3 Reasons I Call Myself Mennonite

As soon as a friend hears me mention that I’m Mennonite, a list of questions usually follows. So here’s a part of my story that you won’t know, unless I tell you.

This week, I’m at the Mennonite Church USA Convention.

Three years ago, I didn’t even know such thing existed. Now, I’m spending an entire week with thousands of Mennonites, and volunteering with a service team.

I joined the Mennonite church in 2007, shortly before I left DC. I made this decision as a result of my study abroad experience in 2004, and my church in DC. Mennonite thought influenced both of these places, so I naturally gained exposure to the Mennonite culture.

For me, being Mennonite boils down to “following in the footsteps of Jesus”. I know, I know. Every Christian denomination believes this. Here’s how this plays out in my actions, outside of my words.

  1. Non-violence and peace-keeping
  2. Living Simply
  3. Acts of Service

I believe Jesus calls us to these three things. Each topic could generate an entire website by themselves, so I’m giving you the watered down Kyla version in 500 words or less.

In his life, Jesus taught and lived peace. He consistently sought to bring healing to all situations and all people. Mennonites often call this the “third way”. When you’re caught in the middle of what appears to be an “either/or” conflict, usually a third option exists that we miss, but Jesus always manages to find. Briefly, being pacifist does not mean living life passively, running away from all conflict. Living a pacifist life means actively seeking peace in all situations.

I think through my purchasing decisions, and attempt to care for all creation. I am cautious with what materials I buy, knowing that where I place my money impacts people other than corporate managers. I do not want to live so attached to my belongings, that I cannot pack up and leave at a moment’s notice, should the Holy Spirit be so bold as to ask me to do so.

If I am following a God who loves and gives generously, I want to be a woman who lives the same. Jesus didn’t just hang out with and teach his disciples, he served them. Not only did he serve his best friends, but if Jesus met you, he served you. Now that’s a man I’m willing to follow.

A person doesn’t need to call themselves Mennonite to believe and follow the principles above. I’m sure Lutherans, Methodists, etc., follow these principles as well. I am not culturally Mennonite, meaning, I wasn’t raised Mennonite and can’t play the Mennonite game, but I chose this way. My experiences and education pointed me in this direction, and I identify well with Mennonite thought.

Here’s a website with deeper history and knowledge of Mennonites. Ask me questions!

Other

11 comments


  1. Do any modern Mennos follow the third tier of believer's baptism: baptism by blood? If so, do you think the MCC would ever promote having a celibate, Mennonite order? This is dovetailing off our convo about the need for the Church to celebrate celibacy and singleness 🙂

    • kylajoyful

      Great question. If you're a Mennonite reading this, what do you think?

      • In our confession of faith is says, "Believers are baptized into Christ and his body by the Spirit, water and blood." Later on that is defined by saying, "The baptism of blood, or baptism of suffering, is the offering of one's life, even to death. Jesus understood the giving of his life through the shedding of his blood for others as a baptism."

        So the concept is there, but it is defined around non-violence to the point of death. Consider, also, these words from our confession of faith; "Those who accept water baptism commit themselves to follow Jesus in giving their lives for others, in loving their enemies, and in renouncing violence, even when it means their own suffering and death."

        As for a "celibate Mennonite order" it isn't the celibate part that would be a stretch for Mennos, its the order part. Our understanding and practice of church as a community of priests within a rather flat, or congregational, structure makes the notion of a distinct "order" unlikely. That said, I think there is definitely space for congregations to celebrate the commitment of celibacy and singleness as a God-given gift to be exercised within community in keeping with both Jesus and Paul on the matter.

        Not sure if that helps, but those are my initial thoughts!

      • Michael,

        Your answer was thorough and quite helpful. Thank you!

        The lateral structure you mentioned makes sense as far as the lack of 'orders' goes.

        A follow up question (and this goes for anyone) is: how do we in Mennonite churches celebrate singleness, but more importantly, a life choice of celibacy? I've found that singleness is not so much an unacceptable issue as it is assumed you'll eventually marry off. But chosen, lifelong celibacy often seems odd or alarming (to the congregationalists, not doctrinally per se).

        I suppose my initial question was a bit of a dream of what it would look like to see an intentional Menno community (needn't be an order, could simply be a neo-monastic house) filled with peacemaking, lifelong celibate followers of Christ.

        P.S…You will be hard-pressed to find confessions of faith proclaiming the resistance of violence, even if it means their own suffering or death. The Menno confession emphasizes prior to this portion the obedience in baptism in identifying with the suffering love of Christ found in his death. Baptism often focuses on the spiritual death and rebirth, but overlooks the fact that Christ died a physical death too and asks us to be united in his sufferings if it comes to that point. Love it 🙂

  2. Kyla,

    Welcome to the Mennonite faith community! I miss not being in Pittsburg. This is the first convention I've missed since coming to the Mennonite Church in 1997. Like you, I'm not a "cradle" or "ethnic" Mennonite. I'm equally poor at "the Mennonite game" but I've figured out all the acronyms. It is edifying to read your description of what it means to be Mennonite. While listening in on delegate sessions via the web I long for a re-centering on the simple truths you outlined above.

    Grace and peace!

    • kylajoyful

      I'm sorry that we didn't meet last week, but glad we could connect here. Last week was my first convention experience, and first experience with the phrases "cradle" and "ethnic" Mennonite. What did you enjoy about the delegate sessions? I spent the week with the youth in service projects, so I missed out on some of the discussions.

  3. What's up Kyla,

    I don't know anything about being a Mennonite, but getting to know you tells me a lot of good things. Not to be too personal, but how did your friends/family respond to you identifying with the Mennonite point of view?

    • kylajoyful

      Great question. Good timing, too. My mom sometimes reads this so she might disagree, but I think my family reacted the same way they did when I became a vegetarian – they thought I grew a third eye. Their response stemmed from lack of knowledge and my lack of communication, not necessarily from disagreement. Although we aren't often on the same page, we've grown to respect and appreciate differing beliefs. My friends were either supportive because they lived out the same beliefs, or because they supported me and knew that I made healthy decisions for myself. Do you have differing beliefs from your family, and how have they responded to those?

  4. Well…I remember a long time ago when I was dating someone of another ethnicity, my mom was hesitant at first. But then she told me, "As long as she makes you happy, I'm happy." I think that prepped her for my lady today.

    As far as faith beliefs, me and the fam are on basically the same page. If I went to my mom or aunt's church, I would wear a suit. At my church, t-shirt and jeans. It's all good.

    If I went vegetarian though, I think that might be the last straw 🙂

  5. Pingback: Week in review |

  6. BerthaDodds

    Interesting. Do they sing in a shower? Cos' every time I use my towel it is dry and warm. That actually makes me sing. And no wonder, one could even have imagine how far best towel warmers might take you tonight.

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