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Mennonites and writing are backbone topics for Mennonite Life 2016

September 11th, 2017

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Jeff Gundy, the late Robert Kreider and student writing comprise major sections of the 2016 issue of Mennonite Life, which is now live.

The online-only journal is produced at Bethel College. The current issue can be viewed at

Gundy, professor of English at Bluffton (Ohio) University, delivered the 2015 Menno Simons Lectures at Bethel. These form the first part of a section titled “Contemporary Mennonite Scholarship.”

In addition, Karen Sheriff LeVan of Hesston (Kansas) College solicited and edited a series of responses – from a pastor, a creative writer/professor and a literary critic/professor – to Gundy’s 2013 essay collection, Songs from an Empty Cage.

Gundy’s Bethel lectures wrestled with the idea, implications and evolution of “Mennonite/s writing,” as does a 2015 essay collection edited by Rob Zacharias, After Identity, which Brad Born, Bethel professor of literary studies, reviews in the 2016 Mennonite Life.

“During the past year, in conversations inspired in part by the 2015 Mennonite/s Writing Conference held at Fresno Pacific University, my colleagues and I have continued to discuss how the concept of ‘Mennonite writing’ might be defined, what it might entail and/or exclude, or even whether it is a useful or relevant construct,” writes Mennonite Life editor Rachel Epp Buller in her introduction to the issue.

“Zacharias addresses some of the difficulties of this phrase in … After Identity [as does Gundy] .... The literary, historical, reflective, poetic, analytical and other forms of writing represented in this year’s issue of Mennonite Life perhaps offer the multi-disciplinary body that is ‘Mennonite/s writing’ today.”

The 2016 issue also includes the text of a paper first presented at the Fresno conference, “Stephen Beachy’s boneyard, the Martyrs Mirror and Anabaptist Activism” by Daniel Shank Cruz.

The issue opens with several tributes to Robert S. Kreider, Mennonite churchman extraordinaire, who died in late 2015.

In these “three contributions – by turns poetic, literary, historical, and journalistic – …writers from several generations testify to Kreider’s importance to a host of Mennonite educational and service organizations, in the United States and abroad,” writes Epp Buller.

There are sections of writing from both college and high school students.

“The three college students represented here write in persuasive, reflective and analytical voices,” says Epp Buller. “The three high school winners of the 2016 Cornelius Krahn Mennonite Multimedia Contest are also published in this issue.” Their contributions span genres from fiction to historical research to poetry.

A current and a former Bethel College professor both write about their experiences with the creative arts in prison – theater and life-writing, respectively. This section also includes Epp Buller’s interview with Libby Schrag, director of Offender Victim Ministries in Newton, who talks about the importance of the arts in a prison setting.

The issue also includes reviews of Trudy Harder Metzger’s memoir Between 2 Gods, Kimberly Schmidt’s novel Magpie’s Blanket, Jeff Gundy’s latest poetry collection Abandoned Homeland, and Lilli Gebhard’s literary analysis of Russian-German Mennonite identity in contemporary Germany (in German).

The issue closes with announcements of two conferences, both in Virginia, one in November 2016 and one in June 2017, with call for papers still open, though only until June 10 for the November one.

The 2016 issue of Mennonite Life marks the final one for Epp Buller as editor. She will be handing over the editorial reins to Born.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2015'16 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2015'16. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.