By Trevor Bechtel, TMTC Interim Director (Winter/Spring 2016)
We are in a time of great institutional change in the church and thoughtful reflection on that change and the role of institutions in church life is a hallmark of events sponsored by TMTC over the last semester. I enjoyed a semester as interim director from January to June during Jeremy Bergen’s sabbatical and took part in three scholars forums and the Graduate Student Conference, hosted this year at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. TMTC affiliate Allison Murray has been researching student discipline codes at Wilfrid Laurier University (the former Waterloo Lutheran University) and at Conrad Grebel. Her findings about the enhanced policing of female bodies and the deliberate constituency focused rhetoric of these discipline codes is very interesting and at points very amusing. She presented this work at both a TMTC Scholars Forum in Toronto and at the Graduate Student Conference. At the latter presentation she seemed to inspire a contest for who could drop their jaw the lowest among conference attendees. Douglas Hostetler Kaufman presented at a TMTC Scholars Forum on St. Ignatius' Presupposition, or ground rule, for spiritual exercises and considered different options for church discernment in times of disagreement and crisis. Doug also participated in the graduate student conference. Melanie Kampen focuses her research on questions of colonialism and violence and gave both a TMTC Scholars Forum and a presentation in Elkhart on this work. I am deeply grateful to these scholars, to the solid work of Kim Penner in facilitating all of these events as TMTC Coordinator and to the finance and development offices at Grebel and the staff and faculty at AMBS for their work in facilitating the Graduate Student Conference.
The graduate student conference featured a wonderful variety of papers from students based across North America and in Europe and Africa. I was particularly drawn to a number of papers in several different sessions that considered Mennonite institutions through the lens of trauma theory. Sarah Ann Bixler considered some of the ways that the trauma of the 16th century still animates our experience as churches today, arguing the central place granted to those events prevents church institutions from embracing minority groups. Hilary Scarsella remembered the interaction between Pink Menno and MC USA at the most recent MC USA convention and the different opportunities for speech, protest and listening that those institutions enacted.
I often wonder about what practices of listening, speaking, discipling, disciplining and encouragement will best move our institutions towards health and away from trauma but I am encouraged that those students engaged in TMTC programming are working diligently to find the answers.
On Melanie Kampen’s Scholar’s Forum
By Zac Klassen
On April 6, 2016, the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre hosted a scholar’s forum during which Melanie Kampen, Ph.D. student at Emmanuel College (TST), gave a paper titled "If God is White then White is God: The Allegorical and Analogical Structures of Theocolonial Desire." In her paper, Kampen provocatively demonstrated conceptually some of the ways that the intersection of Christian theology and settler colonialism, what she calls the “theocolonial,” produce and maintain past and present forms of oppressive power including the dispossession of the land of and sexual violence against Indigenous women and girls.
According to Kampen, “theocolonial desire” manifests itself through allegorical and analogical structures. She understands allegorical structures to have been operative within the colonial narratives of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Settlers often narrated their journey allegorically as Israel’s entry into Canaan and so desired the Indigenous other’s land and body, with devastating consequences including sexual violence and genocide. Kampen also shows, however, that less obvious forms of violence lurk in what she calls the “analogical structures” of theocolonial desire. She argues that the doctrine of the “analogy of being” has empowered settlers to conceive of their violent actions in terms of analogical participation in God’s redemption of the world. In this instance, the settler identifies not only with Israel’s cleansing of Canaan but also, by way of the analogy of being, with God’s transcendent act of ‘redemption’ for the world. Here, oppressive power manifests itself not only through the total termination of Indigenous bodies but also through cultural genocide, in which redemption for Indigenous peoples meant becoming white. Kampen’s work is challenging and important and deserves further engagement.
The TMTC Graduate Student Conference: Power in Perspective(s)
By Maxwell Kennel
The 7th biennial TMTC graduate student conference was held on June 2-4th 2016 at the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart Indiana. The overarching theme "Power in Perspective(s)" guided the presentations which included various reflections on power in theological, philosophical, social, and political contexts. The keynote presentation by Malinda Berry, Assistant Professor of Theology and Ethics at AMBS, brought together the themes of many of the presentations in her address, and concluded with an interactive and meditative group exercise. The conference theme and the discussions it inspired felt very timely in the present atmosphere of transition and crisis in both Mennonite Church Canada (MC Canada) and Mennonite Church USA (MC USA). Several of the presentations engaged with the ramifications of the 2015 MC USA assembly in Kansas City, while others dealt with conference politics and power dynamics in Mennonite higher education. The conference theme of power resonated even more strongly in the post-Yoderian atmosphere of contemporary Mennonite theologizing, with some papers critiquing and invoking Yoder's thought and other papers seeking out other voices. The value of the conference theme also matched well with the conference experience. The questions and responses that I witnessed were serious and charitable, and the sense of collegiality amongst this generation of Mennonite and Mennonite-affiliated graduate students was inspiring, leaving me very much looking forward to future conferences.
Students Associating with TMTC
- Michael Buttrey, Christian Ethics, Proposal Stage – Regis College
- Matthew Eaton, Theology, Philosophy, Ecology, Defending – St Michael’s College
- Isaac Friesen, Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Coursework Stage – University of Toronto
- Layton Friesen, Theology, Dissertation Stage – Wycliffe College (living in Winnipeg)
- Susan Kennel Harrison, Theology, Dissertation Stage – Emmanuel College
- Ryan Klassen, Theology, Dissertation Stage – Wycliffe College
- Susanne Guenther Loewen, Theology, Defending – Emmanuel College
- Andy Martin, Theology, Dissertation Stage – Regis College
- Allison Murray, Church History, Comprehensive Exam Stage – Emmanuel College
- Kimberly Penner, Christian Ethics, Dissertation Stage – Emmanuel College
- Darrell Winger, Theology, Dissertation Stage – Wycliffe College
- Trent Voth, New Testament, Coursework Stage – Emmanuel College
- Melanie Kampen, Theology, Coursework Stage – Emmanuel College
- Russell Snyder Penner, 1st year, M.A. - Regis College (part time)
- Doug Kaufman, 1st year, Th.M. - St. Michael’s College (returned now to Indiana and his role as Conference Pastor for Leadership Transitions with the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference)
- Lili Williams, 1st year, M.Div. - Regis (transferring to complete her M.Div. at U of Winnipeg)
- Zac Klassen, 1st year, PhD - McMaster University
- Gerald Ens, 1st year, MA - McMaster University
Incoming TMTC Students for 2016-2017
- Hyejung Yum (Jessie), 1st year, PhD, Christian Ethics - Emmanuel College
- Hyung Jin (Pablo), 1st year, PhD, Christian Ethics - Emmanuel College
- Maxwell Kennel, 1st year, PhD - McMaster University
- John Rempel, Senior Fellow
- Lydia Neufeld Harder, Senior Fellow
- Anne-Cathy Graber, Research Fellow
*Anne-Cathy is a Mennonite scholar from France, who is a member of the Chemin Neuf community and on the WCC Faith and Order Commission. In addition to revising her dissertation (on ecumenical perspectives on Mary) for publication, she will also do research in service of the WCC’s “Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace” initiative.
Mennonite Scholars and Friends at the AAR/SBL
Mennonite Scholars and Friends will host a forum at the AAR/SBL in San Antonio, Texas Friday, November 18, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Hilton Palacio del Rio-La Vista DEF (Conference Center - 22nd Level), on responses to Willie Jennings book, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010) and a reception Friday, November 18, 8:30-10 pm at the Hilton Palacio del Rio-La Vista ABC (Conference Center - 22nd Level). These events are coordinated by the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre and are open to any who wish to attend.
TMTC A. James Reimer Award
TMTC is accepting applications for the 2015/16 A. James Reimer Award, established by Grebel alum Alan Armstrong in honour of the late founder of TMTC. All applicants must qualify for funding through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).
The award winner will be nominated by the TMTC Advisory Council and chosen by the Conrad Grebel University College Scholarships and Bursaries Committee giving preference to the following:
1. Advanced degree students who are currently enrolled at a TST member college or affiliate college. Graduate students at the University of Toronto may also apply for this award.
2. Students who are actively involved in the TMTC program.
3. Students who have demonstrated commitment to the life of the Mennonite Church and its institutions.
4. Students who demonstrate solid academic ability (transcripts required) and academic achievement (curriculum vitae required).
The deadline for applications is August 15.
Please see our website for application instructions.
Susanne Guenther Loewen will defend her PhD dissertation, "Making Peace with the Cross: A Mennonite-Feminist Exploration of Dorothee Soelle and J. Denny Weaver on Nonviolence, Atonement, and Redemption," August 11 from 2 - 4 pm at the Toronto School of Theology (TST). Following her defense, all are welcome to attend a wine and cheese reception hosted by TMTC in the Jay Boardroom (1st floor, TST – 47 Queen’s Park Cr. E.).
Susanne has accepted a position as co-pastor at Nutana Park Mennonite Church in Saskatoon, starting in August 2016.
Matthew Eaton, PhD candidate at St. Michael’s College, will defend his dissertation, "Enfleshing Cosmos and Earth: An Ecological Theology of Divine Incarnation,” in September. Date and time to be announced.
Matthew has accepted a position as Adjunct Associate Professor at Sacred Heart University, Fairfield CT and St. Johns University, Queens NY.
Ryan Klassen has begun a position as the Director of Marketing and Enrolment at ACTS Seminaries in Langley, BC.
As of July 1, Jeremy Bergen, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Theology at Conrad Grebel University College, is once again the director of TMTC (returning after his sabbatical). Jeremy is currently a member of two thesis committees at TMTC.
John Rempel, retired TMTC Director and current Senior Fellow of TMTC, remains a member of three thesis committees and a co-director of one thesis.
Bergen, Jeremy. “Whether, and How, a Church Ought to Repent for a Historical Wrong,” Theology Today 73 (2016): 129–148.
Kennel, Maxwell. Review of Toward an Anabaptist Political Theology: Law, Order, and Civil Society, by A. James Reimer. Edited by Paul G. Doerksen. The Conrad Grebel Review. Vol. 34 No. 1 (Winter 2016).
Loewen, Susanne Guenther. “Re-Baptizing Mary: Toward a Mennonite-Feminist Re(dis)covery of the Mother of Jesus,” Journal of Mennonite Studies 34 (2016): 261-278.
__________. “Hearing Every Voice: Communal Discernment and the Role of Gendered Experience,” Vision: A Journal for Church and Theology (Spring, 2016): 63-71.