What makes a Mennonite?
The “What Makes a Mennonite” content on this page has been developed to give newcomers a general but helpful introduction to Mennonites. For more detailed and inclusive information on Mennonite beliefs and values, see Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective
Some people know Mennonites as “the folks who came into town and helped clean up after the flood that devastated the community.” Some picture Mennonites as rural folk who wear bonnets and travel in horse-drawn buggies. These are some views of Mennonites.
But there’s much more…
Mennonites have been around for almost 500 years. Early leaders rejected the state church’s control over peoples’ lives. Mennonite ideas and insistence on separation between church and state are equally important today, when some governments in the global community attempt to suppress the rights of individuals and non-conformist communities.Today, you won’t recognize most Mennonites by how they dress. But you will find vibrant Mennonite congregations scattered throughout rural areas, small towns and large cities across Canada, and throughout the world.
What we believe
Mennonites believe in Jesus Christ as the One sent by God to bring reconciliation to a broken world, and believe in the Bible as the central source of inspiration for faithful living. Mennonites share essential core beliefs with Christians of Catholic and Protestant communities. We emphasize the connections between faith, words and actions.
We believe baptism should be voluntary and should be accompanied by a lifestyle that reflects the teachings of Jesus. Inside each of us there is a yearning to understand why we are here. Mennonites believe the answer lies in both believing in and following Jesus, and that peace building is an achievable way of life. Mennonites seek to live out Jesus’ teachings by being active members of church communities who live out their beliefs in the community at large.
We believe that peace and wholeness are real possibilities. It’s how God intends us to live here and now. We use the tools God has given us as we strive for wholeness through our faith in Jesus Christ. Living as peace builders when war comes is not easy because many in our society believe it is foolish to refuse to defend oneself and one’s country in the face of aggression.
Walking the talk
Mennonites have become increasingly recognized as leaders in conflict resolution–even on an international scale. Mennonites have been involved in helping differing groups or factions talk to each other in places like East Africa, Northern Ireland, the Middle East, and Latin America. Mennonites were also involved in some of the early developments in victim-offender reconciliation organizations in Canada and the United States, and the promotion of restorative justice as a way of responding to criminal and antisocial behaviour.
Mennonites are a global people
In North America and Europe, the majority of Mennonites have been white, rural and middle class–but that’s rapidly changing. We are increasingly multicultural; many congregations worship in languages other than English. In the global Mennonite family people from the global south (Asia, Africa, Latin America) now comprise the majority of members. In Canada, we worship in more than 15 different languages. We believe our emphasis on being a caring community is a positive response to the indifference of a powerful North American culture of consumerism, ongoing violence, and mass media messages.
Mennonites seek community
Mennonites recognize the value in organizing as a wider community of Christians connected through the support of local faith communities of fellow believers. Worshipping together and studying the Bible to hear what God is saying to the church today are very important to Mennonites. We believe the church is called to share the news of Jesus, and to offer a glimpse of what God desires for all of humanity. In community, we seek hope in place of despair, healing instead of suffering, and peace instead of conflict.
Vision: Healing & Hope
God calls us to be followers of Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, to grow as communities of grace, joy and peace so that God’s healing and hope flow through us to the world.
True evangelical faith cannot lie dormant. It clothes the naked, it feeds the hungry, it comforts the sorrowful, it shelters the destitute and it serves those who harm it. It binds up that which is wounded. It has become all things to all people. — Menno Simons, 1539
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has already been established. That foundation is Jesus Christ.
—1 Cor. 3:11
Source: Courtesy of Mennonite Church Canada