Anabaptist World USA
Donald B. Kraybill and C. Nelson Hostetter. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 2001. 296 pages.
Anabaptist World USA gives us a snapshot of the Anabaptist communities in the United States at the turn of the century. The authors are sociologists with numerous publications, but their approach touches upon several disciplines: history, theology, and sociology. Actually their method, as they claim, is more like assembling a complicated puzzle—namely, the many diverse groups comprising the Anabaptist tradition.
The authors divide their book into three parts. Part one—the longest and most valuable section of the book—is a series of interpretative essays. Chapters cover the Anabaptist beginnings, contemporary communities, common convictions, the major Anabaptist bodies and their activities in education, service, and mission. The authors cluster the Anabaptist bodies into four tribes—Amish, Brethren, Hutterite, and Mennonite—and provide concise descriptions for each category, telling us how they are both alike and different. In addition to these four groupings, the authors also classify the Anabaptists by their rate of cultural assimilation—traditional, transitional, and transformational. Few groups fit any category perfectly. Some straddle several categories, and thus their approach allows for more flexibility than the usual progressive and old order typologies.
The second half of the book consists of parts two and three. Part two provides resources related to the various groups. The four tribes are listed by their cultural types, numbers, and congregations. Brief profiles are also given for over 60 groups. Readers can see which Anabaptist bodies are located in each state and the size of the various congregations. Part three consists of a directory of the Anabaptist congregations in America, categorizing them by tribe, denomination, and location.
Anabaptist World USA is a well-researched, convenient handbook that summarizes the beliefs and data of more than 60 Anabaptist bodies in the United States. It consists of interpretative essays, charts, maps, and much more. Most useful is the interpretative framework which provides the basis for understanding the larger Anabaptist picture in the USA. The many numbers and figures are both positive and negative. They provide a resource for seeing the geographical location of each Anabaptist congregation. But they also tend to read like a report. Thus this book will be most useful for the general reader, not for an academic audience.