Anabaptist Community Bible Study Group Leaders

Anabaptism at 500 FAQ with Amy Gingerich, John D. Roth, and Mollee Moua

~ing podcast Season 3, Episode 6
Full Episode Transcript

Season 3, Episode 6: Anabaptism at 500, FAQ with Amy Gingerich, John D. Roth, and Mollee Mou  was released on February 7, 2023. The audio recording is available on all major podcasting platforms. More information is available here.

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Episode Description:

The 500th anniversary of Anabaptism in 2025 gives the church a unique opportunity to celebrate and dream. This week on ~ing Podcast, host Ben Wideman is joined once again by Mollee Moua, John Roth, and Amy Gingerich to talk through some of the most frequently asked questions about this project including further details about the Anabaptist Community Bible. This is the final part of this miniseries where we met some of the people involved with this incredible project.

To learn more about Anabaptism at 500 or how to add your voice to the first-ever Anabaptist Community Bible, visit

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~ing Podcast is a production of MennoMedia, a nonprofit Publisher that creates thoughtful, Anabaptist resources to enrich faith in a complex world. To find out more, visit us online at


Josh Hook, Jen Hook, Amy Gingerich, Ben Wideman, Mollee Moua, John Roth

Ben Wideman  00:00
It’s season three of ~ing Podcast, a production of MennoMedia’s Leader Magazine.  Hello again, friends welcome to what will be our final episode looking at the Anabaptism at 500 project. A few weeks ago, as we were starting to release these episodes, John Roth got in touch via email and said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great to wrap this up with frequently asked questions, just to kind of clarify some of the things that people are still asking about?” And we thought that would be a good way to end this. So I’m joined today with John, and Amy, and Molly, who’s been my co host for this series. John and Molly sort of spearheading this endeavor, and Amy as the executive director at MennoMedia. So we’ll just dive right in, and we’ll see where it takes us. First thing that we wanted to ask was, ‘Is the Anabaptist Community Bible, a new translation?’ I’ve heard this from some folks in the pastor group here in Allegheny Conference, there was some concern when MennoMedia began asking for people to help with this… that people weren’t knowledgeable enough to be a part of a Bible translation. So can we set the record straight? Is the Anabaptist Community Bible a new translation?

Amy Gingerich  01:16
No, it is not a new translation. Ben, that’s a great question. That… So right from the beginning, when MennoMedia started envisioning this project for the Anabaptist Community Bible, we never intended to do our own translation for a variety of reasons – one of those being money, one of those time. And a third really valid reason is that there’s so many good translations out there.

Ben Wideman  01:40

Amy Gingerich  01:40
We did several surveys in the last few years about Bible translations. For those of you within the Mennonite church, you might know that we don’t have an official translation that represents the breadth of either Mennonite Church Canada or Mennonite Church, USA, or even other Anabaptist groups.

Mollee Moua  01:59
A big part of the Anabaptist community is discernment and hearing from our community. And so we thought it would be a great opportunity to send out a survey. For us, the two that we had kind of settled on, or that we were thinking or considering for the project was NRSV – the New Revised Standard Version – and the CEB – the Common English Bible. We were a little surprised… I think we thought that, you know, nobody would know about the CEB. And it’s not quite as used or recognized, especially by scholars. But what we learned was that actually at Mennonite Congregations…  Anabaptist congregations do use, already use, and know about the Common English Bible. In the end, we felt that the Common English Bible translation was a good translation for us to use, particularly because it is written for a reading level of a grade eight. And we want this Bible to be at a reading level that is accessible and easy to understand as well. It flows really easily when you read it out loud, that those are two of the two of the reasons why we ended up ended up deciding to use the Common English Bible.

Amy Gingerich  03:13
Let me add a third reason, that I think the Common English Bible makes sense for this particular project, echoing all of what Molly is saying. We know in our churches that probably the two most common translations used would be New Revised Standard Version – which actually just got updated, and now it’s called NRSV UE, just got updated with some some things in the last year – or NIV. And it’s all over the map, what NIV translation congregations are using. Many still have the Pew edition 1984 copyright in their pews. Many have the updated with 2011 copyright, which changed some things. But those are two primary translations that we see used in our churches. And I think CB helps us in so many ways, get beyond churches that are either an NRSV church or an NIV church. Because I think CB brings together the audio readability that you find in the NIV with some of the scholarly gravitas that you have of the NRSV. I think it brings those together in a really nice way. And because it’s a fresh new translation that was just done in the last decade. I think it calls us to the text and enlivens the text in some fresh ways.

Ben Wideman  04:35
So we don’t just have this already existing translation with an Anabaptist Community Bible cover slapped on top of it. We’re adding some other things to it as well. There’ll be some study notes from biblical scholars but also some notes from the study groups that have been happening now for the last several months. On our last episode here as part of this series, we met with three Bible study leaders. And the question that we have now is ‘Who can participate? How many people can be in a study group?’

Mollee Moua  05:05
The Bible is called an Anabaptist Community Bible. And so we have said, If you self-identify as an Anabaptist, regardless of you know, we know that the Anabaptist denomination can contains a wide breadth of different denominations. And so there’s MC USA, MC Canada, Hutterite, Amish, Bruderhof, conservative, etc, etc, which all fall under that Anabaptist family. And so we have cast the umbrella wide and said, if you consider yourself a part of this Anabaptist tradition, then we very much welcome your participation, then in terms of the number of people in the study group, in our Bible study, group facilitators guide, we have a suggestion of maybe four or five people a small group, but it’s really whatever is comfortable for your group. If you have a Sunday school group that meets regularly, and there’s already, and there’s 10 of you, then that’s fine.

Ben Wideman  06:09
Can you explain the marginal note categories?

John Roth  06:12
Sure, the process behind the marginal note categories has been a development. But we have landed on three distinct categories. The first we call Biblical Context Notes. And for these, we’ve turned to the biblical scholars who are writing introductions, and we’ve asked them to identify maybe technical aspects of a biblical passage, or maybe to provide a broader understanding of how this passage fits within a broader theme, something that comes out of their expertise as biblical scholars, a second category, we’ve identified as an Early Anabaptist Witness. And here we have asked a group of historians of the Anabaptist movement, to comb through the writings of 16th and 17th century Anabaptists, who often reflected on Scripture. So the early writings of the Anabaptists are filled with biblical commentary. And we’ve asked these historians to read through that literature and to glean interesting takes interesting perspectives on Scripture that comes from these theologians, church leaders from the 16th century, and we think that will add an interesting historical component. But the really unique and distinctive part of the Anabaptist Community Bible are the comments that will come to us, are coming to us from we hope 500 lay-Bible study groups, and we call those Community Reflection Notes. And those are the comments, questions, insights, reactions, of ordinary people as they read Scripture. And we see these three categories as distinct, but important parts of a kind of conversation.

Amy Gingerich  08:24
It’s really exciting that Bible study groups are creating these community reflection pieces. One of the questions that we hear sometimes are questions around “but I’m not a scholar, my group doesn’t have scholars, we don’t feel equipped.” Well, that’s why we have scholars involved writing the Bible study notes, piece. So those are being written by scholars to bring out the text in its biblical context, how the text has been used in the life of the church, etc. And we have these early Anabaptist context notes as well, again, written by people who study and care about early Anabaptism, which then leaves I think, broad space and broad latitude for groups who are doing this study to add their own contributions. While they don’t then have to feel like “oh, my, what did early Anabaptist say about this?” They don’t have to comment on that, other people were taking care of that. Or oh, “How do Bible scholars really reflect on this key passage?” Again, they don’t have to reflect on that we want the comments coming out of their own Bible study from their own context.

Ben Wideman  09:28
So speaking of those Bible study notes – 500 groups all submitting notes, will they all appear in this community Bible as they’ve been submitted?

Amy Gingerich  09:39
Not as they’ve been submitted, most likely. That is hard to guarantee. We just don’t really know what groups are going to submit. I would anticipate just knowing certain people who are involved in this are and are excited about it. I could see certain people submitting pages and pages of notes on a on a short career copy, and that where are we going to figure out how to fit those notes in, right. And other groups may have a scribe who is more limited in what they actually want to type up as the group’s notes. And so we may not have as many notes. So that will be one of our editorial challenges for staff at MennoMedia.

Ben Wideman  10:20
Quite a challenge, I would imagine!

John Roth  10:22
It is, it’s daunting, we have a process in place, but it is it is going to require a lot of work. And we should say that we are not simply printing exactly what comes in from the Bible study groups, the work of the scribe, is really a challenging task, because you’re hearing in real time, ideas, insights, fragments of sentences that are shared by a group. And we’re asking the scribe to capture some of that. But we recognize that those will not always be fully formed, tightly worded phrases, and so there will be some editorial work. And not everything can be included, we’ll have far more material than what is likely to be able to fit into the margins.

Amy Gingerich  11:22
Yeah, so that it doesn’t look like all the notes are in Micah. And none of the notes are in Ecclesiastes or however, that you know, kind of works out.

Ben Wideman  11:31

Amy Gingerich  11:31
So our hope, and our goal is that the notes from all the groups will be there, that we need to see what starts to come in. And we are just at the very, very front end of what groups are submitting,

Mollee Moua  11:43
We will do our best to let the different voices speak and that we’re not editing it. So it all sounds like it’s a MennoMedia editor that you know, has taken everything and written it. So it sounds a certain way. But we will do our best to value the the voices and the perspectives that are coming through so that you can also hear that, you know, this group, actually this marginal new note sounds a little different from this one. And it should because they’re coming from different groups.

Ben Wideman  12:16
Will those biblical scholars be helping with the edit process of all of those notes from the 500 study groups?

John Roth  12:25
We will have an editorial process for the community reflection notes, and there will be biblical scholars represented on the the group that does the final review will have what we call sensitivity readers who read through the comments, we want to be alert to, sometimes inadvertently, there are phrases or perspectives that could be interpreted as causing offence. That’s not our intention, we want to be sure that we are attentive to that.

Ben Wideman  13:06
If we think back to our school days, one of the most uncomfortable moments was when you’re in a group project, and the teacher asked someone to take notes, right? No one wants to raise their hand for that job. But there is this important task when you are in one of these study groups of taking notes. So can you talk through how that works, and maybe offer some tips to those who are willing to be taking notes for their Bible study groups.

Amy Gingerich  13:30
So for each group, we are looking for roughly 10 to 15 comments or questions for each of the passages that the group is working with. John and Mollee send out really great instructions to groups, when they sign up, send out some reminder notes. But we are leaving the organization of those notes up to each of the study groups and leaving up that process of how to be the scribe up to each person how that works. Yeah, it’s funny that you talk about who should do that, then I often find myself because I’m an editor professionally. When I’m in groups, people often look at me it doesn’t really matter the context. So actually, I was the note taker. In the first meeting of a group that I’m doing this with our MennoMedia board is doing this. It’s a group of nine people and I was the scribe for the first time, and we’re rotating that responsibility each time. So I’m actually waiting… We have our second meeting this week and I’m waiting to see what those notes look like together and to compare notes with that scribe as to how we might want to condense and edit those. My gut says that it’s more helpful personally, I’m of the style that I take more notes that are going to be needed and then I go back through and edit them down. My note style taking might even be sometimes you know to write down who said what, or insight from this or so person, obviously. As I edit those down for submission, I’m going to be editing out the names and trying to condense and consolidate. My group had some tricky passages, we had David and Goliath, and David and Jonathan. And so I have a lot of notes from our first Bible study session, still to be edited and condensed down.

Mollee Moua  15:18
So we do want the notes to be attached to the verses or chapter that those notes are referring to. That’ll just help us when we place that note in the Bible. But I think, as kind of like me, my group is also in the midst of meeting. I think, for our group, once we have the notes, then I am tasked with kind of summarizing that. And then I think I would I’m planning on bringing my summarized notes back to the group and kind of saying, Okay, this is what we’re submitting, is this kind of what you thought that we, you know, what’s the consensus, I guess, and what we can without what we’re gonna send in, so then, when, you know, people read it, or when they see it, they won’t be surprised. And they can be like, okay, yeah, that does represent our group we can we can send that in.

Amy Gingerich  16:09
That’s a great idea, Mollee. I have not thought about doing that with my group. But I think I will.

Ben Wideman  16:14
What about those groups that get done early and thinking about maybe taking on another one? Can… Can you do that?

Amy Gingerich  16:22
You bet! We would be happy for groups to take on more. I think we’ve mentioned that we sent out a pretty big mailer to congregations across the Anabaptist tradition, inviting congregations to participate in this, we had about 3800 of those mailers that went out recently. And those just went out mid January. So we’re still getting registrations. As of today, we’re just over 250 groups. So bring it on, we still need it.

Ben Wideman  16:52
And same goes for if a congregation has one group, you can add a second group to right, it doesn’t have to be limited to just one per group per church?

Amy Gingerich  17:00

John Roth  17:01
Some congregations have six different groups working. And that’s, that’s fine. I think there’ll be plenty of, of passages to go around. So don’t hold back on that.

Ben Wideman  17:15
Is there any ability to choose which passage your group gets?

Mollee Moua  17:21
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to choose your own passages. And so what we’ve done is we divided up the passages, the Bible, into 500 sections. And so each Bible study group, when they register will be assigned kind of like, oh, this is the next Bible grouping on the list. And so every Bible study group that registers will get an Old Testament passage, a New Testament passage, and then the Psalms or proverbs texts.

Ben Wideman  17:51
Okay, there’s, there’s 500 groups, each getting those passages, how did you decide which passages to include? It’s not exhaustive, right? It’s not every single passage in the Bible.

John Roth  18:04
Actually, it is. Our goal was to include from Genesis one to Revelations 27, we want to have the, the entire biblical text is there. And what we’ve done is simply following pretty standard divisions that you’ll see in most in most Bibles. They’re kind of natural breaks. In Section, sometimes those are whole chapters. Sometimes they’re just a cluster of verses. But drawing on those section headings, we have included the entire scripture, and we’ve organized it in three categories. So we have Old Testament, New Testament, and then Psalms or Proverbs. And we are giving each study group three passages – Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms or Proverbs. And we get through the entire Bible by about group 400, or something like that. But we assume that there will be some groups maybe that don’t finish all of their their work. And so for the last 100, we will fill in Where, where it’s needed. And we may double up on some passages, if if the group so it didn’t come out perfectly, to 500. But it comes close, and we will have a passage for every group that registers

Ben Wideman  19:38
How broad are we talking here? MennoMedia primarily works with the North American church. Can people participate from around the globe?

Amy Gingerich  19:48

People are participating from around the globe! In the list of 250 groups that have already signed up, there are… I looked at that list this morning. There’s definitely at least one group in Indonesia There’s some groups in the UK…

Mollee Moua  20:02
Some in Japan, and China. But I think definitely the majority of the Bible study groups are from North America,

Ben Wideman  20:11
But not limited to North America.

Mollee Moua  20:12
But not limited. Definitely.

Amy Gingerich  20:14
Not limited to North America, right.

Ben Wideman  20:16
I’ve got good friends in the United Methodist Church, which is a global denomination, one denomination for the entire planet, which is kind of amazing. Anabaptism is made up of many, many denominations that would all fall under that umbrella. So who’s participating in this? How diverse is this Anabaptist Community Bible going to be?

Amy Gingerich  20:39
We hope it will be fairly diverse. So far, we have 250 groups signed up. They come from… just, I’ll just list some of the following denominations that are registered churches… Within these denominations are registered Mennonite Church USA Mennonite Church Canada, Church of the Brethren, Bruderhof, Mennonite Brethren, Lancaster Mennonite Conference, Amish, Anabaptist, Anabaptist Mennonite Network, Brethren in Christ, BAC Canada, Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, GITJ in Indonesia, Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference, and Quaker/Mennonite, there’s a number of other churches that just listed Mennonite is their denomination. So you know, unsure exactly which group they might be affiliated with. But that’s a quick rundown of the different groups, as well as a number that have just listed Anabaptist.

Ben Wideman  21:37
We’ve spent most of this episode talking specifically about the Anabaptist Community Bible, but our Anabaptism at 500 celebration is much, much more than that. And something that’s been talked about just a bit recently is the app. Can you talk us through what might be involved with with that part of this celebration?

Amy Gingerich  21:59
Well, an app will definitely be part of the celebration, exactly what is in that app is yet to be determined. And we just deployed an app survey in the last week asking a bunch of questions around what could go in this app. On the one hand, we’ve never done an app before at MennoMedia. So it’s a wide open plate. And we can think of many things that would be very helpful in this app. In some ways, we’ve described it as having been Mennonite World Conference in the palm of your hand, you know, would there be ways to connect with Anabaptists around the world? Would there be ways to have this Bible? And do Bible study with your church? Would there be ways to find a church? I mean, in many ways, the possibilities are endless, what we need to do is hone in on what is most doable, and what users will most find effective in this app. So this past fall, our team met with a group to do an app discovery phase and hone in on some of those questions at a meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And now the survey is really the next step. We do plan to launch the app well ahead of 2025, at this point in time, with some sort of, you know, minimum viable product, what what is it that we want to have in the app to start with, and then we can see ourselves adding products to it over time, as they launch. We want it to be an app that’s robust enough that people keep coming back to and find engaging new content with but right now we’re trying to figure all of that out what it is that people would want in such an app, we don’t have as Anabaptist. You know, Ben, you talked about denominations, we don’t have, you know, one global denomination. Everything goes in, so to speak, in one umbrella or bucket. And so we’re trying to figure out how broad this app could be and how useful it could be all around the world.

Ben Wideman  23:49
Well, I know there are probably more questions out there. But for today, at least, thank you so much for answering some of these lingering questions that have been out there. And if you’re listening to this and want to know more, remember, you can always visit Anabaptism at 500 – The number five hundred – .com. Google it, you’ll get there that way as well. There’s lots of information that MennoMedia has on their website that will point you in that direction. And guess what? The people involved with this project are excited about it. And if you send them a message, I’m sure they will respond as well. Thank you to the three of you for being a part of today’s conversation and for taking the time, really through this whole series to bring light to this exciting anniversary celebration. Thanks so much.  Next week on ink podcast, we’re joined by Jen and Josh Hook, authors of the brand new book from Herald Press, Thriving Families: A Trauma Informed Guide Book for the Foster and Adoptive Journey.

Jen Hook  24:47

It just became very apparent to me that churches were really good at acknowledging like it’s clearly in the Bible to care for the cause of the orphan and the fatherless, and Christians really took that to heart and churches encourage families to foster or to adopt, but rarely to churches show up after family said yes to that journey.

Josh Hook  25:08
Churches attract people who kind of fit within where the church is going. Versus the church kind of really sitting down and thinking like what are the needs of each of the individuals and families in our congregation? And how can we go best go about meeting those needs?

Ben Wideman  25:27
As always we’d like to thank our guests and all who support ~ing Podcast. Thank you for joining us on the journey. If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review in your favorite podcasting app. And if you have something to share, send us a message at [email protected] or by leaving us a voicemail. ~ing Podcast is hosted by Reverend Allison Maus and Reverend Dr. Dennis Edwards. And produced by me, Ben Wideman. Views and opinions expressed on ~ing Podcast are those of our hosts and guests and may not represent that of Leader Magazine or MennoMedia. ~ing Podcast is a production of MennoMedia, a nonprofit publisher that creates thoughtful Anabaptist resources to enrich faith in a complex world. To find out more, visit us online at