Majority of faculty at Mennonite colleges, high schools are Mennonites

December 14, 2011 | Young Voices
Rachel Bergen | National Correspondent

Most Canadian Mennonite colleges, universities and high schools have a majority of Mennonite or Mennonite Brethren professors or teachers, whether or not they have policies regarding the number of faculty that must attend a Mennonite or MB church.

Overall, the institutions—including Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Ont.; Canadian Mennonite University (CMU), Winnipeg, Man.; Columbia Bible College, Abbotsford, B.C.; Westgate Mennonite Collegiate, Winnipeg; and Mennonite Educational Institute (MEI), Abbotsford—are committed to hiring professors that have spiritual lives that they will invest in the school and the students.

Neither CMU nor Grebel have quotas for the number of Mennonite or MB professors they must hire, but they do require their prospective professors to actively affirm their insitution’s mission. It just so happens that Grebel and CMU attract professors that are from a Mennonite background, so they both show a majority of professors from these denominations.

CMU requires professors to actively take part in the life of a Christian congregation. They must also affirm a confession of faith of their own denomination, explains Earl Davey, academic vice-president.

“We require that people [applying for faculty positions] be aware of, and support, our mission,” says Jim Pankratz, Grebel’s dean.

Susie Guenther Loewen, a Ph.D. candidate, appreciates the proportion of Mennonite to non-Mennonite professors at CMU and Grebel. As a bachelor of biblical and theological studies student at CMU from 2003-07 and a graduate student of theology at Grebel from 2008-10, she feels that it was important to have professors from that background. Although she generally believes it is important to have professors from varying backgrounds, for her area of study specifically it was impor-tant to have Mennonite professors.

According to Columbia president Ron Penner, the Bible college “expects senior administrators and regular faculty to affirm our conferences’ confessions of faith and either be or become a member of one of our conference’s churches.”

Ashley Redekop, a student in Columbia’s Quest adventure discipleship program and an MEI graduate, says that attending these Mennonite schools “definitely affected me and my theology.”

MEI “doesn’t specifically hire teachers with a Mennonite background, although we do expect all staff to support our school’s statement of faith,” says MEI secondary principal Dave Loewen. “A teacher’s background would certainly influence their response to a range of issues, and I believe that having teachers of varying backgrounds broadens the views of students.”

MEI does consider candidates outside of the Mennonite faith, but they need to profess Christian faith or articulate where their Christian journey lies when they are interviewed.

The same is true for Westgate, which looks to hire applicants that are members of supporting churches. This “enhances the chances of finding staff that can appreciate the features of the Mennonite Anabaptist faith and how these tenets would shape their teaching in this school,” says principal Bob Hummelt.

Guenther Loewen believes that Mennonite schools should have a quota of Mennonite professors. Although not every teacher or professor needs to be Mennonite, since she believes diversity is important, young Mennonites should be nurtured in their faith by those with similar backgrounds, she believes. “Mennonites have something to bring to the table,” she says. “If we lose our distinctive contribution, then that voice will be lost from ecumenical dialogue.”

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