C. Norman Kraus, professor emeritus of religion, dies at age 94

C. Norman Kraus
C. Norman Kraus

Norman Kraus, professor emeritus of religion, died Friday, April 6, 2018, at Sentara RMH Medical Center in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He was 94 years old.

Kraus taught courses in Bible, religion, theology and church history at Goshen College from 1951 to 1988, and served as founder and director of the Center for Discipleship at Goshen College.

A student of both Anabaptism and Evangelicalism and its origins, he is the author of more than a dozen books on Christian faith and theology, and also served as a book review editor of the “Mennonite Quarterly Review.”

“As a student at Goshen College, fraught as I was with deep questions of faith and ultimate meaning, C.Norman Kraus was a profound guide and mentor in the classroom and out,”  said James E. Brenneman, a 1977 graduate and former Goshen College president. “Personal weekly conversations in his office were spiritually life-saving and priceless. Then and since, his theological trilogy in three volumes has been a North Star for me in my ministry and life. His friendship and visits, his letters and calls, his spirit and person, have always given me perspective on things that truly matter.”

In 1958, Kraus wrote Integration: Who’s Prejudiced, one of the first public attempts by the Mennonite church to address its own implicit biases. Raised in the “Jim Crow” South, he knew firsthand the “brand of racial attitudes” his church community brought to its involvement with the segregated black community. Though he never considered himself an “activist,” while living in Durham, North Carolina from 1959 to 1961, he joined black students at a Roses’ lunch counter sit-in and was in the courtroom to support fellow Duke students arrested in the protests.

In 1963, at the request of Mennonite Central Committee, Kraus spent six weeks in Georgia and Tennessee helping leaders better assess whether and how to engage in the nonviolent student movement. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, Kraus was asked to lead a march from Goshen College to downtown Goshen and gave the memorial address.

A native of Newport News, Virginia, Kraus earned his undergraduate degree from Goshen College in 1946, graduate degrees from Goshen Biblical Seminary in 1951, Princeton Theological Seminary (Th.M.) in 1954, and Duke University (Ph.D.) in 1961.

Kraus married Ruth Smith in 1945, and raised a family of five children: Yvonne, Jo Anne, John Norman, Bonnie and Robert.

He served on the Mennonite Board of Missions’ overseas committee and went on teaching missions to churches in India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia and various East African countries. He was also a member of the Health and Welfare Committee of the Mennonite Board of Missions for five years.

With his wife, Ruth, Kraus served under Mennonite Board of Missions in short-term assignments and for seven years in Asia and Australia (1980-1987).

Kraus also taught at the following seminaries in Asia: Serampore Theological College (1966-67) in India; Union Biblical Seminary (1983) in Pune, India; Eastern Hokkaido Bible School (1981-86) in Japan; and Baptist Theological College of Western Australia (1987).

After his retirement from Goshen College, he moved back to his home state of Virginia to settle in Harrisonburg where he continued teaching part-time, writing and occasionally preaching. In Harrisonburg, he served as interim pastor at Community Mennonite Church in 1990-91, was a member of the Park View Mennonite Church, and more recently worshipped with the Shalom Mennonite Congregation.

In 1997, after 52 years of marriage, his Ruth died following a battle with leukemia. In 1998 Kraus married Rhoda Short Hess, who survives him. He is also survived by his five children, Yvonne Forman ’68 of Cambridge, Massachusetts; Jo Anne Okamoto ’69 of Yonkers, N.Y., John Kraus of Greensboro, N.C.; Bonnie Kraus-Connelly ’74 of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania; and Robert Kraus of Chapel Hill, N.C.; along with eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held on April 28 at 3 p.m. at the Community Mennonite Church, 70 S. High Street, Harrisonburg, Virginia.