A case for the church in The Baby and the Bathwater

New book by former general secretary of Mennonite Church Canada explores God’s vision for the church




In his new book, The Baby and the Bathwater: Aspiration and Reality in the Life of the Church, Robert J. Suderman, former general secretary for Mennonite Church Canada, makes a case for the importance of the church at a time when its relevance is in question, even by its own members.

“The question now is why do we need a church at all or is there a God at all, or why do we think Jesus continues to be important?” says Suderman. “It's a profound and dramatic foundational shift of conversation and understanding.”

(Read our interview with Jack Suderman.)

Published by Mennonite Church Canada, and illustrated by artist Ray Dirks, the slim, 100-page volume is in response to conversations Suderman has had over the years with discouraged church leaders who struggle to articulate the church’s relevance while grappling with its dark history.

While acknowledging the past, Suderman urges readers not to “throw out the baby with the bathwater” because God’s vision for the church is worth holding on to.

“The vision for the church as portrayed in the Bible is so absolutely amazing and complete,” says Suderman. “It's a vision that continues to have value, relevance and pertinence for our modern life. To disregard it (…) or to throw it out is a big sacrifice for humanity, not just for the church but for the world because it's an all-encompassing vision that includes justice, ecology, peace and anti-oppression.”

Suderman examines a diverse and expansive vision of God’s peoplehood too-often restricted by near-sighted faith communities. He highlights the many images New Testament writers use (one scholar counts 96) to describe the church, emphasizing its role as teacher and as a community of hope. In the last chapter, Suderman challenges congregations to determine if their vision, mission and purpose statements commit to the cosmic vocation of the church.

“Suderman reminds the Church of several things we are in danger of forgetting,” writes Moses Falco, pastor of Sterling Mennonite Fellowship in Winnipeg, in the book’s Afterwords. “(….) that it is through the Church that God is working to accomplish God’s reconciliation plan in the world. And (…) that the Church is the Church only when it is rooted (intertwined) in Jesus Christ (…).”

Cynthia Peacock, regional representative in India for Mennonite World Conference, writes that Suderman’s book “challenges our context (….) It can help us to re-focus many things as we struggle to be faithful to God in our context – with those not in the church, and with those in churches that are not our own.”

Robert J. Suderman, Dr.Th., has a long history (over five decades) of work in the church and its varied ministries. This includes teaching, executive administration, international assignment and pastoral training in more than 30 countries around the world. Before retirement he served as General Secretary of Mennonite Church Canada. He lives with Irene, his wife of 55 years, in New Hamburg, Ontario.

The Baby and the Bathwater is available to buy or borrow from CommonWord (and purchase from the AMBS Bookstore in the USA).  Current pastors in Mennonite Church Canada and MC USA can request a free copy.

CommonWord will host an in-person and virtual book launch with Suderman on Oct. 28, 2021, at 7 p.m. CDT. Register here.



Media inquiries:

Katie Doke Sawatzky

Communications coordinator, Mennonite Church Canada


Arlyn Epp Friesen

Director of CommonWord