This is an independent blog and is not affiliated with any particular church, group or conference. The term Bruderthaler refers to a specific ethnic or cultural Mennonite heritage, not to any particular organized group. All statements and opinions are solely those of the contributor(s). Blog comprises notebook fragments from various research projects and discussions. Dialogue, comment and notice of corrections are welcomed. Much of this content is related to papers and presentations that might be compiled at a future date, as such, this blog serves as a research archive rather than as a publication. 'tag

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More Work on Definitions

Defining Oneself

    This past weekend, I have spent considerable time attempting to develop stronger, more universal definitions for many of the terms that I use in my essays and which I tend to encounter in my reading.  I also spent a fair amount of time writing an essaic criticism of the rhetorical argumentation in a recent series published in Fellowship Focus on the emergent churches.  The emergent church movement is a new concept to me, so I was able to approach the articles with an open mind.  However, the quality or organization of their particular line of argument was often inconsistent, non-linear, even self-contradictory, leaving me, the reader, confused and uncertain.  Note that one finds it much easier to criticize the work of another than to recognize the same deficiencies within oneself, which is why there is a certain intellectual strength to be found in the Scholastic or even consensus-building process -- and why most books and literary efforts shower such profuse praise on those who assisted in the editorial process.
    In large part, anyone who writes on these topics is going to encounter certain problems -- chiefly, how does one establish a close, linear line of argument when there is so little consensus as to the basic definitions of so many fundamental terms.
    The EMB-FEBC tradition has long had a tradition of avocational intellectualism.  Honestly, I think that this is both healthy and proper.  Yet, as a conference, or even a socio-ethnic identity, the EMB-FEBC lack an organ through which such definitions might be developed and promulgated or spread. 
    My specific contemplation of definitions involved two particular areas of interest.  My primary motivation involved some residual confusion over the defining of the emergent church movement.  To be fair, I did some further research that only added to my confusion.  The point being that everyone seems to be upset about a movement of which no one has yet to propose a reasonable definition.  I found myself a bit concerned.  I self-identify as a schismatic Mennonite.  The EMB-FEBC and the Mennonite Brethren (MB) both have strong roots in the 19th Century Pietist Movement and many of the more cogent objections raised against the Emergents in Fellowship Focus could also be applied against the Pietists.  Nor was I comforted by the knowledge that the author of the piece has historically been known to be more or less ambivalent towards that church’s Mennonite and Pietist traditions.  I felt the strong necessity of defining both the Pietists and the Emergents so as to determine for myself what the similarities and differences are.
    The second issue with which I was confronted had to do with the indices I have been proposing as a way to understand both the identity and the history of the EMB socio-ethnicity.  Following Calvin Redekop’s lead in Leaving Anabaptism, one is easily attracted to a linear scale with the term Mennonite at one end and the term Evangelical at the other.  Though I feel that most readers have a tendency to over interpret Redekop’s work, there is a certain truth to that dichotomy within the history and identity of the EMB-FEBC as a church conference.  But -- what are the definitions of the two extremes?  My proposal was to take a similar historical progression apparent in the work of O.J. Wall, also of the Lustre community, that begins with the original focus of the Brüderthaler on Reform and leading towards Missions.  Historically, O.J. Wall’s progression is solid and makes quite a lot of sense.  The EMB were founded on the basis of reform of the church and of the life of the individual.  Following the old formula, right thinking leads to right action, as the reformed church established itself, the EMB-FEBC naturally turned increasingly towards Missions outreach (action).  Previously, I had been convinced that the proposal was clean, clear, and even a bit sexy. 
    Working out definitions for the various poles, I am now convinced that while the proposed Lustre Synthesis still retains value as a means of mapping the identity and progress of the group as a whole, that the definitions of the opposing axes do not necessarily represent clear dichotomies.  Pietism includes the sense of service or missions, and it is difficult to separate the term Mennonite, used in the context of the Kleine Gemeinde, the Bruderthaler, or the Ebenezers, (or the Mennonite Brethren) in as much as they have been oft referred to as the Pietist Mennonites.  First, I attempted to clarify the vertical axis by noting that by Pietist I was meant those who were focused on church reform, internal spirituality, and the spiritual exercises or aspects of the Christian life that are generally thought to be inward focused traits, versus aspects of outreach, conversion, and service that are aimed outward.  But, this was not really a true use of the labels. 
    Secondly, I thought to maintain the term Pietist at the top of the vertical axis and to change the label at the bottom as Fundamentalist.  This also brings up questions when you consider the greater historical overview of the socio-ethno-religious experience.  Furthermore, I became increasingly concerned that there was too much overlap between the four axes.  Lacking precise definitions of the terms, it was not, however, clear as to where or what those overlaps might be.  The situation became more convoluted when you tried to graph the position of the so-called Emergents -- how would you determine the appropriate location of the identity point and how would one weight the various variables and components of the definition?
    Finally, in my essay on multi-polar graphs indicating the relative Mennonite identities, I became increasing concerned that many of the identities on the Bruderthaler-FEBC graph were in fact reflections of the greater Conservative-Liberal // Cultural Isolation-Cultural Assimilation. 
    One might also consider that the terms Liberal and Conservative are normally extremely relative.  For instance, politically, today’s conservatives are yesterday’s classical liberals.   When one considers the EMB-FEBC, one has to consider that prior to 1987, the Conservatives were the so-called traditionalist or ethnic Mennonites.  The Liberals who wanted to change the conference identity and to move away from the Conservative Mennonite world view were the Modernists  or American Fundamentalists.  Now, according the FEBC publication, Fellowship Focus, the conservatives are now the Fundamentalists, and the new liberals are the groups that comprise the Emergent Movement.  Not only have the Fundamentalists changed poles, but the Emergents share a number of similarities with the old Pietist Mennonites. 
    So, the issue becomes one of definitions and defined categories.

Traditional Mennonite -
Evangelical -
Pietist -
Emergent -
Fundamentalist -
Bruderthaler -
Ethnic Mennonite -
Schismatic Mennonite -
Anabaptist -

No comments:

Post a Comment

Mennonite Culture

606 agriculture AIMM Alcohol Alt-Oldenburger Amish Amish Prayer Amish voyeurism Anniversary of Russian Mennonites Architecture Archives Athletes Baptism Bess und Bettag Bible Study Bluffton College BMC Bob Jones University Bruderthaler Burial Customs Camp Funston Canadian Government Catherine the Great CCC Chaco Civil Rights Colonist Horse Congo Inland Mission Conscientious Objectors Consensus Cultural Criticism Death decals Definitions Dialogue diaspora Discipline Discrimination Divorce Drama Drugs Easter Emergent Church Movement ethnic violence Ethnicity Evangelical Mennonite Brethren Evangelical Mennonites Evangelicals exile Famine Fastpa folk art Footwashing Frente Menonita Front for the Defense of the Mennonite Colonies Furor mennoniticus Gardens gay Gay Marriage Gelassenheit Gemeinshaft Gender Studies General Conference German German Bible Gnadenfelde Goshen School Grace School grief Halodomar hate crimes Heirloom Seeds HMS Titanic Holocaust Holy Kiss Horses Hymns Identity Formation identity politics Immigration Immigration Song Inquisition Inter-faith Mennonites Jewish Diaspora Kairos Kleine Gemeinde Krimmer Mennonites Language LGBT Lustre Synthesis Lutheran and Mennonite Relations Magistracy Marriage Martyrs' Mirror MC-USA MCC Kits Mennonite Brethren Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Mennonite Decals Mennonite Diaspora Mennonite farming innovations Mennonite Flag Mennonite Heritage Plants Mennonite Horse Mennonite Identity Mennonite Literature Mennonite Refugees Mennonite Women Missions Molotschna Cattle Breed Movies Music Non-resistance Pacifism photography Pietism Plautdietsch Flag Plautdietsche Poetry Politics Postmodernism quilts Radio refugees Rites Roman Catholic and Mennonite Relations Roman Catholicism Russian Mennonite Flag Russian Mennonites Russian Orthodox Church secularism Shunning Southern Baptists Taxation Television Ten Thousand Villages Terms Viki-leaks Water Dowsing Wenger Mennonites Women's Studies World War 2 World War I


A. F. Wiens (1) A. H. Leahman (1) A. J. Wall (1) Abraham Gerber (1) Abram Groening (1) Adam Carroll (2) AIMM (3) Albert Wall (7) Allison Mack (1) Anne-Marie Goertzen Wall (1) Annie C. Funk (1) Aron Wall (1) B. F. Hamilton (1) Benjamin Mubenga (1) Benjamin Sprunger (1) Bernhard Dueck Kornelssen (1) Berry Friesen (1) Bitter Poets (3) Bob Jones University (2) Brandon Beachy (1) Brendan Fehr (1) Bruce Hiebert (1) C. Henry Niebuhr (1) C. R. Voth (1) Calvin Redekop (3) Carolyn Fauth (3) CBC News (1) Charles King (1) Chris Goertzen (1) Connie Mack (1) Corrie ten Boom (1) Dale Suderman (2) Daniel Friesen (1) Danny Klassen (1) David Classen (1) Dennis Wideman (1) Diane Driedger (3) Dick Lehman (1) Donald Kraybill (1) Donald Plett (1) Dora Dueck (1) Dustin Penner (1) Dwaine and Nancy Wall (1) Edna Ruth Byler (1) Eduard Wust (1) Elliott Tapaha (1) Elvina Martens (1) Eric Fehr (1) Esther K. Augsburger (1) Ethel Wall (1) Frente Menonita (1) Fritz and Alice Wall Unger (1) Gbowee (1) Georg Hansen (1) George P. Schultz (3) George S. Rempel (1) George Schultz (1) Gordon C. Eby (1) Goshen College (4) Gus Stoews (1) H. C. Wenger (1) H. F. Epp (1) Harold S. Bender (1) Heidi Wall Burns (2) Helen Wells Quintela (1) Henry Epp (1) Henry Toews (1) Ian Buruna (1) Isaac Peters (6) J. C. Wall (3) J. T. Neufeld (2) Jakob Stucky (1) James Duerksen (1) James Reimer (1) Jason Behr (1) Jeff Wall (1) Jim Kuebelbeck (1) Joetta Schlabach (2) Johann F. Kroeker (1) John Howard Yoder (1) John Jacob Wall (1) John R. Dick (1) John Rempel (1) John Roth (1) Jonathan Groff (1) Jonathan Toews (2) Jordi Ruiz Cirera (1) Kathleen Norris (4) Kelly Hofer (3) Kevin Goertzen (1) Keystone Pipeline (3) Leymah Gbowee (1) Linda May Shirley (1) Lionel Shriver (1) Lorraine Kathleen Fehr (2) Margarita Teichroeb (1) Marlys Wiens (2) Martin Fast (1) Matt Groening (2) Melvin D. Epp (1) Menno Simons (3) Micah Rauch (1) Michael Funk (1) Moody Bible Institute (2) Nancy Wall (4) Norma Jost Voth (1) O. J. Wall (2) Orlando J. Wall (3) Patrick Friesen (4) Peter Wall (1) Philip Landis (1) Phillip Jakob Spener (1) Rachael Traeholt (2) Randy Smart (3) Rhoda Janzen (1) Rob Nicholson (2) Robin Martins (1) Robyn Regehr (1) Roger Williams (1) Rosella Toews (1) Ruth Lederach (1) Sam Mullet (3) Sam Schmidt (1) Scot McKnight (1) Stacey Loewen (2) Stanley Hauerwas (2) Steven Wall (6) Susan Mark Landis (1) Taylor Kinney (1) Tom Airey (2) Victor Toews (4)