GOSHEN, Ind. – Jim Brenneman believes that the world needs Goshen College. Now, he is preparing to lead the institution in sharing its mission and core values in the local community and region, in the church and beyond.
The Goshen College Board of Directors announced finalization of its appointment of educator, biblical theologian and church leader James E. Brenneman to serve as the college’s 16th president, beginning July 1, 2006, for a four-year term of leadership of the 111-year-old institution. With Goshen College’s relationship to Mennonite Church USA through Mennonite Education Agency (MEA), the MEA Board of Directors affirmed the appointment on Nov. 28.
Brenneman, a 1977 Goshen College graduate who lives with his family in South Pasadena, Calif., was introduced to the campus and community in a chapel service Nov. 18 as a final step in a leadership discernment process. Rick Stiffney, vice chair of the Goshen College Board of Directors who led the Presidential Search Committee – a group of college alumni, church and community members and faculty representatives named a year ago – officially announced that Brenneman was the Board’s candidate of choice for the position vacated in September 2004 by Shirley H. Showalter.
Said Stiffney, “Dr. Brenneman has always sought to align his love for ideas and teaching with service. This has led him to a vocational calling in biblical scholarship alongside a commitment to the pastorate and other significant leadership roles within the broader life of the church.”
During his Nov. 18 campus visit, Brenneman spoke personably and passionately to a large crowd in the Church-Chapel about the unique character of the college and its Christ-centered core values.
“I believe the world needs Goshen College. I believe the core values of Goshen College are as revolutionary today as were the values of our ancestors. These values are much bigger than we are, and are not so much ours to hold on to as ours to share,” he said. “I am honored to accept the call to be the next president of Goshen College and look forward to being an integral part of the Goshen family in the coming years.”
Virgil Miller, chair of the Goshen College Board of Directors, said that the leadership profile developed for the presidential post called for the successful candidate to “promote the mission of the college to ‘educate leaders for the church and world’; support and implement the strategic priorities of the institution, including the new strategic plan; and embody the core values of the college and exemplify a mature and vibrant Christian faith.”
Continued Miller, “The Board of Directors is confident that Jim will dynamically move Goshen College forward.”
Brenneman will enter a five-month period of preparation beginning Feb. 1, 2006; activities for this time will be discerned by Brenneman and the Goshen College Board of Directors. He will officially take office July 1, 2006.
Ordained in 1986, Brenneman is the founding and lead pastor of Pasadena (Calif.) Mennonite Church. 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. He was president of the Center for Anabaptist Leadership and School of Urban Ministry in Los Angeles, Calif., from 1991 to 2002 and is again serving in that role for the organization. Brenneman’s teaching and scholarship has led him to posts on the faculty in Old Testament studies at Episcopal Theological School and as an adjunct professor at both Fuller Theological Seminary and Claremont School of Theology.
Brenneman has said that his Goshen College experience was vital in shaping his faith and vocational direction. After graduating from Goshen with an interdisciplinary degree combining studies in Bible, biology and natural science and spending a semester abroad in Honduras, he attended Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary before finishing his master of divinity degree at Fuller Theological Seminary. At Claremont Graduate University he earned a master of arts degree in religious studies and a doctorate, focusing on Hebrew Bible and Old Testament studies.
The author of “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks: Lessons from the Book of Deuteronomy” (Herald Press, 2004) and “Canons in Conflict; Negotiating Texts in True and False Prophesy” (Oxford University Press, 1997), Brenneman has written book chapters and published numerous articles on theological and church-related themes. He is a frequent speaker and presenter at scholarly and church-related events.
Goshen College Interim President John D. Yordy said that Brenneman is an excellent fit for the institution. “Jim’s vision for the college is rooted in his faith commitments and his experience as an educator with consideration for contemporary issues in higher education and excitement about Christian scholarship,” Yordy said. “As a church leader he believes that Mennonite education can help students connect their interests and faith with God’s will for the world. Furthermore, he is deeply committed to helping create an increasingly diverse campus.”
Carlos Romero, MEA executive director, said, “Jim Brenneman is an academic, a leader and a pastor. In finalizing this appointment, we are affirming these gifts and the role that Goshen College itself played in his preparation for servant leadership. Goshen College has an integral role in the church’s missional identity and outreach, and he is evidence of its success in nurturing leaders. MEA rejoices with the Brenneman family, with the Goshen College community and with Mennonite Church USA on this faithful response to God’s leading.”
Brenneman had been named to the Presidential Search Committee, but withdrew after he was asked by the committee to allow his name to stand as a candidate; his departure from the committee could not be made public without jeopardizing the confidentiality of the search process in its early stages. “This was done with utmost integrity and discretion,” said Stiffney.
Brenneman will move to Goshen with his wife, Dr. Terri J. Plank Brenneman, a clinical psychologist in private practice and an adjunct faculty member at two seminaries in pastoral care and theological counseling, and their son, Quinn, age 9. With her husband’s appointment, Terri Brenneman will leave her role as an MEA Board member and chair of the board’s Committee on Pastoral and Theological Education. She has also been active at Pasadena Mennonite as a congregational worship leader and music team member, and was formerly on the Mennonite Church General Board.
“MEA offers prayers and blessings to the president-elect and Goshen College as they prepare for this exciting transition,” said Rosalind E. Andreas, chair of the MEA Board of Directors. “The MEA Board was pleased to affirm the Goshen College appointment of Jim Brenneman, knowing that our loss of Terri as a board colleague is Goshen College’s great gain.”
As the 16th president to lead Goshen College in its long history, Brenneman joins a list of recent leaders that includes: Shirley H. Showalter, 1997-2004; Henry D. Weaver (interim president), July-December, 1996; Victor S. Stoltzfus, 1984-1995; J. Lawrence Burkholder, 1971-1984; and Paul E. Mininger, 1954-1970.
In confirming Brenneman’s appointment, Miller said that the Goshen College Board of Directors also “extends its gratitude to [Interim President] John D. Yordy and a gifted and committed senior leadership team for excellent leadership of the institution during the presidential search period.” Yordy, who joined Goshen College’s chemistry faculty in 1977 and was appointed as provost during the Showalter administration, has been acting as interim president of the institution since October 2004 and will continue in that role until Brenneman takes office.
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/.
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