Conference Program: Ex-Mennonite/Near Mennonite – Liturgical, Non-denominational, Secular

October 3 & 4, 2014

An academic and community education conference hosted by the Chair in Mennonite Studies, University of Winnipeg and sponsored by the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada (DVCM Committee)


This conference considers the process by which Mennonites have become non-Mennonites, either as individuals or as church groups. It addresses the fact that church boundaries and religious identities are never static, but evolve, sometimes flourishing in unexpected ways, but at other times giving way to other faith or cultural expressions, sometimes in syncretic form with competing identities.

It also recognizes that historians tend more often to emphasize moments of ‘becoming’ Anabaptist or Mennonite, than stopping to identify as Mennonites. Yet in past decades, even centuries, many Mennonites switched religious affiliations, either by choice or involuntarily. Sometimes they joined non-denominational evangelical bodies, mainline liturgical groups or non-Christian religions. Or they left religion entirely to embrace a secular cosmology in which linkage to a Mennonite past was expressed in terms of a symbolic ethnicity.

The conference also considers how those leaving the Mennonite fold may cultivate a ‘near-Mennonite’ identity, for example, embracing a theology or cosmology that respects so-called Anabaptist values – nonviolence, community, humility, service. Such values may have been maintained, perhaps reinvented, or even reinvigorated even as the nomenclature ‘Mennonite’ is exchanged for another.

The conference is not a lament, nor is it focused on the ‘fate’ of the Mennonite community. Rather it facilitates the analysis of a social and cultural phenomenon. As such it seeks neither to endorse nor critique changing religious affiliation but to be frank and honest in its historical analysis of the changing ecclesiastical landscape among Mennonites.



7:00 p.m. Reception for Paper Presenters and Chairs, Faculty Club, University of Winnipeg



8:30-8:40 a.m.

Welcome and Introducing the Conference

Royden Loewen, Mennonite Studies, University of Winnipeg


8:40-10:15 a.m.

Catholics, Anglicans and High Church Mennonites

Chair: Helmut Harder, Canadian Mennonite University

Peter Erb, Wilfrid Laurier University, “Lesser Presumption, No Despair: ‘Fellow-believers’ in a Catholic World”

Susie Fisher, University of Manitoba, “‘High Church Mennonites?’: Religion and Ethnicity in an Anglican Church”

Gerald Schlabach, University of St. Thomas, “Capitalizing Church: On Finding Catholicism Unavoidable”
10:15-10:45 Coffee


10:45 a.m. -12:20 p.m.

A ‘Near Mennonite’ Theological Space Chair: Terry Hiebert, Steinbach Bible College

Paul Doerksen, Canadian Mennonite University, “A Methodist ‘Near Mennonite’: The Theological Influence of Stanley Hauerwas”

Paul Martens, Baylor University, “How Mennonite Theology Became Superfluous in Three Easy Steps: Bender, Yoder and Weaver”

Donald Stoesz, Bowden Institution, Red Deer, “The Attraction of Ecumenism, Liturgy, Priesthood and Spatial Order”


12:20-1:20 Lunch


1:20-3:00 p.m.

Protestant Pathways into the ‘City’

Chair: Carolos Colorado, University of Winnipeg

Kate Bowler, Duke University, “Harvest Time at Springs Church: A Prosperity Gospel for Winnipeg Mennonites”

Philipp Gollner, University of Notre Dame, “How Mennonites Became ‘White’: A Chicago Case Study”

Conrad Stoesz, Centre for MB Studies/Mennonite Heritage Centre, “‘Mennonite’ Soldiers and the Founding of the Altona United Church”


3:00-3:30 Coffee


3:30-5:15 p.m.

Intentionally Menno-Not in the Wider World

Chair: Julia Thiessen, Westgate Collegiate

Candace Froebe, Winnipeg Holistic Expressive Arts Therapy, “A Menno-Not Intentional Community: The Story of McMillan House”

Elizabeth Plett, Recovery of Hope, Winnipeg, “Stories of being Ex-Holdeman in the American Midwest”

Wolf-Dietrich Sahr, Universidade Federal do Paraná, and Cicilian Löwen Sahr, Universidade Estadual de Ponta Grossa, “Mennonites and Translocal Identities in Brazil and Mexico”


Dinner Break: 5:15-7:30


7:30-9:30 p.m.

Greetings: Glen Moulaison, Dean of Humanities, University of Winnipeg

Speaking from the Heart: Leaders in ‘Other’ Places

Chair: Royden Loewen, University of Winnipeg

Elma Harder, Muslim Educational Foundation, Edmonton

Abe Funk, Baptist General Conference of Canada, Saskatoon

Lukas Thiessen, University of Winnipeg Atheist Student Association, Winnipeg



8:30-10:15 a.m.

Changing Names or ‘Leaving Anabaptism’?

Chair: Bruce Guenther, Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary

Tim Erdel, Missionary Archives, Miskawaka: “From Egly Amish to Defenceless Mennonite to Evangelical Mennonite to Fellowship of Evangelical Churches”

Jon Isaak, Centre for MB Studies, Winnipeg, “From Mennonite Brethren to Community Church to Life Centre and Gathering Place”

Sam Steiner, Mennonite Archives of Ontario, Waterloo, “From Mennonite Brethren in Christ to Evangelical Missionary Church”


10:15-10:45 Coffee


10:45 a.m. -12:30 p.m.

Ex-Converts in the ‘Mission Field’

Chair: Arley Loewen, Operation Mobilization

Daryl Climenhaga, Providence University, “Into the BIC in Zimbabwe and ‘out the back door’”

Richard Lougheed, Société d’histoire mennonite du Québec, Montreal, “From French Catholic to Frères Mennonites to Secular Québécois”

Jim Pankratz, Conrad Grebel University College, “The Twice Marginalized: Mennonites in India”


12:30-1:30 Lunch


1:30-2:45 p.m.

Trans-Mennonites and Sexual Identities

Chair: Aiden Ens, Geez Magazine

Alicia Dueck, University of Winnipeg, “Trans-sexual Mennonites and the Third Gender”

Julia Michael, Justus-Liebig-Universität Gieße, “Dis-identification and the Sexual Ethnic Minority Text”


2:45-3:15 Faspa


3:15-5:00 p.m.

Russia: Anarchists, Baptists and Aussiedler Newcomers

Chair: Hans Werner, University of Winnipeg

Aileen Friesen, University of Illinois, “Unraveling the Russian Mennonite Baptist Identity in Western Siberia”

Christina Barwich, Technische Universität Darmstadt, “Bist du Gläubig?”: ‘Belief’ among the Aussiedler in Germany and Manitoba”

Sean Patterson, University of Winnipeg, “Ex-Mennonites and the Bolshevik Revolution”


5:00-5:15 p.m.

Collecting the Voices and Whither To?



Conference Details:

Divergent Voices of Canadian Mennonites (DVCM), a subcommittee of the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada: Leonard Doell, Marlene Epp, Lucille Marr, Royden Loewen, Ken Reddig


Suggested lodging is at Holiday Inn, Colony Street, Winnipeg. Phone 204-786-7011 and ask for special University of Winnipeg (Mennonite Studies Conference) rates.


Park at any one of a dozen Impark parking lots around the University, at the ANX parkade off of Colony, or the Hudson’s Bay Parkade. Street parking on both Friday night and on Saturdays is possible as well.


Eat at any one of a dozen restaurants within a block or two of the University or at one of the University’s five restaurants: Stellas, Elements, Riddel Hall Cafeteria, Starbucks, etc.


Funding for the conference was made possible with a grant given to the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada’s DVCM committee by MCC Canada. We also acknowledge free space offered by the University of Winnipeg.


Selected papers, refereed through a peer-review process, will be published in the Journal of Mennonite Studies 2015. To subscribe email [email protected]. Current subscription cost $28/year.