Mennonite Renaissance, a period of awakening, or quickening, within the Mennonite Church (MC), that had its beginnings during the American Civil War (1861-65), came into its own by the 1890s, with definite second and third stages extending from the 1890s to the present time.
John F. Funk, and later, John S. Coffman, were at the center of the beginning stage (1860-1908), commencing formally in 1863 with publications on the Mennonite position on war, and in 1864 with the founding of Funk's Herald of Truth and Herold der Wahrheit, and ending in 1908 when the Herald of Truth ceased publication. During this period, renewal efforts for the church centered in the innovation of the Sunday school (ca. 1863ff), and later, revival meetings. This latter development is where John S. Coffman made his significant contribution as the first churchwide evangelist (ca. 1881-99).
Through these efforts a new generation of English-speaking young Mennonites developed, many of whom were eager to serve the church as Christian workers in mission and relief work, and who also felt the need for further education in way of preparation for service. Partly as cause, partly as effect, not only publishing (1860s onward) but also home and foreign missions (1880s and 1890s onward), education (1894ff), mutual aid (1860s onward), and relief efforts (1890s onward), took on a formal and institutional character within the church at this time.
Important for an understanding of this first stage is the language transformation: after the Civil War, English slowly evolved as the mother tongue displacing German for many in the Mennonite church, so that by 1901 the Herold der Wahrheit ceased publication for lack of readership. Up to 1908, however, John Funk attempted consciously to maintain the Mennonite tradition which combined faith and history -- the Martyrs Mirror tradition, where the church looked to its own roots, and to its own historic ways of interpreting the Bible.
With the publication of Daniel Kauffman's Manual of Bible Doctrines, and the creation of Mennonite [Church] General Conference (MC), both in 1898, a second stage came into being, strengthened in 1908 by the new church organ, the Gospel Herald. From 1898 to 1944, a new doctrinal approach which tended to minimize the historical dimension of the Mennonite faith took many of its cues for definitions of truth from sources outside Mennonite circles. By now, the German-language tradition with its whole corpus of literature had all but disappeared in the Mennonite approach to defining faith and life. Formal rules and discipline in matters of uniform dress and deportment also came into being. This era has at times been called the Daniel Kauffman era, due to the central role Kauffman played throughout these 40 and more years.
The third stage has as its center a conscious effort on the part of Harold S. Bender and many others to recover "the Anabaptist vision." This quest began ca. 1924, took on a formal dimension with the establishment of the Mennonite Quarterly Review in 1927, and found its synthesis with Bender's "Anabaptist vision," first published in 1944 (MQR, April 1944).
The triad of ideas found in Bender's "Anabaptist Vision,' -- discipleship, the gathered, disciplined church, and the spirit of peace and love -- found wide resonance among many Mennonite groups, in a manner that could still be felt into the last years of the 20th century. Continuing affirmation of the doctrinal approach could also be found among a few Mennonite groups during these same decades after 1944, even though the "Anabaptist Vision" was the prevailing center for articulating the Christian faith for most Mennonites at this time.
Gross, Leonard. "The Doctrinal Era of the Mennonite Church." Mennonite Quarterly Review (1986): 83-103.
Schlabach, Theron F. Gospel Versus Gospel. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1980.
Hershberger, Guy F., ed. The Recovery of the Anabaptist Vision. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1957.
Hostetler, Beulah Stauffer. American Mennonites and Protestant Movements. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1987.
Hershberger, Guy F. The Way of the Cross in Human Relations. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1958.
Burkholder, J. R. and Calvin W. Redekop, eds. Kingdom Cross and Community. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1976.
Yoder, John H. "Anabaptist Vision and Mennonite Reality," in Consultation on Anabaptist-Mennonite theology, ed. A. J. Klassen. N.p.: Council of Mennonite Seminaries, 1970: 146.
Cite This Article
Gross, Leonard. "Renaissance, Mennonite." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 22 Oct 2017. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Renaissance,_Mennonite&oldid=93373.
Gross, Leonard. (1989). Renaissance, Mennonite. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 October 2017, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Renaissance,_Mennonite&oldid=93373.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 764-765. All rights reserved.
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