In honor of Eric Wingender

The world mourns the untimely death of Apple genius and former CEO Steve Jobs, as it should, but I’m grieving the untimely death of Eric Wingender, professor (and former president) at Ecole de Theologie Evangelique de Montreal (ETEM), who died yesterday of a massive heart attack.

I first got to know Eric when I sat in on a workshop he gave, in which he reflected on his experience of Christian conversion and becoming part of the Mennonite Brethren in Quebec. He spoke respectfully and gratefully of those missionaries who had brought him and many other young Quebecers to faith in the 70s and 80s. But he also felt  something spiritually significant had been lost in Quebec’s Quiet Revolution that was not adequately replaced by the somewhat simplistic and pietistic gospel to which he was introduced. The churches that emerged from the evangelical “boom” of that era struggled a great deal and the movement plateaued. (He explained some of this in a 1994 article in Direction.) Eric was one of those who persisted and became leaders, seeking to help the Quebec church find better ground. Continue reading

History work

I’m currently in beautiful British Columbia, to be of assistance before and after (depending on the day of arrival) a new grandbaby’s birth, and to attend the annual meetings of the Mennonite Brethren Historical Commission. The meetings were this weekend in Victoria, where member Ben Stobbe lives, and where he and Linda and the Saanich Community Church showed us wonderful hospitality. All of B.C. is in a particularly good mood, of course, with their Vancouver Canucks leading the NHL Stanley Cup finals, 2 games to 0. This was my first full meeting on the Historical Commission and I enjoyed it. Hanging out with archivists and historians is more fun than it sounds, honestly! Each of the four archival centers (Winnipeg, Man.; Abbotsford, B.C.; Fresno, Cal.; Hillsboro, Kan.) are represented, and there are 6 additional members from Canada and the U.S.; it’s a bi-national board. It’s not my job to report on our decisions, but in general, our mandate is to foster the study of our church history in order to serve the contemporary church, and how best to do that is always an interesting challenge.

Now I’m back in our children’s home, on the mainland, and slipping into the rhythm of life of a young, busy family. In the next weeks, D.V., another name will be added to the family genealogy, and there will be a variety of interactions with our grandchildren. (For example, the grandson and I are reading some of the stories in Peter Dyck’s A Leap of Faith.) All this also a kind of history work!

Deciding about Billy Graham in 1962

I was recently alerted to a Newsweek article on family squabbles around the legacy of Billy Graham. I have no particular comment on that, but it did remind me of how my denomination got on board the Billy Graham train.

In 1962, in the MB Herald – the then-brand-new English language magazine of Canadian Mennonite Brethren – there were no less than three articles on the rising evangelical star and an appearance on the cover, as well as other “notes” throughout the year. I gather from this coverage that there must have been some questions about how MBs might respond to the Graham phenomenon; certainly public opinion about him varied.

The emphases of these articles can probably tell us something about MB concerns and values of the time. Three matters seemed especially important: his finances, his humility, and his relationship to theological liberals. Continue reading