In the late 1990’s, the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre (TMTC) director, Lydia Neufeld Harder, envisioned a network of Anabaptist Mennonite scholars that was primarily drawn from theological disciplines that sought to include scholars working at non-Mennonite institutions, graduate students, and interdisciplinary collaboration. The “seed” for this network consisted of a list of 90 names on an Institute of Mennonite Studies (IMS) mailing list used to issue invitations to the annual Mennonite Scholars and Friends (MSF) forum and reception at the AAR/SBL meetings. Under the auspices of TMTC a biannual newsletter was produced beginning in 1998, a database of members was developed and maintained, and an informal advisory committee was formed. In 2003 the AMSN co-sponsored a conference at Hillsdale College with the Anabaptist Sociology and Anthropology Association (ASAA) on “Ritual in Anabaptist Communities” and continued the intentional move to increase the interdisciplinary nature of the AMSN. Conversations about exploring whether and how the AMSN might function as a kind of “network of networks” that fostered connections between existing scholarly associations began as early as 2006 and the Anabaptist Sociology and Anthropology Association (ASAA) was part of the AMSN for a number of years. After sitting largely dormant for a number of years, new leadership at TMTC and IMS has started work to reinvigorate the life of the AMSN and to reimagine its vision, purpose, and function.
The Anabaptist Mennonite emphasis on dialogue between scholars of different disciplines and between scholars and the broader ecclesial community is at the heart of the need for a scholarly network of this kind. There is also a strong desire for explicit Anabaptist Mennonite links and networking opportunities from those not working at Anabaptist Mennonite institutions and from graduate students who, likewise, are often not studying at Anabaptist Mennonite institutions. Conversations with journal editors and directors of Anabaptist Mennonite related centres across North America and beyond also strongly affirms the need for increasing communication around conference planning, special journal issues, and related items with a view not only to facilitating greater awareness and cooperation but also, and significantly, to expanding the conversation. In a very modest way, then, the AMSN seeks to nurture the conditions whereby we can break out of disciplinary, institutional, gendered, and geographic siloes that too often narrow our vision by fostering cross-disciplinary connections that intentionally include marginalized voices from across the street and around the world.
- website with dedicated sections featuring calls for papers, conferences and other events, recent publications, job postings, etc…
- email list with a regular newsletter featuring a round-up of news/event items from the website
- social media engagement with links to active Anabaptist Mennonite groups
- organize occasional events to coincide with major conferences and/or Mennonite World Conference Assemblies
The AMSN is a program administered by TMTC with IMS as a permanent key “co-sponsor.” An annual conference call, organized by the IMS director, that gathers directors and editors of Anabaptist Mennonite centers and journals from across North America and beyond serves as a tangible point of connection for suggestions, feedback, and conversation. Supporting institutions identify their own AMSN representative with responsibility to “feed in” relevant news, conferences, calls for papers, employment opportunities, etc… directly to TMTC for inclusion on the web. Individuals on the mailing list may also suggest items for potential inclusion. TMTC coordinates with supporting institutions, develops and maintains the website, creates and distributes electronic newsletters, and provides staff time for these and other administrative activities. Periodic review of this structure will be undertaken by TMTC in conjunction with IMS. Questions, comments, and suggestions are welcome at any time and can be directed to TMTC.
The AMSN is currently supported by the following institutions: