Author: Klassen, Mary E
Date published: December 20, 2010
"Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb," the congregation called out, led by Sara Wenger Shenk in her inaugural address as the new president of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS), on Oct. 24, at Clinton Frame Mennonite Church near Goshen, Ind.
"We have good news to share- the good news of Jesus Christ- with love and forgiveness and justice for all," Wenger Shenk said.
In her address, she briefly outlined the history of AMBS, emphasizing the integration of the seminaries of two Mennonite denominations. Noting the work of strong church leaders of the past, she said, "We are now urgently called to imagine the shape of the future. The people we serve are pulled hither and yon into increasingly fragmented loyalties. It is the church and its leaders who, when they are well equipped, call us back to the one thing that is all important- our allegiance to God revealed in Jesus Christ, made known to us by the Spirit."
Wenger Shenk's address followed a message from Karen Martens Zimmerly, denominational minister and director of leadership for Mennonite Church Canada. Framing her message with the opening verses of the Gospel of John, Martens Zimmerly noted that Jesus, "as a dual citizen of God's kingdom and God's creation . . . pitched his tent and planted himself in a diverse variety of neighbourhoods."
She invited AMBS to bring its "tent of wisdom and come to some of our neighbourhoods." She described church planting work among Spanish-speaking newcomers in French-speaking Quebec and noted a Hmong congregation on the West Coast that is the latest congregation to join MC Canada. These and other communities, Martens Zimmerly said, are imagining and experimenting with new ways of being the presence of God's grace and truth in their streets and neighbourhoods.
She concluded by saying, "The Word became flesh and lived among us, and the Word continues to become flesh and continues to live among us." As school and church, she said, "Let's enter that neighbourhood as friends and as partners, and together let's enter God's neighbourhood to see what God will do with us."
The commissioning of Wenger Shenk was led by Randall Jacobs, chair of the AMBS board, and Jane Thorley Roeschly, board member.
Wenger Shenk received several gifts as symbols of her leadership. A ceramic communion service set, still to be commissioned, was announced, honouring her commitment to make the celebration of communion a central part of worship. She also was wrapped in a prayer shawl created for the AMBS president at the time the previous president, Nelson Kraybill, was inaugurated in 1997. The shawl was woven of strips of linen on which prayers from people across the church were written. In addition, Kathy Koop, an AMBS board member from Winnipeg, Man., gave Wenger Shenk a hockey stick as a reminder that AMBS serves both MC Canada and MC U.S.A.
Greetings to Wenger Shenk in the service came from many people, including David Bergen, executive secretary of MC Canada's Formation Council.
Wenger Shenk assumed the role of president on Oct. 1, following three months of preparation. Previously, she had served as interim dean and associate dean of Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Va., where she had taught for 15 years.
Wenger Shenk's scholarship includes Thank You for Asking: Conversing with Young Adults about the Future Church (Herald Press, 2005), and Anabaptist Ways of Knowing: A Conversation about Tradition-Based Critical Education (Cascadia, 2003). She has been a frequent contributor to The Mennonite and other publications, and she serves as an MC U.S.A. member of the Binational Worship Council.
Having earned a bachelor of arts degree from Eastern Mennonite University, Wenger Shenk pursued study at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, Calif., and completed a master's degree in 1986 at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, Ill. She received her doctor of education degree in 1999 from Union Theological Seminary, New York, N.Y.
From 1977-83, and again from 1986-89, Wenger Shenk and her husband, Gerald Shenk, served on a study-service appointment with Eastern Mennonite Missions and Mennonite Central Committee in the former Yugoslavia.
BY MARY E. KLASSEN
Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary