One of the first lessons in business is to develop name recognition. Design a good logo and plaster it everywhere to promote your business. If things are going well this is a positive identity move. If your name gets tarnished, you may want to pull it back for a season.
Churches and ministries can go through this as well. Church denominations can become tarnished because of a fallen leader or misuse of funds.
Mennonites have had to deal with this in various ways over the last century. In the early to mid 20th century, some churches dropped the name because of the conservative connotation. In the later 20th century it happened again with Spirit Filled groups and contemporary fellowships. Now in the early 21st century it is happening again because of social issues facing Mennonite Church USA.
There was a time when private schools wanted to be a “Mennonite School”. The name carried a strong tradition of excellence, sound doctrine and similar DNA. The same challenges facing church affiliation are and will challenge education centers as well. Will schools want to drop the “Mennonite” name because it’s not who they are anymore? The question will be, “who changed? the school or the Mennonites?”
This happens to any organization in time. There were decades when GM was the car to buy. There were decades when they weren’t. Sometimes positives come by decisions of an organization and sometimes failures by the same group. Sometimes an organization gets negative press for unfair reasons or biased opinion.
How will things fair for organizations with the word “Mennonite” in them? Some will succeed and some will drop the name. Some will grown and some will dwindle. Mennonites will continue. Mennonite institutions will continue. There will be growth years and loss years. One thing is for sure – the quality behind the name will always be challenged and the doctrines will always need to be discerned.
First Mennonites arrive in America
Encouraged by William Penn’s offer of 5,000 acres of land in the colony of Pennsylvaniaand the freedom to practice their religion, the first Mennonites arrive in America aboard the Concord. They were among the first Germans to settle in the American colonies.
The Mennonites, members of a Protestant sect founded by Menno Simons in the 16th century, were widely persecuted in Europe. Seeking religious freedom, Mennonite Francis Daniel Pastorious led a group from Krefeld, Germany, to Pennsylvania in 1683 and founded Germantown, the pioneer German settlement in America and now part of the city of Philadelphia. Numerous other German groups followed, and by the American Revolution there were 100,000 Germans in William Penn’s former colony, more than a third of Pennsylvania’s total population at the time.