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Featured Article: "Burkholder, John Lawrence (1917-2010)"

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J. Lawrence and Harriet Burkholder in 1971 when Lawrence became Goshen College president.
Source: Goshen College Photograph Collection, 1958-2004. J. Lawrence Burkholder Inauguration, 1971. V-4-11 Box 1 Folder 8. Mennonite Church USA Archives - Goshen. Goshen, Indiana.

J. Lawrence “Larry” Burkholder, a Goshen College and Harvard Divinity School professor and administrator, as well as a scholar and interpreter of Mennonite theological ethics, was born 31 October 1917 in Newville, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, USA to Henry L. Burkholder (24 October 1878-18 December 1938) and Mary Seitz Burkholder (1 November 1884-14 March 1941); he was the third child in a family of two boys and three girls. On 20 August 1939 he married Harriet Lee Lapp (31 March 1916-6 September 2007), who he met while attending Goshen College. They had two sons and two daughters. J. Lawrence died on 24 June 2010, in Goshen, Indiana. Lawrence and Harriet are buried in the Elkhart Prairie Cemetery in Goshen.

Lawrence Burkholder grew up in Newville, Pennsylvania, near Shippensburg State Teachers' College, where his father, Henry, who had an MA from New York University in 1929, and had begun work on a PhD, taught from World War I until his death in 1938. In 1939 Lawrence graduated from Goshen College. He then was among the earliest (Old) Mennonites to secure a BD (Gettysburg Theological Seminary) before his ordination in 1942. In 1944, after a two-year pastorate at the First Mennonite Church of New Bremen in New York, he volunteered for relief work in China. Burkholder spent most of a year in India before flying over the Himalayas into China. In 1946 his family joined him in Shanghai, where they resided until being evacuated in December 1948.

These years in China were deeply influential in shaping Burkholder's lifelong interests and creative thinking. Appointed by the Mennonite Board of Missions, Elkhart, Indiana, he directed programs for both Mennonite Central Committee and Church World Service. As a relief administrator he worked closely with the United Nations China Clearing Committee. He later observed that these years in China introduced into his thinking "complexity and ambiguity, and sometimes tragic necessity." He added, "Nothing in my Mennonite background prepared me to make any but unambiguous choices."

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