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J.H. Yoder

Mennonite Church USA and the Mennonite Historical Library have received a grant to create a digital library of John Howard Yoder's work.

Posted on Aug. 14, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on Aug. 14, 2013 at 2:33 p.m.

GOSHEN — The unpublished and informal work of theologian John Howard Yoder will soon be available online through a grant to the Mennonite Historical Library on Goshen College’s campus.

The library has received a grant of $12,023 to digitize and provide online access to Yoder’s work, according to information from Goshen College. The project is a collaborative effort between the college’s Mennonite Historical Library and Mennonite Church USA.

The digital library will provide easier access to Yoder’s unpublished works, including lectures, essays and correspondence through the Private Academic Library Network of Indiana and Indiana Memory websites. A prototype of the project is already available at replica.palni.edu.

“John Howard Yoder was without question the most prominent Mennonite theologian of the 20th century,” said John D. Roth, director of the Mennonite Historical Library. “His groundbreaking work on the gospel of peace, and Christian ethics more broadly, along with his writings on ecumenism, Christian-Jewish relations, and a host of other theological topics gave him international visibility and brought Anabaptist-Mennonite theology more fully into the public square.”

Yoder, who lived in Elkhart until his death in 1997, published several books, including The Royal Priesthood, The Priestly Kingdom and The Politics of Jesus. He also taught almost 30 years at Goshen Biblical Seminary, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) and University of Notre Dame.

“At the same time, however, the last half of Yoder’s career was clouded by a series of sexual misconduct charges and a lengthy process of church discipline that has not resolved the matter for many of those involved,” Roth said.

While esteemed as a leader in modern Christian ethics and theology, Yoder was accused of several counts of sexual misconduct. In the early 1990s, after eight women came forward with complaints about Yoder’s sexual improprieties, Yoder’s home congregation, Prairie Street Mennonite Church, investigated and stated that the women’s charges were accurate, leading to formal discipline for Yoder from the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference.

Roth said, “The apparent contradiction between Yoder’s clear teachings on Christian ethics and his own personal behavior continues to be a significant topic of discussion.”

Last year, AMBS, now Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, issued a statement on how it would handle Yoder’s life in its classes. Conversations have also continued publicly in some Mennonite publications.

The John Howard Yoder Digital Library website will provide access to Yoder’s own writings, Roth said, while also linking to resources with biographical information. That will provide a variety of information “for readers who wish to engage the full complexity of his thought and life.”


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