On February 5, 2000, the Institute of Mennonite Studies held a conference at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary entitled "Without Spot or Wrinkle: Reflecting Theologically on the Nature of the Church." This conference gave attention to ecclesiology, in direct response to challenges that Mennonite church bodies in Canada and the United States have been facing in recent times.
The phrase "without spot or wrinkle" comes from Ephesians 5:27, a text addressing relationships between husbands and wives within the Christian household. Historically it has also come to symbolize what Mennonites have sometimes believed about the nature of the church. Anabaptists, and Mennonites who came after them, have often maintained that the true church is a gathering of reborn and spiritually regenerated Christians called to be a community free from moral failure. At present, however, some Mennonites are questioning elements of this conceptual legacy, and, in light of personal failings and hurtful church schisms, are expressing doubts about its practical adequacy and theological tenability.
The essays in this book do not provide a unified argument. What the authors have in common is concern for the church and commitment to faithfulness. Readers are invited to reflect on the issues and make their own assessments.