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    Detail from Red Variation by Elise Palmigiani

    Anabaptist Readings on Community of Goods

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    All Things in Common

    Peter Walpot (1521–1578), a Hutterite bishop, wrote a classic Anabaptist confession of faith, the Great Article Book, from which this reading is taken.

    Property has no part in the Christian church; rather, it belongs to the world, it belongs to paganism, to those that do not have the love of God; it is proper to those that live according to their own will. If there were no self-will, there would be no property. True community of goods, on the other hand, is proper to believers, for by divine right, says Augustine, all things ought to be common, and no one should take to himself what is God’s, any more than he would the air, rain, snow, or water, as well as the sun, the moon, and the elements. …

    Whoever encloses and appropriates that which is, and should be, free, does so against Him who made and created it free, and it is sin. … But through men’s acquired wickedness, through envy and greed everybody puts everything in his own pocket. The one says, “This is mine,” and the other, “That is mine,” and so a division has arisen among human beings, and great inequality has come into this life. Unfortunately, it has gone so far that, if they could grab hold of the sun and the moon and the elements, they would appropriate them and sell them for money.

    Source: “True Surrender and Christian Community of Goods,” Section 143, ed. Robert Friedmann, Mennonite Quarterly Review, January 1957.

    Detail from Red Variation by Elise Palmigiani

    The Visible Communion of Saints

    Peter Riedemann (1506–1556), an early Anabaptist leader, wrote the 1542 apologia excerpted here as a defense to Philip of Hesse, a prince who was holding him prisoner.

    Community of goods applies to both spiritual and material gifts. All of God’s gifts, not only the spiritual but also the temporal, have been given so that they not be kept but be shared with each other. Therefore, the communion of saints should be visible not only in spiritual but also in temporal things. Paul says one person should not have abundance while another suffers want; instead, there should be equality (2 Cor. 8:7–15). …

    The Creation still testifies today that at the beginning God ordained that people should own nothing individually but should have all things in common with each other (Gen. 1:26–29). However, by taking what they should have left, and by leaving what they should have taken (Gen. 3:2–12), people have gained possession of things and have become more accustomed to accumulating things and hardened in doing so. Through such appropriating and collecting of created things, people have been led so far from God that they have forgotten the Creator (Rom. 1:18–25).

    Source: Peter Riedemann’s Hutterite Confession of Faith, trans. and ed. John J. Friesen (Plough, 2019), 119.

    Detail from Red Variation by Elise Palmigiani

    Community Is a Gift of the Spirit

    From Foundations of Our Faith and Calling, the Bruderhof’s 2012 community rule.

    God wants to gather a people on earth who belong to his new creation. He calls them out to form a new society that makes his justice and peace tangible. Among them private property falls away, and they are united in a bond of solidarity and equality in which each one says: Whatever I have belongs to the others, and if I am ever in need, they will help me. Then Jesus’ words can come true: “Do not be anxious, saying, ’What shall we eat?’ or ’What shall we drink?’ or ’What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Matt. 6:31–33).

    Such a people came into being in Jerusalem at the first Pentecost. As described in Acts 2 and 4, the Holy Spirit descended on the believers who had gathered after Jesus’ resurrection, and the first communal church was born. Just as it was then, so it will be today whenever the Spirit is poured out on a group of people. They will be filled with love for Christ and for one another, and their communion of love will lead them to share their goods, talents, and lives, boldly testifying to the gospel. This is our calling in church community.

    Source: Foundations of Our Faith and Calling (Plough, 2012), 5.


    All artwork by Elise Palmigiani. Used with permission.

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