H. Funk was born in Rosenfeld, Manitoba, a village founded by Mennonites.
He and his family considered themselves faithful Mennonites. When
the war came, both Henry and his brother, Tony, applied for conscientious
objector status. Henry's other brother took a different path.
next oldest brother, Bill, waited until his registered letter
arrived at the local post office but he did not pick it up. Instead,
he went to the Fort Osborne Barracks in Winnipeg and enlisted
in the army. This way he was able to choose his outfit and avoid
the infantry. Bill was morally and spiritually an upright, honest
young man.” [ASM, 138-153]
considers Bill a “powerful role model” and says that he took his
stand with “real integrity.” But Bill joined the military. Does
this mean that Bill wasn't a Mennonite? Yes and no. The answer depends
how you define being Mennonite.
Mennonites identify themselves as Christians. The Mennonite aspect
of their faith is expressed in certain interpretations of the Bible,
such as adult baptism and pacifism.
used to be easy to identify because they ate similar foods and dressed
in similar clothes. Before the Second World War, almost all of them
lived in small villages or on farms and spoke German or a Swiss
Mennonite dialect. Most of these families had been Mennonites for
as long as they could remember, hundreds of years for some of them.
In this sense, you can be born a Mennonite. But even if you eat,
dress, and speak like a Mennonite, that only makes you a cultural
Mennonite. Being Mennonite is more about what you believe and how
you act than about how you look or what kind of food you eat.
of 2003, there were 1,297,716 baptized adult Mennonites in 65 countries
around the world. There are more Mennonites in Africa and Asia than
in North America. Compared to most Canadian Mennonites before the
Second World War, these Mennonites do not have any family tradition
of being Mennonite. All the same, they are Mennonites because they
follow Mennonite faith teachings. In this sense, being Mennonite
is something anyone can do. It is something you believe.
can make a decision to be a Mennonite. This may sound odd, but it
is true. Above all, being a “Mennonite” involves faith and a personal
decision. In the days of Menno Simons, after whom Mennonites took
their name, a person became a Mennonite by believing what Mennonites
believed and acting like Mennonites did.
a variety of reasons, some young men who came from Mennonite families
chose to join the military during the Second World War. In the area
of pacifism, they did not follow the centuries-old Mennonite tradition.
Their actions showed that they did not necessarily embrace Mennonite
peace teaching, even though they were Mennonite in other ways. One
could say that these men were not Mennonites, but in some ways they
web site explores the thoughts and actions of men who followed the
traditional Mennonite teaching of pacifism. It should be remembered,
though, that the people called “Mennonites” are made up of a number
of groups, each of whom interpret Biblical teachings and beliefs
in slightly different ways. The Swiss Mennonites, for example, came
to Ontario, Canada starting in 1786, from the United States, and
before that from Switzerland. The group known as Russian Mennonites
came to Canada in the 1870s and the 1920s. These various groups
have much in common, but they are not completely identical. Some
of the Russian Mennonites, for example, felt that non-combatant
service in the medical corps of the army was permissible for COs.
Swiss Mennonites and the other Russian Mennonites thought COs should
not participate in war in any way, not even as medical workers.
looking through this site, remember that “Mennonite” can be interpreted
in several different ways. The differences, large and small, are
what make life so interesting. To learn more about what Mennonites
believe, visit http://www.mennonitechurch.ca/about.