Mennonites and Money:
Wealth and Poverty in the Past and Present

An Academic and Community Education Conference

October 9 & 10, 2008
Eckhart Gramatte Hall
University of Winnipeg

Hosted by: The Chair in Mennonite Studies

Sponsored by: the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada / Divergent Voices of Canadian Mennonites (DVCM) Sub‑Committee

Major Funder: Mennonite Central Committee Canada

The theme, “wealth and poverty,” has been somewhat neglected in Mennonite historical discourse. Yet, questions of money have shaped Mennonite thought and behaviour. Specific teachings on greed, charity and equality began in the 16th century, and over time, but especially in the 20th century, Mennonites have experienced sudden changes in economic fortune. They have had to face the challenge of increasing prosperity in times of relative peace and toleration. They have also experienced the sudden loss of the economic bases of life and security in times of war and migration.

Entrepreneurship 3:00 pm
Piet Visser “Pieter Teyler van der Hulst from Haarlem”
George Lehman “Cadbury and Hershey Chocolate Barons”
Paul Redekop “East Kildonan Entrepreneurs”    
Carel Roessingh “Business in Belize”

Keynote Evening 7:00 pm
James Urry “Wealth and Poverty in the Mennonite
Experience: Challenges and Dilemmas”

Wealth 8:30 am
Mary Sprunger, “Golden Age Amsterdam"
Mark Jantzen,  “Vistula River Mennonites”
John Staples,  “Johann Cornies”

Loss and Poverty 10:45 am
Reina Neufeldt, “Russlaender Identities”
Royden Loewen, “Old Colony Migrations.” 
Hugo Neufeld, “Poverty in Hamilton”

Charity 1:15 pm
Anna Volstra, “Amsterdam Safeguards.”
Patricia Harms, “Paungassi in Manitoba.”
Laureen Harder, “Mennonite Aid Union.”

Critique of Capitalism 3:30 pm
Karl Koop “Anabaptists on Greed”
Hector Mondregon “Liberation Theology”
Travis Kroeker, “Yoder, Sider, etc.”

Democratizing Capitalism 7:00 pm
Janis Thiessen, “Labour Activism”
TBA, “Co-operatives and Communes” 
Wally Kroeker, "Mennonites in Business"

For more information write:


The ‘Mennonites and Money’ conference will focus on the past and present. The papers will be historical in nature, but also feature historically-oriented papers within such disciplines such as economics, sociology, anthropology, politics, theology, and literary analysis.

The conference will emphasize the following contexts and related issues:

  1. The causes, bases, consequences and methods of dealing with wealth and poverty within Mennonite communities especially where there is marked class difference between members of the community.
  2. The impact of wealth and poverty as it becomes apparent between Mennonite communities – urban and rural communities, immigrant and host communities, North and South American Mennonites, European and North American Mennonites, or Mennonites in the Industrial and the Developing Worlds -- that see themselves as linked by faith and/or descent.
  3. The impact of wealth and poverty between Mennonites and the larger societies, that is, places in which Mennonite prosperity and/or poverty are major religious, social and political issues.
  4. The historic debates around the issue of wealth and poverty, beginning with the very formation of the Anabaptist movement (s), affected by the need to help the poor and by a critique of accumulated power and wealth within privileged classes, and continuing through time when issues of relative wealth and poverty effected intra-church relations .
  5. The conflict and alienation within the Mennonite community, spoken and unspoken, that has resulted from the issues identified above.
  6. Positive responses to issues of poverty and wealth, including redistribution strategies, charity, philanthropy and a range of institutions (the Waisenamt, poor houses, orphanages, old people’s homes, hospitals etc.)

The papers will cover historical periods from the 16th to 21st centuries, and from countries in Europe and North, Central and South America. Organizers hope that the conference will move beyond gross statistics and generalities about comparative ethnic achievements, the condemnation of western, capitalist practices or abstract theological constructs.

Rather, it is hoped that the conference will examine seriously and in a spirit of scholarly excellence the manner in which money was perceived and the way in which it shaped the historical experience, ethno-religious identity, and raison d’etre of the Mennonite community.

Deadline: By 1 December 2007 please send a short proposal, a presentation title, and a short CV to

Travel Funds: some, yet to be determined, travel assistance will be available for those participants with limited institutional support.

Suggested Lodging: Holiday Inn, Colony Street, 1-204-786-7011

Organizing Committee: Esther Epp-Tiessen, Bruno Dyck, Brian Froese, Patricia Harms, Megan Janzen, Wally Kroeker, Royden Loewen, James Urry.