Contents of Volume LXXIV
January 2001 Number One

           

IN THIS ISSUE

 

     To most casual observers, the Amish appear to be a people without a history, frozen in time within the whirl of a changing culture around them. In the opening essay of this new volume year, historian Steve Nolt effectively lays this myth to rest. In tracing the emergence of a grass-roots mission movement among midwestern Amish in the 1950s, Nolt reveals a community open-at least tentatively-to new styles of preaching, new modes of organization, and new expressions of faith and practice that included service programs and even college education. By the early 1960s, however, the most vigorous promoters of these mission efforts left the Amish church for more progressive Conservative or Beachy Amish fellowships; the leaders who remained developed a much sharper sectarian sense of the boundaries separating the "Old Orders" from their Mennonite cousins. The impact of the mission movement, Nolt argues, was nothing short of a "reformulation" of Amish identity at mid-century.

     Boundaries were also at issue some four centuries earlier in the religiously-fluid city of Emden during the last half of the sixteenth century. Though the city was officially Reformed, Emden was home to a variety of dissident groups, including Anabaptists and Spiritualists. Drawing on the council minutes of the Reformed Consistory, Samme Zijlstra-author of a recent history of Anabaptism in the Netherlands-narrates a fascinating account of how Reformed lay people in Emden took an active role in the religious debates of their day, and how some stretched, and even violated, official religious boundaries separating the Reformed, Anabaptist and Spiritualist groups.

     The next two essays in this issue make a substantial contribution to the recent renaissance of scholarship on Pilgrim Marpeck, the congenial Anabaptist spokesman whose social prestige, financial support and theological moderation brought much-needed stability to the Anabaptist movement in South Germany. Neal Blough provides a fresh reading of Marpeck's The Uncovering of the Babylonian Whore that is highly sensitive to the political and theological context within which it was written. Blough argues that Marpeck wrote the treatise late in 1531 in direct response to Luther's Warnung an seine lieben Deutschen-a defense of political resistance against the emperor-and Strasbourg's decision to join the Schmalkaldic League and. In this context, The Babylonian Whore must be understood as an eloquent protest against the growing willingness of Protestant reformers to use military force in defense of religious convictions.

     With a scholarly precision typical of all his work, Werner Packull consolidates and expands our understanding of Marpeck's role as a promoter and sponsor of Anabaptist pamphlet literature. Although it seems doubtful that Marpeck himself actually owned a press, the evidence is clear that he took a very active role in the promulgation of Anabaptist texts in Strasbourg prior to his expulsion in 1532, and in Augsburg from the 1530s to the early 1550s. Packull's careful research not only helps to create a genealogy and bibliography of Anabaptist literature, but it also clarifies the nature of a Marpeckite literary "canon" that persisted in print and manuscript form among Swiss Brethren and Hutterite communities throughout the last half of the sixteenth century.

     Last January we inaugurated an annual feature called "The Mennonite Year in Review." The idea was to solicit essays that would offer a window-both personal and analytical-into contemporary Mennonite church life and self-understanding. In this issue, Mark Metzler Sawin, a graduate student in American Studies at the University of Texas, reflects on the elusive nature of Mennonite identity across the generations. Though communal identity is always fluid, Sawin argues that the particularity of cultural practice provides a crucial window into its changing character. John Lapp, former executive secretary of Mennonite Central Committee, offers a more systematic and wide-ranging perspective on contemporary Mennonite identity. Moving from the highly particular setting of his home congregation in Lititz, Pennsylvania to a review of church life in North America, Lapp concludes with a summary and analysis of recent events within the global Mennonite church. The detail and breadth of Lapp's perspective, along with the clarity of his insights, all make the Mennonite world a bit more comprehensible as we move into a new century.

     Finally, I am delighted to note that regular subscribers to MQR should have received a free issue of the MQR Cumulative Index, 1926-2000. Nearly ten years in the making, the index provides a new level of access to the primary sources, book reviews, and kaleidoscope of historiographical interpretation that have characterized MQR over the past 75 years. As a testimony to the breadth and richness of Anabaptist-Mennonite scholarship, we trust that the index will be a useful tool for on-going research and an inspiration for future scholarship in the coming 75 years.

      - John D. Roth, editor

AUTHOR ADDRESSES

     Prof. Neal Blough, 13 rue de Val d'Osnee, 94410 St. Maurice, France. E-mail: mmfcmer@wanadoo.fr.

     John A. Lapp, 13 Knollwood Drive, Akron, PA 17501. E-mail: jalapp@infi.net.

     Prof. Steve Nolt, Dept. of History, Goshen College, Goshen, IN 46526. E-mail: stevemn@goshen.edu.

     Prof. Werner Packull, Dept. of History, Conrad Grebel College, Waterloo, ON, Canada N2L 3G6. E-mail: wopackul@watserv1.uwaterloo.ca.

     Mark Metzler Sawin, 1624 W. 6th St., Apt. C, Austin, TX 78703. E-mail: mems@mail.utexas.edu.

     Prof. Samme Zijlstra, Fryske Academy, P.O. Box 54, 8900 AB Leeuwarden, The Netherlands. E-mail: szijlstra@fa.knaw.nl.