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By Ivan J. Kauffman / Cascade / 2009
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From the very beginning there have been Christians who wanted to go all the way—who, rather than asking, “What must I do to be a Christian?” asked instead, “What can I do to be more Christian?” These highly intentional Christians have had an impact on the development of both Christianity and Western civilization that has been completely out of proportion to their numbers.
The greatest impact of these Christians has come through the communities of like-minded believers—some lay evangelicals and others of celibate monastics—formed based upon their common desire to live more intentional Christian lives. Throughout the past 20 centuries, hundreds of groups of both kinds have formed.
This probing work tells the story of these communities, both monastic and lay. It is a story that, though often overlooked, is both inspiring and instructive. Above all it is a story that opens the way for greater understanding between two groups of Christians who have long been estranged—Protestant evangelicals and Catholic monastics.
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Evangelicals are often accused of being ahistorical because we jump from Paul to Martin Luther without a pause to consider what the Spirit did in between. But every Christian tradition finds some way to draw the line from Jesus to the present. How we tell that story shapes who we are. ‘Follow Me’ tells the Christian story in a way that sparks my imagination and gets me excited about who the church is becoming in our post-Christian era. I hope every community of disciples will read it and ask, ‘How is God calling us to live the next chapter?’
—Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, founder, Rutba House
Kauffman offers us a first installment on the kind of scholarship becoming possible thanks to the stereoscopic perspective of those who are learning to live on both sides of a great river that has long divided Christianity. . . . Unexpected though the news may be, it is the very burden of Kauffman’s book to show us why we should not have been surprised, and would not be surprised, if we read the history of Christianity looking for its broadest unifying patterns rather than for the basis of our separate identities. . . . He has done a service to historian, ecumenist, and renewal-minded Christian alike by looking for the forest not just the trees, surveying the lay of the land, and marking the river that gives it life.
—Gerald W. Schlabach, professor of theology, University of St. Thomas
Ivan J. Kauffman grew up in one of the oldest surviving lay evangelical communities, the Amish Mennonites. Educated as both a Mennonite and a Catholic, he has been active in Mennonite Catholic dialogues from their beginnings in the 1980s, and was a founder of the North American grassroots Mennonite Catholic dialogue, Bridgefolk, which meets regularly at Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota. He identifies as a Mennonite Catholic.