Once Again, My Open (And Very Personal) Letter to the Mennonite Church

Columbus, Ohio

Originally Published June 21, 2015

Dear Friends:

There are two things I need to say to the Mennonite Church USA. The first is “Thank you.” The second is “I’m sorry.” Continue reading

A Little Farther Down the Path: The Road to Someplace Beautiful

Everybody faces tough times and difficult circumstances in life. For some, the pain seems deeper and more severe than for others, the episodes more frequent. But discouragement, disappointment, and pain—whether physical, financial, or emotional—visit us all at one time or another. Bad things happen to good people as well as to bad, the rain falls on both the just and the unjust, and the only constant in all of this is that nobody is immune.

After a lifetime relatively free of trauma, apart from periodic bouts of near-debilitating depression, things changed for me in 2007-08. The bottom fell out, and it was my turn to walk through some dark valleys. They were horrible, awful, painful years filled with one bit of bad news after another. Continue reading

The Road to Someplace Beautiful

The Road to Someplace Beautiful
Chapel Address by Eric Kouns
Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Virginia
November 10, 2015

[Note: If you’d like to hear this address as it was delivered at EMS, click here.]

Whenever a man of mediocre intellect is invited to address an audience in an academic setting—a pseudo-scholar who wants to foster the pretense of erudition—he will often begin his talk by referencing an obscure quote by a nineteenth-century existentialist philosopher.

I think it was Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish existentialist, who once observed that…

We  live our lives looking forward, but we understand our lives only by looking back.

I would call that either profoundly self-evident or self-evidently profound. But it’s true, in any event. Continue reading

I Don’t Want to Be a Prophet, I Just Want to Go Home

A friend once described my perception of Christian discipleship as eclectic, and he wasn’t paying me a compliment. He believed that I had drunk from too many different wells, had Rube Goldberg inventiondabbled in too many different traditions, and the result was a sort of “Rube Goldberg” contraption that made Christian life far more complicated than it needed to be.

In response, I suggested that his perception of Christian faith, arising as it did from the tradition into which he had been born, was far simpler than it ought to be. By that I meant that his restricted exposure to traditions outside his own and his limited experience with approaches to Christian faith and practice other than in the community of his birth left him with a myopic perspective. His view of Christianity, I believe, is not merely more simple than mine, it is simplistic. Continue reading

Could It Happen Again?

I had never heard of the term “epic fail” when I went through one in 1986.

At age 36, I was in my second year as pastor of a large Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, VA. I had joined the church’s staff as an associate pastor in 1982 and was 2called, by unanimous vote of the congregation, to succeed my popular predecessor, who had served in that role for nearly twenty years, when he moved on to a church in Pennsylvania in 1984. Two years into my term, things were not going well. I was exhausted—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—and discouraged. In early January, I resigned, fairly sure that I lacked the gifts necessary for effective pastoral ministry and maybe for vocational ministry of any sort. Continue reading

An Open (And Very Personal) Letter to the Mennonite Church USA

Columbus, Ohio

June 21, 2015

Dear Friends:

There are two things I need to say to the Mennonite Church USA. The first is “Thank you.” The second is “I’m sorry.”

You (the Mennonite Church) came into my life in 1981 when, as a result of God’s providence, I enrolled as a student at Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg, Virginia. At the time I had not, as they say, “darkened the door” of a Mennonite church building. One year later, in the summer of 1982, I (along with my wife) was received as a member of Harrisonburg Mennonite Church, was installed as an associate pastor of that congregation, and received ordination credentials with the Virginia Mennonite Conference, all on the same Sunday in July. Continue reading

The Limits of Liturgy

Regular readers of this blog and people who know me personally are well aware of my strong affinity for liturgical worship. I love it so much that I have not been willing to compromise my relatively new-found convictions in this area, not even to save my job. That’s why I can’t wait to see what God might have in store for us through the “gatherings for worship in the liturgical tradition” which begin in Plain City, OH, on February 21. (Facebook users, click here for more information. Others can click on the “Gathering” button under the banner at the top of this page.) Continue reading

My Debt To Anabaptism

Today marks the 490th anniversary of the beginning of a movement, which arose as part of the Protestant Reformation, known as Anabaptism. I grew up as a Baptist, and I knew a little about the historical connection between my tradition and Anabaptism. For example, I knew that the “Ana-” prefix did not mean “anti.” Anabaptists were not “Baptist-haters.” (Don’t laugh. An ordained clergyman, who really should have known better, once said to me, in all seriousness, “What a terrible name for a movement. Why would they want to be known as people who hated Baptists?”) Continue reading

Unemployment, Poverty, and Politics: A Personal Testimony

I grew up conservative in every way—theologically, socially, and politically. But things change. Circumstances change. Perspectives change. People change. I changed. And here, as succinctly as I can make it, is an example of how and why.

As a faculty member in my eleventh year of teaching at a small, conservative, Bible college in the Anabaptist/Mennonite tradition, I taught a course called Peace, Justice, and Simplicity. Prior to that, I had preached several series of sermons on the text of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). When I taught that course, however, in the spring of 2005, I read that passage as I had never seen it before, and I heard Jesus saying things I had not previously understood. Continue reading

No More Either/Or

The text of this post is drawn from the epilogue of my new book, The Long Road from Highland Springs: A Faith Odyssey. A book’s epilogue consists of a few thoughts, generally by the author, tucked into the book following the last chapter of the story. It offers a short Front Cover.4640319 (final-HiRes)commentary on the book’s content or attempts to wrap it up with a concise conclusion.

The Long Road is an autobiographical novel. It is a fictionalized account of my life story, my spiritual pilgrimage, told through the experience of Arthur Lough, my alter ego. The book is written from the perspective of a third-party narrator who describes the events of Arthur’s life while punctuating the narrative with dialogue between Arthur and other key characters. Continue reading