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|Gerald Gerbrandt speaks at Assembly 2012|
Shaped and Called
July 12, 2012
Winnipeg, Man. — Gerald Gerbrandt cannot recall a period of time when the Bible did not play prominently in his life. He does remember one of the earlier translations he read as a preschooler—one that provides an interesting contrast to his lifelong vocation as a scholar and educator, and recently retired president of Canadian Mennonite University (CMU).
“It was a comic book version of part of the Bible,” says the plenary speaker for Mennonite Church Canada Assembly 2012, recalling “balloons” that carried the conversations of Paul and other key biblical figures.
Gerbrandt says that the image of a dusty Bible portrayed in this year’s assembly theme, Dusting off the Bible for the 21st Century, may be an exaggeration. But, he adds, “We’re in a time where the Bible isn’t as prominent in church people’s thinking as it was when I grew up.”
“The rise of scholarship has sometimes indirectly communicated that only scholars can make use of the Bible,” he says. “We’re living in a time where all authority is questioned. I think it’s helpful today to ask what is it and how might we become more enthused about scripture so that it remains central for us.”
Gerbrandt says he hopes that those who participate in Assembly 2012 “become excited and inspired to become more actively involved in reading and interacting with scripture to see in it a story that continues to be absolutely central to who we are as Christians.”
Gerbrandt’s passion for the Bible will continue into his retirement as he prepares to complete a commentary on Deuteronomy for the Believers Church commentary series published by Herald Press, travel with his wife Esther, and spend a month in Israel at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, a research library just outside of Jerusalem.
Growing up, Gerbrandt did not anticipate a ministry career in higher education. He planned to spend a year at Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC, now CMU) studying to become a research scientist, but found himself drawn to theology and Bible studies.
“I had a good year and simply stayed.”
His career, he says, chose him, although looking back he sees the influence of his father who studied at CMBC and often shared his dream to pursue education.
After completing three years at CMBC with no long term goals, Gerbrandt attended Bethel College in North Newton, KS, because it seemed the most efficient way to complete his BA. Then a new career objective began to solidify through two unexpected invitations. First, he was invited to serve as a pastoral intern at Reedley Mennonite Church (California), and second, he was invited by CMBC to undertake graduate studies and return to CMBC in a term teaching position. Together these experiences served as a calling to ministry through post-secondary education.
CMBC/CMU became Gerbrandt’s vocational home where throughout his career, he served in a variety of positions. He officially retired from his latest role as President of CMU on June 30, 2012 but he says that he will continue to have a relationship with the university.