Events Lectures News Releases

CMU welcomes John Swinton for 2014 J.J. Thiessen Lectures

Scottish author and professor to speak on ‘Disability, Timefulness, and Gentle Discipleship’

How might the experience of profoundly disabled people impact our understandings of God, creation, and the meaning of humanness?

Dr. John Swinton will explore that question at this year’s J.J. Thiessen Lectures at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) on October 14-15. Titled “Becoming Friends of Time: Disability, Timefulness and Gentle Discipleship,” the three-part lecture series take place in the CMU Chapel (600 Shaftesbury Blvd.) on Tuesday, October 14 at 11:00 AM and 7:30 PM, and concludes Wednesday, October 15 at 11:00 AM.

Dr. John Swinton, Professor and Chair in Divinity and Religious Studies at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland
Dr. John Swinton, Professor and Chair in Divinity and Religious Studies at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland

Swinton, Professor and Chair in Divinity and Religious Studies at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, will discuss the nature and purpose of time, and the ways in which certain forms of disability draw attention to forgotten aspects of time and timefulness.

The lectures will focus particularly on people with profound intellectual disabilities and people with cognitive disabilities such as advanced dementia. People with such life experiences perceive and live out time in ways that are quite different from the expectations of our speed driven culture.

“If we can conceptualize time differently, we begin to look at the gospel quite differently,” Swinton says.

People with profound disabilities draw attention to the significance of time and point towards the fact that true knowledge of God and faithful discipleship is slow and gentle; not bound by the assumptions of speed, worldly success, and the quickness of one’s intellect.

“One of the primary things that we learn is that by living in God’s time as opposed to the time created by our own clocks, we begin to encounter our daily practices quite differently,” Swinton says.

He adds that Christians today are “always walking ahead of Jesus.” The average Westerner walks at a pace of six miles per hour, whereas Jesus would have walked at half that speed—partly because of the heat, but partly because he understood the meaning of time. He had all the time in the world to do what God wanted him to do.

“By taking time to slow down and think about the experiences of people with dementia, we begin to discover things about God and being human that simply aren’t available (to us) when we’re walking ahead of Jesus,” Swinton says.

2014 JJT PosterSwinton is Professor in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care in the School of Divinity, Religious Studies and Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen. He has a background in nursing and healthcare chaplaincy, and has researched and published extensively within the areas of practical theology, mental health, spirituality and human well-being, and the theology of disability.

Swinton says his lectures at CMU are for everyone. Through the lectures, he aims to call Christians together to engage in a more faithful discipleship.

He hopes that people who attend will walk away with an understanding that people with profound intellectual disabilities and people with advanced dementia are disciples with a God-given vocation.

“The lectures appear to be about disability, but they’re really about humanness and faithfulness,” Swinton says. “They’re actually about all of us.”

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, and graduate degrees in Theology and Ministry. CMU has over 1,600 students, including those enrolled in degree programs at the Shaftesbury Campus and in its Menno Simons College and Outtatown programs.

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

Lectures News Releases

Fall Lectures Feature Peter Widdicombe

October 18, 2011: How can Christians understand and use words of a text, a thing of space and time, to reveal the eternal and transcendent Word of God? How can a doctrine be formed on the basis of the Bible, and how can it be represented visually? These questions are explored in a series of lectures hosted at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU).

CMU welcomes Dr. Peter Widdicombe, Associate Professor at McMaster University in the Department of Religious Studies, as the keynote speaker for the 2011 J.J. Thiessen Lecture series. The theme of his lectures is “Scripture and the Christian Imagination: Text, Doctrine, and Artistic Representation in the Early Church and Beyond.” Widdicombe presents two lectures on October 18 and one on October 19.

Widdicombe’s first lecture earlier today looked at the development of Patristic hermeneutics, focusing more specifically on the thought of Augustine. His second and third lectures explore two examples of how this approach played out in both text and art from the Patristic Period through the Reformation: the account of the Drunkenness of Noah in Genesis 9:20-27, and the reference to foxes and vines in Song of Songs 2:15.

“My research leaves me constantly amazed at the creativity of the Christian writers of the Patristic and Medieval periods,” says Widdicombe. “Theirs was an imagination put to the service of thinking about the world through the eyes of the biblical text in conformity with what that text told them about God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Their sensitivity to the words of the text, the inventive intricacy of their readings and application, and their unstinting dedication to the task of interpretation were extraordinary.”

Widdicombe’s research interests lie in Patristics, the history of doctrine, systematic theology, and artistic representation. His published works focus on Trinitarian and Christological thought and scriptural interpretation in the early church; and on the history of the reception of biblical texts and their artistic representation from the Patristic period through the Reformation.

Widdicombe has his D.Phil. in Patristic Theology, which he received from St. Catherine’s & St. Cross Colleges, at the University of Oxford in 1990. He received his M. Div., Theology from Wycliffe College in Toronto, 1981, his M. Phil., Early Modern History, from St. Catherine’s College in 1977, and his B.A. Hons., in History, from the University of Manitoba in 1974. He has had involvement with organizations like the Canadian Society of Patristic Studies and the North American Society of Patristic Studies. At the Canadian Society of Patristic Studies, he was President from 2000-2002. He has received honours in his membership at the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, 2004-2005, and at the British School of Rome in spring 2010.

Some of Dr. Peter Widdicombe’s recent works include: “Origen,” Blackwell’s Companion to Paul, ed. Stephen Westerholm;“The Gospels of Mark and Matthew in Patristic Interpretation,” Mark and Matthew. Texts and Contexts, ed. Eve-Marie Becker and Anders Runesson. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck; “The Fatherhood of God in the Writings of Ireneaus,” Irenaeus of Lyons and his Traditions, ed., Paul Foster and Sara Parvis. Minneapolis: Fortress Press ; and Drunkenness, Nakedness, and the Redemption and Fall of an Image: Noah and Christ. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company.

The last of these publications, Drunkenness, Nakedness, and the Redemption and Fall of an Image: Noah and Christ, is the title of the second lecture featured in his three-lecture series.

Widdicombe is presently writing a book on the interpretation of the Drunkenness of Noah in text and art from the early Church through the Reformation. He examines the development of the allegorical approach to the interpretation of Scripture in the Patristic period, the application of that approach in the Middle Ages, and its abandonment at the Reformation. He also observes how changes in the reading of the Drunkenness affect the way in which the incident was portrayed in visually in paintings, sculpture, and manuscript illustrations.

Using visual aids, Widdicombe demonstrates how paintings, sculpture, and manuscript illustrations have been influenced by biblical text and understanding.

Widdicombe fosters discussions and reflection on the Christian faith and its intellectual and cultural expression. He hopes that guests at his lectures take away a greater appreciation for a rich and complex history of biblical interpretation and gain appreciation for how the theological imaginations of earlier periods of the Christian faith can enhance our own.

LECTURE SERIES (CMU Chapel, South Campus, 600 Shaftesbury Blvd. Free Admission)
Oct 18 – 11:00am Words and the Word: Augustine and the Patristic Interpretation of Scripture
Oct 18 – 7:30pm Drunkenness, Nakedness, and the Redemption and Fall of an Image: Noah and Christ
Oct 19 – 11:00am When is a Fox not a Fox? Song of Songs 2:15 and the Need for Vigilance

Text:  Evelyn Kampen, CMU Communications & Media Student