Religious Studies

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For the first half of the 20th century, Mennonite religious studies centered on Swiss Anabaptist and Mennonite history (historiography), written both to strengthen Mennonite identity and as a witness for such key Mennonite emphases as discipleship, peace, and believers church ecclesiology. Most of these contributions to religious studies were done from a base in the Mennonite colleges and seminaries.

In the 1980s, Mennonite religious studies have a different look. First, while the Mennonite schools continue to provide the locus of much Mennonite scholarship, increasingly Mennonite scholars belong to faculties in major universities, where they deal with aspects of Anabaptist and Mennonite history and sociology, and teach such subjects as theology and ethics from Mennonite-informed positions. This trend is most pronounced in Canada, where Mennonites have benefited from Canada's support of ethnic studies. In addition to the several Mennonite Bible colleges, Mennonites are integrally involved in the Canadian university system. The University of Winnipeg has a chair of Mennonite studies, a number of universities have courses in Mennonite studies, Conrad Grebel University College functions as a Mennonite college within the University of Waterloo, and individual Mennonite scholars appear across the entire university system. Canadian Mennonite historians such as Frank Epp have stressed the Mennonite experience in Russia and Canada. They also produce several periodicals, including two academic journals founded in 1983: Conrad Grebel Review, which focuses on theology, ethics and biblical studies from an Anabaptist and Mennonite perspective, and Journal of Mennonite Studies, oriented by literature and the arts but providing significant sections for theology and history.

Second, the content of Mennonite religious studies has changed. Going beyond Mennonite history and apologia, contemporary Mennonite religious studies has gone much further in understanding Anabaptist and Mennonite thought as a comprehensive stance from which to address all aspects of theology and the modern world. On that basis, Mennonite scholarship has made several contributions to religious studies per se. For example, Millard Lind's work on war in the Old Testament is not a defense of pacifism but a comprehensive analysis of the Old Testament from a peace perspective. The shalom biblical theological project from the Institute of Mennonite Studies (Elkhart, Ind.) exhibits a similar comprehensive outlook. Mennonites have made seminal contributions to the series of believers' church conferences, which have given visibility to that ecclesiology. The sixth such conference (Bluffton College, 1980) applied the believers church idea to Christology. Mennonite scholars have major roles in the writing of a believers' church Bible commentary series. John H. Yoder's writings have established believers church ecclesiology and the normativeness of Jesus in such a way that a prominent ethicist -- Stanley Hauerwas -- lists Yoder as one of the foundations for his own view of ethics. Gordon D. Kaufman's ethical and theological writings project Mennonite emphases from the perspective of ecumenical Protestantism. Mennonite peace theology is certainly one of the impulses which has contributed to the reawakening of a peace witness in Roman Catholicism, portions of Evangelicalism, and in ecumenical Protestantism.


Klassen, William. "Mennonite Studies as a Part of Religious Studies." Journal of Mennonite Studies 1 (1983): 161-74.

Yoder, John H. Politics of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972.

Yoder, John H. Priestly Kingdom. Notre Dame: Notre Dame, 1984.

Hauerwas, Stanley. Peaceable Kingdom. Notre Dame: Notre Dame, 1983.

Weaver, J. Denny. "Believers' Church Christology." Mennonite Quarterly Review 57 (1983): 112-31.

Weaver, J. Denny. Becoming Anabaptist. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1987: 113-41.

Kaufman, Gordon D. Context of Decision.  New York: Abingdon, 1961.

Kaufman, Gordon D. Systematic Theology. New York: Scribner's, 1968, 1978.

Lind, Millard. Yahweh is a Warrior. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1980.

Author(s) J. Denny Weaver
Date Published 1989

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MLA style

Weaver, J. Denny. "Religious Studies." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 22 Sep 2020.

APA style

Weaver, J. Denny. (1989). Religious Studies. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 September 2020, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 763-764. All rights reserved.

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