Wednesday, July 14, 2021

This year TMTC celebrates the successful doctoral defenses of a number of TMTC associates and fellows.

Zacharie Klassen

Zach KlassenZac graduated from McMaster University in the Fall of 2020 with a PhD in Religious Studies. His dissertation is titled “Theologies of Israel and Judaism After Barth” and, as the title suggests, it examines the conceptual relationship between Karl Barth’s theology of Israel and Judaism and the theologies of Israel and Judaism in three students of Barth’s work. In future research, Zac hopes to continue to articulate the importance of developments in post-Holocaust Christian theologies of Israel and Judaism. TMTC was an important part of Zac's academic development over the last 8 years. Zac first got involved with TMTC during his MTS at Conrad Grebel (2013-2015) and continued to connect throughout his PhD. Of his time at TMTC, Zac says "I have found the various initiatives of TMTC—scholars forums and graduate conferences especially—to be important for making connections with academic colleagues and testing research." While academic life continues to be important for Zac, he was recently called to be Pastor at Bloomingdale Mennonite Church in Bloomingdale, Ontario and is excited to begin in that capacity in August 2021. Ever since his undergraduate studies at Canadian Mennonite University (2005-2010), Zac has had a passion for both academics and pastoral ministry and looks forward to nurturing both in the years to come.

Allison Murray

Alison MurrayAllison Murray defended her dissertation, "Building Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: White American Evangelical Complementarian Theology, 1970-2010," in March of 2021. She studied at Toronto School of Theology's Emmanuel College and was affiliated with TMTC throughout her program, being a two-time recipient of the Reimer Award. These awards were an invaluable support when it came to meeting financial needs during her program. In addition to financial support,  TMTC provided a supportive venue for Allison to gain experience sharing her research through scholars' forums and through the TMTC graduate conferences. These opportunities to get input on budding projects were always welcome! Since February of this year Allison has been working as a Religious Studies teacher at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate in Kitchener. She looks forward to enjoying further teaching opportunities at Rockway, as well as continuing to exercise her scholarly skills in additional research projects. Allison will also be looking to publish her dissertation and, eventually, applying to post-doctoral research opportunities as well.

Sarah Kathleen Johnson

Sarah JohnsonSarah Kathleen Johnson graduated with a PhD in Theology from the University of Notre Dame. Her interdisciplinary dissertation at the intersection of liturgical studies and sociology of religion is titled "Occasional Religious Practice: An Ethnographic Theology of Christian Worship in a Changing Religious Landscape." Anchored in ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the Anglican tradition in Toronto, this study coins and develops the concept of occasional religious practice to better understand those who participate in religious practices occasionally rather than routinely and often in connection with specific types of occasions such as holidays and life transitions. This academic year, Sarah also launched the hymnal and worship book, Voices Together, for which she served on the editorial team, the Voices Together: Worship Leader Edition, of which she is the editor, and the Together in Worship website, for which she chairs the leadership team. TMTC has supported all four of these projects through opportunities to present dissertation research in progress at Scholars Forums, test material for Voices Together and the Worship Leader Edition at conferences and events, and by fostering essential connections with a network of Anabaptist scholars. TMTC has also been an important point of connection for Sarah to the Toronto School of Theology, especially the Liturgy Seminar, and to the University of Toronto Library system. This summer, Sarah will be moving from Toronto to Vancouver to begin a new position as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Theology and Worship and Louisville Institute Postdoctoral Fellow at Vancouver School of Theology and St Mark's College at the University of British Columbia.

Isaac Friesen

Isaac FriesenIsaac Friesen successfully defended his dissertation, titled “Casual Crossings: The Muslim Attendance of Coptic Spaces in Provincial Egypt,” in April 2021. His dissertation examines overlapping ethics, traditions and histories at four Coptic sites frequented by Muslims in the provincial Egyptian city of Beni Suef—where Isaac first moved as a member of Mennonite Central Committee in early 2011. Isaac’s dissertation illuminates how ordinary Egyptians have worked for peace in the face of increasing material and sociopolitical hardship. Throughout his doctoral studies, TMTC was a place where Isaac found community, support, and a site to put his anthropological and historical research into conversation with the centre’s theological perspectives. Isaac was also the grateful recipient of TMTC’s A. James Reimer Award. Isaac is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Ottawa, working on the multinational John Templeton Foundation-funded project The Transmission of Religion Across Generations. Isaac is also a Junior Fellow at the University of Toronto’s Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History. More broadly, Isaac hopes to use his research and teaching in the years ahead to work for peace and understanding at sites of social, religious and political difference and conflict around the world.

Maxwell Kennel

Max KennelOn May 5th Max successfully defended his dissertation “Ontologies of Violence: Jacques Derrida, Mennonite Pacifist Epistemology, and Grace M. Jantzen’s, Death and the Displacement of Beauty” through McMaster University’s Department of Religious Studies and is looking forward to revising it for publication. This Fall he will begin a new project on the relationship between religion and conspiratorial thinking, as part of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Toronto’s Department for the Study of Religion. Supervised by Dr. Pamela Klassen, his project “Critique of Conspiracism” combines his work on violence and the politics of time by asking how conspiracy theories divide time and periodize history in both theological and political ways, while employing epistemologies and ontologies that are uniquely given to violence. As part of this project, Max will be teaching a course in the University of Waterloo’s Arts First program and presenting his initial findings at the American Academy of Religion meetings in San Antonio.

Looking back on the past several years, Max is grateful to TMTC for providing him with vital support as he tested ideas in scholar’s forums and at graduate conferences. The A. James Reimer award assisted him immeasurably in the first and final years of his doctoral studies, and the work of the centre continues to inspire him as he seeks out new ways to question and critique the violences of our social order.

Many congratulations to each of you on the successful completion of your doctoral studies! It has been a privilege and a delight for us at TMTC to be able to learn from and engage with the important work you are doing and we look forward to keeping in touch as you transition into new opportunities.

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