In January of 1926, three young professors at Goshen College began to publish a supplement to the student newspaper devoted to topics in Mennonite history, which they called the Review Supplement. Over the course of the next eighty years, The Mennonite Quarterly Review went on to establish itself as the preeminent academic journal in Anabaptist-Mennonite studies, publishing articles by the leading scholars in the field. But its origins in a college newspaper and the ambitions of a barely-credentialed faculty offer an appropriate reminder that fine scholarship can emerge from youthful intellects.
This issue of MQR features the work of seven young scholars, many of them currently in the process of receiving advanced degrees. Laura Neufeld, who will soon begin studies toward a Master of Library Science degree, opens the issue with a careful analysis of the events leading up to the dissolution of the General Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church and the creation, in 2002, of national Mennonite Brethren churches in the U.S. and Canada. This outcome, according to Neufeld, resulted from a complex interplay of theological, generational and national differences. Derek Hatch, a doctoral student in theology at the University of Dayton, follows with an essay offering a fresh reading of Menno Simons?s famous account, published in 1554, of his decision to leave the priesthood and join the Anabaptist movement. Hatch describes Menno?s ?Confession of My Enlightenment, Conversion and Calling? as an instance of ?narrative theology? and reveals how Menno integrated his momentous personal decision within the larger frameworks of the biblical story and the community of faith that he ultimately joined.
Rebekah Trollinger, a doctoral student in American literature at Indiana University, makes a theological argument of a different sort. American attitudes toward food consumption, she argues, vacillate between a paradigm of free will and a paradigm of compulsion, or addiction. Within this context?and the larger realities of world hunger?what distinctive theological or ethical perspectives on food might be represented in Mennonite cookbooks? Trollinger takes up this intriguing question with a comparative study of three cookbooks published in the past thirty years by Mennonite Central Committee. Whereas the first of these texts, the well-known More-with-Less Cookbook, emphasizes new eating habits as an alternative to the paradigms of free will and compulsion, later cookbooks increasingly welcome pleasure and the aesthetic as components of ethical eating.
Scott Barge, a doctoral student in higher education at Harvard University, traces the history of faculty development at Goshen College during Harold S. Bender?s tenure as academic dean from 1931 to 1944. In a climate of fragile, often tense, relations between the church and college, Bender pursued a far-sighted strategy of recruiting new faculty members who were both academically qualified and sensitive to the needs and concerns of the church. According to Barge, Bender?s efforts were remarkably successful, particularly in light of broader trends in higher education toward greater distancing between church and academy. Keith Benner tells a parallel story in his essay on John Ellsworth Hartzler, Goshen College?s second president. Hartzler was a Mennonite theologian, professor and administrator in the early decades of the twentieth century whose liberal perspectives made him a highly-controversial figure, especially within the (Old) Mennonite Church. By 1936, Hartzler had found a more congenial home at Hartford Theological Seminary; but his academic career within Mennonite circles serves as a useful lens for exploring the theological crosscurrents that were shaping a generation of Mennonite leaders in the 1920s and 1930s. Benner?a recent graduate from the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary? completed this essay just prior to his tragic death in July 2006.
Jason B. Kauffman, a first-year graduate student in the history department at the University of New Mexico, takes up the question of Mennonite attitudes toward business. Focusing primarily on the Archbold community in Fulton County, Ohio, Kauffman argues that a mutually supportive relationship emerged among local Mennonite church leaders, congregations and the businesspeople in the region that was free of the hostility and suspicion toward business pursuits that sometimes prevailed in other Mennonite settings. Kauffman?s explanation for this distinctive relationship should stimulate the pursuit of additional, comparative studies on the subject.
Finally, Jonathan Seiling, a doctoral candidate in the history of Christianity at Emmanuel College, Toronto School of Theology, concludes the issue with a translation of Christoph Freisleben?s 1528 polemic against infant baptism, On the Genuine Baptism of John, Christ and the Apostles. Although Freisleben eventually rejoined the Catholic church, his essay on baptism, reprinted in 1550, continued to influence Anabaptist thought throughout the sixteenth century.
It is a delight to introduce the work of these young scholars to MQR readers. We look forward to publishing more work by them?and many other emerging scholars?in the future.
? John D. Roth, editor