Goshen College Professor Emeritus of Religion J.R. Burkholder’s life and work as ethicist, church leader and social change agent spanned and influenced dramatic changes in 20th-century Mennonite peace theology and ecumenical engagements. A collection of 30 of his most insightful essays on pacifism, patriotism, public witness, Mennonite ethics, health care, stewardship, vocation, service and other issues of discipleship have been collected and edited into the new book Prophetic Peacemaking(Herald Press).
Goshen College Professor of Bible, Religion and Philosophy Keith Graber Miller edited the volume, providing an introduction “on being Burkholderian.” At a campus celebration on Sept. 15 in honor of the new book, Graber Miller said, “During a critical half-century of transition, J.R. helped Mennonites move with integrity beyond the sometimes-passive quietism of an earlier era toward a cautious-yet-faithful engagement with the world. And he did so by building bridges – without dismissing the value of the core peace convictions of his Anabaptist-Mennonite faith; without selling the Mennonite soul to Reinhold Niebuhrian-style compromise and political realism; without uncritically accepting all of the rhetoric of the Christian and secular Left.”
After brief terms of mission work in Brazil and pastoral ministry in Pennsylvania, Burkholder taught for 22 years at Goshen College, from 1963 to 1985, and another dozen years at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind. He was co-founder of what is now the Goshen College Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies Department; founding director of the Dallas Peace Center; program administrator for Mennonite Central Committee and Fellowship of Reconciliation; coordinator of peace and social concerns for Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries; and a visiting professor at a Costa Rican seminary and a South African university. Burkholder, the father of five and grandfather of eight, continues his writing, preaching and activism from his Goshen home with his wife Sue.
“Ultimately, J.R. and I intend for these essays to function not simply as ‘period pieces,’ but as reflections on faithful living that are yet relevant for future generations of peacemakers. In his modeling and teaching, J. R. inspired scores of students and colleagues toward peacemaking vocations, and I believe his voice still resonates for 21st-century followers of the one Christians call the Prince of Peace,” said Graber Miller, an ethicist and a former student of Burkholder. “This book needed to be published, for the sake of the church and the world.”
In a review, author and Sojourners’ president Jim Wallis said, “J.R. Burkholder has the intellect of an academic, the passion of an activist and the heart of a pastor. Prophetic Peacemaking brings the three together, combining his autobiographical reflections with a selection of lectures and writings that show the breadth of his thought. If you are seeking to better integrate faithful living with a commitment to peacemaking, I commend this book to you.”
Editors: For more information about this release, to arrange an interview or request a photo, contact Goshen College News Bureau Director Jodi H. Beyeler at (574) 535-7572 or firstname.lastname@example.org.