Published: January 16, 2020
AMBS mourns the loss of John Richard (J.R.) Burkholder, Ph.D., 91, Professor Emeritus of Religion at Goshen (Indiana) College, who died Dec. 20, 2019, in Goshen. J.R., who earned a Bachelor of Divinity from Goshen Biblical Seminary (now AMBS) in 1955, also served in various roles at AMBS: as a Visiting Lecturer (1974, 1978 and 1979), Interim Professor of Peace Studies (1979–80, 1985–89), Professor of Ethics and Interim Director of Peace Studies (1988–90), and Adjunct Professor (1989–96).
“J.R. was a frequent and valued presence at AMBS over many years,” said Ted Koontz, Ph.D., AMBS Professor Emeritus of Ethics and Peace Studies. “He was a wise, insightful and creative contributor to the development of Mennonite thought and action in the latter part of the 20th century.”
“J.R.’s work, both intellectually and vocationally, dealt primarily with social ethics and was instrumental in broadening what ‘peace theology’ means,” Ted continued. “He remained firmly committed to some traditional Mennonite views: e.g., that following in the way of Jesus calls upon us to refuse participation in war, and that the church’s life as an alternative society is central to its calling. But he was also convinced that ‘peace theology’ calls us to engage the pressing issues faced by the larger society, contributing constructively where possible and speaking prophetically where necessary. J.R. contributed to a peace theology that embraces the comprehensive biblical vision of peace expressed in the word shalom. I am grateful.”
J.R. is survived by Sue, his wife of 67 years; five children; eight grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and one brother. Visitation will take place at Assembly Mennonite Church, 727 New York St., Goshen, on Friday, Jan. 24, 4-7 p.m. A memorial service is planned for Saturday, Jan. 25, at 11 a.m.
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