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CMU theology student receives prized Canada Graduate Scholarship

Karissa Durant earned a Canada Graduate Scholarship to support work on her master's thesis. Karissa Durant earned a Canada Graduate Scholarship to support work on her master's thesis.

CMU student Karissa Durant has been awarded a prestigious Canada Graduate Scholarship Master's award worth $17,500.

The Government of Canada announced in March the results of the competition for the 2022/23 academic year. The scholarships are administered by Canada's federal granting agencies: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Durant is a student in CMU's Graduate School of Theology and Ministry, working on a Master of Arts in Theological Studies. The Canada Graduate Scholarship supports the work she is doing on her thesis, titled, "Critical Community Hermeneutics: Exploring the Construction of Community Hermeneutics in the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Church."

Her project is focussing on the Anabaptist practice of community hermeneutics, originating from 16th-century Anabaptists who discerned that the Bible was best interpreted when done so in community and by the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, of which Durant is a part, specifically names community hermeneutics as an important practice in its confession of faith.

As disagreement grew within the conference on matters like LGBTQ+ inclusion in the church, a petition circulated in 2021 calling for people to listen and engage in community hermeneutics before furthering divide. Yet since then, numerous congregations have been removed from the conference and pastors have had their credentials revoked. Durant is exploring, "What is the call for unity in the church when we disagree?" How does the church define and practice community hermeneutics, what are the associated challenges and opportunities, and how does it fit into the Mennonite Brethren ecclesiological framework?

"Karissa's thesis is designed to do the kind of work that is important to both the academy and the church; namely, she does rigorous theological work in analyzing church a way that offers constructive theological depth, but not in an arms-length way," says Paul Doerksen, Associate Professor of Theology and Anabaptist Studies at CMU and Durant's thesis advisor. "Good theological work edifies the church, and that's the kind of work I've seen Karissa do in her courses, and that kind of work will be extended in her thesis."

For Durant, doing a master's degree has been a long-time dream, but finances were always a looming obstacle. Funding from sources like the Canada Graduate Scholarship and CMU bursaries have helped relieve that heavy burden.

"It's such a gift to have the opportunity through these scholarships to study full-time," she says. "Not just my thesis, but the classes I take help shape my thesis and contribute in the long run. I'm a better student because I didn't have to work and I was able to focus. I know that's a privilege and I'm really grateful for that."

Those interested in learning more about applying for Canada Graduate Scholarships or CMU's graduate programs can contact Valerie Smith, Associate Registrar for Graduate Studies, at

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