Events News Releases

Lecture series to explore Protestant Reformation and its implications for today

Acclaimed Anabaptist scholar Dr. C. Arnold Snyder scheduled to speak on campus

Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) will mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation with a special lecture series delivered by the world’s foremost scholar on Swiss Anabaptism. 

Dr. C. Arnold Snyder

Dr. C. Arnold Snyder will present the three-part series, titled, “Faith and Toleration: A Reformation Debate Revisited.” The lectures will take place in the CMU Chapel (600 Shaftesbury Blvd.) on Monday, October 30 at 7:30 PM and Tuesday, October 31 at 11:00 AM and 7:30 PM. 

Snyder, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, ON, will ask the question: Should dissenting religious beliefs be tolerated on religious principle, and toleration established as civic policy?

The lectures will explore some of the events and debates that ensued 500 years ago when Martin Luther composed 95 theses for debate in Wittenberg, drawing some conclusions for our day. 

“Dr. Snyder brings together incredible scholarly acumen, a love for the church, and an incredible ability to communicate to people at all levels,” says Dr. Karl Koop, Professor of History and Theology, and coordinator of CMU’s Biblical and Theological Studies program. “He is not afraid to explore a variety of Anabaptist issues.”

The lecture topics are as follows:

Lecture #1: “Scripture Alone, Faith Alone, Toleration Doubtful” – One might have thought that the central evangelical teaching that faith is a God-given, spiritual, inner, and personal matter would have led to a wave of religious toleration accompanying the Reformation. This never materialized. Instead, a tsunami of intolerance and violence swept away thousands of people into prison, exile, and martyrdom. What happened?

Lecture #2: “‘Compel them to come in’: The Theology of Intolerance Examined” – Protestant theologians, both Lutheran and Reformed, soon became champions of state churches that required all subjects and citizens to attend their churches and swear allegiance to state-sanctioned confessions of faith. How did these Christian theologians justify coercion, torture, and even execution in the name of true faith?

Lecture #3: “Hiding in Plain Sight: Anabaptism and Toleration in Switzerland” – Anabaptism was officially outlawed in every state of the Swiss Confederation, with all Reformed pastors and civil officials under oath to report violations. Nevertheless, Anabaptist communities survived into the seventeenth century. Archival records shed important light on the phenomenon of de facto toleration that made Anabaptist survival possible in Switzerland.

“The theme of faith and toleration is at the very centre of our global context,” Koop says. “In the news every day, we’re hearing about the clash of religions… It strikes me that this particular topic is really at the forefront of the issues that we’re dealing with presently.”

Snyder holds a PhD from McMaster University. His research focuses on sixteenth-century Anabaptism. He has written and edited several books on this topic, including Anabaptist History and Theology: An Introduction (Pandora Press, 1995), and Later Writings of the Swiss Anabaptists, 1529-1592 (Pandora Press, 2017). 

Snyder’s lectures are co-presented by the J.J. Thiessen Lecture Series as well as the John and Margaret Friesen Lectures.

Founded in 1978 by one of CMU predecessor institutions, Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC), the J.J. Thiessen Lectures are named in honour of a founder and long-time chairperson of the CMBC Board. The lectures seek to bring to the CMU community something of Thiessen’s breadth of vision for the church.

The John and Margaret Friesen Lectures in Anabaptist/Mennonite Studies are co-sponsored by CMU, the Mennonite Heritage Centre, and the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies. The inaugural lectures in November 2002 were delivered by Dr. Abraham Friesen (Professor of History, University of California, Santa Barbara), the generous donor who initiated the lecture series.

For details about this year’s lectures, visit


About CMU
A Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU’s Shaftesbury campus offers undergraduate degrees in arts, business, humanities, music, sciences, and social sciences, as well as graduate degrees in theology, ministry, peacebuilding and collaborative development, and an MBA. CMU has over 800 full-time equivalent students, including those enrolled in degree programs at the Shaftesbury and Menno Simons College campuses and in its Outtatown certificate program.

For information about CMU visit

For additional information, please contact:
Kevin Kilbrei, Director of Communications & Marketing; 204.487.3300 Ext. 621
Canadian Mennonite University
500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB  R3P 2N2