Mennonite studies was a relatively new discipline in the 1980s, combining research, teaching and publication in the area of Mennonite history, theology, culture, and literature.
The impetus for Mennonite studies came from the older Mennonite colleges in the United States, notably Goshen College in Indiana and Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas, where such scholars as Harold S. Bender, John Horsch, Cornelius Krahn, and Robert Kreider established and promoted vigorous programs of teaching, research and publication. The fruit of their academic and scholarly activity led to the founding of two journals: The Mennonite Quarterly Review, published at Goshen College (1927- ), and Mennonite Life, published at Bethel College (1946- ).
The groundwork done by these institutions, especially their research into Anabaptist sources, resulted among Mennonite institutions in North America in a greater interest in the life and faith of Anabaptists and Mennonites. Whereas in the first half of the 20th century Mennonite courses were hardly ever included in the curricula of some Mennonite institutions, in the second half of this century Mennonite colleges in the United States and Canada began to devote more time and effort to Mennonite studies.
One of the most successful Mennonite studies programs is the Institute of Mennonite Studies (IMS) of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary of Elkhart, Indiana. Led by C. J. Dyck for many years, the institute's list of scholarly publications and conferences is impressive. Other long-term directors were Willard Swartley and Ross T. Bender. In 1999 the IMS Director was Willard Swartley. Conrad Grebel College in Waterloo, Ontario, under the leadership of Walter Klaassen, Calvin Redekop, Rodney Sawatsky, J. Winfield Fretz, and Frank H. Epp, has also advanced Anabaptist-Mennonite studies in its teaching and research programs. In 1983 Conrad Grebel College launched its Conrad Grebel Review, a "journal of Christian inquiry. "
In 1978 the University of Winnipeg established a Chair in Mennonite Studies. Endowed by the government of Canada through its program of multiculturalism and by David Friesen, a Winnipeg businessman, this first and only such chair in a university was designed to teach and conduct research in the areas of Mennonite history and literature. Since 1983 the Journal of Mennonite Studies, edited by Harry Loewen, and various books have been published by the Chair in Mennonite Studies in cooperation with the Mennonite Literary Society and other Mennonite institutions. Harry Loewen was the first occupant of the Chair in Mennonite Studies. In 1999 Royden Loewen held this position.
Encouraged by the success of the Chair in Mennonite Studies, the University of Winnipeg established in 1985 the Mennonite Studies Centre (funded by the David Friesen family) which developed into an affiliated Menno Simons College. George K. Epp was appointed the first director of the centre. The two Mennonite colleges in Winnipeg, Concord College and Canadian Mennonite Bible College (both now part of Canadian Mennonite University along with Menno Simons College), also teach courses in Mennonite history, and the latter has a successful publications program (CMBC Publications).
Other Mennonite institutions in which Mennonite history and theology are taught and researched are: Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Virginia; Bluffton College, Ohio; Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas; Fresno Pacific College and Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary at Fresno, California, and Columbia Bible College, Abbotsford, British Columbia. The journal Direction is published by a variety of Mennonite Brethren schools and program boards. Centers for Mennonite Brethren Studies were established at Fresno, Hillsboro, and Winnipeg in 1974. The center at Fresno was preceded by a Mennonite Brethren historical library affiliated with Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary and its predecessors, beginning in the early 1960s. A large number of historical libraries, museums, archives, and interpretation centers have been established in recent years. Festival Quarterly (1972-1996) was a leading journal for Mennonite art and folklore; Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage (1978-) is one of the larger periodicals published by historical libraries and societies.
In Europe research and scholarship in Mennonite studies have a long and honorable tradition. The Amsterdam Mennonite Theological Seminary was the first Mennonite theological training centre in the world and its scholarship in Anabaptist studies has been considerable, including the journal published by the Dutch Mennonite historical society (Doopsgezinde Historische Kring), Doopsgezinde Bijdragen. In Germany the Mennonitische Geschichtsverein publishes a fine journal, Mennonitische Geschichtsblätter. The European Mennonite Bible School on the Bienenberg near Basel also teaches courses in Mennonite history.
Mennonite studies are not confined to Europe and North America. The Japan Anabaptist Center in Tokyo sponsors research and lectures on Anabaptist and Mennonite themes. Mennonites in Central America have established a theological journal, Esperanza en Camino.
Journal of Mennonite Studies (1983) special issue on Mennonite studies.
Schowalter, Paul. "The Mennonitische Forschungsstelle: twenty-five Years," Mennonite Quarterly Review 47 (1973): 358-61.
Canadian Mennonite University (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)
Cite This Article
Loewen, Harry. "Mennonite Studies." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1990. Web. 18 Nov 2017. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mennonite_Studies&oldid=92764.
Loewen, Harry. (1990). Mennonite Studies. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 November 2017, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mennonite_Studies&oldid=92764.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 573-574. All rights reserved.
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