Mennonite Theologian and Teacher Honoured

Monday, July 30, 2007

When Jim Reimer speaks to Mennonites, he urges them to take the wider historical Christian tradition more seriously. And when he speaks to other Christians, he explains how Mennonites are a faithful part of that wider tradition.

Jim Reimer dancing among the crowdsThis observation by Jeremy Bergen is an apt summary of Reimer’s career. It is a career that was honoured on a hot evening at the University of Toronto in late May. Tributes were offered by Mennonite theologians (many of whom were Reimer’s former students), by faculty at the Toronto School of Theology (TST), and by a Muslim theologian from Iran with whom Reimer has had many inter-faith conversations. 

A highlight of the evening was the surprise presentation to Reimer of a Festschrift in his honour. The collection of essays, entitled Creed and Conscience: Essays in Honour of A. James Reimer, was intended to interact with and promote Reimer's theological interests, as well as

to act as a gesture to the kind of person Reimer is, to the kind of career he displays to the Christian church and the larger academic community,

explained Paul Doerksen, who edited the book with Jeremy Bergen and Karl Koop.

Reimer’s wide-ranging theological interests include Scripture, the Anabaptist tradition, pacifism, modernity, technology, the ecumenical tradition, political theology, the work of Paul Tillich, the philosophy of George Grant, spirituality, and dialogue with Muslim theology. Many of these themes were addressed in the essays in the Festschrift

Reimer has been a full-time faculty member at Conrad Grebel University College since 1986, and was instrumental in initiating the Master of Theological Studies program there. He has also been an adjunct professor at TST since 1982, teaching courses and supervising many theses. He provided the impetus for the development of the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre (TMTC) at TST, and continues to serve as its academic advisor.

His remarkable contributions to TMTC have been acknowledged through the establishment of the A. James Reimer Award by former student, Al Armstrong, who credits Reimer with changing his life through a rigorous encounter with the classical Christian theological tradition.

The goal of the Reimer Award is to provide excellent Mennonite doctoral students in theology with funds on par with the scholarships offered in the sciences. Conrad Grebel University College invests donations to this award and uses earnings to enlarge the fund and to provide an annual scholarship. Currently the fund is more than half way to the goal of $250,000. Each dollar donated is matched with $1.60 from the Ontario Trust for Student Support.

As Reimer enters his last year of full-time teaching, his commitment to encourage Mennonites to take the wider Christian tradition seriously will be expressed through the “Pastor’s Theology Seminar” that he will teach at Conrad Grebel. The course is titled, “Mennonites and Classical Theology.” An apt ending to a distinguished career.

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