Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Murray Williams tour proclaims Anabaptist values for the present context.

For four days in early November, the Church of the Brethren hosted British church planter and self-proclaimed Anabaptist Stuart Murray Williams. In a tour organized by Stan Dueck of Congregational Life Ministries, Murray Williams spoke and led workshops at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College and the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, as well as Frederick (Md.) Church of the Brethren, First Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Va., and Somerset (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.

Murray Williams opened the gathering in Frederick by stating clearly that Anabaptism "has something very significant to say to our current context." At each gathering, he presented the seven core Anabaptist convictions discerned by the British Anabaptist Network and published in his recent book, "The Naked Anabaptist: The Bare Essentials of a Radical Faith" (order from Brethren Press for $13.99 plus shipping and handling, call 800-441-3712).

He also described the context of Western Christianity through the lens of what he and others have termed Post-Christendom. He was quick to qualify the nature of Post-Christendom for the American context by noting the legal separation of church and state. Yet, he also provided an outsider's observation by noting that from across the Atlantic, it looks as though the United States "has a different form of Christendom, a Christian nation ideology."

Tim Heishman, a 2011 Youth Peace Travel Team member, attended the gathering at Roanoke and came away "feeling inspired and hopeful, as well as challenged," he said. In a sense, Heishman reflected, Murray gave "us a loving (and humble) report card," and encouraged attendees "to aspire to the life of radical discipleship that the founding Brethren/Anabaptists embraced."

The seven directors of the Congregational Life Ministries staff attended the gatherings. In addition to three of the public meetings led by Murray Williams, the staff spent several hours in a closed session with him. During that time, the six directors and executive director Jonathan Shively explored how Anabaptist values could be applied in this new and changing Post-Christendom context.

Murray Williams is chair of the Anabaptist Network ( and since 2001, under that auspice, has served as a trainer, mentor, writer, strategist, and consultant with particular interest in urban mission, church planting, and emerging forms of church.

-- Joshua Brockway is director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship for the Church of the Brethren. Find a photo album at

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