Embodiment

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A major challenge facing the Network is to discern how the Anabaptist tradition can be embodied in the UK so that it becomes a genuinely indigenous movement. How can we convey the essence of this tradition in ways that make sense to local congregations and energise Christians attempting to be faithful disciples in their daily lives?

Thus far, we have not tried to plant Anabaptist churches. We have been concerned to work for church renewal rather than developing a new institution. But we have offered resources to congregations wanting to explore the relevance of Anabaptism, we have invited representatives of these churches to conferences, and we have encouraged them to develop friendships with other congregations interested in Anabaptism. We have even toyed with the term “hyphenated-Anabaptist” to describe churches that retain their denominational allegiance but acknowledge the value of Anabaptist perspectives and welcome links with other such churches.

But should we develop Anabaptist churches? Although we have no interest in denominational proliferation, close to the heart of Anabaptism is a vision of church life that enables people to learn to follow Jesus together. Unless we can point to congregational or communal expressions of the values we embrace, can we promote these with integrity? In many places new ways of being church are emerging as alternatives for those disillusioned with inherited models of church, or as creative responses to a changing culture. Some of these are already drawing on Anabaptist insights. So perhaps the Network can continue to serve existing churches from various traditions, while at the same time offering resources to or sponsoring new churches.

At the start of 2004 a number of churches expressed interest in 'affiliating' to the Anabaptist Network or in some way building or strengthening links. At that time there was not enough energy to take this forward, but a new initiative was taken in September 2009, when representatives of several churches met together to talk about ways of relating together. Out of this and further conversations has emerged an 'Anabaptist network of communities', linking together congregations and other communities that want to learn from one another and from the Anabaptist tradition.