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The following text comprises the notes used to deliver an address to the Bethel College Board of Directors on October 8, 2015.

 

This morning I would like to address two questions:

  1. What have I discovered at Bethel College during my first few months of employment?
  2. What are our strategies in moving forward in Academic Affairs?

The proposed strategic plan provides a number of answers to the latter question. I would like to expand somewhat upon that knowledge in the course of answering the first question, what have I discovered?

What I have discovered began before my arrival on the job. It actually started with an unusual question posed by a teacher of mine many years ago: From where did Baptists originate?

Part of my college experience and grad school education took place in Baptist institutions in Minnesota. At these schools I learned the answer to that question, from where did Baptists originate: from Anabaptists, particularly those in the Netherlands. And, from these Anabaptists, Baptists adopted the distinctive positions which distinguished Anabaptists from other Reformation groups.

I became convinced: I adopted these distinctives. I taught them to my students, and I taught them to my children, using the Schleitheim confession as a catechetical instrument. Over the years, I bemoaned the historical drift of my Baptist kin from their Anabaptist roots, especially from positions of pacifism and the separation of church and state.

But, then, I moved to Ohio.

While in Ohio, I became intrigued with the ways of the Amish and the many Mennonites who populated the state. I learned that the Amish originally broke off from the Mennonites, both of which are descendants of Anabaptists, maintaining those distinctives to this day.

Try to imagine my surprise and delight. Modern-day Anabaptists existed all around me.

Long, story short: I visited, joined, and became active in a Mennonite church, became a conference delegate, and learned about Mennonite agencies, including Mennonite colleges.

This knowledge led to my search for employment at a Mennonite college which eventually landed me here.

So, I was and continue to be attracted to Bethel primarily because of my discovery of its vision, mission, and values, all three rooted in Anabaptist beliefs and practice.

Take, for example, the vision statement:

 

At Bethel College we

welcome with open hearts,

stimulate personal and spiritual discovery,

transform through the power of community and

inspire the leaders of tomorrow. (more…)

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From Mennonite Church USA’s Executive Board:

This election cycle, we find ourselves in a season of temptation. Billions of dollars are being spent to capture our vote and our allegiance. We are tempted to place our hope for wholeness and well-being on particular candidates, parties, and ideologies.

In this particular time, Scripture speaks pointedly to us: Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save (Psalm 146:3). This is a time to deepen our allegiance to Jesus, our Lord and Savior who rejects dominating power, links his future to the weak and vulnerable, and loves even enemies.

Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit for his own season of temptation. The promises of influence and power he faced and rejected remind us of the political promises made today. We invite you and your community to follow Jesus’s example in this time of temptation and engage in prayer and fasting during this election season.

We offer this invitation as a spiritual discipline of deepening allegiance to Jesus. Fasting can loosen our attachments to actions and attitudes that compete for our allegiance. Prayer brings us closer to Christ, transforms our minds and purifies our hearts.

Whether or not we cast a ballot in November and regardless of whom we might vote for, let us emphatically declare that our ultimate allegiance is not to a candidate, platform or party, but to Jesus Christ. Let our words, intentions and actions clearly demonstrate that each day we seek to follow Jesus’s example.

The strength of the diversity across Mennonite Church USA means that responses to the invitation to prayer and fasting will find many different expressions. We are grateful for the abundance of ways in which we can live out our allegiance to the Prince of Peace. We invite you and your faith community to gather for a communion celebration on the evening of Election Day (Nov. 6, 2012), to remember to whom we belong and to whom we give our hearts and our ultimate allegiance. May we as individuals and congregations across Mennonite Church USA draw closer to Jesus in this time.

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