Spring 1988 · Vol. 17 No. 1 · p. 2 

From the Editors: Faith and Ethnicity

Allen R. Guenther

We are pleased to be the vehicle for the publication of the revised and abridged versions of the papers presented at the Symposium on Faith and Ethnicity Among Mennonite Brethren, Nov. 19-21, 1987 held at the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California.

The symposium was co-sponsored by the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, and the Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies.

The occasion for the symposium was the 1987 publication of John H. Redekop’s provocative book, A People Apart: Ethnicity and the Mennonite Brethren (Winnipeg: Kindred Press). The thesis of that book, namely, that (in Canada, at least) the term “Mennonite” connotes ethnicity more than faith in the public mind, raises significant questions about the relationship between faith and ethnicity. Some of these questions were explored in the papers and the resultant discussions during the symposium.

The issue of the relationship between faith and ethnicity is not confined to a group such as the Mennonite Brethren. It involves the nature of the church in a pluralistic and multicultural society, the relationship of Church and State, the unique problems brought on by assimilation into a new socioeconomic-religious culture, the cross-cultural communication of the Gospel, and the theological implications of the fusion of Jew and Gentile into one new humanity. It is our hope that these analyses may serve as a case study to further stimulate other ethno-religious communions in reflecting on their own traditions and thus contribute to a broader understanding of God’s work and ways among his people and in this world.

These papers were prepared by committed churchmen and women trained and versed in the disciplines of psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, biblical studies and theology. The intent was to examine the topic from as broad a perspective as possible. We are pleased to present these analyses to our readers in this expanded edition of Direction.