Conclusion: Public Controversy and Fixed versus Flexible Standards of Confessional Identity
Although some people were deeply dissatisfied with the culture of controversy, few in public life, whatever their confessional affiliation, could avoid it. In fact, the character of groups like the Pietists in early modern Lutheran Germany was shaped decisively by controversy, socio-religious radicals and defenders of the orthodox status quo. In fact, evidence supports the opposite - confessional identity was most fixed, and significant amid public controversies. There is an equally important corollary: as controversies about group identity diminished, standards of identity became weaker or more flexible. Confessional controversies are easy for historians to focus on after the fact but are only part of a complete picture of past social interactions. This chapter given examples of the contingent, dynamic, emergent, situational nature of official standards of Mennonite identity. It examines the daily lives of individual believers, for whom official, confessional standards of identity did not always have the permanent, enduring, absolute significance that church leaders sometimes wanted them to have.