January 2001 In This Issue

Contents of Volume
January 2001 Number One


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


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.