An Invitation to the “Crossing the Line: Women of Anabaptist Traditions” Conference

Rachel Waltner Goossen

It’s been twenty-two years since historians from the U.S. and Canada collaborated on the first academic conference focusing on women of Anabaptist traditions.  A sequel comes this summer: an interdisciplinary conference, Crossing the Line:  Women of Anabaptist Traditions Encounter Borders and Boundaries, slated for June 22-24, at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  Scholars from around the globe as well as students and others interested in women’s and Anabaptist/Mennonite history will gather for cross-disciplinary panels, sessions, and conversations.  The conference theme invites us to consider how Anabaptists, Mennonites, Amish, and related groups have bumped up against – and traversed – physical and figurative borders, right up to the present day. 

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Crossing the Line is a conference about women from Anabaptist traditions. Panels will emphasize the rich diversity of Anabaptist women’s experiences.

In 1995, a landmark scholarly conference titled The Quiet in the Land? Women of Anabaptist Traditions in Historical Perspective drew 256 participants from Canada, the U.S., Germany, and the Netherlands. Hosted at Millersville University in Pennsylvania, this early collaborative effort among Mennonite scholars featured artistic performances, especially drama, music and poetry. Approximately one hundred academic presentations explored the richness of women’s experience and interests drawn from Mennonite, Mennonite Brethren, Amish, Hutterite, Brethren in Christ, German Baptist, and Jewish perspectives. 

At the conclusion of the 1995 conference, participants were enthusiastic about the variety of methodological and interdisciplinary approaches on display, but noted that a future conference would need to cast a more inclusive net.  Many called for greater attention to international stories and viewpoints, pointing out that a critical mass of individuals in Anabaptist traditions lived outside of U.S./Canadian communities.  Others critiqued the Millersville gathering for failing to incorporate LGBT history, although other forms of inclusion/exclusion were dominant themes of the conference. 

Strangers at Home

Strangers at Home came out of a landmark 1995 conference on Anabaptist women.

By the final day of the conference, one observer noted the gathering’s big-tent flavor:  “Many perspectives have been expressed underneath this canopy . . . . We have not been concerned with boundaries.” Johns Hopkins University Press was attracted to the gendered theme of the conference and subsequently published an edited collection, Strangers at Home:  Amish and Mennonite Women in History (2002), which highlighted European- and North American-focused scholarship (a notable exception was Marlene Epp’s “’Weak Families’ in the Green Hell of Paraguay”). 

Intensifying an international reach this time around, the June 2017 conference will focus on boundaries and border-crossings. Women from the Global South will participate. Students and scholars from a dozen countries are among the panelists and plenary speakers.  Each day, an invited scholar will address implications of border- and boundary-crossings.  Hasia Diner, New York University Professor of History, will speak on gender systems in ethno-religious immigrant communities. Cynthia Peacock of India, affiliated with Mennonite Central Committee for nearly four decades and a representative for Mennonite World Conference, plans to address church leadership in South Asia. And Sofia Samatar, a Somali-American writer and English professor at James Madison University, will be drawing from her own Arab and Mennonite heritage for her presentation, “Crossing Ethnicities.”

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Sofia Samatar, professor of English at James Madison University, will be one of several plenary speakers at Crossing the Line.

Academic presentations on a wide array of topics, as well as an art exhibit, poetry readings, original dramatic performance, modern dance and ballet performances, and Shendandoah Valley cultural tours round out the conference offerings. In the spirit of the 1995 gathering, organizers of the upcoming Crossing the Line gathering hope the event will contribute to “mentoring relationships that crossed traditions and disciplines and age groups,” according to planning committee co-chair Kimberly Schmidt.

Watch this Anabaptist Historians blog site for regular updates and postings from participants throughout and after the conference. Participants may register for the entire conference or for a daily rate.  Registration, schedule, sponsorship, and lodging details are available via the conference website.

Rachel Waltner Goossen is a member of the conference planning committee and professor of history at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.

Call for Papers: Remembering Muted Voices: Conscience, Dissent, Resistance, and Civil Liberties in World War I through Today

remembering-muted-voicesThe World War’s profound effect on the United States is often overlooked. Although the United States actively took part in the conflict for only 18 months, the war effort introduced mass conscription, transformed the American economy, and mobilized popular support through war bonds, patriotic rallies, and anti-German propaganda. Nevertheless, many people desired a negotiated peace, opposed American intervention, refused to support the war effort, and/or even imagined future world orders that could eliminate war. Among them were members of the peace churches and other religious groups, women, pacifists, radicals, labor activists, and other dissenters.

Intolerance and repression often mute the voices of war critics. Almost overnight in 1917, individuals and groups who opposed the war faced constraints on their freedom to advocate, organize, and protest. The Selective Service Act of 1917 made few concessions for conscientious objectors. The Espionage Act of 1917—reinforced by the Sedition Act of 1918—prohibited many forms of speech and made it a crime to interfere with the draft. Peace advocates, antiwar activists and conscientious objectors confronted not only external hostility from the government, the press, and war supporters, but also internal disagreements over how to respond to the war and advance the cause of peace. The experience of American dissenters was not unique; their counterparts in other belligerent countries and colonial dependencies found themselves in comparable situations. Yet, those who opposed World War I helped initiate modern peace movements and left a legacy that continues to influence antiwar activism.

We invite proposals for papers, panels, posters, roundtables, and workshops that engage in diverse ways with issues of conscience, dissent, resistance, and civil liberties during World War I, in the United States and around the world. We encourage proposals that examine historical and contemporary parallels to the war. Strong conference papers will be given consideration for publication in special issues of Mennonite Quarterly Review and Peace & Change.

Topics Might Cover:

  • War Resistance as an Expression of Religious Conscience (Amish, Brethren, Catholics, Hutterites, Latter Day Saints, Mennonites, Methodists, Nazarenes, Pentecostals, Quakers, etc.)
  • Secular Dissent and Resistance to War (feminists, socialists, and other movements and communities)
  • The Costs of War (economic, political, social, physical, psychological, etc.)
  • Civil Liberties in World War I and War Today
  • Race, Empire, and World War I
  • The Legacy and Relevance of World War I Peace Activism to the Present
  • The Causes and Prevention of War: World War I and Since
  • Teaching World War I and Peace History in High School and College
  • Memory, Memorialization, and the Public History of World War I

The program committee invites interested participants to send a 1-page proposal focused on the theme of the conference by January 31, 2017 to John D. Roth at johndr@goshen.edu.

For more on the conference, click here.

Call for Papers: Word, Spirit, and the Renewal of the Church

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In the fall of 1517, Martin Luther’s challenge to the authority of the papacy and church tradition—along with his appeal to Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone)—inspired various reformers to read scripture and to understand the liberating power of the Holy Spirit in new ways. But what started as a renewal movement within the Catholic Church soon led to a host of divisions, giving rise to Protestant, Anabaptist, and other traditions, including those groups known as the Believers’ Church. Among the latter, the deep debts to the renewal impulses of late medieval Catholicism and the Protestant Reformation are unmistakable. In the 500 years since then, the church—including the Believers’ Church movement—has further expanded globally in a great diversity of forms.

This conference seeks to explore the gifts and tensions of the Reformation legacy for the Believers’ Church tradition, with a view toward its ecumenical and global dimensions. The gathering will focus especially on the debates that have swirled around the themes of Biblical authority, the movement of the Spirit, and the renewal of the church.

The conference theme “Word, Spirit, and the Renewal of the Church” can encompass a wide range of disciplines, approaches, and topics. We seek proposals from theologians, biblical scholars, ethicists, historians, pastors, and graduate students that address how the debates of the sixteenth century continue to find expression in contemporary understandings of Word, Spirit, and the renewal of the church. We are especially interested in papers that bring voices from the Believers’ Church into conversation with other Christian traditions.

Possible questions and topics to address include:

  • How does a given understanding of Word and Spirit, and their relation to each other, interact with another doctrine (e.g., creation, Christology, ecclesiology, etc.)?
  • What are some of the theological and sociological dynamics of past and present renewal movements within the Believers’ Church tradition?
  • How do groups in the Believers’ Church tradition interpret the Bible and its authority vis-à-vis other Christian traditions?
  • How has the Reformation called into question the location of the church: where/who is the church today?
  • What are some of the key issues facing comparative theologies, ethics, and practices of grace, discipleship, tradition, enculturation, church unity and renewal, worship and preaching, etc.?
  • How are the central issues of the Reformation relevant to the Believers’ Church, especially in its global dimension?

Presentations should reflect a thoughtful engagement with scholarship but be accessible to a broad audience, including interested lay people. A limited number of travel grants will be available, with highest priority going to presenters coming from the Global South and students.

Please submit a one-page CV and a 250-word abstract for a paper or a complete panel/workshop session (with presenters indicated) by April 1, 2017 to John D. Roth (johndr@goshen.edu). Conference organizers will respond by May 1, 2017.

Mennonites, Service, and the Humanitarian Impulse: MCC at 100

Call for papers

October 23-24, 2020

mcc-logo_fbIn 1920 Mennonites from different ethnic and church backgrounds formed Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to collaboratively respond to the famine ravaging Mennonite communities in the Soviet Union (Ukraine). Over the ensuing century, MCC has grown to embrace disaster relief, development, and peacebuilding in over 60 countries around the world. MCC has been one of the most influential Mennonite organizations of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It has operated as a mechanism for cooperation among a wide variety of Mennonite groups, including Brethren in Christ and Amish, constructing a broad inter-Mennonite, Anabaptist identity. Yet it has also brought Mennonites into global ecumenical and interfaith partnerships.

This centennial conference invites proposals for papers that examine the past, present, and future of MCC. More broadly it invites papers on the Mennonites’ response to the biblical call to love one’s neighbor through practical acts of service. Proposals from a wide variety of disciplinary perspectives are welcomed, including but not limited to anthropology, conflict transformation and peacebuilding, cultural studies, development studies, economics, history, political science, sociology, and theology.

The conference will be hosted by the Chair of Mennonite Studies, University of Winnipeg, in collaboration with Canadian Mennonite University.

Proposal submission: December 1, 2019. Send proposals or questions to Royden Loewen, Chair in Mennonite Studies, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3B 2E9, Canada. Email: r.loewen@uwinnipeg.ca

Limited research grants are available to help defray costs related to research in MCC’s archives in Akron, Pennsylvania or at other MCC sites. Queries, with a brief two paragraph description of the proposed research, should be sent to Alain Epp Weaver (aew@mcc.org). Requests for research grants will be assessed on an ongoing, rolling basis.

See also at https://mccintersections.wordpress.com/mcc-at-100-call-for-proposals/