Leading in hope through difficult times to be focus of joint conference

Pastors & Leaders | Deep Faith 2022 Conference to explore “Formed in the Wilderness, Leading in Hope”

ELKHART, Indiana (AMBS/Mennonite Church USA) — From its beginnings, the church in many places has faced times of great upheaval and struggle. Yet somehow, God’s people have not only survived but thrived, and their lives and leadership have often been shaped by surprising hope. What can we learn from leaders who were formed “in the wilderness” for the struggles we face today?

This question is central to the theme of an upcoming conference — Formed in the Wilderness, Leading in Hope — which will begin at 7 p.m. EST on Monday, Feb. 21, and conclude at 12:30 p.m. EST on Thursday, Feb. 24. The event will be held in person on the campus of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana, with livestreaming and Zoom connections also available for those at a distance. (COVID-19-safe protocols will be followed.)

The event is a joint conference of two leadership gatherings: the AMBS Church Leadership Center’s annual Pastors & Leaders conference and Mennonite Church USA’s Deep Faith gathering for faith formation leaders. Pastors and faith formation leaders of all Christian denominations are invited to attend.

“In this stressful time when everything is shifting and very little seems certain, we are so fortunate to be surrounded by wise leaders — in the pages of Scripture, in the voices of the early church, in the conference speakers and in each other,” said Jewel Gingerich Longenecker, PhD, AMBS Dean of Lifelong Learning and one of the planners of the event. “I look forward to walking alongside and learning from leaders who have persevered through great difficulty and yet have led — and continue to lead — with great courage, clarity, faith and hope.”

Participants in the conference will draw insight from the late Alan Kreider’s book, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire (Baker Academic, 2016), as they seek guidance and inspiration for the challenges of today. Each day, Eleanor Kreider, Alan’s wife and partner in ministry and scholarship, will offer reflections on readings from Alan’s book, followed by responses from two Anabaptist church leaders. Also each day, Tom Yoder Neufeld will lead Bible studies that draw on stories of leading in hope through difficult times.

“Alan Kreider’s book provides rich material about the formation practices of the early church, and I’m looking forward to gathering with pastors and other formation leaders to ponder the possibilities it sparks for nurturing faith in Jesus in our present-day contexts,” reflected Shana Peachey Boshart, Faith Formation minister for Mennonite Education Agency and one of the planners of the event.

Speakers at Pastors & Leaders | Deep Faith 2002 include (l. to r.) Sibonokuhle Ncube, PhD; Eleanor Kreider, MMus; Tom Yoder Neufeld, ThD; and Rolando Sosa Granados, MDiv. (Photos provided)


The conference — which will include worship, prayer, teaching sessions and numerous workshops — will feature the following speakers:

  • Opening Address: Sibonokuhle Ncube, PhD, AMBS MDiv student; social justice advocate; development, humanitarian relief, and peace practitioner
  • Teaching Sessions: Eleanor Kreider, MMus, theologian; church musician; retired missionary
  • Bible Studies: Tom Yoder Neufeld, ThD, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies and Theological Studies at Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Ontario
  • Sending Sermon: Rolando Sosa Granados, MDiv, Pastor at Piedra Viva Mennonite Church, Elkhart; therapist for children and adolescents


Participants will be able to choose from 23 in-person and 10 online workshops; sample titles include:

• The Bible Project: A Tool in Faith Formation

• Embracing the Hope of the Beloved Community

• Engaging the Whole Church in Conversations That Matter

• Fear Not: Hoping Towards Nonviolent Responses to Violence

• Gathering Hope: Ways We Guide Faith Formation

• Peaceful Practices for the Wilderness of Polarization

• Political Idolatry and White Christian Nationalism

• Reclaiming Hope from Trauma Narratives in Scripture

• Shalom Readers: Helping Children and Adults Choose the Jesus-Way of Peace

• Social Media Use and Intercultural Engagement

• Wounded Healer: Trauma-aware Spiritual Care


Registration fees for the event vary for individuals, married couples, and students. Discounts are available for first-time participants, those who bring a friend who has never attended Pastors & Leaders, and those needing financial assistance. Register before Jan. 15, 2022, to receive the best rate. The final registration deadline is Feb. 14, 2022.

Participants who attend all plenary and workshop sessions may earn 1.2 Continuing Education Units (CEUs). 

Learn more about the schedule, meals, lodging and transportation: ambs.edu/pastorsandleaders

See also information about the daylong Healthy Boundaries Leadership Clinic to be held on Monday, Feb. 21, before the start of the conference: ambs.edu/leadership-clinics  

Collaborating to support theological thought leaders

This is the second joint conference of Pastors & Leaders and Deep Faith. The first one was held in March 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns began in the U.S. Both AMBS and Mennonite Church USA were among the sponsors of the original Deep Faith conference, which was planned by an ad hoc group of faith formation leaders from Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada and was held at AMBS in October 2016. (AMBS is a seminary of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada.)

AMBS/Mennonite Church USA release

Mennonite Church USA is the largest Mennonite denomination in the United States with 16 conferences, approximately 530 congregations and 62,000 members. An Anabaptist Christian denomination, MC USA is part of Mennonite World Conference, a global faith family that includes churches in 58 countries. It has offices in Elkhart, Indiana, and Newton, Kansas. mennoniteUSA.org

Located in Elkhart, Indiana, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary is a learning community with an Anabaptist vision, offering theological education for learners both on campus and at a distance, including a wide array of lifelong learning programs — all with the goal of educating followers of Jesus Christ to be leaders for God’s reconciling mission in the world. ambs.edu

Seminary’s MLK Jr. Day event to focus on African American stories of Elkhart’s Benham West neighborhood

A forthcoming documentary and book — What Happened at Benham West: African American Stories of Community, Displacement and Hopes in the City of Elkhart — will be the focus of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary’s 2022 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day program. The public is invited to attend the online event, which will be livestreamed on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time at ambs.edu/mlkday.

AMBS honors Speckeen and Wiebe with Alumni Ministry and Service Recognition

By Annette Brill Bergstresser

(View the recordings of the award presentations)

ELKHART, Indiana — Frederick J. Speckeen, PhD, of Prince George, British Columbia, Canada, and Leonard Wiebe, MST, of Goshen, Indiana, are the 2021 recipients of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary’s (AMBS) Alumni Ministry and Service Recognition.

Frederick Speckeen, PhD (at left), and Leonard Wiebe, MST (at right), are the 2021 recipients of AMBS’s Alumni Ministry and Service Recognition. (Speckeen: photo provided / Wiebe: credit: Annette Brill Bergstresser)

The annual award of the Elkhart, Indiana, seminary honors alumni with an outstanding record of faithful ministry and service. Both recipients earned Bachelor of Divinity degrees from the seminaries that later joined to become AMBS — Speckeen from Goshen Biblical Seminary in 1956 and Wiebe from Mennonite Biblical Seminary in 1960.

Alumni Director Janeen Bertsche Johnson (MDiv 1989) noted that for three years, AMBS has selected two alumni for recognition — one for contributions in congregational ministry; and one for contributions in teaching, mission work, peace work, spiritual direction, or another ministry.

“As we looked through this year’s nominations, we were impressed by the rich service that Fred and Leonard have given over their lifetimes — Fred in administrative leadership and Leonard as a pastor and church planter,” she reflected. “We hope their stories inspire others to see seminary education as a vital gift for whatever professional path they may take.”

Speckeen and Wiebe were honored during separate Zoom receptions on Tuesday, Dec. 7 — Wiebe from 6:30 to 7:15 p.m. Eastern Time, and Speckeen from 7:30 to 8:15 p.m. ET. (Recordings of the events will be made available online.)

Frederick Speckeen

Speckeen was born near Hespeler, Ontario; he and his brother were raised Presbyterian by their parents, who were factory workers. As the first one in his family to attend high school, Speckeen graduated first in his class from a four-year vocational program in practical electricity and began working for a company that manufactured electrical appliances. He returned to high school for grade 13 to prepare for post-secondary education.

“I was influenced to attend Goshen (Indiana) College [GC] by a Mennonite fellow — James Snyder — whom I met in grade 13,” Speckeen recalled. “He and I later taught at GC at the same time.”

Speckeen said that while studying at GC, he was motivated to study at Goshen Biblical Seminary (GBS) by the quality of the GBS courses and the faculty — some of whom taught at both the college and seminary.

“My lasting impression of GBS was the dedication of the faculty and staff to its students, the Mennonite Church and the community,” he said. “Theirs was a life of service, with heavy teaching loads for the faculty, limited resources for the staff and, as I learned later, not high salaries.”

Speckeen said the faculty members’ research and writing impressed him, and he enjoyed building relationships with GBS faculty and staff.

“Their Christ-centeredness and servant leadership were inspiring and motivated me as I later took on responsibilities in the church and community — locally and internationally,” he said. “Being a servant and servant leader took me into places I never dreamed of or expected, as did having a worldview for understanding and peace.”

After earning his Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences from GC (1952), Speckeen studied theology at Knox College in Toronto and returned to Goshen to complete his GBS degree. He then earned a PhD in Communication Arts from Michigan State University in East Lansing (1961).

Speckeen spent most of his career in higher education. While earning his GBS degree, he taught in the Speech Department at GC (1954–56). He served in various administrative faculty positions at the University of Dubuque (Iowa), a Presbyterian institution (1960–62); Waterloo (Ontario) Lutheran University (1963–67); and for a project of the Lutheran Church to establish an international university in Freeport, Bahama Islands (1967–68).

From 1968 to 1994, he led five community colleges in the provinces of Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia — one as Vice President and four as President. According to Speckeen, these three-year institutions served isolated and remote communities, offering nondegree technical-vocational, applied and apprenticeship programs as well as high-school equivalency, fine arts, and university transfer courses.

Speckeen has offered his leadership skills to the church as well. He was ordained at First Presbyterian Church in Goshen in 1957 and served as Director of Christian Education/Assistant Minister. He served The Presbyterian Church in Canada as a representative on the National Inter-Church Action Working Group for Asia and the Pacific and as Chair of a subgroup to establish policies and actions on relief, economic and social justice issues (1999–2001). He was Director of the Board of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (2002–05) and served as a board member for St. Andrew’s Hall (a Presbyterian theological college in British Columbia) and Vancouver School of Theology (2003–08). He was an on-call hospital chaplain and a visiting chaplain for a seniors’ residence in Kelowna, British Columbia.

Throughout his life, Speckeen has contributed his experience and insights as a member and chair of various educational boards, advisory committees, social service agencies and service clubs. He was the founding chair of the Calgary Consortium on Tourism and Hospitality Training and Chair of the Kitchener and District Public School Board.

Speckeen also engaged First Nations communities in northern Canada, serving as a board member for the Old Sun Community College, Blackfoot First Nations, Alberta (1986), and assisting First Nations communities with business planning, fundraising, special events and education. He and his wife, Joan, a nursing instructor, served on several church projects in Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador, working in education, health, administration, management, skills training and recreation. They also volunteered with nonchurch organizations on similar projects in various Caribbean countries, Thailand, Pakistan, Bulgaria, the Philippines, Armenia and the United Kingdom. The Speckeens attend Trinity United Church in Prince George.

Leonard Wiebe

Leonard Wiebe grew up on a farm in Whitewater, Kansas, the youngest of four children of West Prussian immigrants who met in Newton, Kansas. He began studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence but stopped to do two years of alternative service at a polio hospital in California. He then transferred to Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas — where he met his wife, Joan, and completed a Bachelor of Arts in History (1957).

While at Bethel, Leonard and Joan became close friends with Erland Waltner, a Bible professor at Bethel who later went on to serve as Professor of English Bible and President of Mennonite Biblical Seminary (MBS). Waltner officiated the Wiebes’ wedding — the day after their graduation — and encouraged them to attend MBS, which was located in Chicago at that time.

It wasn’t the first time someone had identified Wiebe’s gifts for ministry. While at the polio hospital, a young woman Wiebe had taken care of told him he ought to become a pastor. His older sister, Gertrude Roten (who later taught Greek at AMBS), used to call him “her little preacher boy,” he recalled. The Wiebes followed this call and enrolled at MBS that fall.

“I really looked forward to my experience at MBS,” Wiebe said. “There were small groups that formed, and we had an excellent group that met throughout our three years at the seminary. It was the right school for us.”

The couple’s first year at seminary was in Chicago. Wiebe recalled the close companionship that developed as they rode the bus to class with their fellow students, visiting and studying Greek flashcards on the way.

“It was a meaningful experience to spend one year studying in the inner city,” he said.

In 1958, MBS and GBS began a cooperative program known as Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries, and MBS (and the Wiebes) relocated to Elkhart. Wiebe recalled the excitement of being part of this new collaborative venture, which Waltner played a key role in leading.

During their third year, the Wiebes got a call from First Mennonite Church of Berne (Indiana) to plant a church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. They accepted the invitation and began commuting to Fort Wayne on weekends, holding worship services and summer Bible school in a parsonage purchased by the Berne congregation.

Following Leonard’s graduation in 1960, the Wiebes moved to the parsonage to continue forming Maplewood Mennonite Church. The Berne church helped the new congregation build its first building in 1963, and the Wiebes pastored there until 1974. During this time, Wiebe also completed a Master of Sacred Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York (1970), and they had three children.

In 1974, the couple accepted a call from Faith Mennonite Church in Newton, Kansas, and Wiebe pastored there for 12 years. Joan worked for the General Conference Mennonite Church (GCMC) Women in Mission. They then received a call from Western District Conference of the GCMC to plant a church in East Denver. After buying a house there in 1986, they began making contacts in the area, renting meeting space at a senior center. With the financial and prayerful support of many congregations (including Berne and Maplewood), they established Peace Mennonite Community Church in Aurora, serving there until 1998.

“I always felt that the seminary encouraged us and was very close to whatever we were doing in church planting,” Wiebe reflected. “In addition to Erland, a number of professors made a deep impression on our lives, such as Jake Enz and Paul Miller. There was a real caring for each person and a strong sense of prayer in the school that helped us and gave us the support we needed.”

After returning to northern Indiana, Wiebe served as a congregational coach for several Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference churches. He expressed gratitude for Joan’s partnership in their shared ministry, affirming her strengths in hospitality, relationship-building, teaching and leading music. The Wiebes are members of Eighth Street Mennonite Church in Goshen.

(View the recordings of the award presentations)

Remembering Sherri Martin-Carman

Sherri Martin-Carman in 2010, during her years on staff at AMBS as Admissions Counselor and Development Associate (2007–12). (AMBS photo)

Sherri L. Martin-Carman, MDiv, a pastor and chaplain from Elmira, Ontario, died suddenly on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, at age 51.

Martin-Carman attended AMBS from 1996 to 1998, graduating in 1998 with a Master of Divinity with a major in Theological Studies. Following her graduation, she served AMBS as a board member (1999–2005) and then joined the staff as an Admissions Counselor and Development Associate (2007–12).

According to Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (MCEC), Martin-Carman was ordained for ministry in 2013 through MCEC, serving as an interim supply pastor at Bloomingdale (Ontario) Mennonite Church (2009) and Wanner Mennonite Church in Cambridge, Ontario (2008–09), and as Associate Pastor at Tavistock (Ontario) Mennonite Church (2001–04). She also volunteered with Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Mission Network and in various roles with MCEC.

Janeen Bertsche Johnson, MDiv, Director of Campus Ministries, Admissions and Development Associate, and Alumni Director, recalled that Martin-Carman started her studies at AMBS in Bertsche Johnson’s second year as Campus Pastor, and that they worked closely together until her graduation in 1998.

“Wherever she went, the energy level of the group increased because of her exuberance,” Bertsche Johnson reflected. “I treasure my memories of her: as an outstanding student leader, as a colleague during the years she worked for AMBS, and during the last conversation we had in spring 2021 after a virtual alumni gathering.”

Doug Amstutz, MDiv, Development Associate for Canada, and his spouse, Wanda, met Martin-Carman at AMBS when they were students in the 1990s and renewed their friendship in Ontario over the past decade after relocating to the Kitchener-Waterloo area.

“We will remember Sherri for her energy, her big heart and big smile, serving the aging community at Nithview and Trinity as well as her family and her church,” he said. “Sherri was an AMBS booster from the moment of her graduation, serving in a development role and afterwards continuing her support through word and deed. We mourn her passing.”

President David Boshart, PhD, served alongside Martin-Carman on the AMBS Board of Directors in the 2000s.

“As a fellow AMBS board member with Sherri, I recall how deeply she cared for AMBS, how much she loved Jesus, and her desire to support and empower the people of God as a true servant leader,” he said.  

A funeral service for Martin-Carman was held Nov. 6 at Floradale Mennonite Church in Elmira and can be viewed here.

Annette Brill Bergstresser, AMBS


Sherri Lynn Martin-Carman


Sherri passed away suddenly on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, at the age of 51.

Sherri found great joy in serving others through her job as a chaplain at Tri-County Mennonite Homes (Nithview) and Trinity Village Care Centre, as well as lending a helping hand to anyone in need. She was an ordained pastor through Mennonite Church Eastern Canada and was well known by her various involvements in the organization. Sherri attended Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, from 1996 to 1998 and participated in voluntary service in Indiana for a few years following. She enjoyed music, specifically playing piano and singing at her place of work, as well as at her church, Hawkesville (Ontario) Mennonite Church. In her spare time, Sherri enjoyed scrapbooking and greatly valued time spent with family and friends.

Sherri will be missed by her loving husband of 18 years, James Martin-Carman, along with her children, Justin Frayne and Caleb Martin-Carman, all of Elmira. She will be forever remembered by her mother, Pauline Martin; her sister, Tammy (Calvin) Shantz; and her nieces, Erika (Marty) Metzger and Amber (Jacob) Vos. Sherri is predeceased by her father, Allen Martin.

Visitation was held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, and from 12 to 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, at Floradale Mennonite Church, 22 Florapine Rd., RR 1, Elmira. A funeral service took place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, at Floradale Mennonite Church. A recording of Sherri’s service is available on the funeral home website.

In Sherri’s memory, donations to Mennonite Central Committee or Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary would be appreciated.

IMS, AMBS Bookstore host author of new book on Dutch Mennonites during WWII

By David C. Cramer

ELKHART, Indiana (AMBS) — On Wednesday, Oct. 27, the Institute of Mennonite Studies (IMS) and the AMBS Bookstore hosted Dutch Mennonite missiologist Alle Hoekema, PhD, on a video call from the Netherlands to celebrate the release of Hoekema’s new IMS publication, Hardship, Resistance, Collaboration: Essays on Dutch Mennonites during World War II and Its Aftermath.

Jamie Pitts, PhD (at right), Director of the Institute of Mennonite Studies, converses with Alle Hoekema, PhD (on screen), as part of presenting Hoekema’s new book, Hardship, Resistance, Collaboration: Essays on Dutch Mennonites during World War II and Its Aftermath, to the AMBS community during a book launch event on Oct. 27. (Credit: Melissa Troyer)

The book, published by IMS as volume 28 of the Occasional Papers series, comprises seven essays about the Dutch Mennonite experience in the 1940s, including five essays appearing for the first time in English and one written by Hoekema’s brother Gabe. Together these essays tell the stories of various responses of Dutch Mennonites to German occupation in the 1940s — from aiding Jewish refugees (including many children) to escape deportation to, in some cases, expressing open support for the Nazi party. The book concludes with an essay on Dutch Mennonite conscientious objectors to the Indonesian War of Independence from the Dutch Empire in the immediate aftermath of World War II.

At the book launch event, Jamie Pitts, PhD, Associate Professor of Anabaptist Studies and IMS Director, introduced Hoekema to the AMBS faculty, staff and students gathered in the seminary lounge. Pitts described how Hoekema had proposed the idea of collaborating on the book when they met prior to the COVID-19 pandemic at a reception at the Free University of Amsterdam, where Hoekema (now retired) taught theology and missiology.

Joining from his home in the Netherlands, Hoekema described how his interest in the Dutch Mennonite experience during World War II began around fifteen years ago when, by chance, he found a handwritten diary of a Dutch Mennonite minister’s wife in The Hague. The diary was written between 1940 and 1945 and is now housed in the archives of the Dutch National Holocaust and War Institute in Amsterdam. This discovery — along with related work in editing and publishing the minutes of a group inspired and led by Mennonite peace activist Cor Inja that tried to assist Jewish refugees from 1938 through the war — formed the basis for Hoekema’s initial research on this era.

Book cover of Hardship, Resistance, Collaboration

Hoekema shared how, through his research, he was able to establish contact with surviving German-Austrian refugee children — now in their 90s — who had been aided by Dutch Mennonites. He and his wife, Aukje, were even able to visit one of them, Olga Visser-Pollak, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, before her death in 2016 at age 91. 

Reflecting on the contribution that Hardship, Resistance, Collaboration makes to Mennonite and World War II scholarship, Hoekema identified several unique aspects of the Dutch Mennonite experience. First, Dutch Mennonites tended to be politically and theologically more liberal than North American and Southern European Mennonites prior to the war, finding themselves somewhat marginalized from majority Mennonite life at the time. Likewise, they were less ethnically Mennonite, as many Dutch joined the Mennonite Church from other denominations during its period of growth in the 19th century. Moreover, due to legally recognized religious tolerance in the Netherlands, there had already been significant interaction between Dutch Mennonites and Jews — including intermarriages — prior to the war. And, finally, the Dutch had their own sense of national pride, did not feel part of the German-speaking empire, and therefore did not generally view Nazi occupation positively.

By highlighting these unique traits of Dutch Mennonites, Hoekema hopes that the book demonstrates how people from the same religious tradition behave differently in light of their differing social and political contexts. He encouraged future research on Swiss and French Mennonites during World War II to expand the picture of Mennonite responses to Nazism.

Hardship, Resistance, Collaboration comes two decades after IMS’s first collaboration with Hoekema, Dutch Mennonite Mission in Indonesia: Historical Essays (Occasional Papers, vol. 22). Both can be purchased through the AMBS Bookstore.

The Institute of Mennonite Studies is the research and publishing wing of AMBS. 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.

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Leaving silence

AMBS professor’s book reclaims the Bible as a source of hope and healing for survivors of sexualized violence

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 29, 2021, issue of Anabaptist World and is reposted here with permission.

Susannah Larry, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at AMBS, is author of Leaving Silence: Sexualized Violence, the Bible and Standing with Survivors. (Credit: Annette Brill Bergstresser)

Susannah Larry, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, has written a new book, Leaving Silence: Sexualized Violence, the Bible and Standing with Survivors (Herald, 2021), exploring biblical stories of sexualized violence from a survivor-centered approach. Larry joined the AMBS faculty in 2020.

Anabaptist World asked Annette Brill Bergstresser, Communications Manager at AMBS, to interview Larry about her examination of how some of the Bible’s most difficult texts can serve as a healing witness.

How did you come to write this book?

Where I grew up, we didn’t substantially engage with large swaths of Scripture, especially in the Old Testament. We avoided conflict between Scripture and our progressive values, especially concerning issues of exclusion and violence in the Old Testament. So, when I got to seminary, much of the violence in the Bible — especially sexualized violence — was new to me.

Surprisingly, maybe, this Scriptural violence didn’t deter me from studying it further. In fact, it fueled my interest and passion for doing so.

Many of us don’t have the option to avoid hard things, and the Bible doesn’t look away from them either. This is what makes the Scriptures such a profound source of hope for me. When we pass through the troubled waters of sexualized violence, God is with us. We are heard, we are seen, and we are known.

As I grew in my vocation as a teacher, particularly in church contexts, more and more people told me their stories of sexualized trauma. I longed to share what I was learning about the Bible’s concern with their suffering. When Herald Press leaders reached out to me about writing this book, shortly after the announcement of my appointment at AMBS, I felt like my prayers had been answered.

What does Leaving Silence have to say to the church at this time of increased awareness of sexualized violence?

The #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements have leveraged social media effectively to bring attention to the tragic commonness of sexualized violence. These movements have brought into the light what people treated as too shameful to discuss.

But it hasn’t been clear what the Bible’s role in this new era was supposed to be. Could the Bible really be a resource of hope and healing in this time, especially given the painful content it contains and the ways in which some interpreters have weaponized it against survivors?

I wanted to write Leaving Silence to say that we can reclaim the Bible as a transformative word for survivors of sexualized violence and their communities. Yes, the violence is there and real, both in the Bible’s time and our own. But God’s presence with, witness to and transformation of trauma is there and real as well. The Bible invites us into deep, difficult conversations about wrestling with the text and with our broken and beautiful world — conversations that are sure to leave us changed.

What key points do you want readers to take away from the book?

I want my readers to know that sexualized violence is generally about power, not sex. Imbalances of power, such as racism and sexism, create situations ripe for sexualized violence.

That’s why I call it sexualized violence, not sexual violence, because sex itself is not the problem. Perpetrators of abuse distort God’s good and beautiful gift of sex in their attempt to gain power unjustly over others.

The most important point of my book may be that God bears witness to the trauma of sexualized violence and calls us to walk alongside each other and do the same. The presence of emotionally responsive companions changes the experience of trauma, not taking away pain but guiding survivors into a more hopeful and joyful trajectory.

So often, male survivors feel disempowered through the framing of sexualized violence as a “women’s issue.” Given these dynamics, male survivors often fear that telling their stories will emasculate them. In Leaving Silence, I share some of the Bible’s witness to the stories of male survivors.

Unfortunately, families play a role in many painful stories of sexualized violence. One of my goals in Leaving Silence is to name the harm families can do, while presenting a biblical vision of family that goes beyond our biological kin.

For many survivors, self-blame is a haunting scar of trauma. The Bible both contains the trauma of self-blame and invites us to imagine pathways through and beyond it.

Finally, I want readers to close the book with an awareness that sexualized violence is so pernicious and prevalent that even Jesus Christ, the Son of God, experienced it during his torture and death as he was humiliatingly stripped and exposed. Jesus’ experience of sexualized violence — and his resurrection — demonstrate God’s nearness in the brokenness of the world and the transforming power of God’s love.

What are your hopes for how Leaving Silence will make a difference for individuals and congregations?

I hope readers will see reflected in the Bible parts of their own stories of brokenness and healing. I pray they’ll understand that sexualized violence is never within the will of God. God is bearing witness to and transforming survivors’ stories, moving us all toward a reign in which this book is no longer needed.

As the title suggests, I also hope this book will open up possibilities other than silence for those affected by sexualized violence. At the same time, there should be no pressure for survivors to share their stories; telling these stories does not make a person a “better” survivor. Those entrusted with survivors’ stories must carry them with sensitivity and responsibility, making sure that survivors’ wishes and wellness take center stage.

Often silence and shame create a vicious feedback loop for survivors. My hope is that Leaving Silence will open conversations within and beyond the church that build community, solidarity and dignity.

How does your engagement with the Bible shape your scholarship and your teaching?

My engagement with the Bible is always a dance between respecting the worlds, texts, literature, writing and audience of the Bible while rising to the challenges of interpretation today. Sometimes, especially with the topic of sexualized violence, that’s a challenge.

For instance, take the issue of consent, which is so central to 21st-century discussions of sexualized violence. I think consent is a perfectly reasonable standard for encounters, but the societies of the biblical world often did not view women as having sexual agency, making consent irrelevant at that time.

I’m always trying to find ways to let the Bible speak and to recognize the ways in which humans try to make sense of God’s revelation to us in our context today.

My passion is to invite others alongside me on this journey of recognizing how Scripture has already animated lives with the Holy Spirit and how it continues to do so today. As an Anabaptist, one of my core values is that we don’t interpret Scripture best on our own. We read texts most faithfully as a community of believers. When we read the Bible together, there’s a lot of wrestling involved, a lot of vulnerability and a lot of transformation. I’m grateful when people are willing to join me in this hard work.

In the United States, Leaving Silence is available from Herald Press and other online booksellers. In Canada, it is available from CommonWord. An accompanying study guide written by Laura Rhoades, an AMBS Master of Divinity Connect student from Wichita, Kansas, can be accessed at heraldpress.com/study-guides.

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Striking gold at Poustinia

Volunteer Coordinator makes an unexpected discovery

By Ed Kauffman

Ed and Gay Kauffman of Elkhart, Indiana, are in their fourth year as Volunteer Coordinators at AMBS. They attend Hively Avenue Mennonite Church in Elkhart. (Credit: Jason Bryant)

“So, what exactly do you do in your role at AMBS?” That’s a question I often hear when I tell people that my wife, Gay, and I are the Volunteer Coordinators at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. We’re now in our fourth year in this role, and it’s hard to describe all the various things we have done. 

One response to that question is, “We do whatever needs to be done.” That can be as mundane as making coffee for meetings, shredding papers, setting up for breaks, or checking off names for meal participants. Runs to the airport — usually South Bend but even to Chicago — offer interesting opportunities to meet people coming to campus. Keeping track of Anabaptist Short Course participation, making frames in the workshop for table displays, maintaining the coffee machine in the lounge, and coordinating the free book table are among other tasks we are involved with.

Of course, as our title suggests, when AMBS holds events that require more volunteers (such as the annual Pastors & Leaders conference), or when people volunteer for a period of time, one of our jobs is to assign them tasks and integrate them into the programs that are happening. We also oversee the Spouse Volunteer, a student’s spouse who assists in the Church Leadership Center.

But once in a while, something unique comes along. One such occasion happened as we were cleaning out Poustinia, the cloverleaf-shaped house that Clarence Bauman (1928–95), a former professor at AMBS, and Alice Bauman (1928–2019), his wife, had lived in on campus. After the estate had taken everything they wanted following Alice’s death in 2019, I wandered over to see what was left and found several containers of photographic slides. Having had Clarence as a professor and knowing a bit about his life, I was curious. So I gathered them up and, as time permitted, scanned through them.

There were some family pictures, which I managed to pass along to the family. There were many pictures from The Hermitage that Clarence and Alice built in the mountains of British Columbia.  Knowing that this was on the property of Camp Squeah, Mennonite Church British Columbia’s camp near Hope, British Columbia, I contacted them and passed quite a few slides on to them.

But most intriguing were about 50 slides from the Goldstream Gold Mine, outside Fairbanks, Alaska. It was clear that Clarence had worked for a summer at this gold mine, probably in the summer of 1952 or ’53. There were slides along the Alaska Highway on the journey up, and a final one of his lodging in Goshen, Indiana, when he attended school there. Being curious, I did a Google search for the gold mine and discovered that it was a well known mine, with a rather famous dredge that Clarence had taken pictures of. Indeed, I found a picture online from the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections and Archives of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. 

A quick email to those archives to inquire whether they would be interested in these slides prompted a reply that, yes, they would be interested if I could verify that it was indeed the Fairbanks gold mine. Since Clarence had written out a rather detailed description of each slide, that was easy to verify, and so there is now a collection entitled “Clarence Bauman Photographs” in the archives of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. And I have the pleasure of a letter thanking me for the donation that will further research and interest in the Goldstream mine. 

I can’t promise you’ll find a project that’s this unique, but if you are interested in volunteering at AMBS, I’m sure we can find things for you to do! Contact us at [email protected].

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Rooted and Grounded keynotes explore loss, connection and imagination

By Jennifer Schrock of the Mennonite Creation Care Network

ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Mennonite Creation Care Network) — Healing and restoring our broken connections to the land — as individuals and communities — was the focus of the fifth Rooted and Grounded Conference on Land and Christian Discipleship, held Oct. 14–16, 2021, at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana. 

Debbie Bledsoe (third from right) of Raleigh, North Carolina, an AMBS Master of Divinity student who is co-chair of the AMBS Garden Committee, speaks during a Rooted and Grounded Conference workshop entitled, “Community Gardens as a Place of Encounter and Transformation.” Bledsoe described how one-seventh of the land in the garden is left fallow as directed in the book of Leviticus, and one-tenth is devoted to local community needs. (Credit: Jennifer Schrock for Mennonite Creation Care Network)

More than 60 people participated in the event in person, and 20 people from across the United States and Canada joined selected sessions online. At least 17 different higher education institutions were represented by participants at the conference, which was sponsored by AMBS, the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions and Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen (Indiana) College.

Conference planners focused on the theme, “Land: Loss, Connection and Imagination.” 

“We wanted to explore how we can live with hope in a time of ecological crisis and to imagine what resilience looks like,” explained Janeen Bertsche Johnson, MDiv, AMBS Director of Campus Ministries and the conference coordinator. 

Over three days, keynote addresses, immersion experiences, workshops and imagination exercises moved those gathered from lament to longing, hope, faith and commitment to act for change. 

Lessons from Timorese place relationships

Laura Meitzner Yoder, PhD, a political ecologist and Professor of Environmental Studies at Wheaton (Illinois) College, gave the opening keynote address. Yoder, who also serves as Director and John Stott Chair of Human Needs and Global Resources at Wheaton, since 2001 has been in dialogue with small landholders and forest dwellers in Timor-Leste, a half-island nation between Indonesia and Australia.

Yoder’s address, “Mobility, Displacement, Replacement: Learning from Timorese Place Relationships,” pushed listeners to view their own experiences through the lens of the Indigenous (Meto) people of western Timor island. After describing the ways in which Timorese family names incorporate place names, Yoder asked those present if any of them had names that refer to places. She also explained the Timorese practice of topogeny — the telling of one’s history through reciting strings of place names that highlight ancestors’ mobility and important happenings as they moved through the landscape — and asked her listeners to briefly reflect on their own topogenies.

According to Yoder, one unique aspect of western Timorese culture is a ritual authority figure known as a tobe who is tied to a particular body of land for life. The tobe is responsible to communicate with the spirits of the place and to approve decisions related to land use, resource extraction and agricultural rituals within that domain. Tobes are kept separate from outside influences and are not allowed to learn to read, write, travel freely or enter a church, since these things are believed to disrupt their communication with nature. 

Drawing parallels to authors like Kathleen Norris and Wendell Berry, Yoder invited listeners to picture people they knew who were well grounded in a particular place. 

“How does this spatial intimacy enable the person to communicate the sacredness of that place?” she asked.

Timor-Leste’s complex history contains much tragedy, Yoder said. The people have survived colonial displacement from laws favoring European landowners, Indonesian military displacement that killed a third of the population, and recent displacement due to economic modernization plans. According to Yoder, villagers still weep when they describe how in the early 1980s people were forced to cut down their protected sandalwood trees and load them onto military ships. Yet the Timorese have displayed resilience. Yoder described the practice of tara bandu, a time-bound prohibition on resource harvesting that Timorese have observed even in dire circumstances — such as when all of their palm and grass thatch roofs had been burned at the same time and the forest could not provide enough roofing material for everyone.

“I marvel at how tens of thousands of Timorese took the collective action necessary to allow their land and forests to heal and to recover,” Yoder said.

Shipwrecks, ancient and modern

Timothy R. Eberhart, MDiv, PhD, offered the second keynote address, “Regenerative Solidarity Among the Remnants.” Eberhart serves as Murray H. Leiffer Associate Professor of Public Theology and Ministry at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. He directs the Master of Arts in Public Ministry degree and oversees a concentration in ecological regeneration. 

“How should we describe the present age?” Eberhart asked. “What metaphors or analogies might best convey a sense of the social and existential realities of our time?” 

He likened the current circumstances to a societal shipwreck, referring to the story in Acts 27 of the Apostle Paul during a storm at sea and noting that in the third and fourth centuries, the desert mothers and fathers used shipwrecks as a common metaphor for the time of upheaval they lived in.

In the Acts story, prisoners (including Paul) clung to their ship’s wreckage and paddled ashore to the island of Malta following a devastating storm. The boat was an imperial ship, run by soldiers prepared to kill the prisoners in their care. Likewise, Eberhart said — drawing on the work of Margaret Wheatley and other systems thinkers — the present time is one of immense upheaval and collapse. The many crises in the world today have a deep history and include the removal of people from a direct relationship with the land; the exploitation of land and labor; the expansion of “free” market logics into more and more spheres of life; and the use of ideological frameworks such as White supremacy to justify abuses. 

“How does it feel to be a leader in this time of disintegration?” Eberhart asked his audience, allowing time for them to reflect and offer a single word in response. 

“Vulnerable … overwhelmed … alone … helpless … angry,” they replied. 

“Genuine hope begins with a very hard realism,” he responded. “It begins on the cross with a great cry. It begins in the tomb with a dead body.” 

Referring to the adaptive cycle of growth, conservation, release and reorganization that is present in natural systems, he emphasized that times of release also offer an immense opportunity for creative reordering — an “opportune time for deep, systemic change.”   

While Eberhart sees Christian denominations as among the institutions experiencing upheaval, he insists that there are still spiritual and theological remnants to cling to.

“Grab hold of the remnants and stay afloat!” he urged. “Look for the gifts of the Spirit, for stored-up financial and institutional resources, and for the contributions of our distinct traditions — including Mennonite simplicity and peacemaking and the holistic theology of Methodism. Life-sustaining resources are floating all around.” 

“Ours will remain a time of crucifixion and lament,” he concluded. “But as we weep, and come undone, let’s also grab hold, not just to what remains, but to one another. And then let’s reach together for the safety, and toward the just peace, of the land.” 

Additional conference activities

New this year were two extended sessions in which participants worked in groups to imagine ways that their combined gifts and resources could solve environmental challenges. Groups worked on issues such as caring for a community’s watershed; finding regenerative uses for empty city lots; overcoming the distance between faith and science; and strengthening a community farm. Luke Gascho, EdD, a planning committee member with expertise in organizational leadership, and Malinda Elizabeth Berry, PhD, Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics at AMBS and a planning committee member, led the process. 

Participants also attended paper presentations and workshops on a range of topics, including Fannie Lou Hamer’s environmental theology; planting and caring for trees; Wild Church worship; community gardens; Indigenous struggles for land and water rights; agrarian cultures and land revitalization; pastoral ecology; and lament as a healing practice; among others.

In addition to Berry, Gascho and Johnson, the planning committee for the event included Melissa Kinsey, MPA, an environmental educator; and Beverly Lapp, EdD, AMBS Vice President and Academic Dean. Rachel Miller Jacobs, DMin, AMBS Associate Professor of Congregational Formation; AMBS Master of Divinity student Sibonokuhle Ncube of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe; and Johnson served as worship planners.

Prior Rooted and Grounded conferences were held in 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018.

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AMBS reports growth in degree-seeking students, distance education programs

ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana, is reporting upward trends in several notable enrollment statistics this fall:

  • The number of degree- or certificate-seeking graduate students rose from 92 to 116 — an increase of 26 percent from 2020 and the highest number since 2010.
  • Participation in AMBS’s distance education programs continues to grow, with 62 percent of admitted students enrolled in distance-friendly degree or certificate programs.
  • AMBS’s number of international graduate students (from outside of the U.S. or Canada) has continued its upward trajectory — from 37 in 2020 to a record high of 54 in 2021 — largely due to the success of the fully online Master of Arts: Theology and Global Anabaptism (MATGA) degree launched in 2019. Twenty-seven of the seminary’s 42 Ethiopian students are enrolled in MATGA cohorts through AMBS’s partnership with Meserete Kristos Seminary in Debre Zeit, Ethiopia.
  • For the first time, the majority of the student body identifies as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color).
  • AMBS’s incoming graduate student class of 45 in 2021 is 60.7 percent larger than in 2020 (28).
  • Graduate-level course enrollments rose to their highest level in seven years: 53.6 FTE (full-time equivalency).

“We’re especially excited about the 26-percent increase in the number of degree- or certificate-seeking students from last year to this year,” said Daniel Grimes, MPA, Vice President for Advancement and Enrollment. “This is a clear indication that interest in theological education from an Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective hasn’t waned even during a pandemic. We’re grateful to be able to help students grow in their faith, understanding of Scripture, and leadership abilities — wherever they may be located.”

“We’re also very pleased with the continued growth of ethnic diversity in our graduate student body,” he added. “Bringing together students from varied cultural backgrounds enriches the educational experience for our entire learning community on many levels.”

The seminary’s total enrollment for 2021–22 is 145 students (152 in 2020). Of these, 127 are graduate students (128 in 2020) and 18 are participants in the nondegree Journey Missional Leadership Development Program (24 in 2020). These figures are from the close of registration on Sept. 13, 2021.

Graduate programs

Of the 127 students taking graduate-level courses, 116 are enrolled in degree or certificate programs, and 11 are guest students. Sixty-nine are men, and 58 are women.

The 2021–22 graduate student body represents 13 countries from four continents (Africa, Asia, North America and South America), with 64 students coming from the U.S., nine from Canada, and 54 from outside of the U.S. and Canada. Assistant Dean and Registrar Scott Janzen, MDiv, noted that this is the highest number of international students at AMBS on record in the past 31 years of readily available data.

Due to ongoing pandemic-related travel and student visa restrictions, 13 new international students are taking courses online, with the hope of coming to AMBS in person as soon as possible.

“Many of our incoming international students were not granted student visa appointments in time for the start of the academic year, so it is a huge benefit to have the technology to connect with these students online in the meantime,” reflected Janzen.

Janzen noted that AMBS’s accessibility from a distance continues to attract students. The number of graduate students enrolled in a distance course rose from 62 in 2020 to 92 in 2021. (Distance courses include online courses as well as blended courses — campus-based courses that students at a distance can join remotely.) He added that AMBS is also maintaining its commitment to in-person learning and offers a variety of campus courses for those who live on campus or are able to commute.

The seminary’s student body continues to represent a range of Christian traditions, with nearly 86 percent affiliated with Mennonite World Conference or related Anabaptist groups (including AMBS’s two sponsoring denominations, Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA) and around 14 percent affiliated with other Christian traditions.

Journey Missional Leadership Development Program

Of the 18 participants in Journey, an undergraduate-level certificate program of AMBS’s Church Leadership Center that develops leaders centered in Jesus Christ for ministries in local churches and communities, nine are from the U.S., one is from Canada, and eight are from Uganda or Southeast Asia (locations not shared for security reasons).

Six of the participants in the distance-friendly program are women, and 12 are men. The U.S. and Canadian participants reside in the states/provinces of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Ontario. Faith traditions represented include Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Church Canada, the Church of Jesus Christ, Mennonite Church Uganda, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and the Reformed Church.

“It’s very exciting to have 10 different conference and denominational bodies from across the globe represented in the Journey program this year, with all the diversity these participants bring,” said Jewel Gingerich Longenecker, PhD, Dean of Lifelong Learning. “We’re energized to see the desire for Anabaptist leadership education from many different contexts and to join in God’s work in preparing our Journey participants for ministry.”

New book connects survivors of sexualized violence in the Bible with survivors today

By Annette Brill Bergstresser and Karl Stutzman

ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary— How is the Bible’s story our story after we experience trauma? Susannah Larry, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana, has written a new book to help individuals and congregations explore and understand stories of sexualized violence in the Bible from a survivor-centered approach.

Rev. Femi Fatunmbi, an incoming Master of Divinity Connect student from Los Angeles, asks Susannah Larry, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies, to sign a copy of her new book, Leaving Silence: Sexualized Violence, the Bible, and Standing with Survivors, during a book celebration on Aug. 19. (Credit: Annette Brill Bergstresser)
Rev. Femi Fatunmbi, an incoming Master of Divinity Connect student from Los Angeles, asks Susannah Larry, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies, to sign a copy of her new book, Leaving Silence: Sexualized Violence, the Bible, and Standing with Survivors, during a book celebration on Aug. 19. (Credit: Annette Brill Bergstresser)

The AMBS campus community celebrated the release of Larry’s book — Leaving Silence: Sexualized Violence, the Bible, and Standing with Survivors (Herald, 2021) — on Aug. 19 at an event co-hosted by the Academic Dean’s Office and the AMBS Library and Bookstore.

During the event, Larry shared that when she began her seminary studies, she was shocked to find numerous stories of sexualized violence in the Bible. Her encounter with these stories that are not often discussed in church led her “into a deep curiosity about what it would mean to link the stories of survivors today with the stories of survivors in the Bible” — and ultimately led to her writing the book.

“The Bible is a profound source of hope for me because it deals with the hard stuff,” she said. “For many of us, we never got a choice about whether we were going to walk through the tumultuous waters of sexualized violence. We don’t get to look away from this question of what we do with sexualized violence, and the Bible does not look away from it, either. We are heard, we are seen and we are known.”

Larry sees Leaving Silence as “an accounting of the hope that is in her” and hopes the book will be a resource for church leaders and members seeking to understand the Bible and stand with survivors of sexualized violence.

“I have been formed and shaped and affirmed by the church in so many ways; I wanted to give this gift back to the church,” she said. “But primarily, I wrote this book for the people who have honored me by sharing their stories of sexualized violence with me.”

Larry tapped Laura Rhoades, an AMBS Master of Divinity Connect student from Wichita, Kansas, to write an accompanying study guide for use by congregations and small groups (free on the Herald Press website). Rhoades also spoke at the celebration, sharing her strong interest in asking deep questions about faith and the church, and gratitude for the wonderful challenge to craft “questions that survivors may have wanted or tried to ask in Christian communities but may have not felt permitted or safe to do so.”

Following the event, Larry signed books for many of the attendees, including a number of incoming students enrolled in AMBS’s Leadership Education in Anabaptist Perspective (LEAP) orientation course.

In the U.S., Leaving Silence is available from the AMBS Bookstore for $17, including tax. It can either be picked up in person or shipped at an extra cost. Bulk purchase discounts may be arranged by contacting [email protected]. In Canada, the book is available from CommonWord Bookstore and Resource Centre. The book is also available from Herald Press and many other online booksellers.

Image: Susannah Larry, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at AMBS, with her new book, Leaving Silence: Sexualized Violence, the Bible, and Standing with Survivors (Herald, 2021). (Credit: Annette Brill Bergstresser)