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Fall 1994 · Vol. 23 No. 2 · pp. 5–17 

Ambivalence in Mennonite Brethren Self-Understanding: An 1860 Continuum?

Harry Loewen

Mennonite Brethren seem to be ambivalent about who or what they are. On the one hand, many wish to see themselves as an Anabaptist-Christian people, as pilgrims and strangers in an alien world. 1 Yet ironically, the Mennonite Brethren have been historically the one Mennonite group that has been the most open to outside influences, and in time became the most socially and culturally assimilated Mennonite community in North America. Many Mennonite Brethren see themselves as a purely evangelical church, not much different from other evangelical churches. The question of whether Mennonite Brethren are an ethnic people as well as a faith community has never been resolved. In this article I wish to argue that this ambivalence in Mennonite Brethren self-understanding began as early as 1860 and continued throughout their history in Russia and North America. In the end, I wish to suggest that a thorough Anabaptist reorientation might resolve the dilemma of Mennonite Brethren identity and contribute to a deepening of their New Testament faith. 2


That the Russian Mennonites of the nineteenth century were in need of religious reform, was known to many of their leaders and concerned {6} laypersons. Mennonite religion, ethnicity, and colonial government had become intertwined to such an extent that the lines between Christian faith and Mennonitism had become blurred. To be a Mennonite meant to belong to a particular people which in Russia enjoyed such special privileges as religious freedom, exemption from military service, cultural independence, educational autonomy, and many economic advantages. To be fully part of this privileged group, one had to be baptized into the Mennonite community and accept the responsibilities that went with church membership. By 1850 it was evident to many Mennonites that the identification of ethnicity and religious faith lay at the root for the need of reform.

A plea for Mennonite Brethren to get off the fence.

For evidence that Mennonite spirituality and morals were at a low ebb, we need not cite Mennonite Brethren sources only. Concerned leaders like Bernhard Harder who were sympathetic to the early Brethren but never joined them, sought to awaken their people to spiritual reform of faith and morals. Many, including spiritual leaders, ignored their calls for repentance and renewal. This lack of concern and positive action on the part of Mennonite leadership led to the signing in 1860 of the Document of Secession by eighteen heads of families, thus laying the foundation for the Mennonite Brethren Church.

There is some ambivalence in this founding document about who the early Mennonite Brethren were or wished to be. 3 While they sought to dissociate themselves from the “decadent churches” and the “decadent condition of the Mennonite brotherhood” only, the co-signers of the document had “the entire Mennonite brotherhood” in mind “because the supreme government authorities consider it one true brotherhood.” With regard to such doctrinal articles as baptism upon faith, holy communion, footwashing, call to the ministry, and church discipline, the Brethren “are in agreement with our dear Menno,” mentioning Menno Simons five times in this document. But the language of the document is Lutheran-Pietist. Like their mentor, Pietist Eduard Wüst (1818-59), who demanded that believers and unbelievers “become separated” and have nothing to do with one another, the Brethren state that “believers shall have no fellowship with unbelievers, but shall come out from among them and be separate.”

The negative-radical tone of the document, its separatist intent, and the unwillingness of the Brethren to work from within for reform gave rise to questions among members of the Old Church whether the Brethren were or wished to remain Mennonite. The outside influences upon the young Mennonite Brethren Church and its close cooperation with non-Mennonite individuals and groups seemed to confirm that the new church was less than Mennonite, contrary to what its leaders stated officially and publicly. {7}


Some Mennonite Brethren historians either contest or seek to modify the view that the Mennonite Brethren Church was “born of Anabaptism and Pietism.” 4 But if we define Anabaptism in this context as the Mennonite tradition out of which the Brethren came, coupled with their reference to Menno Simons, and agree that the impetus for revival and secession came from Pietism in the person of Wüst, then it was indeed Anabaptism and Pietism which gave rise to the Mennonite Brethren church. Whether the influence of Pietism was positive or negative upon the Brethren needs to be investigated more fully; that Pietism contributed to ambivalence in their self-understanding and identity seems to be more clear.

Following Robert Friedmann’s thesis that Pietism represented a weakened Anabaptism, Delbert Plett, in his work on the Kleine Gemeinde, maintains that Pietism exerted a negative influence upon nineteenth-century Mennonites, making them less Anabaptist. 5 James Urry, however, argues that Pietism had begun to influence Mennonites long before they migrated to South Russia, having entered Mennonite life through the language of hymns, prayers, and “private religious discourse used to express personal faith.” In fact, according to Urry, “at the heart of Mennonite faith, probably since the earliest days, has existed a deep sense of personal faith, but a faith which was poorly expressed because . . . any public expression of such faith was condemned as a sign of pride. . . . What Mennonites lacked and what pietism seemed to offer, was a means to publicly express the personal experience of faith in Mennonite religiosity. . . . 6 Thus Pietism found a ready response in the Mennonite soul, helping to break the dams of Mennonite reserve, which in turn resulted in radical revival, personal faith experiences, and exuberant expressions of joy among the early Brethren.

The response of major Mennonite Brethren historians to the influence of Pietism upon their church has been ambivalent, even contradictory. P. M. Friesen writes that Wüst was “the spotless, highly gifted, lovable father of the faith,” naming him, “along with Menno Simons,” as the first teacher of the Brethren. 7 On the other hand, according to Friesen, Wüst was “not quite evangelical,” for he did not preach the doctrine of sanctification. 8 John A. Toews calls Wüst a “Moses” who led Mennonites “out of bondage of a lifeless tradition and dead orthodoxy to a joyous assurance of a personal faith,” but this Pietist “was not equipped to be the ‘Joshua’ ” to lead his followers “into the promised land of a believers’ church.” 9 Similarly J. B. Toews writes that while Wüst’s emphasis on a personal salvation experience and missions was important for the 1860 {8} renewal movement, his ministry did not provide a “biblical theology of the church and the pathway of discipleship.” 10

One might ask, if the early Brethren and their later writers believed that the New Testament and the Anabaptist Menno Simons combined faith and discipleship, why then were they not more critical of the one-sided emphasis of Pietism? Is this ambivalence due to Mennonite Brethren belief that an inward faith is more important than “following Jesus in life,” and that faith and works can be separated without seriously compromising one’s Christian faith? Surely, an affirmative answer to this question would place the Mennonite Brethren closer to the Lutheran-Pietist tradition than to Anabaptism.


While the Pietist influence upon the early Brethren was profound and caused them to break away from the Old Church, the question of joining the Lutheran-Pietists was never seriously considered. Mennonite and Pietist views with regard to believers’ and infant baptism and the definition of the church were theologically too far apart to even consider such a union. With regard to the Baptists, however, the question of possible union became more serious, even though in the end the Mennonite Brethren decided, for several reasons, to remain Mennonite. Nevertheless, the attraction of the Baptists and other Evangelical groups continued throughout Mennonite Brethren history.

Immersion baptism, which the Mennonite Brethren adopted as their baptismal form, was not an issue at first; but according to Jacob Bekker, one of the early Brethren, Baptist literature influenced the Molotschna Brethren to make this mode of baptism their own. 11 The Baptists also helped the young and struggling church with its confession of faith, church polity, and Bible teaching and interpretation. Especially the Brethren in Einlage, Chortitza, looked to the German Baptists for assistance in establishing their church. Brethren leader Abraham Unger (1820-80) carried on a lively correspondence with the Baptist Johann Gerhard Oncken (1800-84) with regard to church matters, including baptism, biblical teaching, and church polity. 12 Gottfried F. Alf, a Baptist minister in Poland, was another person whom the Brethren consulted on various church issues. Immersion baptism, footwashing, and nonresistance were discussed, with the result that the Baptists criticized the Mennonite Brethren for clinging to these principles and for objecting to Christians who went to war. Some Mennonite Brethren did not take kindly to such pressure tactics on the part of the Baptists. {9} 13

The Mennonite Brethren-Baptist connection continued well into the 1870s when August Liebig, an ordained Baptist minister in Hamburg, was invited to serve the Einlage Mennonite Brethren with counsel and teaching. Liebig introduced Sunday School, public prayer, itinerant preaching, brotherhood conferences, and preacher training. Historian John A. Toews writes that for these various positive contributions, “Liebig’s memory will always be cherished in the Mennonite Brethren Church.” But here, too, Toews expresses ambivalence. He points out that the pro-Baptist leanings of the Brethren “continued to create problems within the fellowship and in the relationship of the church to the civil authorities, who made repeated attempts to classify the Brethren as ‘Baptists’ and to deprive them of their privileges as Mennonites.” 14

As early as 1862 and again later, the Mennonite Brethren were questioned by Russian and Mennonite officials about their “Mennonite” status. In their response, Abraham Unger and others stressed their Mennonite connection, claiming Menno Simons as their spiritual reformer and guide. They had merely separated from the decadent Mennonite church which failed to live up to the Mennonite confession of faith, they claimed. It seems significant, however, that the Brethren, according to their own statement, “celebrate holy communion with bread and wine, and that not only as a memorial, but as the true flesh and blood of Christ.” P. M. Friesen expresses surprise at this non-Mennonite view of communion among the Einlage Mennonite Brethren. 15 One might ask, was this understanding of communion the result of the Lutheran-Pietist influence? Or was it an attempt to point out the differences between themselves, the Baptists, and the other Mennonites?


The issue of Mennonite Brethren identity was not fully resolved by the early 1870s when the Russian government was in the process of reforming its military draft laws. The government wished to know whether the privilege of exemption from military service would apply to the Mennonite Brethren, whose connection with the Baptists was most obvious. The Mennonite Brethren had even helped to establish the first Baptist congregation in Russia, thus adding to the puzzle about who they really were. The Einlage Brethren, in a document, assured the Russian government that they were Mennonites, and to make their case they appended a Confession of their faith. Ironically, the Confession was “an exact reproduction” of Oncken’s Baptist Confession published in Germany in 1849. Abraham Unger had merely added the Mennonite articles of {10} nonresistance, non-swearing, and footwashing. It was not till 1880 that the Mennonite Brethren were recognized as a Mennonite church by the Russian government. What John A. Toews calls “theological self-consciousness and maturity” was not achieved till 1902 when the Mennonite Brethren published their first Confession of Faith. 16

Around the turn of the century, Russian Mennonites began to attend non-Mennonite higher institutions of learning, both in Russia and in western European centres such as Basel, Switzerland, and Hamburg, Germany. 17 Mennonite Brethren students who wished to prepare for evangelism, missions, and the ministry, were especially drawn to the Baptist Theological Seminary in Hamburg. Also in North America, Mennonite Brethren young men studied in Baptist and other evangelical seminaries and Bible institutes. J. B. Toews, while acknowledging the “positive” influence evangelical groups exerted on Mennonite Brethren missions and evangelism, laments that attending non-Mennonite educational centres led Mennonite Brethren to a dependence on non-Anabaptist theological sources, undermined their peace witness, and fostered national patriotism and obedience to the state. In Russia, according to Toews, this evangelical influence led to Mennonite Brethren support of and participation in the Selbstschutz (Self-Defense) of 1918-19. 18

Russian Mennonite Brethren cooperation with and involvement in Baptist and other Evangelical endeavors reached unprecedented levels in the annual Blankenburg Alliance Conference. Founded in 1885 “for the purpose of uniting and building up all true and active Christians into one body of Christ,” the Blankenburg meetings in Germany attracted especially Mennonite Brethren leaders from Russia, among whom Jakob Kroeker (1872-1948) played a dominant role. Deeply impressed by revivalists and other mission-minded personalities, Kroeker made significant contacts with Evangelical circles in St. Petersburg and with Alliance movements in Germany and the Baltic states. Kroeker’s preaching tours in Russia and Germany, his Bible conferences, and his many Evangelical books and tracts, as well as editorial work, had a profound influence among Mennonite Brethren and other Evangelical groups. Just a glance at some of Kroeker’s book titles alone suggests his pietistic, inwardly directed Christian faith: Alone with the Master, The Hidden Relationship with God, Veiled Blessings of Faith, Concerning Homesickness of the Soul, and He Spoke with Me. Kroeker’s theological influence upon the Mennonite Brethren needs to be researched more fully, but from all accounts, it is evident that he fostered among them a greater sense of evangelism and missions than a love for the corporate church and the Mennonite spiritual heritage. 19

What prevented the Russian Mennonite Brethren from uniting with the Baptists to whom they were drawn? According to Heinrich Löwen, {11} Mennonite Brethren did not wish to lose their Mennonite privileges, suffer persecution that the Baptists were exposed to, nor surrender such Mennonite convictions as nonresistance and non-swearing. Smoking, theatre attendance, and church discipline were also issues that caused some tension between the two communities. 20


Mennonite Brethren historians have rightly stressed the strong sense of evangelism and missions that has characterized the Brethren from their beginnings in Russia. Forbidden to proselytize among the Orthodox Russian population, the early Brethren limited their evangelistic activity to their own Mennonite people. The rapid numerical growth of the Mennonite Brethren Church in the pre-1917 period was largely due to Old Church members joining the new group. There were, however, individual Brethren who had an evangelical burden for people of non-Mennonite background, including members of the Orthodox faith. One of the first Mennonite Brethren evangelists was Johann Wieler (1839-1889) who felt called to spread the gospel among non-Mennonites in Russia; but he found little support from his congregations and conference. 21

Proficient in Russian and a teacher by profession, Johann Wieler worked closely with the Stundists (groups which met for Bible study and evangelistic work in Russia) and Baptists in spreading the Gospel in Russian cities and the countryside. Wieler appealed to his Mennonite Brethren for moral support and financial help. Two Mennonite Brethren conferences, held in 1882 and the following year, refused to endorse Wieler’s vision and work for fear of offending the Orthodox Synod and of breaking the government’s law against religious propaganda among Russians. Wieler then continued his evangelistic work on his own, soliciting funds and support from other Evangelical groups. Often imprisoned and harassed by the authorities, Wieler was also opposed in his mission work by fellow Mennonites, including Mennonite Brethren.

An all-Mennonite conference on religious propaganda was held in 1908 in Alexanderwohl, Molotschna. In response to the Russian government’s questions with regard to the Mennonites’ position on proselytizing, the Mennonites came together to discuss the issue and come up with a position statement. The delegates to this conference, which included Mennonite Brethren as well, declared that while they took the commandment of Christ to “make disciples of all nations” seriously, they “abstain from any active propaganda among members of other Christian denominations.” Mission work among non-Christian faiths was fully endorsed by the delegates. The document was signed by twenty-two {12} Mennonite elders and ministers, including three Mennonite Brethren. 22 Two other leading Mennonite Brethren, Jakob Kroeker and H. J. Braun of Halbstadt, Molotschna, were also present, but their signatures do not appear on the printed document. P. M. Friesen, who was one of the Brethren signers of the mission statement, wonders why Kroeker’s and Braun’s names do not appear. “An oversight?” he asks, and then adds: “They have not spoken against the formulation of the document.” 23

According to J. B. Toews, “missions has proven to be the strongest unifying factor” in Mennonite Brethren history, but as the early mission efforts of Mennonite Brethren individuals and the 1908 religious propaganda statement indicate, the organized Mennonite Brethren Church has been ambivalent in this area as well and seemed to lack the courage of its conviction, certainly in the Imperial Russian setting. The ambivalence with regard to evangelism and missions, including programs, direction, and areas to be evangelized, continues among Mennonite Brethren. This holds especially true with regard to whether the new churches at home and abroad should be rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition or be simply part of the Evangelical world. 24


As the Alexanderwohl conference of 1908 demonstrates, Mennonite Brethren had begun to cooperate more fully with other Mennonites. The initial alienation, tensions, and conflicts between the two communions had given way to the realization that, in the interest of mutual well-being in Russia, there ought to be united Mennonite action. Cooperation between the two groups had begun as early as the 1870s when Mennonite privileges, especially exemption from military service and educational independence, were threatened by governmental reforms and objectives. There was also cooperation in the forest and medical services before and during the First World War. After the war and revolution, all Mennonites were drawn together as they experienced the horrors of anarchy and civil war. Mennonite Brethren began to see themselves as being part of the larger Mennonite family whose very existence was assailed by hostile forces. During the emigration of the 1920s, the different forms of baptism and the slightly different wordings in their Confessions played no significant role. And the arrests and exiles during the 1930s knew no respecter of persons--all Mennonites, regardless of their confessional stance, suffered the same fate.

Especially during the Second World War and its aftermath, all Mennonites went through hard times and sought support from fellow Mennonites outside of Russia. Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), an {13} all-Mennonite relief agency, gathered many Russian Mennonites in refugee camps and cared for them physically, materially, and spiritually. In these camps, Mennonite Brethren and other Mennonites worshipped together, mourned their losses together, and accepted help from their different brothers and sisters in North America. During difficult times it was not the Evangelical groups that came to the rescue of the suffering Russian Mennonites, but fellow Mennonites of all stripes. However, when the hardships came to an end and the Russian Mennonites were settled in their new homes in the West, the division between the Mennonite Brethren and other Mennonites was resumed and the Brethren again began to draw closer to other Evangelical groups. Today some of the Mennonite Brethren who benefited from MCC in difficult times have been most critical of this organization because, in their view, it is more concerned about social action than saving souls.

In North America after the Second World War, there developed two solitudes between the Mennonite Brethren and the General Conference Mennonites. In their church life, education, missions, and conference activity, the two groups went their separate ways, with the Mennonite Brethren least willing to cooperate. 25 As one Mennonite Brethren pastor put it, “a strange fear grips the MBs when the question of alignment with other Mennonite groups comes up. . . .” 26 MCC and Mennonite World Conference are perhaps the only all-Mennonite organizations in which Mennonite Brethren are well-represented. In educational endeavors, with the exception of Columbia Bible College in British Columbia, it was usually the Mennonite Brethren who refused to cooperate. 27

Yet Mennonite Brethren cooperate readily with other Evangelical groups. There is, for example, a close working relationship between Mennonite Brethren leaders and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC). Some Mennonite Brethren leaders believe that this close relationship between the two groups can be beneficial to both. It can be argued, however, and the evidence seems to bear this out, that Mennonite Brethren flirting with non-Mennonite groups has led to a weakening of their Anabaptist-Mennonite distinctives, to the point that many congregations now see themselves as Evangelical rather than Mennonite. This Evangelical orientation finds expression in dropping the Mennonite label among some churches and in the view of some that such Biblical principles as nonresistance, discipleship, and what used to be called “separation from the world” are peripheral to Christian faith. According to recent studies, Mennonite Brethren are the most modernized and assimilated in North American society, the most well-to-do, and the most involved in the political process. 28 This identification with North American culture and {14} values is perhaps best symbolized in the American flag which is prominently placed in some American Mennonite Brethren churches.


Fifty years ago, in 1944, Harold S. Bender published his “Anabaptist Vision” article which was to influence Mennonites throughout the rest of the twentieth century. 29 According to Bender, sixteenth-century Anabaptism was characterized by an emphasis on following Jesus in life (discipleship), voluntary church membership and separation from the world, a community of brothers and sisters, and love and nonresistance applied to all human relationships. While later historians have challenged some aspects of Bender’s view of Anabaptism, the "Vision"’s theological and ethical implications for Mennonites today have been taken seriously by many Mennonites. The "Vision" has led to spiritual renewal and to a return to Anabaptist principles and emphases among Mennonites, including the Mennonite Brethren.

Until after the Second World War, there was little talk, especially among Canadian Mennonite Brethren, about Anabaptism. Even the Bible schools which taught Bible and general church history courses seldom included Anabaptist and Mennonite courses in their curricula. Beginning in the 1960s, Anabaptist-Mennonite history courses were introduced in the private high schools, colleges, and of course, the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Fresno, California. [See Steve Brandt’s article in this issue. Ed.] In the last two decades, Mennonite Brethren scholars have engaged in serious Anabaptist research and publication. All major Mennonite Brethren historians and theologians stress Anabaptism as the basis for Mennonite Brethren faith and practice. Moreover, this Anabaptism-consciousness is becoming increasingly evident at Mennonite Brethren conferences and in their church papers. 30 There is today a discernible effort on the part of Mennonite Brethren leaders to regard evangelical Anabaptism as the norm for Mennonite Brethren faith and life. While opposition to Anabaptism among a number of church leaders is still formidable and the pull of evangelical-fundamentalism is strong, there are signs that the Mennonite Brethren seek to become more strongly rooted in their Anabaptist-Christian heritage.

This is not to suggest that the Mennonite Brethren have solved their identity crisis and are no longer ambivalent about their place within the community of Mennonites and their witness to the world around them. As the Kauffman-Harder-Driedger surveys and the Mennonite Brethren studies indicate, of the five major Mennonite groups investigated, the Mennonite Brethren are less Anabaptist and more {15} evangelical-fundamentalist than other Mennonite groups. While they stress a strong inward faith and values, they are among the most urbanized, prosperous, educated, and assimilated Mennonites in North America. Many Mennonite Brethren are ardent nationalists inclined to participate in politics, and many of them leave their church for other non-Mennonite Evangelical faiths. Baptist and Alliance churches include in their membership lists numerous former Mennonite Brethren. Commenting on the recent identity studies, Abe Dueck has aptly written:

Although Mennonite Brethren in North America are strong in their affirmation of the Christian faith, there is a great disparity between faith and practice. The discipleship and peace emphases appear to be eroding and the study revealed that this was particularly true among leaders. Fewer than half of the respondents agreed that Christians should actively promote the peace position. Loyalty to the local congregation appeared to be weakening affirmations of denominational identity. There was an increasing trend toward an individualistic and pietistic view of Christianity and an erosion of the corporate and sectarian views. 31


By the middle of the nineteenth century, the Russian Mennonite world was still fairly closed to outside influences. By 1860, social, cultural, and economic factors had begun to change Mennonite society, opening it up to influences from outside as never before. The Mennonite Brethren separation from the Mennonite brotherhood and drive for religious reform were direct results of these changes and outside influences. Generally the pietistic-evangelical influences contributed to much-needed religious renewal, but among the Mennonite Brethren especially, they also left a legacy of ambivalence with regard to their identity as a faith community and their place within the larger Mennonite world.

At present Mennonite Brethren still appear to be torn between a closer relationship with Evangelicals on the one hand, and a desire to be part of the Anabaptist-Mennonite family on the other, not only in North America but also in Germany. Especially in Canada, Mennonite Brethren are drawn toward Evangelical churches, notably the Baptists, and the temptation to drop the Mennonite label and to deemphasize Anabaptist-Mennonite distinctiveness continues to be strong. In Germany, the Baptist attraction is especially strong. The recently established umbrella organization “Bund Taufgesinnter Gemeinden” includes both Russian Mennonite Brethren and Baptist churches, with each church being independent with regard to their confession of faith and church polity. Only time will tell whether this Mennonite Brethren-Baptist connection will erode or {16} strengthen Anabaptist faith issues among the Mennonite Brethren.

Judging from history, the close connection between Mennonite Brethren and other evangelicals has not only led to an ambivalence with regard to Mennonite Brethren identity, but also to an erosion of New Testament and Anabaptist principles of faith and ethics. In Russia, the Mennonite Brethren did not become Baptists because they feared the loss of their privileged Mennonite status. In the West at present, that fear no longer exists. Consequently, many Mennonite Brethren leave their church for some evangelical group, and some Mennonite Brethren churches drop the Mennonite name and deemphasize or ignore their Anabaptist heritage. If Mennonite Brethren wish to be decided New Testament-Anabaptist believers, which is to be hoped for, they will have to be more clear and decisive about how their faith and values differ from those of evangelicals, draw closer to and cooperate more fully with other Mennonite believers, and follow Jesus more faithfully in all aspects of their living. 32


  1. Note, for example, the titles and subtitles of recent Mennonite Brethren publications: Pilgrims and Pioneers (John A. Toews, 1975); Pilgrims and Strangers (Paul Toews ed., 1977); A People Apart (John H. Redekop, 1987); Perilous Journey (John B. Toews, 1988).
  2. See the helpful issue, Direction, Vol. 20 (Spring 1991), which deals with “Mennonite Brethren and Evangelicalism,” especially Richard Kyle, “The Mennonite Brethren and American Evangelicalism: An Ambivalent Relationship,” 26-37. See also Paul Toews, ed., Mennonites and Baptists. A Continuing Conversation (Winnipeg/Hillsboro: Kindred Press, 1993). The essays in this book deal with Mennonite--mostly Mennonite Brethren--and Baptist relations and tensions.
  3. For the text of the Secession Document, see P. M. Friesen, The Mennonite Brotherhood in Russia (1789-1910), trans. from the German (Fresno, California Board of Christian Literature, 1978), pp. 230-32. For an incisive analysis of this document, see John B. Toews, Perilous Journey: The Mennonite Brethren in Russia 1860-1910 (Winnipeg/ Hillsboro: Kindred Press, 1988), 37-46.
  4. John A. Toews, A History of the Mennonite Brethren Church: Pilgrims and Pioneers (Fresno, Board of Christian Literature, 1975), 32.
  5. Delbert Plett, The Golden Years: The Mennonite Kleine Gemeinde in Russia (1812-1849) (Steinbach: D.F.P. Publications, 1985).
  6. James Urry, “ ‘All that glisters . . .’: Delbert Plett and the Place of the Kleine Gemeinde in Russian-Mennonite History,” Journal of Mennonite Studies 4 (1986), 233-37.
  7. P.M. Friesen, The Mennonite Brotherhood, 225.
  8. Ibid., 211.
  9. John A. Toews, A History, 31.
  10. J.B. Toews, A Pilgrimage of Faith: The Mennonite Brethren Church in Russia and North America 1860-1990 (Winnipeg/Hillsboro: Kindred Press, 1993), p. 10. On the Mennonite Brethren in historical perspective, see the valuable article by Paul Toews, {17} “Differing Historical Imaginations and the Changing Identity of the Mennonite Brethren,” in Anabaptism Revisited: Essays on Anabaptist/Mennonite Studies in Honor of C. J. Dyck, edited by Walter Klaassen (Scottdale/Waterloo: Herald Press, 1992), pp. 155-72.
  11. Jacob Bekker, Origin of the Mennonite Brethren Church (Hillsboro, 1973), pp. 70-71. P. M. Friesen, The Mennonite Brotherhood, 289. Heinrich L6wen, In Vergessenheit geratene Beziehungen. Frühe Begegnungen der Mennoniten-Brüdergemeinde mit dem Baptismus in Russland-ein Überblick (Bielefeld: Logos-Verlag, 1989), pp. 27-31, calls immersion baptism a “Baptist form.”
  12. John A. Toews, A History, 53.
  13. P. M. Friesen, The Mennonite Brotherhood, 289.
  14. John A. Toews, A History, 74.
  15. P. M. Friesen, The Mennonite Brotherhood, 316.
  16. John A. Toews, A History, 74, 86.
  17. See Harry Loewen, “Intellectual Developments Among the Mennonites of Russia: 1880-1917,” Journal of Mennonite Studies 8 (1990), 89-107.
  18. J. B. Toews, Pilgrimage of Faith, 126-27; 189-90.
  19. On the Blankenburg alliance and Jakob Kroeker, see Mennonite Encyclopedia I, p. 352 and III, p. 246. See also Hans Brandenburg, Jakob Kroeker, ein bevollmächtigter Bibelausleger (Stuttgart, 1957).
  20. Heinrich Löwen, In Vergessenheit geratene Beziehungen pp. 48-49. See also Frank C. Peters, “The Early Mennonite Brethren Church: Baptist or Anabaptist?” Mennonite Life (Oct. 1959), pp. 176-78.
  21. On Wieler, see Lawrence Klippenstein, “Johann Wieler (1839-1889) Among Russian Evangelicals: A New Source of Mennonites and Evangelicalism in Imperial Russia,” Journal of Mennonite Studies 5 (1987), pp. 44-60.
  22. P. M. Friesen, The Mennonite Brotherhood, 630-31.
  23. P. M. Friesen, The Mennonite Brotherhood, 1030 footnote 8.
  24. J. B. Toews, Pilgrimage of Faith, p. 266. See especially Chapter 19, 261-80.
  25. J. Howard Kauffman and Leland Harder, Anabaptists Four Centuries Later: A Profile of Five Mennonite and Brethren in Christ Denominations (Scottdale/Kitchener: Herald Press, 1975), p. 248; J. Howard Kauffman and Leo Driedger, The Mennonite Mosaic. Identity and Modernization (Scottdale/Waterloo: Herald Press, 1991), p. 33.
  26. Pastor William Neufeld of Winnipeg, in Anabaptists Four Centuries Later, 42.
  27. Ross T. Bender, “Private Mennonite Education in Ontario After World War II,” Journal of Mennonite Studies 6 (1988), 115-23. Individual Mennonite Brethren cooperate readily in inter-Mennonite organizations and efforts such as MEDA and the Believers Church Bible Commentary Series. In matters of theology, Mennonite Brethren churches and conferences are less willing to cooperate with other Mennonites.
  28. Kauffman and Driedger, The Mennonite Mosaic, 46.
  29. Harold S. Bender, “The Anabaptist Vision,” Church History 13 (1944), 3-24.
  30. At the General Conference in Winnipeg, 1993, many leaders and speakers made reference to Anabaptism more frequently than in earlier sessions.
  31. Mennonite Encyclopedia V (1990), p. 559.
  32. Note especially the plea of the late John A. Toews to recover the Anabaptist vision of Christian discipleship, in “Mennonite Brethren: Past, Present, and Future,” Pilgrims and Strangers: Essays in Mennonite Brethren History, ed. by Paul Toews (Fresno, 1977), pp. 170-81.
Dr. Harry Loewen is Chair of Mennonite Studies at the University of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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