IN THIS ISSUE
As the U.S. presidential election campaign begins to heat up and public debate regarding U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq continues to divide the country, the question of Mennonite involvement in politics once again calls for attention. Ted Grimsrud, Associate Professor of Theology and Peace Studies at Eastern Mennonite University, opens this issue of MQR with an essay strongly supportive of Mennonite participation in the political process. As a framework for his argument, Grimsrud suggests that our thinking about the intersection of faith and politics is shaped by three narratives: an “Anabaptist Story,” anchored in the familiar themes of compassion, service and nonviolence; a “Democracy Story,” which embodies the high ideals of civil discourse and participatory politics; and an “Empire Story,” based in military force and a quest for hegemonic power. Traditionally, Mennonites have grounded their commitment to pacifism in the language of biblical nonresistance-a framework that is compelling for members of a faith community but ultimately, many would argue, incomprehensible within the broader world of political power. Grimsrud takes issue with this position, challenging arguments recently put forward by the ethicists Stanley Hauerwas and Ted Koontz. In his view, the central themes of the “Anabaptist Story” should be mobilized in the public square to support the highest ideals of the “Democracy Story” and in opposition to the violent character of the “Empire Story.” Whether New Testament themes of peace and suffering love can be sustained without compromise within the political realm remains an open question. Still, Grimsrud does readers a service by focusing these themes in a timely and articulate manner.
The writings of John Howard Yoder, renowned Mennonite theologian and ethicist, continue to attract the attention of scholars from a wide range of disciplines. In this issue, Joon-Sik Park, Associate Professor of World Evangelism at the Methodist Theological Seminary in Ohio, summarizes Yoder’s mission theology, arguing that missiology, ecclesiology and ethics are inseparable in Yoder’s writings. Park especially underscores Yoder’s concern to hold the truth of the Gospel in a creative tension with the vulnerability of both the message and the messenger. The essay concludes with a gentle critique of several aspects of Yoder’s missiological perspective.
Yoder was part of a generation of Mennonite scholars at the middle of the twentieth century who challenged the church to give more tangible expression to the ideals of the “Anabaptist Vision” as articulated by their mentor, Harold S. Bender. Emily Hershberger, a recent graduate in the history department at Goshen College, offers an insightful illustration of one such effort to put Yoder’s theology of mission into practice. In 1951 Ralph and Genevieve Buckwalter began a lifelong ministry in Japan dedicated to a new approach to missions. In an atmosphere of postwar mistrust, the Buckwalters brought a message of peace and reconciliation. From the beginning, they focused on building relationships that were respectful of the Japanese people and culture. Committed to a believers church theology, they quickly turned initiative over to local congregational leaders who, in turn, nurtured congregations that were themselves mission-oriented. Although the influence of Yoder on the Buckwalters venture in Japan was likely more indirect than direct, Ralph and Genevieve exemplified a new mode of Mennonite missions that merits closer attention.
The life and writings of David Joris-a sixteenth-century Spiritualist, archrival of Menno Simons and leader of a significant following of Dutch Anabaptists-have long been shrouded in mystery, thanks in large part to Joris’s opaque writing style and the secrecy with which he lived the last decade of his life. Thanks to the efforts of Gary Waite, some of Joris’s voluminous writings are now available in English translation, though most people will likely find his unique blend of dreams, extended allegories and apocalyptic visions too obtuse for casual reading. Although Anabaptist historiography has largely passed over Joris, his writings continued to generate sustained interest among Spiritualists and radical reformers well into the eighteenth century. In this issue, Douglas Schantz, Associate Professor of Christian Thought at the University of Calgary, documents the surprising influence Joris’s writings continued to wield among radical German Pietists, most specifically Christian Hoburg, Gottfried Arnold and Johann Wilhelm Petersen.
Finally, Paul Doerksen concludes the essays in this issue with an overview of christological themes in the writings of the British theologian Oliver O’Donovon. Doerksen suggests that O’Donovon rightly recognizes the centrality of Jesus in his political ethics, but fails to give adequate attention to the political nature of Jesus’ life and death.
This issue marks the end of Reynold Sawatzky’s fifteen-year association with the journal. Reynold first began his work with MQR as a typesetter; then, as technology changed, he moved into a new position as our volunteer subscription manager. I am happy to acknowledge Reynold’s long and faithful service to our work, and pleased as well that John Nyce has agreed to assume the role of subscription manager.
– John D. Roth, editor
The Mennonite Quarterly Review
The Mennonite Quarterly Review