From the Editor: A Tribute to J. B. Toews
I am continually impressed at how God, when seeking to accomplish something in this world, is determined to allow human beings to participate in that task. Very rarely in Scripture do we observe God acting without human involvement. John Benjamin Toews, born in the year 1906 in South Russia, participated significantly in God’s work among the Mennonite Brethren. Aspects of his story are traced in this issue’s essays, but much more may be found in his autobiography (see Books I Recommend).
Last summer when the Editorial Council met, this issue in tribute to Toews became first on our agenda. We had a sense of urgency, wishing this to be published while J. B. could appreciate it as much as possible. Unfortunately, our haste had some fallout. A few persons who might have otherwise contributed could not do so. Particularly this was unfortunate in the case of son John E. Toews, president of Conrad Grebel College, whose schedule made this impossible.
As a Council, we determined that the highest form of respect we could show to our brother would be to invite essays both reflective and evaluative. Areas of disagreement are evident in what follows and there is no air of hagiography. What also comes through, however, is a consistent and tremendous respect for a man who used his manifold gifts and opportunities to love, serve, and challenge his particular corner of Christ’s people.
Son Paul Toews develops, in his essay, two episodes treated briefly in J. B.’s autobiography. Henry Schmidt and Clarence Hiebert review J. B.’s contributions as educator and missiologist respectively. A similar evaluation of the historical work of Toews is provided by Abraham Friesen. Schmidt additionally offers a synopsis of J. B.’s prophetic call to the church. The tribute is completed in a more personal piece by David Ewert and concluded with a bibliography compiled by Kevin Enns-Rempel.
Also in this issue, find a detailed review of Old Testament Theology by Elmer Martens (with significant bibliography), a challenge regarding our worship practices by Chuck Goertz (Ministry Compass), and a report by Robert Forsythe on the recent conference, “Mennonite Higher Education: Theory and Practice.”
Finally, an opportunity for subscribers of this journal and other interested persons is Direction’s new Listserv. It is hoped that this will facilitate not only response to the journal and its articles, but will also stimulate conversation among us more generally. To apply for membership send your name, location, any titles academic or otherwise, and your e-mail address to: DougM@tabor.edu. Note that it may take a while to compile the information and begin this new venture.