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Spring 1999 · Vol. 28 No. 1 · pp. 127–29 

Book Review

Mennonite Education in a Post-Christian World

ed. Harry Huebner. Winnipeg, MB: Canadian Mennonite Bible College, 1998. 165 pages.

Reviewed by Ron Penner

Mennonite Education in a Post-Christian World is a relatively unedited compilation of presentations given at a 1997 consultation exploring how Mennonite educational institutions can address the challenges of the “post-Christian era.” It appears the intended audience is the Mennonite educator.

Keynoter Nancey Murphy encouraged Mennonite educators to resist the trend toward secularization, affirming that the Christian perspective can compete in the pre- and post-modern world of ideas. Her basis was the growing legitimacy of the “tradition-dependent” approach to knowledge, as well as Anabaptism’s counterpoints to the biasing “will to power,” particularly nonviolence, the simple life, a community hermeneutic, and willingness to suffer.

Gerald Gerbrandt’s profile of Mennonite higher education introduced the schools and analyzed present-day Mennonite higher education. His six defining characteristics of Mennonite schools are: an incarnational ecclesiology, priority on the service and peacemaking ethics of Jesus, global focus, strong biblical authority, musical tradition, {128} and emphasis on community.

Abe Bergen and Ritch Hochstetler profiled Mennonite youth. Bergen concluded that despite immense pressures, today’s youth demonstrate a remarkable optimism and idealism. While reflecting much of mainstream youth culture, they have a more intact family support system, base their values on the Bible, and are dominantly influenced by their family and church. Hochstetler’s critical concerns regarding youth are busyness, fragility of family systems, a hedonistic life orientation, waffling on personal sexual ethics, and cynicism about religion while evidencing a deep hunger for spirituality.

In “Teaching for Peace,” J. Denny Weaver pled for integration of peace into the entire curriculum. In “Teaching for Community,” Dale Schrag identified deep piety as an antidote to individualism and called for professors to shape such piety in students by disclosing their own position on issues, modeling desired values, and initiating a pastoral presence with students.

Eastern Mennonite University President Joseph Lapp reflected on the experience of administering a Mennonite school, highlighting historical influences like suffering, immigration, rural roots, and recent entry to higher education. Faculty member Ted Koontz called for administration to reflect our theology, particularly: “seeing” through the window of Jesus Christ, tapping into the Spirit’s creativity in our planning, paying staff a “living wage,” and keeping worship at the center.

Thomas Yoder Neufeld focused on becoming “Wisdom’s school” through the “Invisible curriculum” of: a strong core of worship, teachers who are in love with Christ, a rejection of worldly corporate wisdom, and a renewed vision of our radical heritage. Shirley Showalter listed several “invisible yet powerful practices”: connecting with elders, engaging other cultures, becoming quiet in the context of nature, celebrating the arts, studying science, participating in sports, using technology to locate wisdom, and retaining residential life as a key element in our educational curriculum.

Shirley Sprunger King reflected on “Being a Mennonite Professor,” keying on the importance of faculty modeling an integration of faith with their discipline as well as mentoring students in a personal, nurturing manner.

This volume, while offering a valuable perspective on a good segment of the Mennonite world, primarily reflects the reality of North American General Conference Mennonite and Mennonite higher education. The work by Nancy Heisey and Daniel Schipani, Theological Education on Five Continents: Anabaptist Perspectives, offers a {129} complementary global perspective.

The chapter profiling Mennonite Higher Education was quite comprehensive of North American Mennonite denominations and institutions. The reflections on US-Canadian distinctives were helpful. One wonders some about the reasons for choosing only “peace” and “community” as critical curricular emphases. Given the high value placed on the Scriptures and growing concern over biblical illiteracy, it would have been in place to treat that question too.

The book closes quite abruptly. The reader is left wondering about the good dialogue that must have accompanied these presentations. In this reviewer’s opinion, a concluding chapter offering highlights of the dialogue would have been a very nice way to present a more complete picture of the content and impact of the whole consultation. Despite this gap, this book is a valuable document for Mennonite educators and church leaders. [Note: See the report on this conference by Robert Forsythe, Direction 26:2, Fall 1997, pp. 80-84—Ed.]

Ron Penner
Academic Dean
Columbia Bible College,
Abbotsford, British Columbia

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