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Hauerwas and the Mennonites

I just received the latest issue of the Mennonite Quarterly Review in the mail (84.3, July 2010), which is cast as a tribute to Stanley Hauerwas on his 70th birthday. Most of the essays come from Mennonite former students of his: Chris Huebner (now of CMU), Peter Dula (EMU), and Alex Sider (Bluffton). There’s also an essay by Mark Thiessen Nation, and a print version of Hauerwas’s recent commencement address at Eastern Mennonite Seminary.

Most exciting of all is the very first entry: “A Comprehensive Bibliography of the Writings of Stanley Hauerwas,” spanning 46 pages and 41 years worth of work—books, miscellaneous essays, reviews, sermons, and interviews. This painstaking work of love was performed by Angus Paddison of the University of Winchester and Darren Sarisky of Cambridge. It’s absolutely fascinating to read. The first two entries, editorals from 1969 and 1970, hearken back to a day before Hauerwas had become Hauerwas: “The Ethics of Black Power” and “The Ethics of Population and Pollution.” The compilers’ greatest contribution is to have tracked down the innumerable short, popular writings Hauerwas has done over the years. He wrote surprisingly often, for example, for the Notre Dame Magazine while he worked here—the quarterly publication the school produces for its alumni and devotees. I’m going to get my hands on some of these as soon as possible, like “Notes by a Non-Catholic” from 1974 and “Rev. Falwell and Dr. King” from 1981.

The relation between Hauerwas and Mennonites is extremely interesting, and I think even “productive” for theology in general. In Peter Dula’s contribution, for example (my favorite of the bunch), titled “For and Against Hauerwas Against Mennonites,” Hauerwas’s claim to be a “high-church Mennonite” is taken seriously as a critique of Mennonite ecclesiology. It seems to me that in the work (maybe in the person) of Stanley Hauerwas, more than almost anywhere else, the similarities and specific differences between “high” and “low” church ecclesiologies make themselves evident. That confrontation is not only crucial to an understanding of Hauerwas, but also one that has lain all too quietly beneath the surface of the growing popularity of high church traditions—manifested in the number of recent conversions and the phenomenon of quasi-Catholicisim—which has gone on without very much theorizing of the low-church end at all. This new generation of Mennonite scholars is starting to remedy that nicely. (Another major example among Mennonites is the work of Fernando Enns, who has made important inroads, occasionally criss-crossed with those blazed by Hauerwas, into the relation between ecclesiology and nonviolence.)

All this to say: the recent issue of MQR is highly recommended, as, along the same lines, are The Gift of Difference: Radical Orthodoxy, Radical Reformation (eds. Chris Huebner and Tripp York) and Unsettling Arguments (eds. Charles R. Pinches, Kelly S. Johnson, Charles M. Collier), a new festschrift for Hauerwas that includes essays by many of the same authors in this issue.

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