Brethren Theology Series
As the political and cultural privilege of Christianity crumbles, more theologians are seeking the perspective of traditions that prefigure a Post-Christendom perspective and offer other ways of believing. Anabaptist traditions, named for the practice of baptizing adults, have much to add to the discussion. Passing the Privilege contributes to these theological conversations from the perspective of one family of Anabaptist-Pietists in particular, known today as the Brethren.
At the dawn of the eighteenth century, a small group of Pietists gathered together to explore the scriptures and encourage one another to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. In the course of their reading, this group became convinced that believer’s baptism, rather than the Christendom practice of baptizing infants, was the mandate of the New Testament. In baptizing themselves, they came to be known as New Baptists, a name that linked them to the sixteenth century Anabaptists. In the following years, these Anabaptist-Pietists found themselves in the company of Mennonite communities as both groups sought the protection of princes sympathetic to free religious expression. The pietist impulses of the early Brethren soon took on more Anabaptist leanings.
This series seeks to add Brethren voices to the contemporary discussions of faithfulness in Post-Christendom. Scholarship among the Brethren in the last century was decidedly historical in method. Constructive theological contributions have been few, and this series seeks to fill that gap. This series then hopes to reach two audiences. First, it aims to provide a Brethren perspective on Anabaptism to the conversations among Neo-Anabaptists. Second, it seeks to contribute a constructive theological resource for the Brethren themselves.
Passing the Privilege is named for an early practice of shared leadership among the Brethren. Before the Brethren adopted a paid model of ministry, congregations were led by a small group of elders. When the community gathered, these elders would share the preaching responsibility. One elder would comment on a particular passage of scripture and then “pass the privilege” to one of the others. By recalling this practice in the title of this series, we intend to identify two key values. First, books in this series will comment on both the scriptures and our context. In this way, Passing the Privilege is decidedly theological in nature. Second, the series will publish a variety of perspectives similar to the ways the early elders offered multiple perspectives. Rather than establish a theological method or perspective as the guiding frame for the series, Passing the Privilege is decidedly multi-voiced. Authors in this series, then, do not offer the definitive Brethren interpretation of any of the theological topics. Instead, they seek to contribute ideas to the continuing theological conversation among those in the Brethren tradition and beyond.
Kate Eisenbise Crell