Waltner, James H. (1931-2007)

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James H. Waltner, 1994.
Photo courtesy Mennonite Library & Archives #2018-0126

James H. Waltner: pastor, denominational leader and author, was born 7 September 1931 in rural Marion, South Dakota, USA to Henry J. Waltner (8 February 1893-29 June 1987) and Ida Kaufman Waltner (29 July 1899-9 September 1975). James was the fourth child and third son in a family of four sons and one daughter. On 1 June 1956 he married Lenore Pankratz (7 July 1934- ); they had three children--Rachel, Tim and JoAn. James Waltner died 18 December 2007 in Goshen, Indiana. He is buried at the Salem Mennonite Church cemetery in Freeman, South Dakota.

James grew up in a farming family, and attended a rural one-room public school. He graduated from Freeman Academy and Junior College in Freeman, South Dakota. After farming with his father and brother for three years, he attended Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas from 1953-1955. It was there he met Lenore Pankratz of Mountain Lake, Minnesota.

James and Lenore moved to Chicago, Illinois where James graduated from Mennonite Biblical Seminary in 1958. He was ordained to pastoral ministry at his home church, Salem Mennonite, and became pastor of Tabor Mennonite Church located southeast of Goessel, Kansas where he served 1958-1967. During his ministry there he authored This We Believe, a catechism study book for young people.

Waltner's next pastorate was at First Mennonite Church in Upland, California, where he served from 1967-1972. He also worked on a DMin degree at Claremont School of Theology. He graduated in 1971; his dissertation was titled, "The authentication of preaching in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition."

The family then moved to Normal, Illinois where James pastored the First Mennonite Church (after a 1976 merger with the Bloomington Mennonite Church, it was renamed the Mennonite Church of Normal) from 1972-1986. This was an early dual-conference congregation with membership both in the Mennonite Church (MC) and the General Conference Mennonite Church. During these years he authored a 64-page booklet on Baptism and church membership.

In 1986 James and Lenore Waltner moved to Goshen, Indiana where he pastored at the College Mennonite Church until his retirement in 1996. He then worked to complete a project inspired by his deep interest in Biblical studies and Hebrew language. This was his commentary, Psalms, published in 2006 as a volume in the Believers church Bible commentary series.

During his active ministry, Waltner was also a denominational leader. This included service as president of the Pacific and Central districts of the General Conference Mennonite Church, the General Board of the General Conference Mennonite Church, as chair of the Mennonite Biblical Seminary Board, and as moderator of the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference.

In retirement, James Waltner enjoyed his responsibilities as Overseer for five congregations of the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference. He continued to serve his denomination in numerous assignments, including the Membership Committee (1998-99), which helped to develop Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada. He was Interim Executive Secretary for Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries (2000-2002) and Interim Executive Secretary for the Commission on Education (2001-2002). He also served 12 years on the Oaklawn Psychiatric Center board.

James H. Waltner’s influence was felt and appreciated both in his home congregations as well as the broader Mennonite Church.


GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 19-07 ed. Fresno, CA: " California Mennonite Historical Society, 2020: #298185.

"James H. Waltner" Global Anabaptist Wiki. 22 September 2015. Web. 3 January 2020. https://anabaptistwiki.org/mediawiki/index.php?title=James_H._Waltner.

"James H. Waltner." Goshen News (21 December 2007). Web. 3 January 2020. https://obituaries.goshennews.com/obituary/james-waltner-716813481.

Memorial service program. Goshen College Mennonite Church (30 December 2007).

"Normal, Bloomington congregations merge." The Mennonite 91, no. 37 (19 October 1976): 611.

"Pastor, conference leader dies at 76 in Goshen." Mennonite Weekly Review (7 January 2008): 7. Web. 3 January 2020. https://mla.bethelks.edu/mediawiki/index.php/Waltner,_James_H._(1931-2007).


James H. Waltner Papers, MS.592, Mennonite Library and Archives, Bethel College, North Newton, Kansas.

Books by James H. Waltner

Waltner, James H. This we believe. Newton, Kan. : Faith and Life Press, 1968.

_____. Baptism and church membership. Newton, Kan.: Faith and Life Press, 1979.

_____. Psalms. Believers church Bible commentary. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2006.

Author(s) Samuel J Steiner
Date Published January 2020

Cite This Article

MLA style

Steiner, Samuel J. "Waltner, James H. (1931-2007)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2020. Web. 21 Jun 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Waltner,_James_H._(1931-2007)&oldid=174349.

APA style

Steiner, Samuel J. (January 2020). Waltner, James H. (1931-2007). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 June 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Waltner,_James_H._(1931-2007)&oldid=174349.

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