From the Editor: Baptism and Church Membership
The “Jerusalem Council” in Acts 15 established a precedent for church controversy. Leaders representing followers of Jesus as Messiah from a variety of locales and orientations gathered to seek the mind of the Spirit. Significant elements of their deliberation included hearing testimony, studying the Scripture, debating with one another, coming to agreement and writing down the results, and then communicating those results to other believers by the hand of trustworthy couriers.
This issue of Direction presents slightly revised versions of the four major presentations at a conference titled, “Rite and Pilgrimage: Baptism and Membership Study Conference.” It was sponsored by the Canadian MB Board of Faith and Life (BFL), and held from May 22-24, 2003, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on the campus of Canadian Mennonite University. The original versions of these articles, as well as those papers offered in response, may be found online.
Jon Isaak presents an historical overview of baptismal practice as found in the New Testament and in the early church. Lynn Jost summarizes and describes current Mennonite Brethren theology concerning baptism, especially as presented in the newly adopted Confession of Faith. Walter Unger tests the Anabaptist tradition of baptism and raises questions concerning the diversity of ecclesiastical orientation. David Falk reports from a congregation which is seeking to be true to the core of Anabaptist tradition while trying new practices related to baptism and church membership.
Ken Peters, on behalf of BFL, concludes the articles devoted to this theme by providing a summary of the Findings Committee Final Report on the study conference. He has also communicated that during January 2004 a further reduced, one-page summary statement from BFL was sent to provincial MB leaders for feedback. This one-page summary is expected to be presented to the 2004 Canadian MB Convention delegation this summer in Toronto. For valuable resources on the issue of baptism among Anabaptists and Mennonites, consult the Works Cited lists of the theme articles.
Also in this issue, Marlene Enns provides an essay which summarizes a portion of her doctoral research; she appeals that we make room for alternate and complementary ways of reasoning as we carry out the work of the church. Recent college graduate Landon Fulmer surveys the difficulties North American Mennonites have had in choosing between pacifism and nonresistance.
In Ministry Compass, Dennis Fast testifies to the importance of mentor relationships in shaping emergent leaders. Eleven Book Reviews assess twelve books ranging from women in Mennonite history, to ethics and biblical commentary, to preaching, Christian education, Darwinism, and philosophy. As with every spring issue, this one includes Current Research among scholars of the supporting institutions.