Public Events & Important Dates
Canadian Mennonite University presents a number of annual lecture events, including:
- J.J. Thiessen Lecture Series
- John & Margaret Friesen Lectures
- Scientist in Residence Lecture Series
- CSOP Lecture Series
Other past lectures
- Rev'd Dr. David Widdicombe – And His Hands Prepared the Dry Land
- Rev'd Dr. David Widdicombe Lecture – To Sow the Wind
- Winter Lecture Series
- Proclaiming the Claims of Christ 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.
Picturing the Bible: How Artists Tell the Story
with Dr. Robin W. Jensen
Patrick O'Brien Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame
October 18–19, 2022
Contrary to what is often assumed, both Christians and Jews made pictorial art for their worship spaces no later than the early second century CE and have continued to do so through history. From the first, these artworks were never simply decorative but drew upon stories from both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. As such, they served and still serve an exegetical and even theological purpose and not simply an illustrative one.
The first of these lectures will consider the question of what early Christians (and Jews) considered idols and why depictions of their sacred stories were not among them.
The second lecture will consider the function and purpose of sacred art and consider the ways that artists’ works through the centuries have illuminated and interpreted biblical narratives as well as theological dogmas. This lecture will also explore the relationship between verbal and visual exegesis.
The third lecture in this series will explore the emergence of non-pictorial sacred art in the modern era, and discuss how such works may still engage viewers through more abstract forms and formal elements of color and shape.
Dr. Robin Jensen’s research and publication focuses on the relationship between early Christian art and literature and examines the ways that visual images and architectural spaces should be regarded as modes of theological expression. Her published essays and books contend that, in addition to interpreting sacred texts, visual images enhance liturgical settings, reflect the nature and content of devotional piety, and explicate ritual practices.
Jensen teaches courses on the character of late antique Christian and Jewish art, the history and evolution of Christian architecture, the iconography of the cross and crucifix, depictions of Christ and the Virgin Mary, and the place and controversies over images and idols in ancient and early medieval Christianity. Her most recent book, From Idols to Icons: The Emergence of Devotional Art in Early Christianity (University of California Press, 2022) examines the emergence of a Christian material piety in the fourth and fifth centuries. This work discusses the perceived danger of visual representations of divine beings and the belief that images may facilitate the presence of holy persons in their absence.
Lecture #1: Tuesday, October 18, 11:00 AM
The Second Commandment and the Myth of Jewish and Christian Aniconism
Lecture #2: Tuesday, October 18 7:00 PM
Visual Exegesis: Exploring, Expressing, and Expanding the Text
Lecture #3: Wednesday, October 19, 11:00 AM
Beyond the Text: From Icons to Abstract Art
Past annual J.J. Thiessen Lectures published by CMU Press.
2018: Dr. John Witvliet, Director & Professor of Worship, Theology, and Congregational and Ministry Studies at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in Grand Rapids, MI
Topic: Violence, Injustice, Trauma, and the Ordinary Practices of Christian Worship in a Social Media Age
[ VIDEOS ]
2017: Dr. C. Arnold Snyder, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Waterloo
Topic: Faith and Toleration: A Reformation Debate Revisited
[ VIDEOS ]
2016: Dr. J. Richard Middleton, Professor of Biblical Worldview and Exegesis, Northeastern Seminary in Rochester, NY
Topic: The Silence of Abraham, The Passion of Job: Explorations in the Theology of Lament
[ VIDEOS ]
2015: Dr. Darren Dochuk, Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Notre Dame
Topic: Crude Awakenings: The Faith, Politics, and Crises of Oil in America's Century?
[ VIDEOS ]
2014: Dr. John Swinton, Professor and Chair in Divinity and Religious Studies, University of Aberdeen, Scotland
Topic: Becoming Friends of Time: Disability, Timefulness and Gentle Discipleship
[ VIDEOS ]
2012: Dr. Beverly Roberts Gaventa, Helen H. P. Manson Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis, Princeton Theological Seminary
Topic: From Powerlessness to Praise in Paul's Letter to the Romans
2011: Dr. Peter Widdicombe, McMaster University
Topic: Scripture and the Christian Imagination: Text, Doctrine, and Artistic Representation in the Early Church and Beyond
2009: Dr. Peter Ochs, Edgar Bronfman Professor of Modern Judaic Studies, University of Virginia
Topic: The Free Church and Israel's Covenant
2008: Dr. Mark Noll, Professor of History, University of Notre Dame
Topic: A Yankee Looks North: Toward an Appreciation and Assessment of the History of Christianity in Canada.
2007: Dr. Ellen Davis, Professor of Bible and Practical Theology, Duke Divinity School
Topic: Live Long on the Land: Food and Farming from a Biblical Perspective.
2006: Dr. Joel J. Shuman, King's College, Wilkes-Barre, PA
Topic: To Live is to Worship: Bioethics and the Body of Christ
[ BOOK ]
2005: Dr. Paul J. Griffiths, Schmitt Professor of Catholic Studies at University of Illinois at Chicago
Topic: The Vice of Curiosity: Towards a Theology of Intellectual Appetite
[ BOOK ]
2004: Dr. Peter C. Erb, Professor of Religion & Culture at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario
Topic: Late Medieval Spirituality and the Sources for Peace and Reconciliation: Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, Julian of Norwich
2003: Dr. Paul G. Hiebert, Distinguished Professor of Mission and Anthropology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Topic: Doing Missional Theology
2002: Dr. Seán Freyne, Professor of Theology in the School of Religions and Theology at Trinity College, Dublin
Topic: Jesus, Jews, and Galilee
2001: Dr. Letty M. Russell, Yale University Divinity School
Topic: Practising God's Hospitality in a World of Difference
2000: Dr. William P. Brown, William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary
Topic: God and the Imagination: A Primer to Reading the Psalms in an Age of Pluralism
[ BOOK ]
1999: Dr. T.D. Regehr, Professor of History, University of Saskatchewan
Topic: Peace, Order & Good Government: Mennonites & Politics in Canada
[ BOOK ]
1998: Dr. Eugene H. Peterson, Professor of Spiritual Theology, Regent College
Topic: Christ Plays In Ten Thousand Places
1997: Dr. Richard B. Hayes, George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament, Duke Divinity School
Topic: New Testament Ethics: The Story Retold
[ BOOK ]
1993: Dr. Phyllis A. Bird, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
Topic: Feminism and the Bible
1990: Dr. Werner O. Packull, Mennonite Archives of Ontario, Conrad Grebel University College
Topic: Rereading Anabaptist Beginnings
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.
"Reading Mennonite Writing Now"
Thursday, March 3, 2022
Mennonite literary studies in North America is in a period of transition, with new scholarly avenues opening as critics respond to a fast-growing body of Mennonite fiction, poetry, and life writing. What does Mennonite literature look like today, and how can we read it most productively?
Robert Zacharias is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at York University in Toronto, and an Associate Editor of the Journal of Mennonite Studies. He is editor of After Identity: Mennonite Writing in North America (2016), and author of Rewriting the Break Event: Mennonites and Migration in Canadian Literature (2012). His new book, Reading Mennonite Writing: A Study in Minor Transnationalism, is forthcoming this spring from Penn State University Press.
Lecture 1 | “Distant Reading, Mennonite Writing: On the Past of Mennonite Literature in North America”
11:00 AM | CMU Chapel
The first talk in this two-part lecture will consider the quiet role that literary history plays in focussing our collective critical gaze, and draws on recent work in the digital humanities to reconsider what we think we know about the emergence of Mennonite writing in English. What happens to our understanding of Mennonite literature, I want to ask, if we take a step back and rethink the assumptions and parameters that helped to establish it as a field of study?
Lecture 2 | “Endure: On the Future of Mennonite Literature in North America”
7:00 PM | Marpeck Commons
The second talk will build on our distant reading of the field’s past with close readings of two works of contemporary Mennonite literature: in Little Fish, Casey Plett presents a vibrant but vulnerable community of trans women in Winnipeg, several of whom are looking to the Mennonite past in search of a future community; in “Fallow,” Sofia Samatar weaves together theological and migration histories to present a colony of intergalactic Mennonites far in the future. In the work of Plett and Samatar we find not only two of the most acclaimed works of Mennonite writing in recent years, but also two of its most generous investments in possible Mennonite futures.
2019: A Twentieth Century Reformation: Anabaptism in Guatemala
Lecturer: Dr. Patricia Harms, Associate Professor of History, Brandon University
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
"Choosing Love in the Wake of Wounding"
with Dr. Johonna McCants-Turner
Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies, Conrad Grebel University College at the University of Waterloo
Thursday, June 16, 2022 | 7:30 PM
Livestreamed and in-person: Marpeck Commons | 2299 Grant Ave.
[ News release ]
Join us as Dr. Johonna McCants-Turner will talk about how women of colour essays, activists, organizers, and practitioners in the restorative and transformative justice movements reflect on the role of love in responding to violence through healing and accountability without punishment.
McCants-Turner is Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Conrad Grebel University College at the University of Waterloo. She formerly served as a special education teacher with the District of Columbia Public Schools, the founder and director of the Visions to Peace Project, and an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, where she earned her PhD. She also holds a Certificate in Urban Youth Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary, and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies from the University of Maryland. Dr. McCants-Turner is a founding advisory board member of Life Comes From It, a US-based grant making fund that invests in Black, Indigenous, People of Colour-led movements for restorative justice, transformative justice, and Indigenous peacemaking. She is currently working on her first book, In the Wake of Wounding: Black Womanist Ethics and Reparative Justice (Wm. B Eerdmans Press).
2020: The Myth of Religious Violence
Lecturer: Dr. William Cavanaugh, Professor of Catholic Studies, DePaul University
2019: Imagination, Courage, and Resilience
Lecturer: Dr. Emily Welty, professor and director of Peace and Justice Studies at Pace University, NY
2018: A Transformative Spirituality for Peacebuilding
Lecturer: Dr. Fernando Enns, Professor of Theology and Ethics at Vrije Universiteit (Free University), Amsterdam
2018: The TRC, Calls to Action and the Mountain Before Us: Stories of Hope and Challenge
Lecturer: The Honorable Senator Murray Sinclair
2016: Living with Uncertainty: The Road to Peace
Lecturer: John Ralston Saul, award winning essayist and novelist
Past Public Lectures
Rev'd Dr. David Widdicombe – 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.
Rev'd Dr. David Widdicombe – 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 ]
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 2006 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: Psychology and Theology
Lecturer: Alvin Dueck, Evelyn and Frank Freed Professor of the Integration of Psychology and Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary
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.).
2012: The Unique Gift of Christ
Lecturer: Dr. Benne Jordan-Trexler Professor of Religion 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.