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Practice and embodiment of nonviolence is lecturer's topic

April 16th, 2018

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Although the 2018 Staley Lecturer at Bethel College didn’t graduate from the institution, she has an important indirect connection to it.

Malinda Elizabeth Berry, assistant professor of theology and ethics at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana, notes that in that position, she follows her teacher, Gayle Gerber Koontz, a Bethel alumna.

Berry speaks at Bethel Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 26 at 11 a.m., both in Krehbiel Auditorium in Luyken Fine Arts Center.

Her broad topic is “Practicing and Embodying Nonviolence.” The title of her Sunday lecture is “Fast, Medium and Slow: Living Nonviolence at the Pace of Violence,” and of her Monday convocation, “When Lives Don’t Seem to Matter: The Logic of Nonviolence in the Face of all the -Isms.”

Berry describes her current work at AMBS, where she began teaching in 2014, as “[studying] and [teaching] systematic theology, sprinkled with ethics, using an approach that begins with theological reflection and then uses Mennonite peace theologies and feminist and womanist theologies.”

Berry has a B.A. in English and history from Goshen (Indiana) College.

After college, as she was, as she puts it, “finding my vocational identity and choosing a career path,” she served for a year as a development associate at the national office in Washington, D.C., of Peace Watch, a peace and disarmament nonprofit.

She followed that with two years as associate director of Mennonite Voluntary Service, based in Elkhart, while also completing a Master of Arts in Peace Studies at AMBS, where she studied with Gerber Koontz.

Berry has a Master of Philosophy and a Ph.D. in constructive theologies, praxis and ethics from Union Theological Seminary in New York.

During those years of graduate study, she also served a short interim pastorate at Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship in New York (2003); was a visiting scholar in religion and women’s studies at Goshen College (2006-09); and was assistant professor of theological studies and director of the M.A. program at Bethany Theological Center in Richmond, Indiana (2009-14).

In 2009, Berry was a founding editor, along with Bruce Ellis Benson and Peter Goodwin Heltzel, of the Prophetic Christianity Book Series, published by the Wm. B. Eerdmans Company.

“We work with a new generation of scholars to develop [ideally] two manuscripts per year that explore the complex relationship between Christian doctrine and contemporary life,” she said. “We particularly work at cultivating the scholarship of those who are connected to the black church, the Historic Peace Churches and progressive evangelicalism.”

At AMBS, Berry’s responsibilities include teaching a variety of courses in the history, theology and ethics department (for example, Creation Care, Thinking Ethically, Theology and Women’s Narrative, Economic Justice and the Christian Conscience, Human Sexuality and Christian Ethics, Church and Race), and serving on the Pedagogy Committee and as the partnership representative to Merry Lea Environmental Center’s Sustainability Leadership Semester. Merry Lea is Goshen College’s environmental education campus.

Berry is the author of numerous book chapters, essays and articles, including as a columnist for Sojourners magazine in 2006-07. She is also the co-editor, with Benson and Heltzel, of the first book in the Prophetic Christianity series, Prophetic Evangelicals: Envisioning the Just and Peaceable Kingdom (Eerdmans), and, with Keith Graber Miller, of Wrestling with the Text: Young Adult Perspectives on Scripture (Cascadia Publishing House, 2006).

Berry and her spouse, John Stoltzfus, live in a mixed-income, mixed-race neighborhood in south-central Elkhart, where they attend Fellowship of Hope Mennonite Church. They are parents of two young children.

The Staley Distinguished Scholar Lecture Series was established in 1969, named for its benefactors, Dr. and Mrs. Thomas F. Staley of New York, who set it up to honor their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Staley and Mr. and Mrs. H.H. Haynes. Bethel College has been hosting Staley Lectures periodically since 1972.

Bethel College ranks at No. 1 in College Consensus’ ranking of Kansas colleges and universities, and is the only Kansas private college listed in the analysis of top colleges and universities, the Washington Monthly National Universities-Liberal Arts section and the National Liberal Arts College category of U.S. News & World Report, all for 2017-18. 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.