I Wish I'd Been There: Deliberations
of Fifty-one Ministers at Dordrecht
by Elmer S. Yoder
I wish I could have been present for the deliberations and
signing of the Dordrecht Confession in Dordrecht, Holland, 1632.
It was at a peace convention held on April 21, 1632 that the
document was entitled A Declaration of the Chief Articles of
our General Christian Faith. Fifty-one ministers of the Word
of God signed it. Why do I wish I had been at this meeting? According
to Irvin S. Horst, when it first appeared in print it bore the
title, "Confession and Peace-Agreement at Dordrecht."
I wish I had been there:
· To hear the range of discussion and to observe in what
ways this was a document of compromise, or peace, among the Mennonites
of the Lowlands and northern Germany. Perhaps we could have learned
some secrets in the formulation of a peace agreement in the 21st
· To detect the surfacing of any regional differences,
and particularly any reference to the highlanders (Swiss brethren)
and questioning whether they would or would not agree with the
· To observe the order of procedure, almost a quarter
of a millennium before Robert's Rules of Order was published
· To detect any reference or comment in its formulation
or conclusion, direct or indirect, about the anticipated longevity
of the usefulness of the document.
· To aid in determination of why the woman's veiling and
the place of women in the church did not find itself in the confession.
Were any women observers present?
· To learn if there were attempts made to introduce any
additional subjects or articles, and what they might have been.
· To observe what forms of address were used by the leaders
among themselves during the discussion. How did they select the
foreman or leader?
· To learn if they consciously or unconsciously clustered
the eighteen articles to the three fundamental propositions:
(1) the church is made up of regenerated people; (2) the Christian
can take no part in temporal government; and (3) the Christian
must withdraw himself from the rest of the world.
Elmer S. Yoder is a Conservative Mennonite
Conference minister and conference historian, a retired school
teacher, former editor of the conference periodical (Brotherhood
Beacon), editor of Heritage which focuses on Stark County, Ohio
and author of numerous books, including The Beachy Amish Mennonite
Fellowship Churches and I Saw It in The Budget.