An Astounding Reversal: Anabaptism’s Gifts

By Melissa Miller

One of the greatest blessings I count is to have grown up in a Christian Anabaptist family. My father was a Church of the Brethren pastor, who served congregations in Pennsylvania and Maryland. In the late 19th century, my mother’s ancestors founded the church of my childhood, Raven Run Church of the Brethren, nestled up against a wooded Pennsylvania hill beside a little run of a creek. From both my parents, and from the churches we attended, I learned the way of Jesus, of peace, of community and service.

After studying at Eastern Mennonite College (now University) where I met my husband, I relocated to Ontario and made a home with Mennonites. That second Anabaptist church family is where I remain today, another blessing in my life. All that to say: I am an Anabaptist through and through, with a world view and values system imbibed at my parents’ table and chosen as a young adult. The Anabaptist lens by which to understand God and Christian faith continues to make sense to me.dirk willems

What a humble joy then to encounter these words in a current historical account of the Reformation. Author Thomas Cahill writes, “The Anabaptists … became in time the Mennonites, the Bruderhof, the Quakers. Though universally despised in the early modern period, persecuted, and often drowned by both Catholics and Protestants, their main reforms … (including) a heightened sense of community, compassion for the poor, prison reform, elimination of the death penalty, refusal to take up arms, (and) peacemaking – are now ideals of almost all their former persecutors … From a historical point of view, this is an astounding reversal.” (Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World; Publisher, Nan A. Talese, 2013, p. 306.)

Heretics bookWe may quibble with Cahill’s pairing of Anabaptists (a term originally meaning re-baptized) and Quakers (who do not practice baptism), but the deep appreciation he expresses for previously scorned and persecuted radical reformers is compelling. It is encouragement for MennoMedia to pursue its mission to “create resources for living Christian faith from an Anabaptist perspective”. We have inherited the vision that the radical reformers birthed through struggle and blood. Then, as now, it is a vision the world desperately needs. May we be true to our calling to live out and speak of the vision of following Jesus in peace, simplicity, justice and community.


Where does your own call and vision as a Christian come from? We’d love to hear!

Resources related to “call” can be found here.

MennoMedia copublishes it’s well known and loved children curricula series with the Church of the Brethren, currently Shine: Living in God’s Light, used by various Anabaptist or Anabaptist-leaning groups.

MelissaMillerPorchSwingEditedMelissa Miller lives in Winnipeg, pastors Springstein Mennonite Church, and is secretary of the MennoMedia board.