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Public Lectures

Canadian Mennonite University presents a number of annual lecture series, including:


A Public Lecture by Dr. Emily Welty, presented by the Canadian School of Peacebuilding

Dr. Emily Welty Lecure Poster
Imagination, Courage, and Resilience

Amidst feelings of hopelessness in the face of injustice, inequality and systems of oppression, how can we create communities of imagination, joy and resistance? Join Dr. Emily Welty as she explores these intersections by reflecting on her Nobel Peace Prize experience as part of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. 

Dr. Emily Welty
Welty is an activist, academic and artist working in the field of Peace and Justice Studies. She is a professor and director of Peace and Justice Studies at Pace University in New York City and currently serves as the Vice Moderator of the World Council of Churches Commission on International Affairs.

She has worked on nuclear disarmament from the perspective of faith-based resistance to nuclear weapons and was part of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapon's 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. Her scholarship and research focuses on faith-based peacebuilding and development work as well as nonviolent resistance.

News Release ]

Wednesday, June 19 | 7:00 PM

Marpeck Commons | 2299 Grant Ave.

Livestream Feed


The J.J. Thiessen Lecture Series

Founded in 1978 by Canadian Mennonite Bible College, the J.J. Thiessen Lectures are named in honour of a founder and long-time chairperson of the CMBC Board. The lectures seek to bring to the Canadian Mennonite University community something of his breadth of vision for the church.


October 16–17, 2018

Violence, Injustice, Trauma, and the Ordinary Practices of Christian Worship in a Social Media Age

Dr. John Witvliet
with Dr. John Witvliet

Director & Professor of Worship, Theology, and Congregational and Ministry Studies at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in Grand Rapids, MI

On Sunday mornings, like every other day, the world wakes up to a steady stream of terrible news about human violence, injustice and trauma. On Sunday mornings, Christians wake up and participate in public worship services that have to do with ultimate matters of God, creation, faith, life, death, salvation, and hope.

The question that haunts and invites us is this:

Escapist non-engagement with the world's troubles in our worship is tempting. And direct engagement with violence and trauma can be fraught with challenges, risking re-inscribing trauma on those of us most in need of healing. All of this is increasingly complicated by the different patterns of exposure we have to the world's trauma in light of social media. What wisdom can we share with each other about shaping public worship as we seek to live out our calling as Christ's body in the world?


Supplemental Materials for Dr. Witvliet's Lectures (PDF)


Lecture #1: Tuesday, October 16
7:30 PM (CMU Chapel, 600 Shaftesbury Blvd.)

Prayers of the People and a Cruciform Pastoral Imagination
What we pray for in public is reliable indicator of what we believe God is capable of and inclined to do in the world. Yet too often, what many Christian congregations do on normal Sunday mornings is to normalize a spiritually harmful vision of a god that has little to do with the world's trauma. We can do better. Intentional sustained prayer for the triune God's healing of violence, injustice, and trauma is surely something we can all agree should be a priority. But then, what kind of pastoral imagination do we need to nurture prayers that heal rather than hurt, that express both poignant longing and genuine hopefulness? What does this look like in quite different cultural contexts? And how can we pray in ways that do not overly politicize our worship, except for the politics fitting to our citizenship in the kingdom of God?


Lecture #2: Wednesday, October 17
11:00 AM (CMU Chapel, 600 Shaftesbury Blvd.)

Praise Beyond Cliché and Other Practices of Transfigured Cruciform Engagement
At first glance, our Sunday morning songs of praise and adoration might not seem like the most apt response to the world's trauma. How can so much joy, light, and enthusiasm possibly minister to so much pain and trauma? Indeed, praise can be a problem, particularly when it slips into simplisitic cliché, when it massages our egos rather than converts them, and when it promotes a triumphalistic vision detached from the cross of Christ. Yet the praise of the triune God can also be an anchor in a storm, a vision of light in the shadows, a practice of hope in context of hopelessness. And transfigured praise can also point us to other practices of cruciform engagement with the world's troubles that many victims of violence and trauma have found to be healing. While a significant dimension of our response to violence is occasional, responding to specific events and tragedies, we have so much to learn about how ordinary, routine practices can be used by God's Spirit to bring healing and hope.


Lecture #3: Wednesday, October 17
7:30 PM (CMU Chapel, 600 Shaftesbury Blvd.)

Discipling Emotion, Singing at the Table, and Practices of Mutual Accountability
Public worship is so much more than an exercise in thinking. It is also about the gestures, postures, and profound emotions that emerge from our covenantal engagement with the triune God. As we face the world's tragedies, how might Christian public worship be a school of discipleship not merely for how we think about them, but also for how we feel about and in them? How might worship purify and sanctify our emotions? Drawing on several generations of theological testimony about African-American spirituals, this lecture will explore what "godly sorrow," "righteous anger," and "cruciform hope" have sounded like across a range of Christian worship music, and then explore how we might deepen our own practices of singing together at the Lord's Table. We'll conclude with reflections on how all of these forms of transfigured engagement with violence, injustice, and trauma require collaboration in Christian community. We need each other—pastors, musicians, and artists; Mennonite, Reformed, and Catholic communities; missiologists, pastoral care givers, and theologians—not so that we will arrive at a neat and tidy formula for our typical Sunday morning services, but rather to cultivate a cruciform imagination out of which those services will be shaped and experienced, and a mutual commitment to serve together as ministers of God's peace.

John and Margaret Friesen Lectures logo

John and Margaret Friesen Lectures

The John and Margaret Friesen Lectures in Anabaptist/Mennonite Studies are co-sponsored by Canadian Mennonite University, the Mennonite Heritage Centre, and the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies. The inaugural lectures in November 2002 were delivered by Dr. Abraham Friesen (Professor of History, University of California, Santa Barbara), the generous donor who initiated the lecture series.


"A Twentieth Century Reformation: Anabaptism in Guatemala"

with Dr. Patricia Harms, Brandon University

Patricia Harms is an Associate Professor of History at Brandon University, where she teaches courses on Latin America, Women's Histories, Imperialism, and Decolonization throughout the global south in the History Department and Gender & Women's Studies Program. She received her PhD from Arizona State University and a Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. She is trained as a Latin American historian with an emphasis on women's history and gender analysis. Her research is centered in Guatemala and more broadly in Central America focuses on the histories of women. Her book on women in Guatemala City, Imagining a Place for Ourselves, is soon to be published by University of New Mexico Press. She is also co-editing a volume on suffrage in the Americas and just completed a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute this past summer at Carthage College in Wisconsin. She is currently a participant in a Social Sciences and Humanities Research partnership grant with the communities of Garden Hill and Wassagamack at Island Lake, Manitoba.

A 20th century reformation event poster

Harms will present two lectures titled "A Twentieth Century Reformation: Anabaptism in Guatemala." Harms will explore the historical contexts of the country of Guatemala and the emergence of Anabaptism within the first presentation and then focus on the rise of the Anabaptist community in Guatemala for the second lecture. She will identify the tensions between the political and social violence, the economic inequalities and historic racism within Guatemala and the Anabaptist tenets of social justice, love, and non-violence, which echo the Anabaptist origins during the early reformation period.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Part I: Historical Factors 
11:00 AM
Mennonite Heritage Centre (600 Shaftesbury Blvd.)

Part II: Living the Faith
7:00 PM
Marpeck Commons (2299 Grant Ave.)

[ news release ]


Previous Lectures

2017: Faith and Toleration: A Reformation Debate Revisited
Lecturer: C. Arnold Snyder, Professor Emeritus, History, at Conrad Grebel University College

2015: Come Watch This Spider: Animals, Mennonites, and the Modern World
Lecturer: Royden Loewen, Chair in Mennonite Studies and Professor of History at the University of Winnipeg

2009: Mennonite Women in Canadian History: Birth, Food, and War
Lecturer: Marlene Epp of Conrad Grebel University College.

2008: Church and ethnicity: The Mennonite Experience in Paraguay
Lecturer: Alfred Neufeld, Dean of the School of Theology of the Protestant University of Paraguay.

2007: Mennonite Identity in the 21st Century
Lecturer: John D. Roth

2006: Sacred Spaces, Sacred Places: Mennonite Architecture in Russia and Canada
Presenters: Rudy Friesen, Harold Funk, Roland Sawatsky

2005: Recovering A Heritage: The Mennonite Experience in Poland and Prussia
Lecturer: Peter Klassen, Professor Emeritus of History, California State University, Fresno


Proclaiming the Claims of Christ Lecture Series

This lecture series has been offered at CMU since 2007. The series addresses the various dimensions of Christian apologetics (theory, evangelism, Gospel and society, singularity of Christ in a multi-cultural context, etc.).

Previous Lectures

2011: Cancelled

2012: The Unique Gift of Christ
Lecturer: Dr. Benne Jordan-Trexler Professor of Relgion Emeritus and Director of the Center for Religion and Society at Roanoke College, Salem, Virginia.

2010: Proclaiming the Unique Claims of Christ; Negotiating the Christian-Muslim Interface
Lecturer: Emmanuel Ali El-Shariff

2009: Being a Christian in the public media, radio broadcaster, and media commentator
Lecturer: Michael Coren

2008: Proclaiming Christ in a Post-Christian World
Lecturer: John Stackhouse, Regent College.

2007: Joe Boot, evangelist, apologist, author and the executive director of Ravi Zacharias Ministries in Canada.


A public lecture with The Honourable Senator Murray Sinclair

The TRC, Calls to Action, and the Mountain Before Us: Stories of Hope and Challenge

[ news release ]

CMU is honoured to host The Honourable Senator Murray Sinclair as he shares stories and insights of Canadian communities, churches, and educational institutions responding to the TRC's 94 Calls to Action.

This is an in-person and livestreamed event. (see livestream feed below)

The Honourable Senator Sinclair served the justice system in Manitoba for over 25 years. He was the first Aboriginal Judge appointed in Manitoba and Canada's second.

He served as Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry in Manitoba and as Chief Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). As head of the TRC, he participated in hundreds of hearings across Canada, culminating in the issuance of the TRC's report in 2015. He also oversaw an active multi-million dollar fundraising program to support various TRC events and activities, and to allow survivors to travel to attend TRC events.

Monday, March 5 | 7:00 PM
Marpeck Commons (2299 Grant Ave.)

John Ralston Saul Poster

A public lecture with John Ralston Saul, presented by CMU's Canadian School of Peacebuilding

Living with Uncertainty: The Road to Peace

Canada is more and more isolated from its allies because, without exception, the United States and European countries are shaping themselves towards internal divisions and external fear. They remain caught up the in old 19th Century idea of how nations function. You can see this in Europe on their handling of the refugee crisis. One of the curiosities of the continent is that every year over the last 70 years it has received large numbers of immigrants, and yet it has never been able to admit that this would require massive changes in how they imagine themselves. In many ways, this crisis is all about an immigration continent which cannot admit that reality, and so, has no immigration policy. Only by embracing concepts of uncertainty can they find ways to live together, both within their countries and with their neighbours.

John Ralston Saul is an award winning essayist and novelist whose contributions have had a growing impact on political and economic thought in many countries. Declared a "prophet" by TIME magazine, he is included in the prestigious Utne Reader's list of the world's 100 leading thinkers and visionaries. His 14 works have been translated into 28 languages in 37 countries. Some of his most important works include the philosophical trilogy, Voltaire´s Bastards, The Unconscious Civilization, and The Doubter's Companion with its conclusion, On Equilibrium. His most recent work, The Comeback (Le Grand Retour)—an examination of the remarkable return to power of Aboriginal peoples in Canada—has greatly influenced the national conversation on Indigenous issues in the country. Saul is the former President of PEN International, co-Founder and co-Chair of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. He is a Companion of the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario. —

[ news release and video ]


Rev. Dr. David Widdicombe Lecture

To Sow the Wind: An Argument Against the War on Terror and Other Bad Ideas

Just War theory has received a lot of attention in recent times but the results have been mixed. It is no longer a tradition of thought designed to place strict restraints upon the use of force in the necessary use of force in restraint of evil. Under the pressure of humanitarian interventionism, theories that democracies do not fight wars against each other, American (and Western) exceptionalism, supposed states of emergency, and other ideological adventures upon the turbulent seas of the international order, the tradition has lost its profound Augustinian political skepticism and moral realism. This lecture will ask whether the restraint of force wasn't always a better (foundational) idea than the pursuit of justice in the just war tradition, a tradition that once thought war tragically endemic and sometimes justified, but never simply unambiguously just.

Rev. Dr. Widdicombe is the Rector of Saint Margaret's Anglican Church in Winnipeg.

[ news release ]


Winter Lecture Series

The CMU Winter Lectures was an annual public lecture series that highlighted the arts, science, humanities, and interdisciplinary studies at CMU and to foster dialogue between these disciplines and the Christian faith. The series ran from to 200 to 2011.

Audio/video recordings of these lectures are available through CommonWord Bookstore and Resource Centre.

2011: Resonance, Receptivity, and Radical Reformation
Lecturer: Dr. Romand Coles, McAllister Chair in Community, Culture, & Environment at Northern Arizona University. Resonance, Receptivity and Radical Reformation

2010: Paradoxes of Reconciliation
Lecturer: Vern Redekop, Associate Professor of Conflict Studies at Saint Paul University in Ottawa. Topic: Paradoxes of Reconciliation

2009: Placing Our Faith in a Placeless World?
Lecturer: Dr. Norman Wirzba, Research Professor of Theology, Ecology and Rural Life, Duke Divinity School. Topic: Placing Our Faith in a Placeless World?

2008: Art, Beauty, and Christian Theology
Lecturer: Erica Grimm Vance, Assistant Professor and Visual Arts Coordinator, Trinity Western University. Topic: Art, Beauty and Christian Theology.

2007: Cosmology, Evolution, and Resurrection Hope
Lecturer: Dr. Robert Russell, Professor of Theology and Science, Graduate Theological Union, and Director for the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences. Topic: Cosmology, Evolution and Resurrection Hope.

2006: Alvin Dueck, Evelyn and Frank Freed Professor of the Integration of Psychology and Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary—Topic: Psychology and Theology.

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