A New Rhythm for Mennonites
Theron F. Schlabach. Elkhart, IN: Mennonite Board of Missions, 1975.
One of the most exciting movements in the church today is the indigenous church movement of Africa, where new forms of worship, new emphases in theology and new expressions of faith are creating for third world Christians an experience that is not simply a borrowed acculturation from the old world. Ed and Irene Weaver, veteran (Old Mennonite) missionaries from India, shared their experiences with the movement in Nigeria (The Uyo Story). More recently they have had extended experiences in Ghana and South Africa with similar movements, and it is of their Ghanaian experiences they write in From Kuku Hill. The indigenous church movement focuses for us in the west the essential meaning of Christian experience—in another culture—other concepts of time, of sharing. How would we participate in a service accompanied by dance, glossolalia, exorcism, lengthy (by our standards) sermons and prayer? of a church structured in keeping with African tribal patterns rather than with European democratic models?
From Kuku Hill is the warmly personal witness of a delightful couple who succeed in non-paternalistically communicating with the ‘spiritual churches’ as partners, not as missionaries. The strength of the indigenous church movement (‘spiritual churches’) depends on the extent to which indigenization will be able to include “theology, educational methodology and level, curriculum and structure, and finances” (p. 112). From Kuku Hill, part of the Institute of Mennonite Studies Missionary Studies series, attempts to probe what a Ghanaian/Nigerian church can look like.
Two other books published by the (Old) Mennonite Board of Missions are Being God’s Missionary Community and A New Rhythm For Mennonites. The latter is a quick overview of the move of the Mennonite church from inclusivism to a body that recognized its responsibility for establishing the church abroad. Of interest is the way in which the church came to recognize that “the gospel message and the nonresistant ethic were one and the same” (p. 35); emphasis on a total theology is key here. Being God’s Missionary Community is a delightful series of short essays on the theology of mission, and of reportorial glimpses of the church outside traditional Mennonite enclaves (e.g. Algeria, Israel, Cleveland, St. Louis).
All three volumes are fascinating and readable glimpses into the task of the church as worked out by the (Old) Mennonites, and contribute meaningfully to the debate vis a vis the church and its mission today.