Wednesday, July 9, 2008


From a remote farm near Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines we drove about an hour to Strasbourg, what some call the capital of Europe, because the European Parliament meets here. We are still in the Alsace. The first photo is from Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines and the second is from Strasbourg. So while one is a village and the other is a metropolis, both have a similar half-timbered Alsatian building style.

Strasbourg is an interesting place for Amish and Mennonites both historically and today. In history this is one of the cities that was fairly tolerant of Anabaptists. In the early days of the Reformation, the reformers in Strasbourg were very open to Anabaptist ideas. In fact Strasbourg tolerated both Catholics and Reformed, so maybe Anabaptists too? Michael Sattler came here to discuss believers baptism with Capito and Bucer. Melchior Hofmann also came here to preach his apocalyptic ideas that Strasbourg was the New Jerusalem. Capito was saddened when Catholics executed Sattler. But eventually Strasbourg imprisoned Hofmann. The only Anabaptists ever executed in Strasbourg were those who committed some other wrong, like the one who was a bigamist with a "holy sister" as a new wife. It was said that what other cities would execute an Anabaptist for, in Strasbourg they would beat you with rods.

Later Pilgram Marpeck came to Strasbourg and worked as a city engineer. John Calvin was in Strasbourg for a little while and met his wife there. She had been an Anabaptist.

Strasbourg was a location where Anabaptists could meet from many places. Dutch and Swiss would meet to discuss Christ's incarnation and discipline. At Strasbourg the Anabaptists were able to agree to certain issues of church order.

This became significant for the Amish as a source of the Ordnung, or church order. They draw up guidelines for membership and they could look back to the conferences at Strasbourg to say that Anabaptists had always gathered to discern together their church order.

The towers and bridge in the photo are significant in two ways. The first is that these were prison towers and so Melchior Hofmann may have been imprisoned in one of them. The second is that it was near the long bridge here, perhaps in an inn, where the first of these Strasbourg conferences was held.
For Mennonites the significance of these conferences is to see in them some tradition for general conferences like Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference, Mennonite Church USA assemblies, and Mennonite World Conference assemblies. And in fact the other significance to Strasbourg is that the headquarters of Mennonite World Conference is here. Our family briefly met executive secretary Larry Miller, his wife Eleanor, and his secretary. Larry grew up in Goshen but has lived in France for over 30 years. They were very gracious in hosting us.

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