Posts Tagged ‘Bethel College’

The following text comprises the notes used to deliver an address to the Bethel College community at the opening convocation of the 2019-2020 academic year on August 21, 2019.


Thank you President Gering. It is wonderful to be back. Thank you for your support during my absence. Thank you also faculty and staff members. I am most grateful for your encouragement and prayers. And, students, it is fabulous to see you, for you are why I am here. So, students, both new and old, on behalf of the faculty I welcome you to Bethel College. May this experience be all you dream and hope for it to be.


Tuesday, July 2, my wife, Gail, and I traveled to Houston to visit my son. Paul had a doctor’s appointment for July 3, after which we anticipated a few days of rest and fun. We had no idea what actually would occur.


Paul experienced liver failure and, then, kidney failure. The kidney failure could be treated with dialysis, but he could survive the liver failure for only a matter of weeks. After three weeks, Paul was told he would not live. But, he wanted to fight for life. Three weeks later and two more hospitals later he graciously received a new liver from a donor. He is now in recovery. He has a very long road ahead, but things are much more hopeful than they were at the outset of his journey.


The story so far has gone for seven weeks, with many ups and downs. During this roller coaster ride, I have learned many important lessons, several of which have application to you and your time at Bethel College. (more…)

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Enjoy this short, inspiring video from the 2019 Bethel College Opening Pep Rally for new students.

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Enjoy this short, inspiring video from the 2018 Bethel College Walk of Welcome. Try to guess the identity of the speaker whose voice is playing in the background!

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The following text comprises the notes used to deliver a meditation to the Bethel College Cabinet on December 18, 2017.


Anyone who has been to a number of weddings has heard the words from 1 Corinthians 13, including this conclusion: “Faith, hope, and love abide; and the greatest of these is love.”

The reason 1 Corinthians 13 is a favorite at weddings is due to its theme of the superiority of love, even to faith and hope. But, what actually makes love possible is faith or allegiance. But, allegiance is not possible without hope. Hope may not be the greatest of these three attributes, but it is primary, because it is foundational; it is truly powerful. For example, it keeps me engaged through every baseball season. It corralled my attention through nearly the entire Packer game yesterday. And, it is the theme of the Christmas story. But, hope in what?

In Luke’s Gospel, Mary uttered the following words to Elizabeth about God during her pregnancy: “His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.” Why? Because, “he has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”

Soon after Mary voiced these words, Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband spoke of God in this way: “He has raised up a mighty deliverer for us, that we would be delivered from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, that we would be rescued from our enemies. By the tender mercy of God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to guide us in the way of peace.”

No wonder the angels proclaiming the birth of this deliverer, Jesus, said to the shepherds, “On earth peace among those whom he favors.”

Likewise, at the circumcision of Jesus, the old man Simeon said to God, “My eyes have seen your deliverance.”

In line with all these words of hope in mercy through deliverance, John, preparing the way for Jesus, rebuked the rich, the tax collectors, soldiers, and the evil of the King, Herod, a move which cost him his freedom and eventually his head.

Finally, Jesus, at the outset of his ministry, affirmed that he was commissioned by God to “bring good news to the poor,” “to proclaim release to the captives,” “to let the oppressed go free,” and “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And what was the year of the Lord’s favor? Perpetual Jubilee, an ongoing time of deliverance from all oppression. (more…)

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The following text comprises the notes used to deliver an address to the Bethel College community at the opening convocation of the 2017-2018 academic year on August 23, 2017.


On the face of a massive building in the center of the University of Minnesota, the purpose of that school, my alma mater, is inscribed with the following words:

Founded in the Faith that Men are Enobled by Understanding
Dedicated to the Advancement of Learning and the Search for Truth
Devoted to the Instruction of Youth and the Welfare of the State

In these words we note the primary goal of colleges and universities across our land that may be summarized with these words: Teaching that produces learning for the betterment of society.

The core content of this teaching remains constant from one age to the next, but much of the rest of it changes due to advancements in learning in pursuit of truth.

The University of Minnesota was founded in 1851 in Minneapolis by people descended from immigrants harking mostly from the Scandinavian lands of Norway and Sweden. It started as a preparatory school, but stalled until wheat-milling entrepreneur, John Pillsbury, worked to secure the school’s future. And, Pillsbury’s efforts bore fruit as students finally graduated with baccalaureate degrees in 1873, twenty-two years after the school’s founding.

Fourteen years later, in 1887, another group of immigrants, this time from what is now known as Ukraine, had similar aims in establishing a college, Bethel College, one that would provide teaching that produces learning for the betterment of society.

The place? A piece of prairie North of Newton, Kansas on slight rise of land they named Hebron and bordered by a stream they called Kidron, names, like that of the College, reminiscent of biblical locations. The founders likewise were interested in wheat, Mennonites, with names like Goerz, Warkentin, and Krehbiel.

So, here, on this site, the first Mennonite College in North America was started. The founders saw the importance of providing higher education for its youth, but not only Mennonite youth.

The original intent of the Newton College Association was a “nonsectarian, but religious college.” And, the successor to this association, a corporation named The Bethel College of the Mennonite Church of North America aimed to follow this direction. For, the First Annual Report of the Board of Directors, 1887-1888 invited students who were not only Mennonites, but those coming from other religions or cultures as well. By extending this welcome, the College sought to “pay the debt of gratitude to other denominations by opening wide the doors of the institution, so that all may have an opportunity to partake of whatsoever advantages may be offered by it.”

Not only were youth from all faiths invited, but those from across the country as well. Bethel historian, Peter Wedel, writes that Bethel College “was not to be just a local institution.” “Its courses were to be sufficiently comprehensive to attract students from great distances.” An example of this commitment comes from the observation that, according to Wedel, the first board consisted of “five members from Kansas and four from other states as the new institution should serve the largest constituency possible.” Indeed, the residences of those who served on the board over the first decades included people not only from Kansas, but also from Nebraska, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, Idaho, and Washington.

Like the University of Minnesota, Bethel, at first was a preparatory school. It eventually, however, graduated six students with baccalaureate degrees in 1912. A very significant event followed four years later, 1916, when the school became accredited by the Kansas state board of education, an event celebrated with the unveiling of a flag bearing the school colors adopted nine years earlier in 1907, maroon and gray. A liberal arts college was born!

What can we learn from this story? (more…)

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The following text comprises the notes used to deliver an address to the Bethel College community at the opening convocation of the 2015-2016 academic year on August 19, 2015.


Students, you are at Bethel College to receive an education.

Teachers, you are at Bethel College to provide an education.

Today, the first day of the academic year, we convene to dedicate ourselves, as a community, to provide and receive an education.


An intelligent dedication requires that we first define “education.”


Education is an

action or process of

formal teaching

by precept, example, or experience

that results in

the knowledge of information and skills,

and mental, spiritual, and aesthetic development.


I would like to repeat that definition:


Education is an

action or process of

formal teaching

by precept, example, or experience

that results in

the knowledge of information and skills,

and mental, spiritual, and aesthetic development.


From this definition we may isolate five essential components of education, each identified with a word beginning with the letter “a”:

Education is made up of (1) actors, (2) an aim, (3) actions, (4) an avenue, and (5) assessment.


The actors: teacher and student

The aim: the outcome in the student desired by the teacher, i.e., that which must be learned and that into which one must develop

The actions: teaching by the teacher and learning by the student

The avenue: the curriculum or course of study taught by the teacher to achieve the desired outcome in the student

The assessment: the evaluation of the desired outcome, curriculum, teaching, and learning in order to maximize the fruitfulness of each of these components


Everything we do as teachers and students, if it is to be called education, must in some way relate to these essential components. Anything that does not do so is peripheral to our task, and it is questionable that we should be involved in it.

To illustrate: Why do we build state-of-the-art buildings and use technology like ThresherConnect? In answering this question, it is important to note that buildings and technology are not ends in themselves. They are not essential to education. In fact, in some cases, they may distract from or impede education, e.g., when in class we tap out texts on our phones and check out email and Facebook on our laptops. In reality, education can take place on a log with a teacher on one end giving instruction to and asking questions of a student at the other end. However, we employ assets like state-of-the-art buildings and technology, because we believe they contribute to education when used to advance the components, e.g., teaching and learning.

Ultimately, though, effective education depends upon the extent to which each of the actors, teachers and students, understand and fulfill their roles with respect to the other essential components of education. Since the opening convocation is the occasion at which we, as a community, dedicate ourselves again to these roles, it is fitting that we briefly consider and then commit ourselves to them. (more…)

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The following text comprises the notes used to deliver an address to the Bethel College Board of Directors on October 8, 2015.


This morning I would like to address two questions:

  1. What have I discovered at Bethel College during my first few months of employment?
  2. What are our strategies in moving forward in Academic Affairs?

The proposed strategic plan provides a number of answers to the latter question. I would like to expand somewhat upon that knowledge in the course of answering the first question, what have I discovered?

What I have discovered began before my arrival on the job. It actually started with an unusual question posed by a teacher of mine many years ago: From where did Baptists originate?

Part of my college experience and grad school education took place in Baptist institutions in Minnesota. At these schools I learned the answer to that question, from where did Baptists originate: from Anabaptists, particularly those in the Netherlands. And, from these Anabaptists, Baptists adopted the distinctive positions which distinguished Anabaptists from other Reformation groups.

I became convinced: I adopted these distinctives. I taught them to my students, and I taught them to my children, using the Schleitheim confession as a catechetical instrument. Over the years, I bemoaned the historical drift of my Baptist kin from their Anabaptist roots, especially from positions of pacifism and the separation of church and state.

But, then, I moved to Ohio.

While in Ohio, I became intrigued with the ways of the Amish and the many Mennonites who populated the state. I learned that the Amish originally broke off from the Mennonites, both of which are descendants of Anabaptists, maintaining those distinctives to this day.

Try to imagine my surprise and delight. Modern-day Anabaptists existed all around me.

Long, story short: I visited, joined, and became active in a Mennonite church, became a conference delegate, and learned about Mennonite agencies, including Mennonite colleges.

This knowledge led to my search for employment at a Mennonite college which eventually landed me here.

So, I was and continue to be attracted to Bethel primarily because of my discovery of its vision, mission, and values, all three rooted in Anabaptist beliefs and practice.

Take, for example, the vision statement:


At Bethel College we

welcome with open hearts,

stimulate personal and spiritual discovery,

transform through the power of community and

inspire the leaders of tomorrow. (more…)

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