Saturday, October 07, 2006

Christianity Today: Pure & Simple

Christianity Today: Pure & Simple:
"Our congregation gathered for worship on a beautiful September Sunday morning at the Conley farm in western Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. This was the fourth of a series of weekend meetings we call "love feast"—the high point of our church year. An intense spiritual experience, the series culminates on Saturday evening as the plainly dressed, bearded brothers and the sisters in their capes, aprons, and snow white head coverings wash one another's feet. Then, positioned around long wooden tables, they exchange the kiss of peace and pass the bread and cup of Communion in a complete circuit. ..."
This has been a rough few weeks for school violence, but the most recent, involving an Amish school in Pennsylvania seemed particularly senseless to many. The shooter, who seemed to have hidden issues going back 20 years, released all the boys and the adults, and proceeded to tie up and shoot the 11 girls. Five died.

The Old Order Amish community dealt with an onslaught of news media, and buried the five dead girls. A father of one of the slain girls made a public statement of forgiveness and it is said that the widow of the shooter and their three children were invited to stay in the community.

Christianity Today had an article on their website today by an insider to one of the old order anabaptist communities, which gives an indication of why they were so quick to forgive and to reach out to the family of the shooter. The author, Stephen Scott, is a member of the Old Order River Brethren and works at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. His branch of the anabaptists is often confused with the Old Order Amish because both share similar dress and beliefs.

The Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonites both adhere to the Dordrecht Confession of Faith, which in Article 8 defines the Visible Church:
"We believe in and confess a visible Church of God, consisting of those who … have truly repented, rightly believed, are rightly baptized, are united with God in heaven, and incorporated with the communion of the saints on earth. And these, we confess, are a 'chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation': who have the testimony that they are the 'bride' of Christ; yea, that they are 'children and heirs of eternal life,' a 'habitation of God though the spirit,' built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, of which 'Christ himself is the chief cornerstone'—"the foundation on which his Church is built" (Article 8, "of the Church of Christ").
I think one can infer that this is not a church in "stealth mode", but rather a church that is visible in the world but is not of the world -- yet they are a visible testimony to God and what He requires.

In looking at the full Dordrecht Confession of Faith, I noticed this as well:

XIV. Of Revenge

As regards revenge, that is, to oppose an enemy with the sword, we believe and confess that the Lord Christ has forbidden and set aside to His disciples and followers all revenge and retaliation, and commanded them to render to no one evil for evil, or cursing for cursing, but to put the sword into the sheath, or, as the prophets have predicted, to beat the swords into ploughshares. Matthew 5:39, 44; Romans 12:14; 1 Peter 3:9; Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3; Zechariah 9:8, 9.

From this we understand that therefore, and according to His example, we must not inflict pain, harm, or sorrow upon any one, but seek the highest welfare and salvation of all men, and even, if necessity require it, flee for the Lord's sake from one city or country into another, and suffer the spoiling of our goods; that we must not harm any one, and, when we are smitten, rather turn the other cheek also, than take revenge or retaliate. Matthew 5:39.

And, moreover, that we must pray for our enemies, feed and refresh them whenever they are hungry or thirsty, and thus convince them by well-doing, and overcome all ignorance. Romans 12:19, 20.

Finally, that we must do good and commend ourselves to every man's conscience; and, according to the law of Christ, do unto no one that which we would not have done to us. 2 Corinthians 4:2; Matthew 7:12.

This seems to be the core of the non-violence that characterizes the Amish, Mennnonite, and Brethren communities, and also provides the strength to meet horrific violence perpetrated on their community with the love of Jesus Christ.

There is no question that there is pain and suffering in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, but the response of the Amish community stands as an example to all of us of what Christian love is about.

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Quotidian Grace said...

This is great! I'm printing out your post to share with our Sunday School class this morning that is using the Wired Word curriculum. This week's study is about the Amish and forgiveness. The quote from the confession about revenge shows how they live their theology. We could learn a lesson.

Denis Hancock said...

Sounds like the Wired Word is right on top of current events. I'm going to have to look them up.

I hope your class went well, and I'm glad you found something useful to add to it.

When I did my online news reading this morning I came across this:

Amish mourn gunman who killed 5 girls

I have to contrast this with Columbine where irate parents tore down crosses because someone put up two too many.

Quotidian Grace said...

The class went very well and everyone was interested in the information you shared. A couple of class members remarked that it was very helpful to see the theological and confessional basis of the Amish pacifism which wasn't included in the lesson for today.

The Wired Word website is: