Historical Committee names student essay contest winners

GOSHEN, Ind. (Mennonite Church USA Historical Committee)—A fresh look at Anabaptist ethics and a study of the Concern Movement’s critique of denominational institutionalism garnered the top prizes in the 2012 John Horsch Mennonite History Essay Contest, which is sponsored by Mennonite Church USA’s Historical Committee and is open to students in high school, college or graduate school.

“Ethics as Improv: Anabaptist Communal Discernment as Method” by Ryan Andrew Newson was judged to be the best paper in the graduate school/seminary category, while “Power, Authority, and Renewal: The Concern Movement, Paul Peachey, and the Fragmented Institutionalization of Mennonite Life” by Nathan Hershberger received top honors in the college/university category.

Newson, a student at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., analyzed 16th-century texts to gain a more nuanced understanding of the processes behind establishing Anabaptist ethics. Hershberger, a student at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., focused on the published and unpublished works of Paul Peachey, one of the seven members of the “Concern Group” of young American graduate students, missionaries, and relief workers in post-World War II Europe.

Ted Maust of Goshen (Ind.) College won second place with his essay “Imagining a Mennonite Peoplehood in ‘Modern Babel’: John F. Funk and the Herald of Truth, 1857-1875.” Third place went to Brendon Derstine of Eastern Mennonite University for his work “Side by Side: A Schism, Lawsuit, and Irreconcilable Differences in the Franconia Mennonite Church.”

Receiving an honorable mention in the high school category is Brian Sutter of John Adams High School in South Bend, Ind., for his work “Pennsylvania Mennonites in the American Revolutionary War.”

Eight students submitted papers for this year’s contest. A portion of Hershberger’s essay will be published in the July/October issue of Mennonite Historical Bulletin, the Historical Committee’s magazine. Contest judges were Theron Schlabach, professor emeritus of history at Goshen College, and Felipe Hinojosa, assistant professor of history at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas.