The Centre for Anabaptist Studies 2017 Annual Lecture

‘A Peace Witness under Pressure: The Bruderhof Community in England, 1936-1942’

Dr Ian Randall explores the experiences of the Bruderhof, a Christian community which began in Germany in 1920 and which had to escape from the country in the 1930s because of Nazi pressure. By this time the community was an explicitly Anabaptist one, inspired by the early Hutterites. At first, the community members were welcomed in England and their community, established in the Cotswolds, grew substantially. They were part of wider peace and community endeavours of the time. Significant numbers of British people joined the Bruderhof. But, with the start of the Second World War, the German members came to be regarded with suspicion, and British members were unpopular in the local area because they were pacifists. The result of these pressures was that by 1942 over 300 community members had left England to try to forge a new life in South America. This period of Bruderhof life shows Anabaptist convictions being worked out in England during a time of great political uncertainty.


 randall After training for ministry at Regent’s Park College, Oxford, Ian had two local church pastorates, and then lectured and supervised research for nearly twenty years at Spurgeon’s College, London, and the International Baptist Theological Seminary, Prague.

In recent years, he and his wife have lived in Cambridge, where Ian has been a hospital chaplain, a minister in an ecumenical missional church, and a research associate of the Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide.

He has written extensively in the areas of renewal, mission and Baptist and Anabaptist history.

The annual lecture will take place at Bristol Baptist College (The Promenade, Clifton Down BS8 3NJ) at 7.30pm on Tuesday 21 November. This event is free and no booking is required – unless you want to join us for a sandwich meal at 6.30pm, which does need to be booked and for which we’d request a £3.50 donation

Recordings of previous annual lectures are available on request. The Centre also offers an MA course, available via taught block weeks in Bristol or online, and postgraduate research degrees.

For further information about any aspect of the Centre please contact Stuart Murray Williams at the above address or email


The Vasey Lecture

On Monday 23 February at 7.30 p.m. the Rev Canon Dr James Steven will give the annual public liturgy lecture in memory of Michael Vasey in the Chapel of St John’s College, Durham. His subject will be ‘Anabaptist Daily Prayer: A 21st Century Synthesis of Liturgical and Evangelical Traditions’. James is the Academic Dean and Programme Leader for the MA in Christian Liturgy at Sarum College, Salisbury, and was a student of Michael Vasey’s at Cranmer Hall.

First webinar this evening at 7.30 pm – Stuart Murray Williams: ‘The Fading Brilliance of Christendom’

The Christendom culture that dominated Europe for centuries and transposed itself with great success into many other nations was undoubtedly a brilliant achievement. It was also brutal, suppressing dissent and extending its influence through violence as well as persuasion, but it has left a remarkable legacy in all walks of life and most areas of society. As Christendom fades, should we grieve or celebrate its passing? What resources should we carry with us into post-Christendom, and what baggage should we leave behind?

Stuart Murray Williams, the author of Post-Christendom and Church after Christendom, is also the series editor of the ‘After Christendom’ series. He is a trainer/consultant working under the auspices of the Anabaptist Network, director of the Centre for Anabaptist Studies at Bristol Baptist College and one of the coordinators of Urban Expression.

To register for this seminar (which can be watched live or as a recording), or for further information, please contact Stuart Murray Williams at

Inaugural Annual Lecture

On 8 October Professor Tom Yoder Neufeld delivered the inaugural annual lecture which launched the Centre. His title was “Anabaptists, the Bible and Violence” and the lecture was delivered to a packed audience. He drew heavily from his acclaimed book, Jesus and the Subversion of Violence: Wrestling with the New Testament Evidence (Killing Enmity: Violence and the New Testament in the USA). Noting that contemporary Anabaptists themselves have a variety of ways of interpreting the Bible, Tom  sketched approaches from the simple biblical literalism of the Amish at one end (he certainly was not disparaging their approach) to the passionate concern for global peacemaking and justice of Christian Peacemaker Teams at the other.

Tom, although passionately advocating non-violence as the appropriate stance, nevertheless acknowledged the ambiguity of the biblical witness and deliberately focused on the New Testament to illustrate that this was not immune to the accusations of being a violent text. He used the account of Jacob wrestling through the night in Genesis 32:22-32 to advocate an incarnational model of reading scripture. Jacob wrestled with a man but claimed to have seen God face to face. So, in wrestling with the very human words of the text, we seek to find the word of God – the Word in the words and we do not stop wrestling until we find a blessing. His honest account of wrestling with the text, including stating that there were texts that he just did not know what to do with, drew an appreciative response and provoked a number of interesting questions from the audience.

Tom’s lecture, which we hope will subsequently be available in print, was certainly a fitting way to launch the Centre.