What We Believe
Willow Avenue Mennonite Church (WAMC) prioritizes following Jesus as the center of our faith, sharing in community as the center of our life, and building peace as the center of our mission. If some of these phrases sound odd, the strangeness may come from Jesus's call to leave the values of "this world" to follow him.
WAMC was born in the 1960s under the name College Community Church Mennonite Brethren as an alternative fellowship, pursuing a rebirth not unlike earlier renewal movements. WAMC seeks the Spirit of the radical Reformation of Western Europe in the 1520s and 1530s who were ridiculed as "re-baptizers" (or Anabaptists) because they practiced baptism for adult believers upon their confession of faith. WAMC has also been shaped by the revival of the Mennonite Church (so named after the Dutch Reformation leader Menno Simons) in Ukraine in the 1860s.
WAMC values relationships with other Christian churches, seeking to confess that Jesus is Lord through deed and word. Our aim is practical discipleship. Our confession of faith prioritizes following Jesus over doctrinal statements that tend to grow out of theological controversy. From the beginning Anabaptists and Mennonites have tried to live out of the conviction that simple is better, that the Bible is our guide to faith and life, that differences are worked through in community, and that shared community requires shared leadership.
One of the best ways to describe our simple values is the Shared Convictions statement of the Mennonite World Conference. As a missional church we aim to be Jesus-centered, non-violent in attitudes and actions, inclusive, and biblical. WAMC's mission statement is a local commitment to these values. Traditionally, our commitment to ministry in education and mission has been done in cooperation with the Pacific District and national conferences of the US Mennonite Brethren Church and the International Community of Mennonite Brethren, as well as inter-Mennonite entities such as Mennonite Central Committee, the North American global relief and development agency, and Mennonite World Conference. Local endeavors include support through our conference affiliations for Fresno Pacific University and Biblical Seminary, with whom we share these convictions and values.
For those interested in reading further, the following are recommended:
Palmer Becker, What is an Anabaptist Christian? Elkhart, Indiana: Mennonite Mission Network, 2008, 2010 Revised Edition.
This influential booklet (28 pages) describes core Anabaptist beliefs and values and can be found here. Becker has a long history in church ministry and educational roles in the Mennonite Church USA, and so writes out of a lifetime of experience as an Anabaptist Christian.
Alfred Neufeld, What We Believe Together: Exploring the “Shared Convictions” of Anabaptist-Related Churches. Second Edition. New York: Good Books, 2015.
In this work Neufeld, who has grown up in the tradition, explores the “Shared Convictions” of Anabaptist-Related Churches. This edition is published in cooperation with Mennonite World Conference.
Stuart Murray, The Naked Anabaptist: The Bare Essentials of a Radical Faith. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2010.
Murray is a British author who has embraced the Anabaptist understanding of faith along the way.
Elmer Martens and Peter Klassen, eds. Knowing and Living Your Faith: A Study of the Confession of Faith. Goessel, Kansas: Kindred Productions USA.
Fresno editors Martens and Klassen gathered sixteen writers from eight countries to reflect on the different parts of the Confession of Faith of the International Community of Mennonite Brethren. Here this global Confession, itself the product of conversation among representatives from different parts of the world, is further illuminated from a variety of multi-cultural contexts.