This blog post originally appeared on MCUSA’s MennoSnapshots blog.
Mollee Moua is the managing editor of the Anabaptism at 500 Project at MennoMedia. Prior to MennoMedia, she worked for Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, as an administrative assistant, event coordinator and the Courageous Imagination project manager. Mollee and her husband, Johnny, are parents to four energetic and wonderful boys. She is a member of First Hmong Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ontario. Mollee studied religious studies, as well as church music and worship in her undergraduate degree and is currently completing a Masters of Theological Studies degree at Conrad Grebel University College.
“The Bible can be a dangerous tool.” This phrase came up in a course I was taking called “Gender, Class, and Ethnicity in the Pauline Letters.” This comment came from a classmate, as many of us heard, for the first time, about a slave Bible, which was a redacted version of the Bible created by slave masters. Knowing the power that Scripture could hold, the slave masters used certain Bible passages as a tool to support slavery, and at the same time, they kept portions of the Bible hidden. They also knew that the truth could set their slaves free. What passages or books had the slave masters left out, and why? In the chat box, a classmate commented that, obviously, they would have left out the book of Exodus.
The power of Scripture and truth in the hands of the marginalized people can raise hope, transforming minds and communities.
On January 21, 1525, a group of young adults met for Bible study and prayer in Zurich, Switzerland. It was during this Bible study session that they felt moved by Scripture to re-baptize one another as adults — an act that made them criminals. They could not find biblical justification for infant baptism and believed that baptism should only be administered to adults who had consciously made the decision to follow Jesus. We can only imagine what these young adults were thinking and feeling as they read and wrestled together with Scripture. Their interpretation challenged the status quo.
Many Anabaptists today mark January 21, 1525, as the beginning of the Anabaptist movement. In 2025, we will celebrate 500 years of Anabaptism with the first-ever “Anabaptist Community Bible,” published by MennoMedia. One of the distinct features of this Bible will be the marginal notes from 500 Bible study groups from a variety of Anabaptist faith communities. As Anabaptists, we believe that the word of God is accessible to all believers and that each voice holds wisdom, which is given to them by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is meant to be read and interpreted together in our communities. We read Scripture together, through the lens of Jesus, and we hold one another accountable to the principles and values of God’s kingdom. The words of Scripture have the power to change lives and transform our realities.
As a movement that began as a result of a Bible study, we are hopeful that these 500 Bible study groups will empower Anabaptists to challenge the status quo, bring hope to those on the margins and transform our communities. Hebrews 4:12 says, “God’s word is living, active and sharper than any two-edged sword” (CEB).
God’s word is a dangerous tool. When wielded properly, it will set people free.
For more information, or if your faith community is interested in contributing to the “Anabaptist Community Bible,” register your interest at www.AnabaptismAt500.com by April 1. Once you fill out the form, your study group will be assigned three biblical passages — one New Testament passage; one Old Testament passage; and a Psalms or Proverbs text. Using the leader and participant study guides provided, you will meet four times for discussion and Bible study. Someone in your group will be responsible for recording, compiling and submitting the reflections, insights and questions in the form of annotations to the relevant verse(s). The final date to submit your bible study notes is June 1.
Join us in the dangerous work of reading Scripture together!