Young Adult Forum Explores Anabaptism

More than sixty-five participants gathered at Bethany Theological Seminary April 17-19 for a new event planned and hosted by the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults—Anabaptism, the Next Generation. Described as a learning forum for those in ministry with young adults, the event was open to and welcomed all who are interested in exploring the growing edges of Anabaptism among the generations.*

The concept for the forum grew from the recognition that traditional Anabaptist values—such as community, simplicity, service, and discipleship—are becoming more appealing to young people in the church and even others who may be unaffiliated. Following suit, the format was modeled after contemporary TED talks, a suggestion from conversations with Brethren young adults. Ideas and information were presented in eleven twenty-minute sessions, enabling each presenter to give specificity to a single topic. View videos of each presenter’s talk.

Jonathan Wilson-HartgroveEcumenical speakers Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Chuck Bomar gave voice to the themes of the forum from outside Anabaptist circles, not only adding valuable perspective but personally engaging with the group. Wilson-Hargrove, spiritual author and speaker, founded the School of Conversion, which builds community among the disadvantages, through prison reform, and in community-based education. Bomar is a writer and pastor with leadership experience in college ministry and founder of iampeople, empowering volunteers to serve others in their communities. They were joined by Brethren speakers Josh Brockway, Dana Cassell, Laura Stone, and Dennis Webb and by Jeff Carter, Steve Schweitzer, Tara Hornbacker, and Russell Haitch from Bethany.

Haitch, a Bethany professor, is director of the Institute. “There’s talk of young adults leaving the church, but here they were leading the church,” he said in appreciation for those gathered. “It was a vibrant, intergenerational gathering. People expressed deep interest in Anabaptist heritage but an even deeper desire to see convictions lived out in community-forming, socially-transforming ways today.

The format proved to be engaging and met with appreciation for its originality. Topics ranged from the intersection of Anabaptism with scripture and spirituality to multiculturalism and expressing faith through music. Presenters also led small discussion groups on these or other topics of interest. On Saturday evening, participants took part in Young Adult forum discussion groupan immersion experience. Bekah Houff, coordinator of outreach programs at Bethany—and of the forum—described it as “taking our conversations from within Bethany’s walls out into the contexts in which we live.” Choosing from among several local eateries or a service at the Fountain City Wesleyan Church, group members took note of the physical surrounding, demographics and interaction of those around them, and the meaning of those interactions, even participating if possible.

On Sunday morning, participants explored the intersection of their immersion visits with young adult ministry through the lens of Anabaptism, sharing individual impressions and the significance of these impressions for the wider community. The ninety-minute discussion served to bring together all the varied weekend experiences around what young adults can bring to Anabaptism and what Anabaptism can offer the next generation. The forum concluded with a worship service planned by Bethany students and faculty. Shawn Kirchner, adjunct faculty for Bethany, provided music, and MDiv student Shane Petty gave the message.

Members of the event planning committee included Kelly Burk; Nate Polzin; Bethany faculty Tara Hornbacker, Denise Kettering-Lane, and Steve Schweitzer; and Bethany students Eric Landram, Sarah Neher, and Shane Petty.