. 63 Jeschke does a comprehensive study of the historical and Biblical materials on such issues as original sin and election, innocence and accountability, the conversion of children, and baptism for believing children. This book needs to be read by all Mennonites, of whatever stripe, and especially parents.

It is my opinion that M.B.’s and G.C.’s are much closer in their basic theology of conversion than has often been thought. Probe ’72, the first all-Mennonite consultation on evangelism demonstrated that M.B.’s and G.C.’s were united regarding the necessity of personal conversion and committed to the proclamation of that message. There is great truth in what one delegate at those sessions observed: “It is of real significance that the sons of Menno could sit for four days to talk about evangelism and find that they talk the same language.” 64

4. DIFFERENCES: IMAGINED AND REAL

Perhaps in the past, church discipline has been more lax in G.C. churches than among M.B.’s. 65 However, General Conference leaders have addressed this problem. A Study Commission on Church Discipline worked on this issue from 1956 to 1959 and reported to the 1959 session of the General Conference. The first part of their report affirmed Biblical discipline as essential to the church’s life and urged “a whole church renewal, general repentance and reconciliation among the faithful members of the congregation, and early teaching on questionable matters.” 66

The second part of the Study Commission report was a source book for congregational use entitled Studies in Church Discipline. 67 This is an excellent study guide, used even outside G.C. circles. It sets a Biblical and historical framework for church discipline and deals with current issues, such as marriage and divorce, racial prejudice, business ethics, lodges, alcohol and a Biblical understanding of leisure. Marlin Jeschke’s Discipling the Brother is a more recent work on church discipline, which together with the Leader’s Guide provides positive study material for congregations on this important topic. 68

In 1974 the Mennonite Brethren Board of Spiritual and Social Concerns (Canadian Conference) presented an update of the Conference Biblical understanding of dealing in “loving discipline” as to be {75} practiced in M.B. churches in a paper written by Frank C. Peters. 69 An excellent overview of Mennonite Brethren church discipline practices has been provided by Marvin Warkentin in a recent issue of Direction. 70 My impression is that M.B.’s and G.C.’s hold to a common view on Biblical church discipline, although in actual practice there is probably as much variation between congregations within each denomination as there is between the two conferences.

Another frequently mentioned difference between M.B.’s and G.C.’s (which is likely more imagined than real) is that in church polity G.C.’s allow for greater congregational autonomy, whereas M.B.’s are more responsive to the directives and concerns as they relate to the larger brotherhood. At the July, 1983 annual sessions of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada held in Winnipeg, a major study probed “excessive congregationalism” among G.C.’s. Rod Sawatsky’s “Autonomy and Accountability: Church Polity Within the Conference of Mennonites in Canada,” published in its entirety in the September 19, 1983 issue of the Mennonite Reporter is described as an “in house” document brought into the open to a broader inter-Mennonite forum for wider discernment and evaluation. 71

A careful analysis of Sawatsky’s paper reveals the following current concerns among G.C.’s in Canada:

  1. The need for the General Conference Church to delineate its understanding of leadership and authority for the well-being of its faith and order. In the traditional era this task was performed primarily by the bishops, ministers, and deacons, while matters pertaining to education, mission, and service were often not given proper attention. Now the order is reversed: life and work is strong but faith and order is weak. Sawatsky writes that

    . . . we need to reaffirm the importance of a good and right theology as well as a good and right polity. We expect our schools, colleges and seminaries to teach right theology but we don’t have any structures in our churches and conferences to work at our common theologizing. No wonder our young people and older people alike are so naive theologically, and too often don’t think it is important what they believe. 72

  2. Since individual congregations have such great authority and the conference little, who establishes the standards for ordination? Is the examination and affirmation of the ministerial candidate by the individual congregation sufficient or should the larger brotherhood be involved? Sawatsky asks:

    What standards does the conference use to deal with doctrinal or ethical heresy? Are we not mutually accountable for {76} the faith and order of the churches who became part of this conference, even as we are mutually accountable for the faith and order of all the members in our local congregations? 73

  3. In current G.C. church polity each pastor operates alone in an autonomous congregation. When problems arise, no one has any authority to intercede in a congregation unless invited by that congregation.

    The dangers of individualism are now structurally confirmed by individualistic congregationalism. For even as individualism says what I do is none of your business, so too congregational individualism says what we do in our congregation is none of your business. 74

Sawatsky suggests a redefining of conference polity whereby in matters of leadership and authority the Canadian Conference of Mennonites becomes the most inclusive covenantal body. A restructuring of the Canadian Conference, he states, should establish a major board on faith and order (I take it not unlike the Board of Spiritual and Social Concerns in the M.B. Canadian Conference structure).

The Mennonite Brethren are grappling with similar issues in the area of leadership and authority. A 1980 Clearbrook study conference by the Board of Reference and Counsel of the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren heard papers on the call and ordination to the ministry (Victor Adrian), leadership styles (John E. Toews), church-pastor relations (Herb Brandt), the ministry of the divorced and remarried (Marvin Hein), and the place of the woman in the church (David Ewert). 75 Except for the last topic on the ministry of women in the church, M.B.’s come to identical or very similar positions to those held by their brothers and sisters in the General Conference Church.

J.B. Toews, who has 50 years of public ministry to reflect upon in evaluating the M.B. church, sees a loss of Spirit-led consensus in the brotherhood. Democracy, i.e., simple majority rule, often prevails in the church. Along with this, Toews notes the same kind of spirit of individualism that Rod Sawatsky refers to in his analysis of the G.C.’s.

The spirit of individualism has crept into the church and found ready acceptance. Church decisions and conference mandates are no longer seen as binding; accountability to the larger conference body is seen as a thing of the past. 76

Toews echoes the sentiments of Marvin Hein, who recently said of his fellow M.B.’s:

Our churches are becoming more and more groups of individuals {77} who are persuaded no one can tell them anything. Having once covenanted to admonish and be admonished, if and when unchristian behavior is known among us, we now bluntly maintain that our life is our business. 77

It seems to me that both M.B.’s and G.C.’s need a renewal of the Biblical understanding of what it means to be a brotherhood in the larger sense of that word. That larger sense of brotherhood would free our churches from the current excessive congregational individualism and lead to a much greater cooperation with and support for the larger covenantal body in its decisions regarding faith and order, as well as ministry and service.

One of the major differences between M.B.’s and G.C.’s pertains to the question of the mode of believers’ baptism. Although there has been some change of attitude, particularly among the Mennonite Brethren in that they now recognize baptism by affusion as at least sufficient for transfer into membership in the M.B. Church, the water of baptism still remains in the title of a recent book on the subject, The Water That Divides. 78

A careful analysis of M.B. baptismal practice and theology reveals the following:

  1. The question of the mode of baptism was not an issue for the founding fathers of the M.B. Church. Believers’ baptism was emphasized—not a “memorized faith,” but “a genuine, living faith effected by the Spirit of God.” 79 The first baptism by immersion in the fledgling M.B. Church did not occur until more than eight months after the January 6, 1860 Document of Secession had been signed. 80 The first minister and elder of the M.B. Church, Heinrich Huebert, was not rebaptized until a year after his election as minister, while the highly respected Johann Claassen was not rebaptized until after June 30, 1862. 81
  2. It was not until 1862 that immersion was established as the required mode of baptism in the M.B. Church, and this largely because the Chortitza Brethren (influenced by the German Baptists) considered baptism by immersion a prerequisite for church membership. When this latter view prevailed, a number of members in the Molotschna withdrew from the church. Four had been signers of the Document of Secession. 82
  3. As J.A. Toews notes: “Baptist influence on the mode of baptism in the M.B. Church cannot be denied.” 83 That influence came not only through those in the Chortitza, {78} who like Abraham Unger carried on an active correspondence with J.G. Oncken, the father of the German Baptist movement, but Baptist influence also impacted some of the key leaders of the new movement in the Molotschna. In 1837 Jacob Reimer had already begun to question whether sprinkling or pouring were Biblical modes of baptism. As an 18 year old, he had read the biography of Anne Judson and expressed the desire to be baptized by immersion. Reimer’s father had also made him aware of the German Baptists of Prussia who baptized by immersion. 84

Recent research has shown that Jacob Becker, who precipitated baptism by immersion among the M.B.’s in the Molotschna, had also been influenced by Baptist literature to accept that mode and only then found confirmation for immersion in the writings of Menno Simons. 85 Johann Claassen had studied a Baptist pamphlet on immersion which he likely received from a St. Petersburg Baptist layman, C. Plonus, with whom Claassen lived for a short time in 1860. 86 Claassen gave Becker this pamphlet. Becker and Heinrich Bartel studied it carefully and then searched the writings of Menno, finally coming to the conclusion that they both needed to be rebaptized by immersion.

  1. The first M.B. statement on baptism made in North America reaffirmed baptism by immersion backward, but also recognized baptism by immersion while kneeling or the forward immersion form, providing it was performed upon confession of faith. 87 In 1957, the M.B.’s again stressed the great significance of the immersion mode of baptism. A resolution was passed that

    . . . we do hold and teach that the act of baptism, as well as the mode of baptism, is of fundamental importance. The act is important because it is enjoined by Christ upon every believer. The mode of baptism (immersion) is important because it is the only mode which adequately sets forth in symbol the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Any other mode of baptism invalidates the real, symbolical meaning of baptism. 88

A closed case for immersion is presented in the 1957 M.B. General Conference resolution. “Baptizo” requires the meaning “immerse” and the believer is never said to be baptized with water, as would be required by sprinkling or pouring, but always in water. Jesus was baptized in the Jordan; John baptized where there was much water; the eunuch and Philip “went down into the water.” The resolution ends with the statement: “Any substitution of the mode of baptism abrogates its symbolic meaning.” 89 {79}

  1. The next series of statements on baptism reveal a shift in thinking. A 1963 resolution permits local churches to accept into fellowship believers who “have been baptized upon an experiential and confessed faith with a mode of baptism other than immersion.” These newly accepted members “will not function or be candidates in any office requiring ordination in the Mennonite Brethren Church” and “such privileges relate to fellowship in the local church and therefore churches will not transfer by letter any members received into fellowship without immersion.” 90

After the 1963 decision, the Board of Reference and Counsel was encouraged by regional conferences, churches, and concerned individuals to study once again the question of acceptance into membership of non-immersed believers and their transfer to churches within the brotherhood. The Board’s response to the 1972 convention was a reaffirmation of immersion as the only form of baptism and an encouragement to the non-immersed who applied for membership to consider baptism by immersion. However, the following significant recommendation was presented and passed by the convention:

. . . in view of the generally favorable acceptance of the practice initiated at the 1963 convention, we as a Board recommend to our brotherhood, that non-immersed members who have been accepted into the fellowship of local churches be allowed to transfer to other M.B. churches by letter. 91

By the late 1970’s, a number of Canadian churches had staff members who had come from a General Conference background and were ministering in M.B. churches without the benefit of immersion. This violated the spirit and in some cases the letter of the 1963 General Conference resolution. Thus, the Board of Spiritual and Social Concerns presented the following to the delegates gathered at the 1979 Canadian Conference meeting in Richmond, B.C.:

Recommendation (Regarding pastors and assistant pastors who have not been baptized by immersion): We recommend, “That as a Conference we reaffirm the principle that we require all persons who hold positions in churches which normally call for ordination, or that are considered eligible for ordination, that they be baptized by immersion. In addition to pastors, this requirement would concern associate or assistant pastors, although these may not be serving in a pulpit ministry.” 92

This recommendation generated a great deal of discussion from the {80} floor, particularly since British Columbia had a number of M.B. churches in which non-immersed ministers served. Debate was finally cut off and the Board of Spiritual and Social Concerns directed to refer the issue to the General Conference Board of Reference and Counsel.

At the 1981 sessions of the M.B. General Conference, it was evident that there was growing sentiment in favor of broadening M.B. polity in order to allow non-immersed brethren to minister in the M.B. Church. There were also still strong feelings of support for the Board’s recommendation to hold the line in this matter. “You can’t teach immersion freely if you haven’t been immersed yourself,” noted a veteran M.B. pastor. 93 David Ewert, member of the Board, stated that a good doctrinal case might be given for other forms of baptism but “it is unity of practice that we want.” 94

The amended motion before the delegates read: “In order that the M. B. Conference remain unified: 1. Those seeking ordination, or recognition of ordination by another denomination, shall be baptized by immersion, since that is the form of baptism practiced by the M.B. Church.” 95 The motion passed by a very slight majority but the convention was so divided on the issue that a motion to refer the whole matter back to the Board of Reference and Counsel and the churches was easily passed.

A recent letter in the Christian Leader is typical of at least one large segment of opinion among M.B.’s on the baptism question. The writer quotes from a January, 1983 Board of Reference and Counsel letter of clarification circulated among the churches which says, in part:

On the theological side of the question, our Confession of Faith does affirm immersion as the mode of baptism to be practiced in the M.B. Church. We do require our ministers to subscribe to the M.B. Confession of Faith. Thus, unless the brotherhood chooses to change the Confession of Faith to affirm other forms of baptism as well as immersion, we feel consistency demands that we accept the BORAC resolution as presented to the conference. 96

To the above statement, the writer responds that although he has no particular problem with the Board’s resolution, he looks at Article 15 in the M.B. Confession of Faith on love and nonresistance where he senses a lack of uniformity among M.B. ministers. He concludes, “If we feel uniformity on Article 9 (Baptism) is so important, then let’s make uniformity an important issue on all articles in our Confession of Faith including Article 15 (Love and Nonresistance).” 97 A G.C. brother recently queried me as to how it was that M.B.’s found it much easier to accept as pastors for their churches those who did not subscribe to the M.B. doctrinal statement regarding love and nonresistance than {81} they did to accept those who affirmed believers baptism but were themselves baptized by a mode other than immersion.

The Conference of Mennonites in Canada, along with the majority of Mennonites in the past, holds to affusion (pouring or sprinkling) as the mode of believers’ baptism. However, immersion is also seen as a valid form of baptism and there are congregations in the Conference which practice both affusion and immersion. 98

The G.C. rationale for affusion (pouring or sprinkling) is (in very condensed form) as follows:

  1. The Greek term “baptizo” has various meanings. Certainly immersion is one of those meanings, but the word is also used with reference to washings or rites of cleansing, where immersion could hardly be understood. The Hebrew word “tabal” is used in the sense of ritual cleansing. Both pouring and sprinkling were prescribed forms by which the spiritual transactions of cleansing and spiritual enduement were symbolized in the Old Testament (Lev. 8:12; 14:18; Num. 19:20). These terms also appear in prophetic utterances (Isa. 44:3; Ezek. 36:25; Joel 2:28-29).

The question arises: is there any adequate reason to believe that the early New Testament leaders with their Jewish background would make a radical departure from the forms and practices of their past history? Many prophecies said the Messiah would come and pour, sprinkle, purify His people, and “the Jews who for over a thousand years had known this way of purification—to pour or sprinkle some liquid on the person or object to be purified—could readily see (and understand) the symbol of water baptism (administered in the same way).” 99

  1. The Greek preposition “en” may be translated “in” or “with” according to the context. John’s baptizing activity in the Jordan River need not imply immersion. The same preposition “en” is used to speak of John baptizing in the wilderness. It may merely denote geographical location.

Two reasons lead G.C.’s to use the English preposition “with” rather than “in” in connection with water baptism. For one, various examples of anointing with oil use the expression in the Greek “in oil” (Ps. 23:5; Ezek. 16:9). Secondly, there is the comparison made by John in Matthew 3:11, “I baptize you en water for repentance, but he . . . will baptize you en the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

Consistency would lead one to translate the preposition in both places the same way. It is difficult to understand how one could be baptized in the Holy Spirit. The picture of {82} Pentecost would point more to the ideal of the Spirit coming upon one. In fact, Peter sees this as the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy: ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh . . .’ (Acts 2:17). There are three other references where the Spirit is said to be ‘poured out’ (Acts 2:18, 33; Titus 3:5-7). 100

  1. Although there are references in early patristic writings which speak of immersion (Didache), other patristic passages speak of sprinkling or pouring. Various pictorial representations of baptism in the early centuries almost invariably show the candidate having water poured on him. 101
  2. Remembering that baptism is a symbol of what Christ has done for us when we come to faith, received the Holy Spirit and were cleansed from sin, affusion as well as immersion are appropriate acts of symbolizing the reality of that inner, spiritual experience of our Lord’s saving grace. “It is the proclamation of Christ, not baptism, which is central.” 102 Furthermore, since on linguistic, historical, and exegetical grounds a case can be made for both affusion and immersion, it is “difficult to argue for the validity of one at the expense of the other.” 103

My conviction is that both Mennonite groups need to recognize that although the New Testament is very clear regarding the act of baptism and its necessity for a true disciple of Jesus Christ, it nowhere prescribes the mode. 104 Coming to this understanding would produce greater charity toward and acceptance of the group which practices a mode of believers’ baptism other than our own. It would also lead to the recognition that to insist on rebaptism forces the recipient to deny the integrity and validity of his or her first baptism as a genuine sign of Christian faith and commitment.

Marlin Jeschke urges Mennonite churches to emphasize in their teaching and preaching the meaning of baptism as a sign of one’s coming to faith and then let that form be used which best reflects that meaning. He suggests affusion as more fitting for someone who is born and reared within the community of faith and immersion as appropriate for the adult convert coming from the non-Christian world as did converts in the New Testament. 105

5. A COMMON CENTER, A SINGLE FOUNDATION

A number of factors have caused M.B.’s and G.C.’s in Canada to move off center from their common Anabaptist theological base. Perhaps the chief factor is a characteristic both groups share—they rather {83} freely and often indiscriminately borrow from outside sources.

Leaders in both groups have expressed concern over this assimilation process. Already in the 1950’s, G.C. leaders like Cornelius Krahn and Ed G. Kaufman were lamenting the negative effects of borrowing so many doctrines and practices foreign to G.C. doctrine and practice.

For example, Krahn observed:

We have undergone so many and varied influences from different schools of thought, colleges, seminaries, Bible schools, publications, radios, etc., that it is extremely urgent for us to study the biblical, theological, and ethical cornerstones of our own thinking and beliefs in the light of the mission and heritage of our forefathers. 106

In 1975 J.A. Toews wrote:

Possibly no other theological system has influenced Mennonite Brethren theology during the past fifty years as much as dispensationalism. In the thinking of many Bible students this form of Scripture interpretation is identified with premillennialism and even with true biblicism. 107

Fundamentalism has influenced both Mennonite groups, M.B.’s more so than G.C.’s, as noted earlier. Most M.B.’s and G.C.’s took the side of the theological conservatives in the battle against modernism, yet did not formally join the Fundamentalist ranks. Paul Toews observes:

Fundamentalism among Mennonites was as much an effort to redefine the relationship between culture and Christianity as a crusade to root out theological modernism—and perhaps it was even more the former than the latter. It was that kind of movement because the theological modernism in the Mennonite world was only incipient and marginal. 108

Fundamentalist theology continues to influence M.B. and G.C. thought and practice. The excessive congregational individualism described earlier is undoubtedly a reflection of the “Lone Ranger” type of ecclesiology espoused in some North American evangelical circles. The privatization of religion—the “sweet Jesus and me” syndrome, so foreign to the New Testament and Anabaptist emphasis on accountability to the brotherhood and corporate witness to the world, also stems from certain sectors of popular evangelicalism. J.B. Toews notes:

There exists a trend toward accommodation to Canadian and U.S. culture in the frame of U.S. fundamentalism . . . The utilitarian ethos of U.S. evangelicalism with its emphasis on personal benefits and profit in the context of a creedal {84} faith has for many influenced the basic understanding of redemption and Christian life. 109

An eschatological pessimism which fosters a life-boat ethic (i.e., the rescue operation of saving souls is all that matters) and a tendency to give up on the future since the Lord’s return is imminent, is also rooted in influences received from Dispensational Fundamentalism. 110 The recent push to redefine our view of Scripture in terms of inerrancy (more pronounced among M.B.’s than among G.C.’s) is also fed by Fundamentalist sources. M.B.’s and G.C.’s in Canada have always accepted the Bible as the Word of God. However, that conviction has not been formed so much as the end result of logical proofs and arguments as it has through the witness of the Spirit, simple faith, and obedience. Perhaps with the decline of practical obedience and an experiential relationship with God’s truth we have been more open to move toward precise verbal declarations of the Bible’s infallibility as an unconscious effort to convince ourselves that even though we may not obey it or experience its power, yes, the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. Perhaps a decline in our life of discipleship and being doers of the Word is being camouflaged by being caught up with being describers of the Word.

The aforementioned influences have pushed both M.B.’s and G.C.’s toward bounded set thinking and this, in turn, has tended to make them suspicious rather than trusting, not only of the other Mennonite group, but of brothers and sisters within their own group. Centered set thinking could obviate this tendency.

Approaching the doctrine of conversion from within a centered set conceptual framework would see it as a crisis experience or a quiet coming to faith—the emphasis being on the living relationship with Christ and growing toward His likeness, not the mode of conversion. When a great deal of emphasis is placed on a “once for all conversion,” ideally experienced in one’s younger years, the growing young person might feel this is all there is for him in his Christian experience. He may then discover that the decision made early in life is no longer capable of meeting his needs at the new level of maturity and questioning reached in his late adolescent or early adulthood years. Then there is the danger of denying his childhood experience (which was valid as a childhood experience) and discarding his Christian faith as being irrelevant to adult life. Teaching the necessity of continually making new commitments commensurate with new levels of understanding of what God requires of a growing disciple of Christ is a much more wholesome and Biblical approach. This is a centered set way of thinking about the Christian life—it is “a dynamic relationship rather than a static state,” a process of moving ever closer to the center (Jesus Christ), and viewing each Christian (including ourselves) “as being underway but in no sense at the destination.” 111 {85}

A centered set way of thinking about baptism would once again focus on the center and essence of the baptismal act, i.e., the believer’s proclamation of Jesus Christ and His saving work. Keeping this meaning central, the form becomes secondary and the only concern is that whether the believer be immersed, sprinkled or poured, the mode as clearly as possible serves as a sign of the deep, spiritual reality which is central to our Christian faith.

On a broader scope, the formation of Columbia Bible Institute in Clearbrook, B.C. is one example of what can happen when two Mennonite groups take seriously the implications of “a common center, single foundation” motif.

In 1970 the Conference of Mennonites in B.C. closed the doors of their Bethel Bible Institute in Abbotsford and by a working agreement entered into with the B.C. Conference of Mennonite Brethren invited its students to the larger M.B. Clearbrook campus. In 1982 this cooperative effort was expanded into a covenant whereby M.B.’s invited G.C.’s to unite in “the ownership, governance, operation, and development of the Columbia Bible Institute.” 112 At the historic June 11, 1982 joint convention, Dick Rempel, B.C. Conference Minister for the Conference of Mennonites responded to the M.B. welcome by affirming this was a continuing covenant of togetherness in working in God’s kingdom. “We are all in the same boat and owe each other terrible loyalty,” said Rempel. 113 Thus, the first inter-Mennonite Bible Institute in North America was established to actively “promote and teach a strong evangelical, Anabaptist (Mennonite) theology as reflected in the Confession of Faith of C.B.I. and of the supporting conferences.” 114

Many developments paved the way for this historic cooperative venture between M.B.’s and G.C.’s. 115 Trust between the two conferences had to be built up over the years. Above all, a common focus and mutual commitment to Anabaptist distinctives formed the bedrock of this union. The president of C.B.I. affirmed in an article in the Mennonite Reporter that a common theological base makes cooperation at C.B.I. possible. 116

C.B.I. is undoubtedly the most significant example of cooperation between G.C.’s and M.B.’s in Canada where theological issues are dominant. C.B.I. is not the result of watering down of these issues. The school’s Confession of Faith clearly corroborates this (see Appendix A). Furthermore, as president Roy Just writes:

Both conferences strongly support evangelism and mission. Both are dedicated to social concern and peace. Both stress discipleship and support a strong theology of the church. Both believe in sound biblical training for their youth. There {86} is common agreement that the Christian life begins with conversion, being born again, and that its fruit is manifested in a life of obedience to the teaching of the Scripture. Both have a high view of Christ and the Word of God. Believer’s baptism, the covenanting community of God’s people and the discerning of gifts are strongly affirmed.” 117

Hopefully the C.B.I. experience can provide a model to inspire further cooperative ventures between M.B.’s and G.C.’s in Canada.

One of the greatest benefits of this symposium on M.B./G.C. relations in Canada is that commonalities between the two groups can be affirmed and differences openly discussed. New understandings can be gained regarding not only the theology, but also the heartbeat of each group. Prejudice, bred by ignorance, can be dissipated. A greater sense of trust of one another (not suspicion) can be generated. A new commitment by both groups to focus on the essence and center of a common faith can be made. Such an approach of understanding, affirming and loving one another can form the basis for future joint M.B./G.C. ventures far beyond what is already being done in M.C.C. work or the occasional inter-Mennonite conference. May this be accomplished in God’s good time and in harmony with His good and perfect will!

NOTES

  1. Gordon D. Kaufman, Systematic Theology: A Historicist Perspective (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1968), pp. 203-205 and pp. 425-426. Kaufman is a member of the Boston Mennonite Church.
  2. Reimer, p. 49.
  3. Ibid, p. 50.
  4. Ibid. Whereas Kaufman still stressed the “revelational foundations of theology in his 1968 work, 1975 marked an important turning point with the publication of his An Essay on Theological Method. In the preface to his latest book, The Theological Imagination: Constructing the Concept of God (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981), he states that he has come to a new, definite way of doing theology. Imagination has become the alternative to revelation. Right at the outset of this work, Kaufman distinguishes the word ‘God’ from “the reality of God.” As one reviewer describes Kaufman’s view: “Since God is not a datum available for our inspection, we are dependent on ‘the image of God’—that is, on ‘God’—something which ‘is put together by the mind’.” See Religious Studies Review, July, 1983 for two lengthy reviews of Kaufman’s theology under the caption, “Reconstruction Christian Theology,” pp. 219-27. In his Conrad Grebel Review analysis of Kaufman’s theology, A. James Reimer states that he is aware of the problems inherent in the classical view of God and of theology, but is not convinced that the modern-historicist model has fewer problems and frees us from heteronomy. He calls for a new hearing of the traditional view and formulation of God, man, and history, adding: “Not that it can be transplanted into the modern world in its pristine purity—it necessarily must be taken through the prism of the Enlightenment which has profoundly shaped us all—but at least its fundamental affirmations should be openly reconsidered,” p. 51.
  5. George R. Brunk II, A Crisis Among Mennonites (Harrisonburg: The Sword and Trumpet, 1983), p. 3. {87}
  6. William Klassen, “Mennonite Studies as part of Religious Studies,” Journal of Mennonite Studies I (1983): p. 162-63.
  7. Pannebecker, p. 383.
  8. Allan J. Siebert, “Moltmann Lectures an Important Ecumenical Event,” Mennonite Reporter, November 1, 1982, p. 1. The Moltmann lectures have been published co-jointly by the Institute of Mennonite Studies in Elkhart and C.M.B.C. Publications, Winnipeg, under the title Following Jesus Christ in the World Today: Responsibility for the World and Christian Discipleship. George Brunk roundly condemns Moltmann’s visit to Mennonite campuses in his A Crisis Among Mennonites, p. 3.
  9. As cited in Anabaptists Four Centuries Later, p. 247.
  10. See M.Q.R. LVII (July 1983): p. 262, footnote 19.
  11. Ibid.
  12. All references to and quotations from the Souderton Statement are taken from the 1977 Constitution and Bylaws of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada, pp. 8-10. An excellent supplement to the rather brief Souderton Statement re the Scriptures is the 23 page pamphlet printed after the 1962 G.C. statement on the authority of the Scriptures made at the 1962 triennial conference of G.C.’s. The pamphlet is entitled A Christian Declaration on the Authority of the Scriptures and is available from the General Conference Mennonite Church, 722 Main St., Newton, Kansas.
  13. All references to and quotations from the M.B. Confession of Faith are taken from Confession of Faith of the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (Hillsboro: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House, 1976). The statement on Scripture is on pp. 11 and 12.
  14. See The Believers’ Church in Canada: Addresses and Papers from the Study Conference in Winnipeg, May 15-18, 1978, edited by Jarold K. Zeman and Walter Klaassen, published by The Baptist Federation of Canada and Mennonite Central Committee (Canada), 1979.
  15. See Proceedings of the Study Conference on the Believers’ Church held at Mennonite Biblical Seminary, August 23-25, 1955, as well as the fine seven-page pamphlet based on that conference, A Statement on the Believers’ Church.
  16. A Statement on the Believers’ Church, p. 4.
  17. See the report of this Study Conference in Evangelism in The Mennonite, November 2, 1958, pp. 542-44.
  18. Constitution and Charter of the General Conference Mennonite Church, revised 1975, p. 7.
  19. See J. A. Toews, “Mennonite Brethren in Inter-Mennonite Endeavors,” Direction VII (July 1978): pp. 3-10. Toews lauds Myron Augsburger’s dream shared at the 1977 Canadian Conference of M.B.’s—a dream of abolishing all mission headquarters in North America and establishing a center for world missions in a city like Nairobi, in which all Mennonite conferences would participate.
  20. Proceedings of the Study Conference on the Believers’ Church, p. 33.
  21. Anabaptists Four Centuries Later, p. 87. The Mennonite Brethren have subsequently produced their own Church Member Profile Questionnaire (1982) which asks almost identical questions as did the Kauffmann-Harder surrey. Some changes, however, were made, one of which was in the area of conversion. Whereas the Kauffman-Harder survey had a broader definition of initial conversion without limiting either the content or the timing of that experience too narrowly, the M.B. questionnaire affirms, “The Mennonite Brethren believe that all its members must experience a conversion as a distinct occasion in life,” and then asks if such a conversion “as a distinct occasion in life,” was experienced by the respondent. {88}
  22. M. E., I, p. 704.
  23. Ibid.
  24. Ibid., p. 705.
  25. Ibid.
  26. Ibid.
  27. Toews, History of the M.B. Church, p. 369.
  28. Delbert Wiens, New Wineskins for Old Wine (Hillsboro: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House, 1965), pp. 4-5.
  29. Jacob and Anne Loewen, “Can Child Conversions Last?” Mennonite Brethren Herald, October 17, 1969, pp. 2-6.
  30. Ibid., p. 5.
  31. Hans Kasdorf, Christian Conversion in Context (Scottdale: Herald Press, 1980).
  32. Essays are by Harold Dyck, “The Conversion of Paul: A Model?” Al Dueck, “Contexts of Conversion,” Gerry Ediger, “Conversion in Anabaptist and Mennonite History,” and George Konrad, “The Conversion of Children.”
  33. John H. Neufeld, A Study Paper on the Meaning of Conversion, October, 1970.
  34. Cornelia Lehn, The Education and Conversion of Children (Newton: Faith and Life Press, n.d.)
  35. The Mennonite, July 5, 1983, pp. 314-15.
  36. Marlin Jeschke, Believers Baptism For Children of the Church (Scottdale: Herald Press, 1983).
  37. “Probe ‘72—Historic Evangelism Gathering,” Christian Leader (May 2, 1972), p. 19.
  38. Pannebecker, p. 385. A 1955 study showed that 25 per cent of G.C. congregations in North America had no written or constitutional code for discipline and that 10 per cent of those who did, never followed it. Half of the congregations had not had a case of discipline for the preceding few years. Ibid.; see full report, Maynard Shelly, “Practices and Trends in Mennonite Congregations,” in The Believers’ Church, pp. 23-39. See also C.J. Dyck’s incisive paper, “Discipline in the General Conference,” pp. 125-134 in The Believers’ Church.
  39. Pannebecker, p. 406.
  40. Studies in Church Discipline (Newton: Mennonite Publication Office, 1958).
  41. Marlin Jeschke, Discipling the Brother (Scottdale: Herald Press, 1972), Leader’s Guide from same source.
  42. Frank C. Peters, “Three Alternatives to Excommunication,” Mennonite Brethren Herald, September 6, 1974, pp. 6-8.
  43. Marvin Warkentin, “Church Discipline in a Pluralistic Society,” Direction XII (April 1983), pp. 15-27.
  44. Ron Rempel, “Doing Theology Out in the Open,” Mennonite Reporter, September 19, 1983, p. 6.
  45. Sawatsky, Mennonite Reporter, September 19, 1983, supplement, p. 3.
  46. Ibid.
  47. Ibid.
  48. Wally Kroeker, “How Should We Then Lead?” Christian Leader, June 3, 1980, pp. 2-8; see also Harold Jantz, “Healing the Church-Pastor Rift,” Mennonite Brethren Herald, June 27, 1980, pp. 24-25. {89}
  49. As cited by Wally Kroeker, “Do We Need Another June Reform?” Christian Leader, February 8, 1983, p. 6.
  50. Ibid.
  51. Donald Bridges and David Phypers, The Water That Divides (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1979).
  52. Document of Secession as found in Toews’ History, p. 34.
  53. Ibid., p. 55.
  54. Ibid., p. 56.
  55. Ibid.
  56. Ibid., p. 366.
  57. Ibid., p. 55.
  58. Albert W. Wardin, Jr., “Baptist Influences on Mennonite Brethren With an Emphasis on the Practice of Immersion,” Direction VIII (October 1979), pp. 35-36.
  59. Ibid.
  60. A. E. Janzen and Herbert Giesbrecht, We Recommend . . . Recommendations and Resolutions of the General Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Churches (Fresno: Board of Christian Literature, 1978), p. 15.
  61. Ibid., pp. 89-90.
  62. Ibid., p. 90.
  63. Ibid., p. 93.
  64. Ibid., p. 255.
  65. Yearbook: 68th Convention of The Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, Richmond, B.C., July 6-10, 1979, p. 53.
  66. “Moving Ahead While Looking Back,” Mennonite Brethren Herald, August 28, 1981, p. 5.
  67. Ibid.
  68. Yearbook: 55th Session General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, St. Catharines, Ontario, August 7-11, 1981, p. 7 and p. 12.
  69. Wes Kroeker, “Uniform Uniformity, Please,” Christian Leader (February 8, 1983), p. 11.
  70. Ibid.
  71. Henry Poettcker, A Study on Baptism (Newton: Faith and Life Press, 1963), p. 23.
  72. Our Mode of Baptism—Its Basis and Validity, pamphlet prepared by the Committee on Ministry, Newton, Kansas, January, 1956, reprint, 1959, pp. 3-4.
  73. Poettcker, p. 14.
  74. Ibid.
  75. Ibid., p. 24.
  76. Ibid., p. 15.
  77. In his article on water baptism in Christian Leader, August 26, 1980, David Ewert writes: “Nothing specifically is said in the New Testament about the mode of baptism,” p. 4.
  78. Jeschke, Believers Baptism, p. 130.
  79. The Believers’ Church, p. 95. In his address, Ed G. Kaufman lists some non-Mennonite ideas and practices which had caused dissension in G.C. congregations, i.e., child evangelism, eternal security, dispensationalism, materialistic millennial interpretations, episcopalian church chancel arrangement, various Calvinistic and Fundamentalistic interpretations of Scripture, as well as materialistic influences and trends toward worldliness and secularization—see Ibid., p. 108.
  80. Toews, History, p. 377. {90}
  81. Paul Toews, “Fundamentalist Conflict in Mennonite Colleges: A Response to Cultural Transitions?” Mennonite Quarterly Review LVII (July 1983): 244.
  82. J. B. Toews, “The Mennonite Brethren Church,” The Mennonite, August 2, 1983, p. 366. For a fuller treatment, see J.B. Toews, “The Influence of Fundamentalism on Mennonite Brethren Theology.” Direction X (July 1981): 20-28.
  83. Cf. Walter Unger, “Giving Up on the Future,” Mennonite Brethren Herald, March 11, 1983, p. 25.
  84. Neufeld, p. 17.
  85. Minutes of the Annual Convention of the B.C. Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Churches, June 12, 1982, Fraserview M.B. Church, Richmond, B.C., also including Special Convention of the B.C. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, March 13, 1982, East Aldergrove M.B. Church, and Joint Convention of the B.C. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches and Conference of Mennonites, June 11, 1982, Fraserview M.B. Church, Richmond, B.C., pp. 42-43.
  86. Ibid., p. 43.
  87. Ibid., p. 13. C.B.I.’s Confession of Faith is found on p. 28.
  88. There has been a history of M.B./G.C. cooperation in B.C. ranging from joint evangelistic crusades to joint operation of the Mennonite Educational Institute (grades 8 to 12), retirement and intermediate care centers and more recently the Clearbrook Community Center, operated by the M.B./G.C. Golden Age Society. A key theological contributor, as far as M.B.’s were concerned, was the strong paper in favor of the C.B.I. model presented by J. A. Toews to the M.B. Board of Reference and Counsel on November 23, 1972—“Doctrinal Implications of Inter-Mennonite Cooperation at the Columbia Bible Institute.”
  89. Roy Just, “Common Theological Base Makes Cooperation Possible,” Mennonite Reporter, October 18, 1982, p. 14.
  90. Ibid.
Dr. Walter Unger is Academic Dean and teacher of History at the Columbia Bible Institute, Clearbrook, British Columbia.

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