GAMEO Leadership Undergoes Transition

Bert Friesen [Photo: MB Historical Commission]

At its annual meeting on June 23, the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO) management board honored Bert Friesen for more than three decades of his service as chair of the board, and appointed Jon Isaak, director at the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies, to fill the vacant position. The board also heard reports on additional entries to the encyclopedia and welcomed the nomination of Laureen Harder-Gissing, archivist and librarian at Conrad Grebel University College, as the new representative of the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada.

In 1987, Friesen was among the visionaries who helped to launch GAMEO as an authoritative online encyclopedia of Anabaptist-Mennonite history and thought. The core of the project began with a congregational database created for the three-volume “Mennonites in Canada” history series followed by the addition of the five-volume Mennonite Encyclopedia in digital format. Since then, Friesen, along with Sam Steiner, the first managing editor of GAMEO, and a host of other contributors steadily expanded the entries in GAMEO and updated the statistical information associated with hundreds of articles. Most recently, Friesen has focused on adding information on Hutterite colonies in the western states and provinces. He will continue to support GAMEO as an associate editor, with an emphasis on Hutterite content.

“His leadership of the board,” said Isaak, “has been characterized by a laser-like focus on detail, commitment to technological innovation, and unwavering passion for the GAMEO project.”

Laureen Harder-Gissing [Photo: University of Waterloo]GAMEO currently has 16,682 entries, with the website recording nearly 35,000 visitors per month. In addition, a CD-ROM version of GAMEO is available to plain Anabaptist groups who do not use the internet. At the board meeting, John D. Roth, director of the Institute for the Study of Global Anabaptism at Goshen College and general editor of GAMEO, summarized on-going efforts to increase the number of entries from the Anabaptist-Mennonite church in the global South.

Laureen Harder-Gissing, who will begin her term on the GAMEO board in January, 2021 following a meeting of the MHSC board, expressed enthusiasm for GAMEO “as a research source to students and community members and an important way for Mennonites to connect our stories locally, nationally and globally.”

In reflecting on his new role as chair of the management board, Isaak said, “My hope is that the GAMEO project will continue to develop along the lines that Bert has championed so effectively—to be a reliable and accessible database of Anabaptist-related history and theology with a global reach.”