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

Monday, October 29, 2012

Frente Menonita

Announcing The Front for the Defense of the Mennonite Colonies Civil Association of Chihuahua

en fer'ein

Dueck sworn in as president of Frente Menonita, courtesy La Cronica de Chihuahua
    Noting heightened tensions between Mennonite settlers and their Mestizo neighbors in Mexico's state of Chihuahua, complicated by recent rumors that at least small numbers of settlers are now seeking to immigrate out of Mexico, either to Canada or central Russia, the Mennonite colonies have now formed a new organization to promote unity, dialogue, rights, cooperation and philanthropy amongst the region's Russian Mennonite population.

    Generally, this is both welcomed and sad news.  The welcoming is that it is probably not only long overdue for the existence of such an organization (especially if it is able to speak on behalf of all ethnic Mennonites regardless of conference or denomination), but also indicates the need for other global pan-Mennonite organizations such as Mennonite World Conference and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to again review their leadership of the pan-Mennonite diaspora and to continue a commitment to ethnic and cultural preservation, above and beyond still needed foci on evangelism, spirituality and social justice for others.

 "We will promote unity amongst the Mennonite colonies to help loosen the mood and look towards establishing agreements with other groups through dialogue," Dueck.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Are Mexico's Mennonites Leaving for Russia?

ne Trigjfoat

Bottom (c) El
    Honestly, this story is difficult to navigate – it is full of contradictions and surprising vitriol, but if true, it could indicate a hundred-year reversal of Mennonite immigration out of Russia back to the steppes and arid lands of their forefathers – well, a few of the fore-parents anyway…  but Mexico’s Mennonites, or at least some of them, might be heading back to Russia and Kazakhstan by 2014.  The ink might already be drying on the new deeds.

    The reason this story is difficult to follow is that it takes place in at least three very different languages – none of which are English – and I am not certain of either the electronic translations or search results for further information.  [Note:  I have contacted various groups to obtain more reliable “official” information, and will share this via the blog as I receive responses.]

    According to, several thousand Mennonites chose to leave Canada for Mexico in 1922-1927, representing the entire Alt Kolonie subculture and many Sommerfelder (later to be also joined by numerous conservative Kleine Gemeinde who would settle near and in Belize).  According to, the settlers migrating to Mexico represented the most conservative of the earlier Russian Mennonite immigrants into Canada and their move to Mexico was in reaction to early 20th Century governmental efforts to Canadianize the Mennonite immigrants – especially in the area of education and language rights, felt to have been guaranteed under the original agreements with Crown authorities extended to encourage Mennonite immigration to Manitoba.  While focuses on language rights, one must assume that struggles by Canadian Mennonites to maintain their exemptions from military service during World War 1 – and American imprisonment of conscientious objectors during the same war, probably played a similar role in the decision to immigrate, as well as the perennial need for additional farmland and cultural seclusion.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Divided Kingdom?

The Divided Kingdom, à Church of Latter Day Saints.
 Legacies of Division

 It has been a busy month – the Wenger Mennonites, Sam Mullet’s guilty sentence for in-faith hate crimes and an informative roundtable with AIMM representatives and church leaders from Burkina Faso and Congo / Zaire.  What do all three of these events have in common?  They all deal directly with the Mennonite culture’s legacy of division.

    This morning (being Sunday, 23 Sept), I lay in bed listening to Minnesota Public Radio (MPR)’s broadcast of Krista Tippett’s interview with Focus on the Family president Jim Daly and Gabe Lyons, founder of “Q,” an Emergent Evangelical group.
    Tippett focuses on three topics – namely the efforts by Daly and Lyons to create a new, impactful and yet more caring and human face of Evangelicalism, on their outreach to gays, pro-Choicers and Muslims (the perceived traditional enemies of Focus on the Family and faithful Evangelicals everywhere) and the controversy this new leadership has generated between generations within the American Evangelical movement.  (For instance, Daly indicates that 65% of Evangelicals under the age of 35 support the concept of gay marriage – currently an almost violently divisive issue in Minnesota’s current electoral cycle.) 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Jesus Tribe

    The Jesus Tribe:  Grace stories from Congo’s Mennonites 1912-2012 by editors Rod Hollinger-Janzen, Nancy J. Myers, and Jim Bertsche, all of AIMM, is a refreshing, and frank, account of the establishment, growth and self-sustaining work of the Holy Spirit within the context of the growing Congo Mennonite community.
    The story of the Congo Mennonites is perhaps one of the most dramatic and compelling narratives since the Russian Mennonites’ struggle for survival from 1917 - 1954.    It is a story of faith, courage, danger and sometimes loss – every bit as important and informative as A.P. Toews’ Book of Russian Martyrs.  In fact, it is through books such as The Jesus Tribe that the story of modern evangelical faith begun in the Martyrs Mirror extends to include the mission stations and missionary works our grandparents considered to be an essential aspect of their daily active faith and church missionary commitment.

    The Jesus Tribe helps to answer many basic questions held by members of these churches such as:  Does this all make any difference?  Why should I support and pray for the missions?  and How can I relate to Christians from other cultures? 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Consensual Governance

Daughters of Zelophehad, courtesy
    I have come to look forward not only to the old favorite Scripture readings in church, but often even more to the more esoteric ones I would otherwise be inclined to skip or gloss over.  Rev. Joetta Schlabach of Faith Mennonite in Minneapolis, Minnesota, delivered one such offering in her examination of the text Numbers 27: 1-11, Those Audacious Daughters of Zelophehad. 
    In summary, as the nation of Israel was preparing to enter the Promised Land, a census had been taken in order to divide up the land amongst the male-headed households.  The daughters of the deceased Zelophehad were to find themselves disinherited from an equal portion of the land due to their father’s death and appealed to Moses that despite being female, they should in fact be allocated the proper portion due to their deceased father who had died faithful to the Lord.
    For our purposes, Schlabach’s sermon also contains three major observations pertinent to traditional Mennonite cultural organization and self-governance (though not necessarily unique only to the Anabaptists). 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mennonites and Wilderness

Mennonites and Wilderness

ne Wiltness

      Faith Mennonite’s sermon on 02 September was “Learning from the Wilderness,” (Deut 4:1-2, 6-9; Mark 7:1-8; 14-15, 21).  Dan Leisen and Gerald Schlabach spoke on their wilderness experience at the International Boundary Waters, a popular national wilderness area that excludes all forms of modern convenience that do not run on muscle power alone.  I took two observations away from this presentation – both men departed from my traditional understanding of the Deuteronomy passage as pertaining to the development of the interior life of the individual and of the congregation.  Instead, they focused on the rules that allow you to enter the wilderness, such as “Leave no trace.”

    Heidi Wall Burns wrote her masters’ thesis at Iowa State on changing perspectives of “wilderness” in United States’ literature – indicating and exploring shifts between fear and terror to Romanticism and Exploitation to Preservation.  Leisen and Schlabach would seem to be representative of the latter.

    Similarly to American culture, the Mennonites have gone through many different periods of fear and romanticism regarding wilderness.  The 1860s and 1870s were decades of unrest in the frontier amongst the Cherokee, Sioux and other Western tribes – the Custer incident occurred as late as 1876 – two years after the initial immigration of Russian Mennonites to Nebraska and Kansas.  The Sioux Uprising of 1862 enabled Federal troops to evict the tribes from treaty lands in southwestern Minnesota, further opening up space for Mennonite expansion into that area as well.

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