Today’s Photo Friday image is a bit blurry — but that’s what happens when you try to take a far-away photo in a dark sanctuary auditorium! And the post itself may seem like a contradiction in terms: Is there such a thing as Anabaptist megachurch worship? There is at the Church in Post-Christian Culture conference, a multi-denominational gathering of Anabaptist and Anabaptist-leaning churches happening right now at the Carlisle (Pa.) Brethren in Christ Church. The gathering has drawn together many historic Anabaptist denominations — the Brethren in Christ, Mennonites, Mennonite Brethren, and others — along with non-Anabaptist folks who are nevertheless drawn to Anabaptist themes. It’s being sponsored by Missio Alliance, a network of missional denominations, churches, schools, and other institutions.
So how do we explain this fusion of megachurch worship — a phenomenon most commonly associated with American Evangelicalism — with an Anabaptist ethos? Well, many of the folks in attendance at this conference come from the broader Evangelical tradition — and yet have felt drawn to Anabaptism. (Of course, I’m drawing a too-easy distinction between those two traditions… they’re not as separate as I’m making them out to be!) As a result of this mixing of traditions, much of what we’ve heard today reflects a hybrid of Anabaptism and Evangelicalism — or a critical dialogue between the two traditions. Of course, as readers of The Search for Piety and Obedience know, that kind of theological encounter fits with much of what I research and write about! So I’ve been eagerly soaking in the conference experience.
This morning’s plenary sessions featured talks from Greg Boyd, pastor of Woodland Hills Church and author of The Myth of a Christian Nation; Meghan Good, pastor of Albany Mennonite Fellowship; and Brian Zahnd, author of Farewell to Mars. As I type this, we’re getting ready for our afternoon plenaries, which will feature talks by (among others) Kurt Willems, a Brethren in Christ church planter and blogger at The Pangea Blog, and Bruxy Cavey, preaching pastor at the Brethren in Christ megachurch The Meeting House.
I’ll be blogging more about the conference in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!