Imagine walking into a church where all the families have been linked together for generations. Everyone knows each other and knows every family detail back to grandparents. You walk in and everyone looks at you and wonders who you are, where you came from, and why you are there. Growth in the church has come from children and marriage, some church transfers (from other similar churches), but very few new add in members. How would you ever fit into that church?
Welcome to an ethnic Mennonite Church. You may not like to hear it but it happens. It doesn’t happen in every Mennonite church but it happens in many. Every church (denomination) has clicks. Every group has an inside track and those who are on the outside. But when all the members are somehow related and connected throughout generations it is very hard to break in. It can be done but not many have that personality strength.
To many of us, our Mennonite heritage is as much a cultural ethnic heritage as it is a spiritual journey. It is something that we use when it is convenient and something that we hide when its not. It opens doors and it keeps others out. This trait is even visible in people who have totally walked away from their faith in God. They still consider themselves in regard to their Mennonite heritage even though they have no spiritual life at all.
Definition from Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online: Ethnic groups are those with a common cultural tradition and sense of identity which sets them off from the larger society around them. For most of their history Mennonites have been distinctive enough to qualify as an ethnic, as well as a religious, group. Whether this is still the case in the late 20th century is more open to question than it was previously.