GOSHEN, Ind. – As autumn makes way for winter in northern Indiana, there is also a season change for Goshen College, Elkhart County’s first and only residential Christian college. Goshen College announced today that educator, biblical theologian and church leader Dr. James Brenneman is the candidate of choice to be the 16th president of the 111-year-old institution committed “to educating servant leaders for the church and the world.”
A scholar and Mennonite Church USA denominational leader, Brenneman, a Goshen College alumnus, has chosen to align his vocation with the work of serving the church. The founding lead pastor of Pasadena (Calif.) Mennonite Church, Brenneman has served since 1992 on the faculty at Episcopal Theological School at Claremont (Calif.) in Old Testament scholarship and as an adjunct faculty member at Claremont School of Theology and, since 1995, as an adjunct professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, Calif.).
Goshen College Board of Directors Chair Virgil Miller opened the extended chapel by welcoming the community and reporting that, after a careful presidential search process, there was “good news” for Goshen College. “The journey that has brought us together for this exciting day has been one of progressive, unfolding steps in a thorough process of discernment,” said Miller. “Yet each step along the path has pointed the way to the next, and we are coming to the end of this journey.”
In addition to speaking to the campus community in a formal chapel presentation, the day’s schedule for Brenneman, who lives with his family in South Pasadena, Calif., included meeting campus and area leaders and answering questions from faculty, staff and students.
Brenneman said that the opportunities and mentors he found during formative years at Goshen – he was the first in his family to attend college – were pivotal in his “young adult formation, vocational choices, future ministry and worldview.” He described how professors helped him to explore the intersection of intellectual and spiritual life, and consider his future commitment to the church.
“Goshen College was revolutionary in my life, especially in encouraging my passion for learning and my spiritual transformation, so I am particularly prepared to promote the college’s Christ-centered mission,” Brenneman said. “The world wants and needs what Goshen College has to offer – a college uniquely inspired by its rooted faith that may actually change the world of tomorrow. I value the opportunity to be a voice for its future.”
Brenneman’s visit, according to Miller, is a culminating event in a mutual discernment process for the candidate and the college. After today, the Goshen College Board of Directors will move through a schedule, yet to be determined, for affirmation of the appointment and next steps; the Mennonite Education Agency (MEA) Board of Directors will then respond to the Goshen Board’s action.
Rick Stiffney, chair of the Presidential Search Committee and vice-chair of the Goshen College Board of Directors, who made the official introduction of the candidate of choice to campus, said that the search committee was unanimous in supporting Brenneman’s candidacy.
“In considering the candidate profile that was created after talking with a broad range of people who are invested in the mission of Goshen College, we sought a proven leader who demonstrates creative intellect, a collaborative management style and a passion for Anabaptist education,” Stiffney said. “Dr. Brenneman would clearly promote the mission of the college and embody its core values and support Goshen College’s strategic priorities.”
On behalf of the MEA Board of Directors, Carlos Romero, executive director, praised the selection of Brenneman as candidate of choice. “Jim Brenneman is both an academic and a seasoned church leader at many levels. He would bring to Goshen College the mind of a scholar, the vision and determination of a leader and the heart of a pastor,” Romero said.
Brenneman graduated in 1977 from Goshen College, where he pursued an interdisciplinary degree, combining Bible, biology and natural science and spent a semester in Honduras through the college’s Study-Service Term international education program. He went on to attend Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and completed a master of divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1982. At Claremont Graduate University, he earned a master of arts degree in religious studies in 1991 and a doctorate, with a focus in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament studies, in 1994.
Brenneman is the author of “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks: Lessons from the Book of Deuteronomy” published by Herald Press in 2004 and “Canons in Conflict: Negotiating Texts in True and False Prophesy” published by Oxford University Press in 1997, and has written numerous book chapters and articles on theological and church-related themes. An experienced public speaker, he has delivered dozens of lectures and presentations on a variety of topics related to his scholarly interests and pastorate and other church leadership experience.
With a seed planted for cross-cultural study while at Goshen, Brenneman has spent time in international scholarship related to his theological studies. He was awarded a grant from the Eli Lilly Foundation for sabbatical study in Jerusalem and London and in 1999 he took part in a Jerusalem Seminar in Israel and the West Bank.
Ordained in 1986, Brenneman is a credentialed minister of Mennonite Church USA. He joined the Pastoral Leadership Commission of the Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference in 1990 and served on the Council on Faith, Life and Strategy of the Mennonite Church. From 1991 to 2002, he was president of the Center for Anabaptist Leadership and School of Urban Ministry in Los Angeles, Calif., and is again serving in that role for the organization.
Both Brenneman and his wife, Dr. Terri J. Plank Brenneman, who met while attending Goshen College and have one son, Quinn, have been active in leadership at Pasadena Mennonite since its founding. Terri Plank Brenneman, a clinical psychologist in private practice who is also an adjunct faculty member in pastoral care and theological counseling at both Fuller Theological Seminary and Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, has served as congregational worship leader and music team member; she is a former member of the Mennonite Church General Board.
Goshen College’s Presidential Search Committee, whose members were affirmed by the Goshen College and MEA Board of Directors and commissioned in November 2004, was convened following the resignation in August 2004 of Shirley H. Showalter, Goshen College’s 14th president. John D. Yordy will continue as interim president of Goshen College, having served in that role since October of 2004, until a new president takes office (to be determined).
Goshen College, established in 1894, is a four-year residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college’s Christ-centered core values – passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron’s Best Buys in Education, “Colleges of Distinction,” “Making a Difference College Guide” and U.S.News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit www.goshen.edu/.