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334book reviews Hutterite Beginnings: Communitarian Experiments during the Reformation. By Werner O. PackuU. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1995. Pp. xi, 440. $59.95.) At the 1943 annual meeting of the American Society of Church History, Harold S. Bender delivered the presidential address entitled "The Anabaptist Vision ," thereupon published in the Society's journal, Church History (13 [March, 1944]) 3-24, and in The Mennonite Quarterly Review. That paper reflected the sporadic but growing interest over the immediately preceding decades in what was later caUed the "Radical Reformation," and now in the present volume"communitarian experiments," during the sixteenth-century split in Western Christendom . The vehicle of that interest was the pubUcation of sixteenth-century archival materials, hitherto suppressed or ignored. The story of that split, the Protestant Reformation, had been told, and told polemicaUy, by the principals, the once dominant Roman Church and the reforming dissenters, Martin Luther and his peers. Though the gap between the two establishments, the Catholic and the Protestant, proved unbridgeable, they both, and for the same reasons, ruthlessly suppressed the "radical" and "communitarian "ferment, then known as Anabaptist. Meanwhile, as Western history unfolded over the next few centuries, "bottom-up" stirrings were increasingly to challenge the "top-down" legacies in church and polity alike. In that context, Bender's "Anabaptist Vision" became both a benchmark and a catalyst in ways that he could not have foreseen. Compared to the trickle of sixteenth-century Radical Reformation sources and studies preceding Bender's presidential address, in the haU-century that followed that trickle has grown into a flood. Even so, that flood has been relatively confined to the ivory tower. And perhaps it is just as weU. As Werner PackuU points out Ui his superb study of Hutterite Beginnings, at that stage of historiography , the "dialectic between reUgious convictions and social situation had been decided in favor of the former." While Bender's vision meanwhile has been criticized for that reason, and the story that he told has meanwhile been recast, both his earlier account and subsequent revisions reflect trends in historiography more broadly. Hutterites, by far the most durable of the religiously-grounded communal (as distinct from monastic) "experiments" in the post-Reformation West, along with Mennonites and Amish are the extant groups descended from the original Reformation era. When Luther and Zwingli unexpectedly found themselves severed from Rome, they faced a profound crisis. What now will be the basis of religious and political legitimation? Both were attracted to the "bottom-up" imagery of Matthew 18 ("where two or three are gathered . . ."). But despite their reforming impulses, they remained children of their age—political and religious cohesion appeared inseparable. When the peasants marched (1524/25), the latter reflex prevaUed. The ax fell, figuratively and, alas, literally. BOOK REVIEWS335 MeanwhUe many who had heard the reformers' evangeUcal preaching, and were reading the gospels now appearing for the first time in the vernacular, thought and acted otherwise. Ideas spread (pamphleteering), missioners—and refugees—traveled. Where the medieval Catholic order was fully in control, as in South Tyrol, the ferment was at once vigorous but in the end successfuUy suppressed. Where that order was contested, as in Moravia to the North, here and there, there was wiggle-room. If the Tyrol was the womb of the Hutterite movement, Moravia, with its feudalist resistance to imperial power, served as cradle. In our own century, with its base communities and smaU Christian communities and charismatic groups and Bible churches, house churches, feUowship groups, and on and on, the story that PackuU teUs is profoundly instructive. But it is a scholarly work, for scholars, objectively and elegantly done. But between the scholars and the grass roots are the people who "man" (and "woman") the posts in established churches in all the traditions. Perhaps they are most in need of the story here told, and able to assimilate. TTUs story needs to be transmitted for and to them. The one thing missing in the volume here viewed is a conclusion. Meanwhile PackuU has not only a distinguished research record from which this substantial volume emerges but hints of more to come. This reviewer can well forgo that summary as PackuU moves...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-0708
Print ISSN
0008-8080
Pages
pp. 334-335
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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