Institute of Mennonite Studies (Elkhart, Indiana, USA)

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Cornelius J. Dyck, founder of IMS.

The Institute of Mennonite Studies (IMS) is the research and publishing wing of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS), Elkhart, Indiana, USA. Founded in 1958 under the directorship of Cornelius J. Dyck, IMS promotes scholarship in Mennonite and Believers Church theology, history, biblical studies, peace studies, and related fields, primarily through the publication of books and journals and the organization of conferences.

Dyck served as director until 1979. During his tenure IMS hosted several Anabaptist-Mennonite seminar sessions at AMBS, and held two Believers Church Conferences (1967, 1970) and a seminar on Gordon Kaufman’s writings. IMS also published many books, often in collaboration with denominational publisher Herald Press. These books included a two-volume bibliography of Anabaptist and Mennonite writings (1962, 1975); The Church in the City, by Paul Peachy (1963); Nonresistance and Responsibility, by Gordon Kaufman (1979); Yahweh is a Warrior, by Millard Lind (1980); and several works by John Howard Yoder. Some of Yoder’s best-known works were published under the auspices of IMS: Christian Witness to the State (1964), Nevertheless: The Varieties and Shortcomings of Christian Pacifism (1971), The Original Revolution (1971), and The Politics of Jesus (1972). IMS viewed the last three as a collection of “Documents in Free Church Ethics” accessible to the wider church.

In 1973 IMS began publishing the Classics of the Radical Reformation (CRR), a translation series intended to present 16th-century Radical Reformation writings to scholars and other interested readers in accessible English. As of 2019 the series has 13 volumes, including volumes dedicated to writings by Michael Sattler, Pilgram Marpeck, Balthasar Hubmaier, Dirk Philips, David Joris, Andreas Carlstadt, and Peter Riedemann. Other volumes collect writings related to early and later 16th-century Swiss Anabaptism, early South German and Austrian Anabaptism, Anabaptist confessions of faith, and the Marpeck Circle. The CRR’s best seller is Anabaptism in Outline (1981), a thematically organized text collection edited by Walter Klaassen.

IMS came under AMBS New Testament professor Willard Swartley’s direction for the decade of the 1980s (1980–89). From 1985 to 1989 IMS hosted summer consultations for a “Shalom Biblical Theology Project,” resulting in publications on feminist biblical hermeneutics and spiritual bondage and deliverance. These publications were issued in a new Occasional Papers (OP) series, essay collections published with the authorization of the Council of Mennonite Seminaries. (The council consisted of representatives of Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Virginia; AMBS [then an “Association” of Goshen Biblical Seminary and Mennonite Biblical Seminary]; Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California). Other OP volumes focused on issues in Mennonite pastoral and systematic theology, biblical studies, peace studies, and history. The OP series notably included a book by German Reformed theologian Jürgen Moltmann, Following Jesus Christ in the World Today (1983), which emerged from lectures hosted by AMBS and Canadian Mennonite Bible College (Winnipeg, Manitoba).

Swartley also initiated a Text Reader series, again with support from the Council of Mennonite Seminaries, to provide resources for seminary classes. Volumes in that series covered topics such as biblical hermeneutics, Anabaptist theology, Mennonite confessions of faith, the relationship between biblical and systematic theologies, and pastoral counseling.

Several other important publications came out during Swartley’s directorship, including essay collections on mission and liberation theology; Perry Yoder’s Shalom: The Bible’s Word for Salvation, Justice, and Peace (1987); J. Lawrence Burkholder’s The Problem of Social Responsibility from the Perspective of the Mennonite Church (1989); and the fifth volume of the Mennonite Encyclopedia (1990). IMS also managed the Mennonite Experience in America publications and supported the work of the Church Member Profile, leading to the 1992 publication Mennonite Mosaic: Identity and Modernization, edited by J. Howard Kauffman and Leo Driedger.

In the 1980s IMS became active at the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature joint annual meetings. This activity involved sharing exhibition space with Herald Press and holding a consultation on Mennonite biblical scholarship in 1987. In later decades, IMS would collaborate with Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre and other institutions to organize Mennonite Scholars and Friends gatherings at the annual AAR/SBL meetings.

The biblical studies consultation was part of the work of a Biblical Studies Editorial Council, formed in 1983 and dedicated to publishing a series of works in collaboration with Westminster/John Knox Press. The series was eventually renamed Studies in Peace and Scripture, and as of 2019 has published 15 volumes (after the third volume the series utilized a variety of publishers). Authors in the series include Willard Swartley, Christopher Marshall, Dorothy Jean Weaver, and David Neville.

During most of the decade of the 1990s, IMS was under AMBS dean Ross Bender’s directorship (1990–97). Willard Swartley finished the decade as acting director (1997–99). These years witnessed active publication in all of the series named above, as well as the development of a new series on Christian Mission and Modern Culture. This series of 16 short books, all published with Trinity Press International from 1995 to 1999, included works by influential ecumenical authors such as David Bosch, Kenneth Cragg, Lesslie Newbigin, Lamin Sanneh, Judith Gundry-Volf and Miroslav Volf, and Jonathan R. Wilson. Wilson’s book Living Faithfully in a Fragmented World (1997) played a central role in the development of the New Monastic Movement.

In the 1990s IMS also hosted consultations on violence against women, aging, and Judaism and the Free Church, as well as a variety of seminars and a Congregational Studies Project.

AMBS New Testament professor Mary Schertz became director in 1999 and led IMS until her retirement in 2017. All of the IMS series published several volumes in this time period, in addition to 35 books published outside of series. A new series, the Intercultural Biblical Hermeneutics Series (IBHS), was begun in 2012 in collaboration with the Dom Hélder Câmara Chair at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The IBHS publishes books contributing to a hermeneutical method created by Dutch Reformed biblical scholar Hans de Wit. De Wit’s method entails comparative study of Bible reading by groups of “ordinary” Christians in different cultures.

Schertz, working closely with managing editor Barb Nelson Gingerich and a variety of associate directors, oversaw 19 conferences on topics from Anabaptist Mariology to martyrdom, and several initiatives oriented to fomenting scholarship at AMBS. These initiatives included an Oral History Project (interviews with key AMBS faculty and staff), Teaching and Research Seminars for faculty development, and the Scribes for the Reign of God collaborative research process. In 2000 AMBS and Canadian Mennonite University collaborated to form Vision: A Journal for Church and Theology. Vision is published biennially, with each issue exploring a theme under the guidance of a guest editor.

Jamie Pitts, an Anabaptist Studies professor at AMBS, became IMS director in 2017. In 2019 IMS hosted the Liberating the Politics of Jesus conference in collaboration with Elizabeth Soto and Darryl Stephens of Lancaster Theological Seminary. The conference invited Mennonite women theologians and practitioners to articulate their understandings of the nature and value of Jesus’ politics. IMS continued to develop its series and other publications, host conferences, and encourage scholarship that serves the church.

Additional Information

Address: 3003 Benham Avenue, Elkhart, Indiana 46517 USA

Phone: 800-964-2627

Website: https://www.ambs.edu/ims

Denominational Affiliations: Mennonite Church USA

This article is based on the original English essay that was written for the Mennonitisches Lexikon (MennLex) and has been made available to GAMEO with permission.


Author(s) Jamie Pitts
Date Published January 2019


Cite This Article

MLA style

Pitts, Jamie. "Institute of Mennonite Studies (Elkhart, Indiana, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2019. Web. 22 Oct 2019. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Institute_of_Mennonite_Studies_(Elkhart,_Indiana,_USA)&oldid=163125.

APA style

Pitts, Jamie. (January 2019). Institute of Mennonite Studies (Elkhart, Indiana, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 October 2019, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Institute_of_Mennonite_Studies_(Elkhart,_Indiana,_USA)&oldid=163125.




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