Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How Shall the Brethren Be Recognized?

Desmond Bittinger, President of McPherson College, was Annual Conference Moderator of the Church of the Brethren in 1958 when the church gathered in Des Moines, Iowa to celebrate the 250th Anniversary. His moderator's address was "And How Shall the Brethren Be Recognized?"

A story comes down to us out of the past that after Alexander Mack had founded the church by baptism in the Eder River two hundred fifty years ago, one of his neighbors asked him, "And how shall your members be recognized?" I ask that important question as we look forward from two hundred fifty years of having been Brethren. My question is: "How shall the Brethren in the next decade, the next century, the long future, be recognized?"

  1. The Praying, Searching, Open Mind. I would place at the very center of the Brethren of tomorrow, as a major distinguishing mark, this prayerful, open, continuous sharing search for truth. It is my hope that the Brethren ... will spend much time on their knees. ... Prayerful searching for truth, with the open Bible central among us, is ... the first mark of the Brethren of the future.
  2. The Loving Heart. A second mark of the Christians, or of the Brethren of the future, is that they will be baptized - indeed, completely immersed - in love. Instead of praying for themselves or centering at all upon self, their prayer will be that they might be like Christ, that Christ might dwell within them.
  3. Serving Hands. When the searching minds and hearts of the Brethren of the future have discovered and become a part of the love of God, the thrusts of their lives will be outward. ...being filled with the love of God and being like God, they will be impelled to serve all others.
When Alexander Mack was asked the question, "And how shall the Brethren be recognized?" his answer was clear. He said, "They shall be recognized by the manner of their living."

We pray that the marks of the Brethren ... would forever remain a part of us:
  • An open mind which is engaged in a continuous searching for the will and mind of God;
  • A loving heart, a prayerful yearning to be immersed in love, to grow up to be like God;
  • Serving hands which engage in a compelling outward thrust that makes us share all that we know and have with others, in order that the peace of God might come to us all....
Source: The Adventurous Future, chapter 15