Kingdom of priests or democracy of competent souls? the 'Baptist Manifesto,' John Howard Yoder, and the question of Baptist identity.
This thesis examines "Re-envisioning Baptist Identity: A Manifesto for Baptist Christians in North America," a statement published by a group of Baptist theologians in 1997. The "Baptifesto," as it has come to be known, claimed that modern Baptists have uncritically adopted individualistic and rationalistic theories of freedom that work against the biblical vision of liberty experienced through participation in the church’s corporate vocation to discipleship. The purpose of this study is to place the "Baptifesto" within the context of contemporary debates over Baptist identity and to show its connections to critiques of the dominant forms of American Christianity within ecumenical theological and ethical conversations. The various writings of Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder (1927-1997) serves as a primary resource for explicating the matrix of ecclesiological, historical, social, and theological issues raised by the "Baptifesto" and its challenge to standard accounts of Baptist identity in the late twentieth century.