Taking the Bible Seriously and Practising Equality

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by Ed Sirett, London

Ed SirettI was brought up by parents who were members of a Christadelphian church. I was baptised when I was about fifteen years old. To a large extent Christadelphians believe much the same as many Evangelicals, but since they are (even more) preoccupied with smallest details of doctrine they tend to view all other Christians as very misguided at best. The worship was unvaried in the extreme.

When I was at university, I began to meet other people to whom the Bible was significant; a strange fact since I had been brought up with the idea that no other Christians took the Bible seriously! Well, after many years, I drifted through much apathy and eventually found myself converted to mainstream Christianity by the people who ran the Greenbelt festival. When I got married and moved to North London, my wife suggested that we could go to the Mennonites – but I was reluctant since I had spent many years escaping from a “cranky little sect”.

However, after a few years of attending an evangelical Anglican parish church we were ready for a change; this was due to some problems we were having “fitting in”. Both of us like to explore new ideas, not immediately rejecting them but holding them up to the yardstick of Jesus and our own and others’ experience. Both of us had significant problems with the clergy/male-dominated leadership that seemed not to acknowledge the talents of many in the congregation. I became somewhat bored with the same choruses being sung repetitively. My wife had significant bouts of depression which made people wary of her and her talents, rather than accepting her as another broken person in the image of God. Finally, we became disenchanted with much of the teaching, which was often simplistic (instead of simply explained) and in a spirit that left one feeling that we were being encouraged to follow Paul rather than Jesus.

On my first visit to the Mennonites I was in tears of relief and joy for most of the service. Here were followers of Jesus, who took the Bible seriously, who visibly practised equality among themselves. The equality was such that it was not something that this community was self-consciously doing, rather it was something so integral to their ways that anyone not doing it would have stood out simply as wrong. This equality was not just between men and women, it was between the young and old, the well and ill (in whatever way), adults and children, and most amazingly between the leadership and the led, those who had been there a long time and newcomers like ourselves.

After I began regularly attending the Mennonite church, I found that many aspects of the gospel that I had suspected were undervalued elsewhere were now held up as central to the teaching of Jesus (such as peace and justice, radical lifestyle changes, mutual submission, the communal nature of decision-making and discerning God, to name a few). Perhaps the most surprising thing that I discovered among the Mennonites was the best aspects of community life that I had experienced in my childhood – but with the merciless god of Sinai replaced with Jesus “full of grace and truth”.

Ed Sirett is manager of Make, Do and Mend, a property maintenance business in North London.