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Spring 2004 · Vol. 33 No. 1 · pp. 33–47 

The Church “Without Spot or Wrinkle”: Testing the Tradition

Walter Unger

Maintaining a biblical understanding of the church seems like a continual challenge for Mennonite Brethren (MB). Ecclesiology was the root issue in the sixteenth-century Anabaptist break with the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Reform movements, and in 1860, the Brethren sought to go back to Menno and his concept of the church.

The past quarter century has been one of seeking theological focus and identity among MBs. Once again, the biblical concept of the church and church leadership has been the most frequent topic featured at study conferences convened by the General Conference Board of Reference and Counsel and later by the Board of Faith and Life—the topic of not less than twelve different conferences.

The flaw in Menno’s ecclesiology was that he tried to realize in the now what will only be realized in the end of time when the sanctifying of the church will be completed (Eph. 5:25-27).

Others in the Mennonite faith community are also grappling with this topic. Last year the Mennonite Church of Canada convened a three-day conference on “Baptism and Mission,” with one lengthy paper by Chris Arney on “Membership and the Missional Church.” Hopefully our present efforts will bring a clarifying perspective on both the history and the current belief and practice of Mennonite Brethren regarding baptism and church membership, and be an impetus to test the tradition regarding what it means when Scripture speaks of “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Eph. 5:27 KJV). {34}

THE ECCLESIOLOGICAL CORE OF ANABAPTISM

In my own faith pilgrimage to Anabaptist-Mennonite convictions, it was the Anabaptist view of the church that was particularly compelling. I came to see that ecclesiology was at the core of Anabaptism and the chief distinctive of the movement. Baptism was a corollary. The church was for believers who voluntarily obeyed Christ in baptism and in a life of discipleship. The new birth had to be demonstrated by a new way of life. High priority was placed on discipleship, both individual and corporate. Indeed the Anabaptists’ concept of the church came from their understanding of Christianity as discipleship, i.e., the obedient following of Christ in the context of a covenant community.

The Church Was Visible

There are two extremes, both of which are to be avoided in one’s view of the church. The first is to see the church almost exclusively in terms of a vast invisible cloud of witnesses of all nations throughout the ages—the true body of Christ, known only to him. The other is to see one’s own local, visible community of faith as the church above all others and that only by belonging to it can one truly experience God. The danger of an overemphasis of the former, platonic view of the church is a devaluing of membership in a local church and also a corresponding devaluing of the outward signs of such belonging: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. An overemphasis on one’s own particular church or denomination as the unique and possibly only depository of God’s truth leads to sectarianism, spiritual pride, and a very narrow view of God’s working with humankind.

Anabaptists rejected the concept of an invisible church, teaching that the body of Christ is made concrete in the visible, localized community of faith. The church particular was the visible manifestation of the church universal, i.e., true believers everywhere. And, as in apostolic days, those who accepted the message of Christ were to be baptized, not only as a sign of the forgiveness of sins, but also as the act of entry into the visible church where teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer could occur (Acts 2:41-42).

In 1525, Balthaser Hubmaier responded to Ulrich Zwingli’s attack on believers baptism. The Christian Baptism of Believers has been lauded by the Catholic historian Loserth as “the classic presentation of [Hubmaier’s] teaching on baptism and as one of the best defenses of adult baptism ever written” (Estep, 88-89). Hubmaier denies that baptism is necessary for salvation but does insist it is essential to the life of the church. {35}

Menno Simons, in his “Admonition on Church Discipline,” written in 1541, urged his “beloved brethren and sisters in the Lord never to forget to what they were called, taught and baptized. Remember the covenant of the Most High which you voluntarily desired and accepted,” reminding them of the holy life to which they had been called (Simons, 410).

Menno moves from the vertical covenant to the horizontal when he exhorts

diligently to observe each other unto salvation, in all becoming ways teaching, instructing, admonishing, reproving, warning, and consoling each other as occasion requires. If you see your brother sin, then do not pass him by as one that does not value his soul; but if his fall be curable, from that moment endeavor to raise him up by gentle admonition and brotherly instruction. (Simons, 411-12)

Accountability and Discipline Were Practiced in a Covenanting Community

Anabaptist ecclesiology placed enormous emphasis on the body life of the believing community. The very essence of the church was covenant, with accountability, mutual watchcare, and discipline taken very seriously—in fact, at times to the extreme.

The Schleitheim Confession of 1527 elaborated on baptism, the ban, and the Lord’s Supper in the first three articles. The rule of Christ (Matt. 18) is to be followed in dealing with those who have been overtaken by sin, and “this shall be done according to the ordering of the Spirit of God before the breaking of the bread so that we may all in one spirit and in one love break and eat from one bread and one cup” (Loewen, 81).

Menno’s high ecclesiology stressed the church as the pure bride of Christ, the “without spot or wrinkle” church (Eph. 5:27), a church that could only be kept pure by constant vigilance to check those who would defile it from within or enemies who might enter from without. Therefore, writes Menno, “a church without ban or expulsion is like a vineyard without wall or trenches, or a city without walls and gates. For the enemies have free access into it, to sow and plant their pernicious tares unhindered” (Simons, 724). Accountability and admonition, yes, ban and separation were painful but purposeful to maintaining a pure church.

The peaceful, evangelical Anabaptist movement in the Netherlands had to convince European authorities that it was not like one of the {36} many revolutionary groups of the day breaking down the civil order and generally wreaking havoc in society. Menno believed that the strict practice of discipline was one of the features that distinguished the peaceful Anabaptists from violent revolutionaries. In his “Instruction on Excommunication,” Menno wrote:

It is more than evident that if we had not been zealous in this matter [i.e., use of the ban] these days, we would be considered and called by every man the companions of the sect of Münster and all perverted sects. (Simons, 962)

How strict ought church discipline to be? What was all entailed in the use of the ban? Such problems regarding church discipline emerged among the followers of Menno over the question of marital avoidance and only escalated after that. By 1557 the lines had hardened between the “moderate” and the “strict” parties concerning the ban; there were “mild banners” and “hard banners.” Major divisions among early Mennonites occurred over this controversy.

Dirk Philips stated that without separation, God’s congregation may not exist, and if one does not expel the unfruitful branches (John 15:6) the entire congregation will become impure. Indeed, “no congregation or assembly may exist before God when they do not use the ban” (Philips, 368). Dirk’s hermeneutic of the pure church governed his approach to Scripture, and for him “it was impossible to read Scriptures without having in mind the fundamental ecclesiological and practical concerns that the Scriptures serve” (Shantz, 126). The same must be said of Menno, particularly the “later Menno” when he became much more concerned with the “pure community” (Snyder, 341).

The Spirit/Inner Life and Letter/Outer Life Emphases Were in Tension

In the writings of Anabaptist theologians such as Hubmaier, Pilgram Marpeck, Menno, Philips, and Peter Riedemann, as well as in numerous Anabaptist-Mennonite confessions of faith that emerged later, there are clear statements that discipline and ban are always redemptive and restorative, not punitive. Although one can find examples where this ideal was not realized, the stated goals of Anabaptist church discipline have always been the spiritual well-being of the offender and the credibility of the church’s witness to the world. Church discipline was an essential corollary to the Anabaptist principles of voluntary baptism and church membership. {37}

Arnold Snyder points out that even though the ban was the key in reforming, disciplining, and sanctifying the community, there were two different approaches. The Swiss and South German Anabaptists emphasized the Spirit and inner life and tended to emphasize love and the healing, reconciling, redemptive potential of community discipline. Then there were those who stressed the letter and outer life to maintain the unity and purity of the church in literal obedience to the Word. Over time, this approach prevailed, and, as we have seen with Menno and Dirk, it caused much divisiveness (Snyder, 339; Estep, 173).

Both in his Christology and in his ecclesiology, Menno was heavily influenced by the unorthodox, docetic teaching of Melchior Hoffman. Hoffman rejected the two natures of Christ and held that the divine Saviour passed through Mary like water through a pipe, thus escaping contamination from Mary. Jesus was in Mary but not of Mary. God alone must be held as the progenitor of Jesus. Menno held with Hoffman that those regenerated by Christ partake of his Spirit and nature and have been made like unto him; they are married to Christ spiritually and are heavenly minded (Simons, 424).

Although the Anabaptists rejected the sacramental mediation of grace and insisted that the water of baptism was just water and the bread and wine of communion just bread and wine, for them the true church was sacrament. While rejecting the doctrine of transubstantiation, the Anabaptists nevertheless believed the body of Christ was present on earth in the visible congregation of saints. In this light, the use of the ban was tantamount to being sacramental in that it maintained the purity of the Lord’s Supper. The regenerate came to the Table of the Lord pure, as an offering, rather than as sinners to receive cleansing (Snyder, 394; Rempel, 32-37).

The bar for membership in the Anabaptist fellowship was exceedingly high! Timothy George aptly comments regarding Anabaptist ecclesiology:

Faced with persecution and hostility from without, the Anabaptist churches were especially on guard against corruption or laxity from within. Membership in an Anabaptist church was neither casual nor assumed; participation was perforce hearty and vigorous. (George, 297)

Menno’s ecclesiology has influenced Mennonite concepts of church, salvation, and Christian ethics in renewal movements, particularly that of the Brethren in 1860. Unfortunately it has also contributed {38} in considerable measure to a spirit of legalism, perfectionism, and division among Anabaptists and Mennonites throughout their history. The milder, more realistic stream of Hubmaier and Marpeck argued that their brethren did not appreciate the stubborn nature of human sinfulness and the difficult process of change. This stream would agree with the Lutheran critique in 1578 that regeneration did not tear out sin with its roots from human beings. Hubmaier and Marpeck pointed away from an understanding of the church as the only pure bride of Christ and saw the church rather as a gathering of people still in process. Thus the church was to be structured not so much to preserve unity among regenerated saints, but rather to encourage growth for the “weak and imperfect,” which included all members of the church.

THE BRETHREN: CHURCH-CENTERED

In his History of the Mennonite Brethren Church, J. A. Toews notes that Menno’s high regard for the church found expression in the theology of the Mennonite Brethren, adding that in a real sense one could describe their theology as being church-centered (Toews, 372). The ascetic, literalistic tradition of the “pure church,” lost (at least in practice) in the Mennonite Brotherhood in Russia, was picked up with great fervor by the Brethren in 1860. Indeed, as John B. Toews has observed:

The Brethren were tempted to make a pure church purer and so generally defined the nature of the Christian walk rather precisely. . . . They in effect said: “This is what we can be, let’s strive to attain it”. . . . The conservatives among the Brethren instinctively restricted the circle of the elect. (Toews, 57)

Confession of Faith, 1902

The Brethren did not produce their own official Confession of Faith until 1902. This Confession, adopted for use in Russia and North America, has the imprint of Menno throughout. There are six footnotes citing Menno, five of them extensive.

The Confession declares baptism as an ordinance commanded by Christ “for a sacred sign of regeneration and embodiment in him and his church.” The ethical dimensions of walking in newness of life, using one’s spiritual gifts, and carefully guarding the “holy privileges of divine citizenship” round out this section (Loewen, 168-69).

Article III on the church begins by highlighting redemption by the blood of Jesus, sanctification, and our Lord’s goal of “a glorious {39} church, not having spot, or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Acts 20:28; Rev. 1:5; Eph. 5:25-27” (166). Separation from the world is delineated next, a necessary corollary of maintaining a pure church. Again, under the characteristics of the true Church the first mark is a “life of sanctification according to the teaching of Christ and his apostles” (166).

The Christian exhortation, pastoral care, and church discipline section highlights the rule of Christ in Matthew 18:15-20 as well as the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:11-14 and Acts 20:28, 32 (paragraph 42). Extensive Scripture is cited concerning the rebuke of sin, withdrawing from the disorderly, and rejecting those who lapse into heresy. The paragraph concludes with the words, “The church shall treat such excommunicated persons with love and helpful compassion, as it behooves a Christian to love all men, yea, even his enemies. 2 Thess. 3:15; Phil. 4:5” (168).

Regarding restoration, the Confession cites Matthew 18:21-35 and 2 Corinthians 2:2-11 as backing for the statement, “If an excommunicated person shows repentance and sorrow over his sin, the church shall forgive him again and again and accept him into membership according to the word of the Savior. . . . And the apostle Paul” (168).

This confessional statement governed Mennonite Brethren belief and practice on “the pure church” for the better part of the twentieth century. In actual practice there were times when Mennonite Brethren lapsed into legalism, displayed self-righteousness, were intolerant, and practiced harsh and unbiblical church discipline. This occurred both early on in MB history and into the twentieth century. P. M. Friesen notes that “Menno’s very serious, somewhat melancholy theology” was counterbalanced by Pietist Eduard Wuest’s joyous doctrine of justification.

Nevertheless, it seemed the melancholy theology of Menno overshadowed all other influences. Friesen says as much when in 1910 he writes about the “reserved, anxiously suspicious disposition” of the Brethren in their relationships with the old church. His prose becomes heated:

This artificially pious and reserved attitude was one of the most repulsive aspects of the MB Church until recent times . . . (we talk about that which we—as members of the MB Church—have witnessed with boiling blood and burning brain). This sin of the MB Church, too, must be named in a truthful history. (Friesen, 645) {40}

Twentieth Century: Transitions and Challenges

As an immigrant people, North American Mennonite Brethren protected their theology and Christian convictions from contamination by the “world.” The German language was seen by many as preserving the religious heritage. In the 1940s and 50s there was a shift to a more intentional Anabaptist Mennonite Brethren identity. Until then, North American fundamentalism had influenced MB theology which, along with the impact of dispensationalist theology, had undermined some Anabaptist values.

In the struggle to keep the MB Church one “without spot or wrinkle,” separation was becoming less and less a matter of biblical conviction and more one of legalism and tradition until about mid-century, after which most of the separationist cultural standards began to crumble. In his analysis of North American Mennonite Brethren at mid-century, Richard Kyle concluded:

Generally, it seems that a tendency toward isolationism and ethical legalism held sway in Mennonite Brethren circles until the mid-twentieth century in the United States and perhaps a decade longer in Canada. Therefore, when industrialization, urbanization, secularization, materialism and the use of English became part of the Mennonite Brethren way of life, the old separationist cultural standards began to crumble. The Mennonite Brethren, for the most part, have not successfully replaced their earlier cultural separation with an equally rigorous biblical separation. (Kyle, 194)

In his 1975 History of the Mennonite Brethren Church, J. A. Toews wrote of church discipline as “a Mennonite Brethren distinctive which seems to be rapidly disappearing” (372).

Church membership issues surfaced on the conference floor quite regularly. For example, in 1969 a broad resolution addressing critical matters of both church and member responsibility was passed. In setting forth the ethical guidelines to assist the believer and the church, the statement admits it is possible for the church to fail “because she either neglects to do it or does it in the wrong way or in the wrong spirit.” This remarkable resolution then states:

As a brotherhood we confess:

  • That we have at times been self-righteous and pharisaical in the way we have judged those who did not agree with us. {41}
  • That we have often neglected to give instruction concerning the biblical principles that underlie the guidelines which the church has laid down.
  • That we have too often made abstinence from disorderly behaviour the hallmark of discipleship and spirituality, thus giving the expression of our faith a somewhat negative character. (Giesbrecht, 273)

A further resolution states that the church will continue to set guidelines to assist all members “to work before the Lord in holiness and truth,” adding the following two paragraphs:

  • That we will consider such guidelines, not as conditions for membership in our church, but rather as ideals, the attainment of which remains the constant goal and desire of each member.
  • That we will, however, ask of each person who seeks membership in our churches, that he will accept these guidelines as his ideal and that he will maintain an honest openness and willingness to be instructed and nurtured in the way which the church believes to be true to the Word of God; that he will personally commit himself to diligent searching and prayer concerning areas in which he is uncertain. (Giesbrecht, 273-74)

In the mid-eighties there was a real sense of urgency among conference leadership for Mennonite Brethren to redefine their understanding of the nature of the church. In 1986, “A Pastoral Letter: A Call to Reason Together” was sent out to all MB churches in North America and was published in the Christian Leader and MB Herald. The issues raised in the letter were discussed at a special study conference held in Fresno, California, October 15-17, 1986. The pastoral letter, as well as the five papers presented at the conference, appeared in the Direction fall issue of 1986 under the title, “The Church as a Covenant Community.”

The study conference papers addressed the concerns and strategic calls of the pastoral letter and affirmed MB ecclesiological convictions as expressed in the Confession of Faith. The Findings Report made numerous telling observations. It noted that the frequent references to bounded and centered sets, with a clear emphasis on moving people to the center—Christ—rather than on boundary maintenance, as well as other aspects of the discussion “shows that we are not being asked to return to the way of being a community that once characterized us” (72). And in a prophetic mode looking to the year 2000, the Report averred that {42}

questions of faith and theology will probably be determined by expediency or pragmatism. The Mennonite Brethren Church will probably become a loose federation of churches whose character and “glue” will consist of evangelism and activism; the significance of the church as a covenanting community and the presence of church discipline will decline. Growing churches will press for acceptance of the more popular evangelical and culturally popular stances. Missional congregations will gradually become community churches (75).

The Twenty-First Century

Relationship to Other Christians Groups. Now, in the early years of the twenty-first century it is safe to say that considerable modification of the sixteenth-century Anabaptist ecclesiological tradition has occurred. This is to be expected since the cultural, political, and religious realities of our time are so radically different from those of our sixteenth-century forebears. It must be remembered that the early Anabaptists took such a strong stand on church discipline, the ban, and excommunication in opposition to Lutheran and Zwinglian churches, who did not at first attempt any discipline except for heresy. When the Anabaptists were questioned by state church leaders as to the reasons for their separation from them, a primary reason given was the lack of discipline (Bender, 595). How could the state church be the true church of Christ when it tolerated in its midst all kinds of sin?

Menno referred to the Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Zwinglians as “the great and comfortable sects” and grouped them with Arians and Münsterites because they used force “to make valid their positions, faith, and conduct with the sword” (Simons, 175). For Menno and his followers to act to separate the centuries-long organic unity of church and society undergirded by the coercive power of the state was seen as revolutionary and led to violent reprisals against the Anabaptists.

Contemporary followers of Menno do not live in the specter of persecution from civil and religious authorities. The Anabaptists separated from sixteenth-century churches they saw as churches of the Antichrist whose rituals, particularly infant baptism, were seen as sacrilegious. Now in the twenty-first century there is a spirit of cooperation by Mennonites with the evangelical pedobaptists, even with some evangelical Catholics. People from mainline Protestant churches attend MB churches; Christian Reformed, United, Anglican and others from pedobaptist backgrounds come, and many are rebaptized and become members. {43} Contemporary Mennonite Brethren have a much more open attitude to the larger work of God in the world, a view Menno lacked since he was constantly on the defensive. The sense that the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition, long held as being the only true church, is gone.

A Disciplined, Visible Church. What remains? The ideal of being a disciplined, visible believers church still remains at the heart of MB self-understanding. Our current ecclesiology seeks both to take seriously a high view of the nature of the church as well as to take seriously our humanity and the pilgrim/process nature of those within the church. The gospel we preach is, after all, a gospel of grace, and “the church remains faithful not by being perfect but by keeping that message central” (Dueck, 10). Such understandings may well help remove the barrier or at least the mystique that church membership is only for those already “without spot or wrinkle,” a misconception which in the past has made the decision for baptism and membership very difficult, particularly for sensitive young people.

In the past decade, there has been a shift to a more positive and holistic view of church membership, a shift from church edicts to Scriptural guidelines, and even following these guidelines is not seen as a condition of membership but an ideal, which with the help and nurture of fellow brothers and sisters the member strives to attain. Many churches are developing covenants which see membership as an ongoing commitment to utilizing one’s gifts to build up the body and witness to the world. Churches are becoming more intentionally missional, calling each member to become involved.

Church discipline, although weakened in practice, still remains a part of MB understanding of church membership. Further retrenchment on this matter will have deleterious effects. Surely past abuses, as painful as they were, do not mean that we replace bad church discipline with no church discipline. In reviewing the Anabaptists-Mennonite ecclesiological tradition, church historian John D. Roth concludes:

those groups that rejected the practice of church discipline, or allowed it to atrophy, almost inevitably lost their distinctive identity, declined in numbers, and became assimilated into other denominations or into the broader culture. (Roth, 15)

Baptism and Membership. A casualty of the move by some MB churches to disconnect baptism and church membership is loss of the sense that the church has more than a priestly role—it also has a {44} prophetic and disciplinary role in the baptizand’s life. With such thinking, exclusion or ban would certainly not be an issue. Where this is the case, we need to relearn the lesson that the linking of the ban (or at least the possibility of the ban) to baptism and membership underscores the essentiality of mutual accountability and the covenant relationship of the church. Indeed, can there be a believers church without such accountability? How might we recover this dimension in our churches in our individualistic age?

We must not take historical perspective lightly. We ignore it to our peril, as Roth has noted. There are hopeful signs that more and more MB churches are seeking to strengthen covenant community and grow in becoming discerning communities, endeavoring to separate essential features of Christian belief and practice from cultural ones and from things adiaphora, i.e., nonethical; distinguishing things that call for correction and discipline and those that do not.

Roth offers the observation that the long record of the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition “testifies to the fact that membership in the gathered body of believers is the beginning of conversation not the end of it.” Furthermore,

baptism signifies a commitment to the difficult, dynamic, and life-giving task of discernment: of reading the cultural context, studying the Scriptures, listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and testing one’s impulses and assumptions against the wisdom of fellow and sister believers. (Roth, 24)

In this process, conflict is inevitable, but conflict is an unavoidable part of parsing out faithfulness for each generation and each cultural setting.

It is necessary for each generation to clarify and claim scriptural truth. For the present generation of Mennonite Brethren, this does not mean we will simply assimilate the latest ecclesiological teachings and trends, but we will carefully restudy Scripture in light of our culture and seek creative ways of being the church in that culture. At the beginning of the past century P. M. Friesen called his generation of Mennonite Brethren to relearn the good of the past and to balance this with the new of the present.

A Faith Continually Renewed. On the occasion of commemorating the centennial of the birth of the MB Church, J. A. Toews called his generation to know the wisdom of the past tradition, but also to look afresh at Scripture and go beyond the forefathers’ understanding and interpretation. The call “back to the faith of our fathers,” wrote Toews, {45}

does not necessarily imply that we stay within the limits of their understanding of the Scriptures. Their understanding, like ours, was a partial one. The Spirit of God can, and must, extend spiritual horizons and enlarge knowledge within our Brotherhood. (Toews, 99)

In our contemporary setting this will be a matter of finding that delicate balance between Word and Spirit, outer and inner, old and new, past and present. It will mean affirming once again the fundamental truths that are fixed in our view of baptism, church, and Christian discipleship and remaining flexible in ways of applying and expressing these biblical norms in our current cultural setting.

The flaw in Menno’s ecclesiology was that he tried to realize in the now what will only be realized in the end of time when the sanctifying of the church will be completed (Eph. 5:25-27). Menno’s desire for a pure church here and now left little allowance for the humanity and foibles of its members and led to a rigid legalism.

We do well to remember that our Lord’s ideal of the church to be presented one day without spot or wrinkle, and the reality of how we experience the church as imperfect people on a pilgrimage, will always be in tension, as is the ideal and the real in our own sanctification. In Ephesians 5:22-33 Paul encompasses such a discussion with the themes of love, nurture, forgiveness, and tender care for one another. In such a spirit, dealing with blemishes in the bride will always be redemptive.

The ultimate purity of the church is the work of Christ. That purity will not be realized on this earth but awaits the consummation when our Lord makes all things new.

WORKS CITED

  • Arney, Chris. 2002. Membership and the missional church. Baptism and Mission Study Conference presentation, Winnipeg, MB.
  • Bender, Harold S. 1955. Church. In The Mennonite encyclopedia, 1:594-98. Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House. {46}
  • Direction journal. 1986. Theme articles for “The Church as a Covenant Community” issue. Direction 15 (fall).
  • Estep, William R. 1996. The Anabaptist story. 3d ed., rev. and enlarged. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  • Fast Dueck, Irma. 2002. Baptism and mission. Baptism and Mission Study Conference presentation, Winnipeg, MB.
  • Friesen, Peter M. 1978. The Mennonite brotherhood in Russia (1798-1910). Trans. J. B. Toews, Abraham Friesen, Peter J. Klassen, Harry Loewen. Fresno, CA: Board of Christian Literature.
  • George, Timothy. 1988. Theology of the reformers. Nashville, TN: Broadman.
  • Giesbrecht, Herbert. 1978. Part II Recommendations and resolutions of the general conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, 1966-1975. In We recommend, compiled by A. E. Janzen and Herbert Giesbrecht. Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House.
  • Krahn, Cornelius. 1955. Incarnation of Christ. In The Mennonite encyclopedia, 1:594-98. Hillsboro, KS: Mennonite Brethren Publishing House.
  • Kyle, Richard. 1995. North American Mennonite Brethren at mid-century: Ecclesiological developments. In Bridging troubled waters: The Mennonite Brethren at mid-century, ed. Paul Toews, 193-212. Winnipeg, MB and Hillsboro, KS: Kindred.
  • Loewen, John Howard. 1985. One Lord, one church, one hope, and one God: Mennonite confessions of faith in North America. Elkhart, IN: Institute of Mennonite Studies.
  • Marpeck, Pilgram. 1978. The writings of Pilgram Marpeck. Trans. and ed. William Klassen and Walter Klaassen. Kitchener, ON: Herald.
  • Miller, Marlin E. 1990. Christology. In The Mennonite encyclopedia, 5:147-50. Scottdale, PA: Herald.
  • Philips, Dirk. 1992. The writings of Dirk Philips, 1504-1568. Trans. and ed. Cornelius J. Dyck, William E. Keeney, Alvin J. Beechy. Scottdale, PA: Herald.
  • Rempel, John D. 1993. The Lord’s supper in Anabaptism. Waterloo, ON and Scottdale, PA: Herald.
  • Roth, John D. 2000. The church “without spot or wrinkle” in Anabaptist experience. In Without spot or wrinkle, ed. Karl Koop and Mary Schertz, 7-25. Elkhart, IN: Institute of Mennonite Studies.
  • Shantz, Douglas H. 1986. The ecclesiological focus of Dirk Philips’ hermeneutical thought in 1559: A conceptual study. Mennonite Quarterly Review 60:2: 115-27. {47}
  • Simons, Menno. 1956. The complete writings of Menno Simons c. 1496-1561. Trans. Leonard Verduin and ed. John Christian Wenger. Scottdale, PA: Herald.
  • Snyder, C. Arnold. 1995. Anabaptist history and theology: An introduction. Kitchener, ON: Pandora.
  • Toews, John A. 1975. A history of the Mennonite Brethren church. Fresno, CA: Board of Christian Literature.
  • __———. 1981. People of the way: Selected essays and addresses by John A. Toews, ed. Abe J. Dueck, Herbert Giesbrecht, Allen R. Guenther. Winnipeg, MB: Historical Committee.
  • Toews, John B. 1984. Brethren and old church relations in pre-World War I Russia: Setting the stage for Canada. Journal of Mennonite Studies 2: 42-59.
Walter Unger is President Emeritus of Columbia Bible College, Abbotsford, British Columbia, and Chair of the Canadian MB Board of Faith and Life.
A version of this paper was presented at Rite and Pilgrimage: A Study Conference on Baptism and Church Membership sponsored by the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Board of Faith and Life, Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg, Manitoba, May 22-24, 2003.

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