Anabaptism at 500 is a monumental project of our friends at MennoMedia, the publishing house for Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada. They have invited folks from a wide range of other groups with Anabaptist roots to join in.
One part of the project—an Anabaptist study Bible—is impressive all by itself. At a small conference in August, I got a front-row seat for a piece of the planning. To be honest, if not for this project I couldn’t have told you that 1525 was the birth year of Anabaptism. The Brethren movement wasn’t born until 1708. But now I know that these spiritual ancestors of the first Brethren will be celebrated in 2025.
What’s an Anabaptist Bible? No, it’s not a new translation, which would be quite an undertaking indeed. In this Bible, each book will carry an introduction by an Anabaptist scholar, including some from the Church of the Brethren, and there will be other resources in the front.
Especially ambitious is the involvement of 500 local Bible study groups whose input will be used as marginal notes. In this way, the Bible will embody a hallmark of Anabaptism: lay people gathering around the Scriptures to discern God’s word together.
The conference was a place for 40 people from a range of backgrounds to learn about the plan, hear a Bible scholar speak about our Christ-centered approach to reading the Scriptures, offer feedback about the process, and inspire small groups across our denominations to join in Bible study. You can sign up your Church of the Brethren group at www.anabaptismat500.com.
My mind thoroughly enjoyed the lectures, presentations, and table discussion. But what my heart remembers is the racial and cultural array in the room—people who are Black, Asian, Indigenous, and Hispanic, and white people of European heritage. (There were so many Asians that we had to rush outside for a celebratory group picture.)
I resonated with the guidance offered by one of my new friends, an immigrant with no traditional Mennonite pedigree. Her advice was to focus more on today than on 1525, that is, more on who we are becoming than who we used to be.
“Usually, European Mennonites are the authoritative ones,” Hyejung Yum explained to Anabaptist World magazine. “Now it’s time to change that. If our people’s interpretation is included in this Bible, it will shape our Anabaptist identity in a new way.”
Wendy McFadden is publisher of Brethren Press and Communications for the Church of the Brethren.