2017 J.J. Thiessen / Friesen Lecture Series (video)

Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) marked the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation on October 30 and 31 with a special lecture series delivered by the world’s foremost scholar on Swiss Anabaptism. 

Dr. C. Arnold Snyder presented  the three-part series, titled, “Faith and Toleration: A Reformation Debate Revisited.” Snyder, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, ON, posed the question: Should dissenting religious beliefs be tolerated on religious principle, and toleration established as civic policy?

The lectures explored 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. 

Lecture #1: Monday, October 30

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: Tuesday, October 31

“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: Tuesday, October 31

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.

Student Projects Video

CMU and Kenji Dyck Present: Reflections on Student Life (video)

As a self-directed project, CMU student Kenji Dyck recently shot and produced a video which highlights an significant part of any student’s post-secondary education and sense of belonging—student life.

Here’s a look at what he chose to capture as a reflection on what makes the CMU experience special.

Kenji is a 3rd year Communications and Media major.


2017 CMU Distinguished Alumni Story | Ken Esau (video)

Born and raised in Coaldale, AB, Ken Esau was planning to become an engineer before studying at MBBC led him in the direction of becoming a teacher.

Since 1991, Esau has been part of the Biblical Studies faculty at Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, BC.

At CBC, Esau has taught Marriage & Family, Introduction to Psychology, Modern Western History, World Religions, and courses looking specifically at a number of Old Testament books.

It’s his Old Testament survey course, however, that he says has most defined him. Esau has taught the course 90 times.

Ken Esau
Ken Esau, 2017 CMU Distinguished Alumni Award recipient

Formerly a high school teacher, Esau holds undergraduate degrees from the University of Winnipeg and the University of Lethbridge, as well as graduate degrees from the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Fresno, CA and Regent College in Vancouver, BC.

Esau is committed to Jesus, Jesus’ church, and the Kingdom mission that Christians are invited to participate in.

As a teacher, his first main goal is to encourage young believers to become disciples who are similarly committed to Jesus, the church, and that Kingdom mission.

His second main goal is to encourage students to become life-long learners; passionate people who think critically and are strong communicators.

“There are many others you could have easily named,” Esau says of receiving the Distinguished Alumni Award. “It’s an honour to be recognized for what is, in many ways, a quiet occupation.”

Esau and his wife, Karen, have three adult children. They attend The Life Centre.


2017 CMU Distinguished Alumni Story | Joanne Thiessen Martens (video)

Joanne Thiessen Martens is an agricultural research technician in the Plant Science Department at the University of Manitoba (U of M) in Winnipeg.

For the past 13 years, Thiessen Martens has worked on ecological and organic agriculture research, including a wide variety of projects like cover crops, integrated crop-livestock systems, soil fertility management for organic farms, and more.

Joanne Thiessen Martens
Joanne Thiessen Martens, 2017 CMU Distinguished Alumni Award recipient

What Thiessen Martens most enjoys about her work is that it involves “all the steps in the knowledge-generation process,” from discussing theoretical ideas, to conceptualizing experiments, to conducting those experiments, and analyzing the results.

“We’re doing everything from the ideas to the nitty gritty of collecting the samples,” she says.

Thiessen Martens grew up on an 800-acre mixed farm in Austin, MB.

After finishing a degree in theology at CMBC, Thiessen Martens began studying science at the U of M. She became passionate about agroecology, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in the field. Thiessen Martens and her husband, Myron, spent 2000-2003 serving with Mennonite Central Committee in northeastern Brazil, where she worked with organic and vegetable farmers.

Thiessen Martens has also travelled to Malawi, where she developed curriculum for local farmers.

Additionally, Thiessen Martens co-authored the third edition of the Organic Field Crop Handbook (2016), which is used in university courses around the world. She is also the co-editor of the Canadian Organic Grower magazine.

Thiessen Martens and her husband have two children. They attend Fort Garry Mennonite Fellowship.


2017 CMU Distinguished Alumni Story | Henry Neufeld (video)

Henry Neufeld has spent more than six decades building positive relationships among Mennonite and Indigenous peoples.

Born in Moscow, Russia and raised in Leamington, ON, Neufeld studied theology at CMBC.

He and his late wife, Elna, began working as teachers in Indigenous communities in Manitoba in the early 1950s. From 1955 to 1970, they lived and taught 280 kms northeast of Winnipeg in Pauingassi First Nation.

Henry Neufeld
Henry Neufeld, 2017 CMU Distinguished Alumni Award recipient

After serving two years as pastor at Springstein Mennonite Church in Springstein, MB, Neufeld—who is fluent in Ojibway—began visiting northern communities as a travelling pastor. Since then, he has made more than 600 trips. After 65 years, Neufeld’s work still is not finished. This past spring, at the age of 87, he participated in Mennonite Church Canada’s Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights. Participants walked 600 km. from Kitchener to Ottawa in support of the adoption and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“I know our celebration on Canada Day was for 150 years, but if we look only at the past 150 years, then we are doing a real injustice to Indigenous peoples, because they have been here for 10,000 or more years,” Neufeld says.

“Even though our cultures are radically different, our backgrounds are radically different, we need to recognize and respect each other,” he adds. “If we respect each other for who we are and what we have to offer, then we can prosper.”

Neufeld has five children, 12 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. He attends Springstein Mennonite Church.


2017 CMU Distinguished Alumni Story | John Longhurst (video)

John Longhurst is a communicator, marketer, author, editor, columnist, and media relations specialist in Winnipeg.

In his current role as Director of Resources and Public Engagement at Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Longhurst is responsible for the overall communications, marketing, and fundraising efforts of the organization.

Foodgrains is an ecumenical organization, owned by 15 Canadian churches and church-based agencies.

John Longhurst
John Longhurst, 2017 CMU Distinguished Alumni Award recipient

“I find that endlessly fascinating,” Longhurst says, “because I get to interact with so many different people with so many different points of view.”

Originally from St. Catharines, ON, Longhurst has had an indelible influence in the Mennonite world and beyond throughout his 35-year career.

He has overseen marketing and communications work at Mennonite Publishing Network, CMU, Mennonite Economic Development Associates, and Mennonite Central Committee Canada.

Since 2003, Longhurst has written a weekly faith column for the Winnipeg Free Press, and in 2006, he shared his expertise in the book, Making the News: An Essential Guide for Effective Media Relations.

“I was just always curious about why people did the things they did, how things happened, how decisions were made, how the world ticked—endlessly fascinated with it,” Longhurst says of why he became a writer. “I wanted to tell stories and kind of interpret the world.”

Today, one of Longhurst’s greatest joys is mentoring the next generation of communicators.

“I like working with younger staff, helping them find joy and meaning, watching them grapple with a completely different communications world,” he says.

Longhurst attends St. Benedict’s Table. He and his wife, Christine, have two adult children.


Our Faculty Speak… (video)

Discover what makes CMU special in the words of our faculty.



2017 Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition Winners (video)

1st place performance by Anneli Loepp Thiessen, piano

  • Sonata in C Major XVI: 50, Allegro Molto, Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)


2nd place performance by Emma Heinrichs, pianist

  • Spring Celebration, Stephen Chatman (b. 1950)


3rd place performance by Nolan Kehler, tenor

  • Lonely House from Street Scene, Kurt Weill (1900-1950)


Face2Face: On Campus – Community in Conversation Uncategorized Video

Face2Face | Cohabitation: The Question of Living Together Before Marriage (video)

Increasingly, our faith communities, pastoral leaders and families are encountering the broad, cultural reality of cohabitation. Bringing deeply held theological convictions into conversation with practices outside of these persuasions can be challenging. Dialogue and conversation are vital.

What clarity might we gain on the Biblical, theological, sociological / cultural, and relational dynamics that underlie the reality of cohabitation? What makes this practice challenging to openly discuss within our church communities, as families and with young adults we know and love? How can we best resource and learn from one another?

Panel Members

Recorded February 2, 2016


Indigenous Education Blueprint Signing Ceremony (video)

CMU President Cheryl Pauls (centre) with leaders of Manitoba’s universities, colleges, and Manitoba’s school boards photo: University of Manitoba
CMU President Cheryl Pauls (centre) with leaders of Manitoba’s universities, colleges, and Manitoba’s school boards
photo: University of Manitoba

Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) is proud to announce its participation in the Indigenous Education Blueprint as part of Manitoba’s education sector.

CMU joined five other Manitoba universities, three colleges, and the Manitoba School Boards Association in a landmark signing of the Indigenous Education Blueprint on December 18.

Working together in unprecedented fashion, the participating institutions developed and are now committed to the plan, which acts upon the recommendations the Truth and Reconciliation Commission presented this past summer.

The Blueprint commits the participating institutions to concrete practices in order to respect, celebrate, and support Indigenous peoples, knowledge, and success.

For more information about the event and the author, please see the related news release.