The Mennonite Brethren Historical Commission held its annual general meeting June 7-8, 2019, at Fresno Pacific University, the Mennonite Brethren institution in Fresno, Calif.
Friday evening, it hosted a reception with Doug Heidebrecht, author of the newly released Women in Ministry Leadership: The Journey of the Mennonite Brethren, 1954–2010. This is the latest publication of the Commission. The book documents the Mennonite Brethren attempt to find consensus around convictions and practice regarding the role of women in church ministry and leadership. Karla Braun summarizes the book on the MB Herald website and copies can be ordered online at Kindred Productions.
At the meeting, the Commission heard reports from its four archives, awarded six research grants, and made plans for ways to continue to serve MB congregations, not only in the U.S. and Canada, but globally.
A Katie Funk Wiebe Research Grant of $1,300 was awarded to Dora Dueck for her memoir-essay project: “On Being a Woman in the M.B. Church.” While Doug Heidebrecht’s book, Women in Ministry Leadership: The Journey of the Mennonite Brethren, 1954–2010, documents the deliberations at the conference board and executive level, the Commission was intrigued by Dora’s proposal to fill out with personal reflections the debates that Doug narrated in his book.
An MB Studies Project Grant of $500 was awarded to Michael VandenEnden for his project that analyzes the “corporate language” used by Mennonite Brethren over time, as revealed in the “conference sermons” published in the Canadian Conference of MB Churches’ yearbooks. The Commission felt that such a retrospective longitudinal study on the evolving ecclesiological assumptions may be helpful to better understand contemporary MB church organizational praxis.
An Archival Development Grant of $2,000 was awarded to the Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan for its oral history project: “Mennonites from Under-Represented Backgrounds in Saskatchewan.” The Commission noted the significance of documenting Mennonite diversity and was impressed by the project design that includes partnership with the history department at the University of Saskatchewan.
An MB Studies Project Grant of $1,000 was awarded to Injamuri (I.P.) Asheervadam to help fund an anniversary book to celebrate the hundredth birthday in 2020 of the Mennonite Brethren Centenary Bible College in Shamshabad, India. The projected book is themed “Equip to Serve for Effective Witness in India for Century and Beyond,” which is based on the college’s motto (Ephesians 4:12). The Commission is pleased to help Principal I.P. Asheervadam and his staff mark this significant occasion for Mennonite Brethren in India.
An MB Studies Project Grant of $1,300 was awarded to Christine Longhurst for phase two of her project that explores the rise of contemporary worship patterns in Canadian Mennonite Brethren churches over the past 30–40 years, specifically, the shift from traditional, hymn-based congregational song to contemporary worship music. This is a follow-up to Christine’s award last year and will help fund travel to collect more first-hand accounts of the process from those who held leadership roles in MB churches and institutions during the transition years.
An MB Studies Project Grant of $1,000 was awarded to Jayaker Yennamalla to help fund his ongoing research in two particular areas: “Mennonite Brethren Mission in India Then and Now: The Need for Ongoing Renewal” and “Violence against Dalit Women in India: Mennonite Response.” Professor Jayaker teaches at the Mennonite Brethren Centenary Bible College in Shamshabad, India. With such grants, the Commission aims to encourage scholarship by Mennonite Brethren outside the U.S. and Canada.
A J.B. Toews $1,000 college scholarship was awarded to Marnie Klassen of Canadian Mennonite University.
Currently, the Commission funds six initiatives: an archival internship, Katie Funk Wiebe research grants, MB studies project grants, J.B. Toews college scholarships, G.A.M.E.O. stipends, and archival development grants. For details about these initiatives—and the news releases announcing past recipients—see the Commission’s newly redesigned website.
The Commission works with a network of four Mennonite Brethren archival centers: Center for MB Studies (Hillsboro, Kan.), Mennonite Library & Archives (Fresno, Calif.), Mennonite Historical Society of B.C. (Abbotsford, B.C.), and Centre for MB Studies (Winnipeg, Manitoba).
Since its formation in 1969, the Commission has helped coordinate the collection, preservation, and interpretation of Mennonite Brethren archival records: congregational meeting minutes, conference proceedings, personal papers, periodicals, and photographs.
More information about the work of the Commission, a funded ministry of both the U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches and of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, is available on its website.