In this special issue we join the broader conversation already underway regarding the Mennonite World Conference’s “Renewal 2027” commemoration, with a keynote essay by Benjamin W. Goossen and 13 response essays authored by persons representing a broad range of perspectives.
One year ago, when I first read Ben’s essay “Why 500 Years?” and discussed with him the possibility of a special issue devoted to MWC’s “Renewal 2027”, still fresh in my mind was my springtime reading of the life of Robert S. Kreider, commemorated in last year’s issue of Mennonite Life. Robert Kreider’s life and work spanned the globe, encompassing his post-war work with Mennonite Central Committee in Europe, his launch of MCC’s Teacher’s Abroad Program in Africa and Latin America, and his service as recording secretary for Mennonite World Conference from 1978-1984, a term that overlapped with his ten-year stint (1974-1984) as editor of this journal. Reading Ben’s essay in the shadow of Robert’s global reach, I appreciated Ben’s focus on MWC’s “Renewal 2027” commemoration and his essay’s potential for fostering a lively conversation about how we might best remember and celebrate this history. Thank you, Ben, for providing this keynote essay while you were completing your book Chosen Nation: Mennonites and Germany in a Global Era, published in May 2017 by Princeton University Press (reviewed in this volume).
Vital to this special issue is the broader conversation prompted by Ben’s essay, and I am deeply grateful to the 13 persons whose essays published here enact that conversation. In the invitation to more than 30 persons to contribute short essays that responded to Ben’s critique, prospective authors were encouraged to engage his essay as they wished: “Affirmations, elaborations, critiques, counter-arguments, and complementary lines of thought are welcome.” The 13 authors who accepted that invitation represent a range of perspectives, and the diversity of their responses is certainly welcome in these pages. Thank you, César Garcia, Hannah Heinzekehr, Raylene Hinz-Penner, Julia Kasdorf, Bock Ki Kim, Karl Koop, J. Nelson Kraybill, Tim Nafziger, Troy Osborne, Walter Sawatsky, Gerald Schlabach, Tobin Miller Shearer, and Alain Epp Weaver, for bringing to this conversation your impressive range of knowledge and insight.
And a final word of thanks to all the persons who sustain the publication of this journal. As I approach the end of my first year as editor, I appreciate anew the professionalism and commitment of my colleagues Mark Jantzen and Rachel Epp Buller, both of whom have served as editor of Mennonite Life and continue to provide counsel as members of the editorial board. Also providing key expertise are editorial board members Karen Sheriff LeVan (Hesston College) and Bethel colleagues John Thiesen and Melanie Zuercher. And thanks also to new web developer Sheena Youngers for all her work on this her first issue.