July 2003 Nation

John Howard Yoder: Mennonite, Evangelical, Catholic


Abstract: During the last half of the twentieth century John Howard Yoder emerged as one of the most influential theologians and ethicists of his generation. In addition to his formidable intellectual gifts, Yoder’s prominence derived in part from his ability to speak coherently from within the perspective of several theological traditions. Born and raised a Mennonite, Yoder always understood the believers church theology of Anabaptism to be his primary point of departure. But he was equally comfortable within evangelical circles; and he spent a significant portion of his academic career teaching and writing out of a Catholic context at the University of Notre Dame. Yoder’s ultimate point of reference, however, was never any one of these various traditions but rather the person and the gospel of Jesus Christ.


John Yoder is largely responsible for putting Mennonites on the theological map at the end of the twentieth and now at the beginning of the twenty-first century.[1] If anyone mentions “Yoder” in academic theology circles in North America-for instance, at the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion or the Society of Christian Ethics-most people in attendance know not only that the speaker meant John Howard Yoder but also that this very influential theologian was Mennonite and pacifist. In fact, in most academic theology circles in the United States, the name of John Yoder is largely synonymous with what it means to be Mennonite.

Of course, Mennonites themselves know Mennonite theologians other than John Howard Yoder. In fact, the variety of Mennonite theologians includes those who would distance themselves in significant ways from Yoder’s theology. But beyond doubt Yoder’s theology has deep roots in Mennonite soil. John Yoder sometimes emphasized that his theological or ethical approach was not peculiarly Mennonite. Nonetheless, as he well knew, John Yoder was nothing if not Mennonite.

According to a Swiss encyclopedia the Yoder family name is traceable to a St. Theodore who traveled across the mountains from Italy to Switzerland: “A Swiss clan, who loved their missionary saint, took his name, abbreviating it . . . to Saint Joder.” At least in 1968 “the Swiss almanac still list[ed] St. Joder’s Day (August 16); and a mountain peak near the Swiss-Italian border still bears the name-St. Joderhorn.”[2] Joders can be found among the sixteenth-century Anabaptists. For example, “In 1531 one Heini Joder was imprisoned at Basel as one of those defiantly spreading Anabaptist doctrine.”[3]

I never heard John Yoder refer either to the traditions surrounding St. Joder or to any Anabaptist Joders in the early sixteenth century. But he was well aware that he was born into a rich Christian heritage. Long ago, missionaries willing to suffer for the sake of the Gospel were a part of that heritage, as were people whose names and faces he knew.

The book on the history of the Oak Grove Mennonite Church, the church of John Yoder’s childhood, includes a wonderful 1928 picture that shows five generations of Yoders.[4] Baby John Howard is being held by Jemima, the widow of Bishop John K. Yoder, John’s great-great- grandfather (born 1824). Standing around them are Howard, John’s father; John S., John’s grandfather; and C. Z., John’s great-grandfather. As he grew into a young man John was aware of his immediate familial and Mennonite heritage rooted in Virginia and Pennsylvania, Illinois and northern Ohio-and especially in the Oak Grove church. John was closely connected to the nineteenth-century Amish Mennonite heritage through the physical presence of his great-grandfather C. Z. Yoder, who was alive and active within the Oak Grove church until John was about eleven years of age.

John Yoder understood that the Mennonite heritage of his own church and family was progressive. He knew, for instance, that his parents were close friends with some ex-Mennonite men who, when they were young, had pushed some boundaries and been shoved to the edge of Mennonite life-finally finding themselves on the outside. He also knew that his great-grandfather C. Z. was instrumental in founding both the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities and the Elkhart Institute, the predecessor of Goshen College. Furthermore, John likely would have concurred with James Lehman’s assessment of John’s great-great-grandfather, John K. Yoder. According to Lehman, Bishop John K. was “forward-looking in his progressiveness, but his deep respect for meaningful patterns and traditions of the past gave him restraint and caution. . . .”[5] John K. was responsible for providing wise leadership at a crucial time, in the second half of the nineteenth century. He led one segment of the Amish Mennonites into the twentieth century in such a way that they could simultaneously leave behind the more enclosed world of the Old Order Amish yet remain profoundly Amish Mennonite while engaging the larger world.[6]

From the 1920s through the 1940s-more or less during John Yoder’s childhood and into his youth-the Oak Grove congregation probably was, as John himself has said, “one of the most liberal [i.e., educated] and acculturated Mennonite communities.” During the mid-1920s the Oak Grove church supported Goshen College financially when leaders in the denomination closed it for a year because it was too liberal. The first editor of the young people’s magazine The Christian Exponent, which began publication in January of 1924, came from Oak Grove. When given the opportunity, in 1927, Oak Grove refused to join with the (Old) Mennonite Church partly because the congregation considered it too legalistic in its interpretations of nonconformity. Later in 1947, and with the leadership of John’s father Howard, the congregation was ousted from the Mennonite Church conference because they refused to abide by conference rulings on who they could ordain to the ministry. Howard and the Oak Grove congregation in general, rooted in the Amish Mennonite tradition, were fiercely congregational in their polity.

Largely because of the nature of the church in which he was reared and because of his parents’ wisdom, John could look back on his upbringing in 1980 and say:

I grew up in a relaxed relationship to that culture, never needing, as many do, to prove my independence of it. Never sensing any coercion to stay within it. So that my choice to stay within it, although predisposed obviously by generations of ethnic continuity and by the church faithfulness of my parents, was by no means a matter of bowing to superior pressure but was rather a willing choice made in small stages in young adulthood. That makes it difficult to this day for many Mennonites, especially younger ones, to understand me when they, although chronologically younger than I, are, in a sense, representative of an earlier phase of the denominational quarrel with culture because they still had to fight Mennonitism in its more conservative forms to prove their independence of it. Whereas I had a greater freedom and was therefore able progressively to accept that as my story without being coerced to do so.[7]

Many Mennonites will understand immediately what John Yoder meant. For those who do not know this Mennonite world well, this “Mennonite culture” of John Yoder’s childhood was one in which nonconformity, nonresistance and service were not only part and parcel of the Christian vocabulary but were also embodied, with all attendant particularities, in the Amish Mennonites who constituted the Oak Grove Mennonite Church.

In 1945, just after the end of World War II, John began studies at Goshen College, determined to attend the college for only two years. He had taken four courses at the College of Wooster while in high school. But in order to finish Goshen College in two years he registered for approximately thirty-three semester hours each semester, in addition to numerous extra-curricular activities.[8] On average he arose at 4 a.m. every morning and went to bed at 10 p.m.

This rush to finish in no way prevented Yoder from learning from-or catching the vision of-his chief teachers in his major, Bible. His commitment to peacemaking was deepened by Guy Hershberger and he caught Harold Bender’s vision for the ways in which the beginnings of the Anabaptist tradition could serve to bring renewal to the Mennonite church-deepening discipleship, cultivating community and renewing the commitment to nonresistance.[9]

During the following year John worked in his uncle’s greenhouse in Barberton, Ohio, near Akron. The following summer of 1948, on a team with John A. Hostetler and Willard Hunsberger, John traveled from eastern Iowa to western Pennsylvania doing peace education among Mennonite churches. This experience helped raise in John’s mind the possibility of doing overseas service.[10]

John applied for such an assignment with Mennonite Central Committee. During the year he waited to be assigned, he wrote his first academic article (on the Amish), took more classes at the College of Wooster (including a course on Reinhold Niebuhr) and passed an exam in Hebrew after not more than ten days of intensive preparation.

On the first of April 1949 John arrived in France. From 1949 until 1954 he oversaw the work of two children’s homes connected to the French Mennonites.[11] In addition, beginning in 1950 John became a part-time student at the University of Basel and, about the same time, became involved in ecumenical discussions about peace. In 1952 he married Anne Marie Guth, who worked in the children’s home at Mont-des-Oiseaux. The wedding ceremony, on July 12, 1952, began at two-thirty in the afternoon on the front lawn, where approximately 150 guests were seated, including the children from the home. Pierre Widmer performed the ceremony in French, accompanied by a translation into German. During the ceremony the Geisberg chorus sang two songs and the children from the home sang one song. Instead of wedding gifts, the guests were invited by John and Annie to give money to the children’s home. Their first child, Rebecca, was born a little less than a year later, in Belfort, France. Rachel, born in August of 1954, would die within two months, of pneumonia. Martha was born in Basel about one and a half years later, followed by four more children born in the U. S. In the autumn of 1954 John, Annie and Rebecca had moved to Basel, where John became a full-time student at the university. He continued to be involved in ecumenical peace education and in theological meetings of Mennonite graduate students in Europe. He also served as one of the editors of the Concern pamphlet series that began in 1954. Beginning in 1955 he administered a relief program for the (Elkhart) mission board in Algeria, responding to the damage caused by an earthquake there that year. He also wrote numerous lectures and essays during this time.

From 1950 until 1957 Yoder took sixty-three structured courses and five colloquiums at the University of Basel. They included nine courses with Oscar Cullmann (New Testament), eleven courses with Walter Eichrodt (Old Testament), one course with Karl Jaspers (philosophy) and five courses and five colloquiums with Karl Barth (dogmatics). His doctoral thesis, directed by Reformation historians Ernst Sthelin and Fritz Blanke, was on the disputations between the magisterial Reformers and the Anabaptists in Switzerland from 1523-1538.

In 1957 the Yoders returned to the U. S., with John spending the first year working in the family greenhouse business in Wooster, Ohio. In the 1958-59 school year Yoder was hired at Goshen College for one year to serve as a sabbatical replacement for J. C. Wenger, teaching New Testament Greek and Contemporary Theology (while also doing research on church and state issues). The following summer he was hired by the mission board as the administrative assistant for overseas missions, a position he held until 1965. Beginning in 1959 he taught part-time at the Mennonite seminary, at first teaching systematic theology. Beginning in 1965 he taught at the seminary full-time and worked at the mission board part-time as an associate consultant (until 1970). He continued to teach at the seminary until the spring of 1984.

John Yoder was-to the depths of his soul-Mennonite. He gave a lifetime of very hard and patient work to the Mennonite Church. I am impressed by the number of years John worked in Mennonite institutions, the many committees he was on, the many articles he published in Mennonite publications and the many lectures he gave to Mennonite groups.[12] He worked tirelessly. In putting Mennonites on non-Mennonite Christian and theological maps, Yoder has made us intellectually respectable and has gotten us a hearing in many Christian circles.

But I also know that John had a love/hate relationship with the Mennonite Church. Although he gave himself generously to the church and in very helpful ways often called it to faithfulness, nonetheless he could be critical of it as well.[13] Since he knew the Mennonite Church began with the radical Anabaptist movement in the sixteenth century, he wanted his church to be more radical, to be better, to be more faithful than it often was. He criticized it for conforming to the world and for borrowing uncritically from other Christian traditions. Of course, some Mennonites also wanted John Yoder to be more, to be better, to be other than he was.

In some ways the Mennonite Church did not quite know what to do with John. He was brilliant. Someone like him comes along very seldom. Many brilliant people are odd characters-each in their own way, of course. John too was different. He often seemed awkward among people, not quite knowing how to relate to them. Nor did John always know what to do with the Mennonite Church. But it was a church that he loved, served and submitted to.

John submitted to the authority of the church at three key junctures in his life. First, in the early 1940s John enjoyed being in a high school in Wooster where he was surrounded by non-Mennonites, at a time when he was beginning to find the world of ethnic Mennonites overly confining. He had been admitted by and received scholarships from two non-Mennonite universities whose curriculums were formed around the so-called “great books” of the centuries. He could enter university after only two years of high school, which was exactly what he wanted. However, he knew that his parents, both alumni of Goshen College, very much wanted him to go to Goshen for his college training. In the end John submitted to the strong wishes of his parents and went to Goshen College. Who would John Yoder have become and what would his theology have been like if he had not gone to Goshen College in 1945 and not been under the influence of Harold Bender’[14]

Second, in the early 1970s J. C. Wenger thought that anyone teaching at a Mennonite seminary should be ordained. John, largely because of his views about ministry, protested. Nonetheless in 1973 John was ordained as a “minister of the Word” at his home church, Oak Grove. Even if the ordination did not alter his life course greatly, it did underscore John’s self-understanding that his intellectual and teaching gifts were to be devoted to the life of the church.

Third, beginning in 1992 John endured the most painful years of his life (as, no doubt, his wife did, too). In June of 1992 Yoder was put under the discipline of the Indiana-Michigan Conference of the Mennonite Church for allegations of sexual misconduct. Since I was relatively close to John at this time, I knew it was very painful for him. I and other of John’s friends encouraged him to continue to submit to this very long and difficult discipline process. The process concluded in the summer of 1996, with the Church Life Commission and the Indiana Michigan Conference of the Mennonite Church saying that they encouraged “Yoder and the church to use his gifts of writing and teaching.”[15] However difficult it was for Yoder and however inadequately the process may have been handled (from his side or the church’s), nonetheless the fact that he saw the process through to the end showed his integrity, his commitment to live by principles that he had long taught.


Some might be surprised that in April 2000 Christianity Today, a flagship magazine of American Evangelicalism, listed The Politics of Jesus by John Yoder as one of the ten best books of the twentieth century![16] Some might also be surprised to see Yoder pictured along with Billy Graham, Carl F. H. Henry, Francis Schaeffer and George Marsden on the cover of The Christian Century, when that journal did a cover story in February 1989 on “The Years of the Evangelicals.”[17]

By instinct, John Yoder knew the world of evangelicalism as well as any Christian world outside that of the Mennonite Church. And he had some appreciation of it since he respected the evangelistic work of his great-grandfathers, C. Z. Yoder and Christian Good. He also appreciated the work his grandmother Maimie had done in the Mennonite city mission in Chicago, a context that influenced his mother while she was growing up there. As mentioned above, his own home congregation at Oak Grove had substantial progressive elements in it. However, during much of his childhood there were also substantial evangelical and fundamentalist influences within his church. At Oak Grove during the early ministry of William G. Detweiler, a pioneer of Mennonite radio broadcasts, twelve-year old John “accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior,” according to his mother.[18] Detweiler placed a strong emphasis on evangelism, encouraged regular revival meetings, believed in dispensationalism and, in general, tended toward fundamentalism-and he provided pastoral leadership in the Oak Grove church during much of John’s youth.[19]

Therefore, John Yoder would always have an appreciation for the world of American evangelicalism, a world not dissimilar to elements of the world of his childhood in Oak Grove. Though he would express it differently in different periods of his life, this world taught him not to be ashamed of the Gospel.

For at least one of his years at Goshen College John did door to door evangelism. As his evangelism partner recalls:

John and I walked the streets of the Locust Grove community in Elkhart, Ind., every Sunday morning to share the Good News about Jesus. With Bibles in hand, this very intelligent young man and I knocked on doors and sat with low-income, poorly educated, wonderful people and shared our lives. He was able to do this in a beautiful way. I wish you could have heard his comments and prayers.[20]

When, two decades later, in the late 1960s, he looked for a publisher for his manuscript of The Politics of Jesus, Yoder approached the Evangelical Reformed publisher, William B. Eerdmans. Given the eventual popularity of the book, that appears to have been a good choice. Early on in his work at the Elkhart mission board John Yoder established ties with the National Association of Evangelicals. In 1971 when a group of students at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (a conservative evangelical school) began a magazine called Post-American (later Sojourners), John Yoder was one of its earliest supporters. In 1973, at a national evangelical conference in Chicago on social issues, John Yoder was one of the featured speakers. From the early 1970s Yoder became, according to Samuel Escobar, “a key interlocutor and fellow pilgrim for members of [the Latin American Theological Fraternity], even for those who did not accept some points of his Anabaptist perspective.”[21] Yoder also participated in numerous discussions regarding social issues conducted by the International Evangelical Fellowship, beginning with the Lausanne Congress on Evangelism in 1974.[22] In early 1980 Yoder was asked to give the Morgan lectures at Fuller Theological Seminary, the largest independent evangelical seminary in the world. Fourteen years later the president of Fuller, Richard Mouw, would write the forward to Yoder’s book, The Royal Priesthood. In 2000 when InterVarsity Press in England decided to do a Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals, they decided they needed an entry on Yoder.[23]

However, Yoder was also critical of the American evangelical world and certainly, after he was an adult, did not see himself as fully a part of it. But it seems not to have bothered him to be considered a part of it by others. Certainly he was not unwilling to use the word “evangelical” for his own approach, not only because he knew the word was used differently in Europe but also because he refused to allow the subculture of American evangelicalism to own the label, since he knew that the word “evangelical” is simply an adjectival form of the word “gospel.” Yoder refused to allow the flaws of the American evangelical tradition to dictate how he related to evangelicals, to dictate his ability to appreciate some things about that tradition, or to dictate his use of the word, knowing that the tendency was broader than this one American tradition.[24]

For all of these reasons, John Yoder was satisfied that his most famous book was published by an evangelical publisher, that he could often be referred to by more than a few as an evangelical, and that his picture would appear with Billy Graham to illustrate the cover story for “The Years of the Evangelicals.” John Yoder knew that anyone who was really paying attention would not confuse him with Billy Graham.


Probably no one ever mistook John Howard Yoder for a Roman Catholic, even though he taught courses at the University of Notre Dame for thirty years. His first invitation to teach at Notre Dame, in the autumn of 1967, was orchestrated by the well known Roman Catholic Old Testament scholar (and pacifist) John L. McKenzie, then himself a faculty member at Notre Dame. In 1973, while still only teaching there marginally, Yoder became the chairman of the Program in Nonviolence at Notre Dame, a program he helped to create. Four years later, in 1977, he was hired to teach full-time (with the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries buying a portion of his time from Notre Dame). He remained at the University of Notre Dame until his death at the end of 1997. By the time he traveled to Poland in 1983 to give some lectures, it was obvious that John Yoder had thoroughly familiarized himself with the Catholic peace tradition, for most of these eleven lectures were on that subject. Also in 1983 the U.S. National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued their pastoral letter, The Challenge of Peace, which served to justify a stronger emphasis on peace in the Catholic Church and in Catholic theology departments.[25] Yoder had already been the team coordinator, since 1978, of the interdisciplinary course for future military officers on “The Legality and Morality of War.” However, this pastoral letter presented new opportunities that Yoder could not ignore. He coordinated a multi-disciplinary course on “The Nuclear Dilemma: the Bishops’ Letter,” and also participated in a number of symposia on the letter. In addition, he became a member of a committee that helped establish the Joan Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at Notre Dame, himself becoming a fellow of the Institute in 1986 and remaining one of the most active fellows until his death. Drew Christiansen, a Jesuit colleague of Yoder’s in ethics and peace studies at Notre Dame, says that his relationship with Yoder provided him with “the most nourishing intellectual dialogues of my lifetime.” He also said that “[Yoder’s] influence on my generation of Catholic moral theologians has been profound.”[26]

Stanley Hauerwas, a colleague of Yoder’s at Notre Dame for about seven years, was often frustrated with Yoder at faculty meetings because he was so often silent. According to Hauerwas, Yoder always saw himself as a “guest” at Notre Dame, which made him think it inappropriate to tell Catholics how they should do their theology. Perhaps Yoder felt considerable distance from Roman Catholic theology, and therefore felt not fully part of a Roman Catholic theology department (even while being a tenured full professor). Or perhaps since he felt like an outsider, his ecumenical sensibilities prevented him from pressing his opinions.[27]

By referring to Yoder as “catholic” I do not primarily mean Roman Catholic. I mean what he meant when he said, in The Priestly Kingdom, that “the vision of discipleship projected in this collection is founded in Scripture and catholic tradition.”[28] Throughout his adult life John Yoder sought to be broadly catholic or ecumenical, both seeking to understand various Christian traditions and also engaging them. Within a year of going to Europe Yoder was involved in ecumenical conversations there. A series of conferences that came to be called “the Puidoux theological conferences” began in 1955. As Albert Meyer says, they “were the first extended theological conversations in over four hundred years between the Historic Peace Churches. . . and the official churches in Central Europe.”[29] According to Donald Durnbaugh, Yoder was “the key spokesperson from the Historic Peace Church side in the series of Puidoux conferences.”[30] During his last three years in Europe Yoder was a member of the ecumenical committee of the German Protestant Kirchentag and the Europe Council of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.

For more than two decades, beginning in the early 1960s, Yoder was involved in the World Council of Churches in various capacities, including as adjunct staff. In the U. S. he was also involved for almost a decade in the National Council of Churches. As a way to bring together a variety of Protestants (and occasionally Catholics) Yoder served for three decades as the co-convener, along with Donald Durnbaugh, of the “Believers Church Conferences.” According to Durnbaugh, Yoder “played the leading role in convening the several Believers Church conferences.” “There is no doubt,” Durnbaugh continues, “that [Yoder’s] commitment and energy played a large role in the continuation of the series of conferences.”[31] All of this ecumenical activity is in addition to the ways in which Yoder’s many, many writings reflect his serious engagement with a broad range of Christian traditions.[32] And it is in addition to his learning of French, German, Dutch and Spanish in order more fully and broadly to serve the Church. Finally, one of John Yoder’s theological passions was his commitment to the Church universal. He believed that the Church was not bound to or defined by national boundaries. Thus he gladly traveled throughout the world to serve the Church catholic.



Without question John Yoder had a tremendous influence during his lifetime and it continues unabated. On an academic level his influence is beyond doubt. J. Philip Wogaman, in his history of Christian ethics, names Yoder as one of a handful of “formative Christian moral thinkers” within the twentieth century.[33] At least seven master’s theses and eighteen doctoral theses (with several more underway) have been written in which Yoder is a major component. The Politics of Jesus, first published in 1972, is still in print and has sold approximately 90,000 copies in English and been translated into ten other languages.

Many of us could testify to the profound (sometimes transformative) influence that John Yoder has had on our lives. I have heard numerous testimonies, from theologians, graduate students, pastors, Christians from all walks of life and every continent, of the influence of John Yoder.

John Howard Yoder bequeathed his theological legacy to us. That legacy is Mennonite-reminding us to be willing to live and die faithfully for the sake of the Gospel. It is evangelical-urging us not to be ashamed of the Gospel. And it is Catholic-showing us that Christians move into the future together, united as a people by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But the legacy is not finally about John or any of his books. Rather, it expresses a hope that “we do see Jesus, revealing the grace of God tasting death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9).[34] Not only do we “see” Jesus, but we recognize the ongoing call to embody the politics of Jesus in the midst of a wondrous world created by a gracious God-who gave us the gift that was John Howard Yoder.[35]

[*]Mark Thiessen Nation is Associate Professor of Theology at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Virginia. His doctoral thesis on Yoder, soon to be published by Eerdmans, is tentatively entitled John Howard Yoder: Mennonite Patience, Evangelical Witness, Catholic Convictions.
1. This is true especially in North America but it is also true in many other countries as well.
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[2]. Rachel W. Kreider, “A Yoder Patron Saint'” Mennonite Life (July 1968), 103.
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[3]. Ibid.
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[4]. James O. Lehman, Creative Congregationalism: A History of the Oak Grove Mennonite Church in Wayne County, Ohio (Smithville, OH: Oak Grove Mennonite Church, 1978), 52.
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[5]. Lehman, Creative Congregationalism, 78.
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[6]. John Umble says that “John K. Yoder was one of the most powerful, influential, and widely known bishops in the Amish Mennonite church during the last four decades of the nineteenth century.”-John Umble, “The Oak Grove-Pleasant Hill Amish Mennonite Church in Wayne County, Ohio, in the Nineteenth Century [1815-1900],” MQR 31 (July 1957), 209.
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[7]. John Howard Yoder, “1980 Autobiography,” unpublished transcript of an autobiographical tape made by Yoder for James Wm. McClendon, Jr. and Karen Lebacqz, 1980, pp. 3-4.
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[8]. Over the two years, at various times, these included A Cappella Chorus, French Club, German Club, The Devotional Life Committee, the college debate team, the Mennonite Historical Society, editing the college newspaper and teaching Sunday school.
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[9]. Only a year before Yoder began attending Goshen College, Guy F. Hershberger had published his important book War, Peace, and Nonresistance (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1944) and Harold Bender had published his extremely influential article, “The Anabaptist Vision,” MQR 18 (April 1944), 67-88, also published as the pamphlet The Anabaptist Vision (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1944).
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[10]. Yoder, “1980 Autobiography,” 9.
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[11]. In December 2001 I visited and interviewed a number of French Mennonites, most of whom had known John and his French Mennonite wife Anne since the early 1950s. Almost to a person they said: “John came to know us better than we knew ourselves.” John worked very hard for these homes and at getting to know the French Mennonite families who were/became supporters of the homes. The affection with which they hold John is almost palpable; they had a warm relationship with him. Additionally, they spoke of how John helped them re-claim the peace witness, which had mostly been lost within French Mennonite life when John came on the scene. Some of them indicated they might have lost their faith if it had not been for John.
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[12]. My bibliographies of Yoder’s writings give some indication and the quantity of lectures of writings in Mennonite contexts and publications.
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[13]. This is perhaps most obvious in a 1969 lecture, which was published as John Howard Yoder, “Anabaptist Vision and Mennonite Reality,” Consultation on Anabaptist-Mennonite Theology: Papers Read at the 1969 Aspen Conference, ed, by A. J. Klassen, 1-46 (Fresno, CA: Council of Mennonite Seminaries, 1970).
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[14]. What might John Yoder have become if he and Richard Rorty had been students together in the 1940s? One of the schools to which Yoder had been accepted was the University of Chicago, in their “great books” program. Rorty began there only a couple of years after Yoder would have. (See Richard Rorty, “Trotsky and the Wild Orchids,” in his Philosophy and Social Hope (London: Penguin Books, 1999), 8.
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[15]. “Disciplinary Process with Yoder Concludes,” Gospel Herald, June 18, 1996, 11.
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[16]. “Books of the Century,” Christianity Today 44, April 24, 2000, 92-93.
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[17]. Martin E. Marty, “The Years of the Evangelicals,” The Christian Century (Feb. 15, 1989), 171-74. (Also see the cover picture.)
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[18]. Ray Geigley, “John Howard Yoder,” unpublished paper written for J. C. Wenger for the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries course, Mennonite History, Elkhart, IN, 1974.
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[19]. But there were also “evangelistic meetings” within the church much earlier. See John Umble, “The Oak Grove-Pleasant Hill Amish Mennonite Church in Wayne County, Ohio, in the Nineteenth Century (1815-1900),” 198-201.
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[20]. Geraldine Harder, “Who Is to Blame for Misconduct'” [letter], Mennonite Weekly Review (July 23, 1992).
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[21]. Samuel Escobar, “Latin America and Anabaptist Theology,” in Engaging Anabaptism: Conversations with a Radical Tradition, ed. John D. Roth (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2001), 78. Yoder was also invited to become a member of LATF.-Ibid, 77.
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[22]. On the Lausanne Congress in particular see Escobar, 79.
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[23]. See Mark Thiessen Nation, “John Howard Yoder,” in Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals, ed. Timothy Larsen (Leicester: InterVarsity Press, 2002).
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[24]. On some of Yoder’s reflections on the word “evangelical” and American evangelicalism, see: John H. Yoder, “The Contemporary Evangelical Revival and the Peace Churches,” in Mission and the Peace Witness, ed. Robert L. Ramseyer (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press), 68-103 and “On Not Being Ashamed of the Gospel: Particularity, Pluralism, and Validation” Faith and Philosophy 9 (July 1992), 290ff., among other examples that could be given.
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[25]. National Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response (Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1983).
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[26]. Drew Christiansen, “Afterword: A Roman Catholic Response,” in John Howard Yoder, When War Is Unjust: Being Honest in Just-War Thinking, rev. ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1996), 102.
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[27]. In one period of time during Yoder’s tenure at Notre Dame, there was an attempt to re-Catholicize the theology department. Perhaps during that time, it might have been communicated that his opinions were less than welcomed.
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[28]. John Howard Yoder, “Introduction,” in The Priestly Kingdom (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 8.
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[29]. Albert J. Meyer, “Mennonites,” in On Earth Peace: Discussions on War/Peace Issues Between Friends, Mennonites, Brethren and European Churches, 1935-1975, ed. by Donald F. Durnbaugh (Elgin, IL: The Brethren Press, 1978), 14.
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[30]. Donald Durnbaugh, “BC and JHY,” e-mail, February 8, 2002, p. 1. He goes on: “I found it justifiable [in On Earth Peace] to publish more of his presentations than any other single person.”-See Donald Durnbaugh, ed., On Earth Peace (Elgin, IL: Brethren Press, 1978).
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[31]. Donald Durnbaugh, “BC and JHY,” E-mail to author, February 8, 2002, p. 1.
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[32]. See Mark Thiessen Nation, A Comprehensive Bibliography of the Writings of John Howard Yoder (Goshen, IN: Mennonite Historical Society, 1997) and Mark Thiessen Nation, “Supplement to ‘A Comprehensive Bibliography of the Writings of John Howard Yoder’,” in The Wisdom of the Cross, ed. by Stanley Hauerwas, Chris K. Huebner, Harry J. Huebner, and Mark Thiessen Nation (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1999), 472-91.
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[33]. J. Philip Wogaman, Christian Ethics: A Historical Introduction (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press), 1993, 233-235.
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[34]. This is the biblical basis for the title of Yoder’s essay, “‘But We Do See Jesus’: The Particularity of Incarnation and the Universality of Truth,” in The Priestly Kingdom (Notre Dame, IN: U. of Notre Dame Press, 1984).
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[35]. This essay was presented as a lecture at the conference, “Assessing the Theological Legacy of John Howard Yoder,” March 7-9, 2002, The University of Notre Dame. An earlier version was presented at a conference on the work of Yoder, September 8-10, 2001 near Basel, Switzerland, at the Bienenberg Theological Training and Conference Center. That version was published as Mark Thiessen Nation, “John Howard Yoder-Mennonit, Evangelikaler, Katholik,” in Jesus folgen in einer pluralistischen Welt, ed. Hanspeter Jecker (Weisenehim am Berg: Agape Verlag, 2001) (essay translated into German by Gabi Boller). For another fuller, treatment of John Yoder’s life, with fuller documentation, see Mark Thiessen Nation, “John H. Yoder, Ecumenical Neo-Anabaptist: A Biographical Sketch,” in The Wisdom of the Cross, eds. Stanley Hauerwas, Harry Huebner, Chris K. Huebner, and Mark Thiessen Nation (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), 1-23.
The Mennonite Quarterly Review
John Howard Yoder: Mennonite, Evangelical, Catholic