The Marginal Mennonite Society is a loose association of people who identify themselves as Mennonites but hold a number of principles similar to those held by many who identify themselves as Unitarian Universalists. At the end of each month, the Facebook page “Marginal Mennonite Society” posts its Declaration. This Declaration, it seems to me, is a good summary of much of my own religious attitude, even though I have no connection to Mennonitism.
— Robert Helfer
We are Marginal Mennonites and we’re not ashamed. We’re marginal because no respectable Mennonite organization would have us. Yet we are also, we believe, amongst the legitimate heirs to the Anabaptist tradition.
We are inclusive. There are no dues or fees for membership. The only requirement is the desire to identify as a Marginal Mennonite. If you say you’re a Marginal Mennonite that’s good enough for us.
We are universalists. In our view, everyone who’s ever lived gets a seat at the celestial banquet table. We claim kinship in this belief with Anabaptist leader Hans Denck, Brethren leader Alexander Mack, and Quaker leader Elias Hicks, among many other universalists throughout history.
We reject creeds, doctrines, rites, and rituals. Because they’re man-made, created for the purpose of excluding people. Their primary function is to determine who’s in and who’s out.
We see God as Mother as well as Father, a heavenly parent who cares for all her children. (Isaiah 49:15: “Can a woman forget her nursing baby, or show no compassion for the child who came from her womb? Even these may forget, yet I won’t forget you.”)
We like Jesus. A lot. The real Jesus. The human teacher who moved around in space and time. The Galilean sage who was obsessed with the Commonwealth of God. The wandering wise man who said “Become passersby!” (Gospel of Thomas 42).
We believe the Commonwealth of God is a state of being, a state of transformed consciousness, available to everyone. (Luke 17:21: “People won’t be able to say it’s over here or over there. For God’s Commonwealth is inside you and around you now.”)
We oppose the proselytizing of non-Christians. For us, religious diversity is beautiful. It would be a shame if all Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Jains, Pagans, Rastafarians, Pastafarians, Sufis, etc., were converted to Christianity. So we reject evangelism and missionary programs, no matter how well-meaning they claim to be.
We endorse the “Sermon on the Mount.” In particular the sayings identified by modern scholarship as most authentic. Especially the ones on the following themes:
1. Nonviolence (Matthew 5:39-40/Luke 6:29);
2. Generosity (Matthew 5:42a/Luke 6:30);
3. Unconditional love (Matthew 5:44/Luke 6:27-28);
4. Universalism (Matthew 5:45b/Luke 6:35d);
5. Mercy (Matthew 5:48/Luke 6:36);
6. Forgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15/Luke 6:37c/Mark 11:25);
7. Non-attachment to things (Matthew 6:19-21/Luke 12:33-34/Gospel of Thomas 76:3);
8. Freedom from anxiety (Matthew 6:25-30/Luke 12:22-28/Gospel of Thomas 36:1-2);
9. Non-judgment (Matthew 7:3-5/Luke 6:41-42/Gospel of Thomas 26:1-2);
10. Compassion (Matthew 7:9-11/Luke 11:11-13).
We are pacifists, in the tradition of Bayard Rustin, Vincent and Rosemarie Harding, Cesar Chavez, Dorothy Day, A.J. Muste, Kees and Betty Boeke, Peter Maurin, Mahatma Gandhi, Jane Addams, Leo Tolstoy, Adin Ballou, Lucretia and James Mott, Hannah Barnard, the nonviolent Anabaptists, and of course Jesus.
We are humanists, feminists, and freethinkers. We are gay, carefree, and fabulous. We believe in art, evolution, revolution, relativity, synchronicity, serendipity, the scientific method, and putty tats. We value irreverence, outrageousness, and a strong cup of tea.
We don’t want to take ourselves too seriously. As someone once said: “God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.” For us, hilariousness is next to godliness.
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This declaration is not a creed or doctrinal statement. It carries no weight of authority. We are anti-authority. The above “beliefs” are suggestions only. We could be wrong.
The Marginal Mennonite Society was created in February 2011. Declaration last revised April 1, 2018. Charlie Kraybill, MMS Page administrator.
For more information, see marginal-mennonite-society.mn.co/ or the Marginal Mennonite Society on Facebook: www.facebook.com/marginalmennonitesociety/