Public Events

Public Lectures

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

Past lectures

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.


event poster


"What if Mennonites Had Never Left the Netherlands?"

with Dr. Piet Visser, Emeritus Professor, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam

[ news release ]

What if the 16th-century Dutch and North-German ancestors of so many North American Mennonites had decided not to escape from persecution in the Low Countries? What if they had not departed to find asylum in the swampy flatlands of the Polish Vistula Delta or gone to develop new settlements in the Ukraine—and, therefore, not been faced with the atrocities of tsarist tyranny, communist revolution, or Nazi war?

Since the course of history is irreversible, the "what-if" question remains a hypothetical one! However, Dutch Mennonite history offers a trans-historical picture of Mennonite socio-religious identity in which the narrative of migration and resettlement—a feature that shapes so many other branches of the global Mennonite Church—is largely absent. The history of Dutch Mennonitism is not only the story of the early stages of the Dutch-Prussian-Russian Mennonites who are now in North and South America, but also the story of the Dutch Anabaptist-Mennonite traditions that never left the Netherlands. During the times of persecution not all hunted heretics fled their homelands: many survived in the Low Countries, at the cost of some 2,000 casualties. Thus, there are two parallel but divergent stories of Mennonitism originating from this shared beginning—like two twins that have grown up separately. Comparison of the history of Dutch Mennonitism set alongside the history of those (Dutch) Mennonites who moved away makes it possible to consider the simultaneous developments and trends among these groups. Internal and external characteristics of these related groups are the results of the differing patterns of societal assimilation and segregation that occurred within their respective geographical, socio-political, and cultural contexts.

Bearing this twin focus in mind, Dr. Piet Visser's lectures will concentrate on the Dutch side of this global family.


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Part I: Why Mennonites became Doopsgezind: The dynamics of the Dutch branch of the Dutch-Prussian-Russian Mennonite Tradition (1535-present)

11:00 AM | CMU Chapel (600 Shaftesbury Blvd.)

His first lecture offers a birds-eye-view of the Dutch story by concentrating on the various turning points that resulted in changes to theology and ethics among the Mennonites. He will highlight the ways in which key external social impulses created the conditions for change, contributing to both doctrinal and practical shifts in Mennonite beliefs and practices.

Part II: The literary art of the Dutch poet and playwright Claas Bruin (1671-1732) and his Doopsgezind contribution to Dutch culture

7:00 PM | Marpeck Commons (2299 Grant Ave.)

The second lecture, a case study, concentrates on the life and works of an Amsterdam accountant, Claas Bruin (1671-1732). Though he is little known today, Bruin gained national renown as a poet and playwright in his lifetime. Visser will consider some of the ways that this literary artist, who was well attuned to the demands and niches of the early modern Dutch cultural markets, nonetheless remained rooted in his Mennonite/Doopsgezind milieu.


About Dr. Piet Visser

Dr. Piet Vissar

Dr. Piet Visser (b. 1949) was born and raised in a Doopsgezind family, on a farm in the northern province of Friesland, the Netherlands. He lives with his second wife, Marja Gehem. He is the father of a daughter (38), a son (32), and a grandfather of three boys. In 1964 he left the church; from 1972 forward he fulfilled his 2.5 years of civic duty as a conscientious objector in alternative service. As a non-believer, he considers himself a cultural Doopsgezind.

Visser started his professional career as a primary school teacher in 1971 and went on to teach Dutch at a high school in Leiden. Subsequently, he studied Dutch literature of the Golden Age at the University of Amsterdam. After finishing his dissertation in 1988, for which he was awarded the prestigious Prince Bernhard Foundation Prize, he became the curator of the Church History Collections (including the famous Doopsgezind Library) of the University of Amsterdam. In 1996 he was appointed Chief Curator of the Amsterdam University Library. Meanwhile, he had a 10-year tenure as a part-time special professor in The History of Dutch Books and Manuscripts (1450-1800) within the Arts Faculty of the University of Amsterdam. From 2002 until 2014 he was a full professor of The History of Dutch 'Doperdom' (Anabaptism/Mennonitism) at the Mennonite Seminary and the Faculty of Religion and Theology at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. He was the editor in chief of Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1984-2014), and the founder and main editor of two scholarly book series. He has published and co-authored more than 30 separate titles, and more than 90 scholarly articles.


Dr. William Cavanaugh – The Myth of Religious Violence

Dr. William Cavanaugh is an American, Roman Catholic theologian known widely for his work in political theology and Christian ethics. He serves as Professor of Catholic Studies at DePaul University and as the Director of the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology. He is the author of seven books, including The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict and Field Hospital: The Church's Engagement with a Wounded World. Cavanaugh lectures widely and his writings have been published in 12 languages.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020 | 7:00 PM

CMU Chapel (600 Shaftesbury Blvd.)


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.


Past Lectures


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:

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


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.

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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