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Public Events

Public Lectures

Canadian Mennonite University presents a number of annual lectures, including:

Past lectures


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 22–23, 2019

Christology Revisited: Why Jesus Matters

Dr. Nancy Elizabeth Bedford

with Dr. Nancy Elizabeth Bedford

Georgia Harkness Professor of Theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL

Why does it still matter to think about and to talk about Jesus Christ, as the theological discipline of "Christology" seeks to do? This lecture series will explore some of the material implications for our life together of the ways Jesus is envisioned in our contexts. Christology matters in concrete ways both for followers of Jesus and for non-Christians who are affected by the convictions and actions of those who claim a Christian identity.


Lecture #1: Tuesday, October 22
7:30 PM (CMU Chapel, 600 Shaftesbury Blvd.)

The Problem of a Ghostly Jesus: The Social and Political Implications of Docetism

"Docetism" refers to an ancient distortion about the person of Jesus, according to which Jesus only seems to be (from the Greek root dokeo) fully human. It often originates in the desire to stress the work of Jesus on behalf of God and indeed as God. However, whenever Jesus is posited as less-than-human, he becomes a ghostly figure that is easier to manipulate for social and political ends that have little to do with his message and his life as presented in the gospels. In North America, he has often become a symbol for white supremacy and the superiority of elite males. We will explore whether an anti-docetic approach that values the true humanity of Jesus can push back against the co-optation of Christology by those who very likely would have despised him, had they met him in the flesh.


Lecture #2: Wednesday, October 23
11:00 AM (CMU Chapel, 600 Shaftesbury Blvd.)

Mary Matters: Re-thinking the Theological Place of Jesus' Fierce Mother

One way to ground the true humanity of Jesus is to pay closer attention to his mother and how the theological discipline of "Mariology" can be helpful in revisiting Christology. In thinking about Mary we are faced with a paradox: On the one hand, she is the guarantee of Jesus' true and full humanity as our Brother, as Paul indicates when he points out that Jesus was "born of a woman, born under the law" (Gal. 4:4). On the other hand, the theological tradition soon seems to paint her as less than human herself, imagining her "immaculate conception" and a way of giving birth to her son preserved her "ever-virgin" state. We will explore how the ways Mary was understood and depicted by Julian of Norwich (1342-ca. 1416) and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648-1695) can help us express how and why "Mary matters."


Lecture #3: Wednesday, October 23
7:30 PM (CMU Chapel, 600 Shaftesbury Blvd.)

Why Christology is Not Enough: The Spirit and the Pathways Opened Up by Jesus

In the beautiful English of the King James Version and in many old hymns, the Holy Spirit is called the Holy "Ghost," a word that hearkens back to a Germanic root (g?st, as also in modern German Geist), rather than a Latin one (Spiritus). To speak of the Holy "Ghost," however, takes many of us right back to the same kind of docetic and "ghostly" theology we have been trying to avoid as we think about why Jesus "matters." How then, can the Holy Spirit make a positive difference for Christology? In exploring John 14-17 we will find that is precisely the Spirit who can move Christology from a "ghostly" and docetic endeavor to a grounded, dynamic way of living and thinking in the world as followers of Jesus.



Rev'd Dr. David Widdicombe Lecture

And His Hands Prepared the Dry Land: political theology of climate change

[ news release ]

In the face of historical emergencies, societies are always being invited to reconsider priorities and possibilities. Climate change is here—whether catastrophic or not, climate change is here.

This lecture will:

  • Explore some of the theological tools for thinking about the climate crisis and consider how all the outdated values of the past might be our last chance to still have a future.
  • Embark in a conversation about the climate emergency and how churches ought to respond
  • Attempt to retrieve Christian perspectives from the past for use in resisting the dominant scientific/technological assumptions of our time
  • Challenge the sense that nature has no soul—that if nature is merely a thing, then everything on it and in it is available for human consumption.
  • Claim that in the midst of the climate crisis our call as Christians is to honour the God who rules over earth and heaven. Local and national communities should find ways to conserve their own fossil fuels in the depths of the earth...and so re-create the historic and customary connections between nature and culture, land and life, love for neighbour and nature which are central" to the messianic love of the Jewish and Christian communities.
  • By faith we must ask what God has to do with the climate and how we should think about and understand the climate in the light of the death and resurrection of Christ.
  • In hope, we must ask, what we can hope for, work for, and expect to have to deal with in the future, whatever it may turn out to be.
  • Through love we must ask how we shall live together, survive together, as a church and as a wider set of communities whatever the future may bring. We should know now and commit to whatever is for the good of this place and neighbourhood in acts of friendship, solidarity, and love because we will need each other.

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

Wednesday, November 13 | 7:00 PM

Marpeck Commons | 2299 Grant Ave.

NOTE: there was mid-lecture failure in the livestream. A transcript of the lecture will be posted here when available. 


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

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.


Past Lectures


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.

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'd 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'd 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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