MCC at 100

Mennonites, Service, and the Humanitarian Impulse

Sept. 30–Oct. 2, 2021

A Virtual Mennonite Studies Conference at The University of Winnipeg

In 1920 Mennonites in Canada and the U.S. formed Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to aid famine-ravaged Mennonite communities in southern Russia (present-day Ukraine). Over the ensuing century, MCC has grown to embrace service in more than 60 countries. It has also brought together a wide variety of Mennonite groups, including Brethren in Christ and Amish, and served as a force for global ecumenical and interfaith partnerships. This centennial conference presents papers that examine the past, present, and future of MCC. The papers reflect on the Mennonites’ response to the biblical call to love one’s neighbour through practical acts of service.

This virtual conference was held as a Zoom webinar.


All times CDT

Thursday, September 30

1:00-1:15 pm
Welcome and Introduction
  • Greetings: Ben Nobbs-Thiessen, Chair in Mennonite Studies, University of Winnipeg
  • Greetings: Rick Cober Bauman, Executive Director, MCC Canada
  • Conference Introduction: Alain Epp Weaver, MCC U.S., and Aileen Friesen, Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies, University of Winnipeg
1:15-3:00 pm
Creating the MCC Humanitarian Impulse in the 1920s
  • Chair: Esther Epp-Tiessen, Winnipeg
  • Jon Weier, George Brown College, “World War I, the Canadian Humanitarian Impulse and the Founding of MCC”
  • Peter Letkemann, Winnipeg, “Negotiating with the Soviets: Alvin Miller of American Mennonite Relief, 1920-26”
  • Ad van de Staaij, The Hague, “American and Dutch Food-aid in 1922: Differing Attitudes”
  • Ken Sensenig, MCC East Coast, “A Rapid Response Establishes 100-year Patterns: MCC in 1920”
3:00-3:30 pm
3:30-5:00 pm
MCC, Emigration, Immigration, and Refugee Newcomers
  • Chair: Anna Vogt, MCC Ottawa
  • Aileen Friesen, University of Winnipeg, “Trapped in Transit: MCC and Mennonite Emigration from the Soviet Union in the 1920s”
  • John Eicher, Penn State-Altoona, “Just Right but Dead Wrong: The MCC's Troubled Relationship with the Fernheim Colony, Paraguay, 1929-1945”
  • Erika Weidemann, Texas A&M University, “The MCC, Aid Organizations, and the Immigration of Chortitza, Ukraine, 1947-1957”
  • Stephanie Phetsamay Stobbe, Menno Simons College (Canadian Mennonite University), “MCC and Resettlement of Refugees from Southeast Asia in Canada”
5:00-7:00 pm

Featured Evening

7:00-9:00 pm
MCC and Indigenous-Settler Relations in Turtle Island
  • Greetings: James Currie, President, University of Winnipeg
  • Chair and Respondent: Wendy Kroeker, Canadian Mennonite University
  • Adrian Jacobs, Sandy-Saulteaux Spiritual Centre
  • Mary Jane McCallum, University of Winnipeg
  • Erica Littlewolf, Indigenous Visioning Circle, MCC Central States

Friday, October 1

8:30-10:00 am
Operating Under Authoritarian Regimes
  • Chair: Eliakim Sibanda, University of Winnipeg
  • Ben Goossen, Harvard University, “Dove and Swastika: Collaboration between MCC and the Nazi Regime, 1933-1942”
  • Johannes Dyck, Bibelseminar Bonn, “MCC and the Iron Curtain: Serving the Mennonite Family in the USSR after World War II”
  • Bernhard Thiessen, Berlin, “MCC-Work and the German Democratic Republic’s Stasi State Security Services, 1945-1989”
10:00-10:30 am
10:30 am-12:30 pm
Programmatic Shifts within MCC Over a Century
  • Chair: Ruth Plett, MCC Canada
  • Lynn Longenecker, MCC U.S., “MCC and Education: A Century of Learning”
  • Paul Shetler Fast, MCC U.S., “From Expatriate Clinicians to Community-Led Public Health: Six Decades of MCC in Haiti, 1958-2020”
  • Timothy Gachanga, Nairobi, “Community Peace Museums of Kenya: An MCC Innovation”
12:30-1:30 pm
1:30-3:00 pm
Agriculture and Religion in Global Context
  • Chair: Jeremy Wiebe, Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies
  • Ben Nobbs-Thiessen, University of Winnipeg, “The Bolivia Mystique: MCC Between the State, Peasants and International Development, 1960-1985”
  • Anna Holdorf, University of Notre Dame, “Sowing Seeds and Saving Souls: The Work of MCC in Postwar Puerto Rico”
  • Jeremy Rich, Marywood University, “The Gospel of Chicken and Rabbits: Mennonite Volunteers and Agricultural Development in the Congo, 1960-1975”
3:00-3:30 pm
3:30-5:00 pm
MCC and Transnational Flows of Agricultural Knowledge
  • Chair: James Kornelsen, Canadian Foodgrains Bank
  • Iqbal Chowdhry, Dalhousie University, and Royden Loewen, University of Winnipeg, “Contested Knowledge: Bangladesh Farmers Meet North American Agronomists”
  • Marta Bunnett, University of Winnipeg, “A Nexus of Agricultural Knowledge: MCC Staff and Local Farmers in Indonesia, 1970-1990”
  • Christopher Sundby, Regent College, “Canadian MCC Agronomists and an Evolution of Knowledge”
5:00-7:00 pm

Featured Evening

7:00-9:00 pm
MCC as Incubator and Catalyst
  • Moderator: Ben Nobbs-Thiessen, Chair in Mennonite Studies
  • Ryan Patterson, Carleton University, “Transnational Representation: MCC Canada and the founding of Disabled Peoples’ International, 1981”
  • Allison Enns, MCC Canada, “MCC and Ten Thousand Villages: Lessons Learned in the Fair Trade Sector”
  • Paul Heidebrecht, Conrad Grebel University College, “Growing, Gifting and Failing: MCC as an Incubator for Relief, Development, and Peace”

Saturday, October 2

8:00-10:00 am
MCC and Peacebuilding
  • Chair: Stephanie Phetsamay Stobbe, Menno Simons College (Canadian Mennonite University)
  • Eliakim Sibanda, University of Winnipeg, “MCC, the Brethren in Christ and Social Concern in Post-colonial Zimbabwe”
  • Grace Hercyk, MCC U.S., “Evaluating MCC’s Support of Peace Institutes and Advanced Peace Education in South Africa, the Philippines, Burundi and Beyond”
  • Jodi Dueck-Read, Menno Simons College (Canadian Mennonite University), “Queering Mennonite Peacebuilding”
  • Patricia Harms, Brandon University, “Recovering the Roots of Anabaptism: MCC and the Rejuvenation of Radical Discipleship in Guatemala”
10:00-10:30 am
10:30 am-12:30 pm
MCC and Identity Formation
  • Chair: Ruth Rempel, Menno Simons College (Canadian Mennonite University)
  • Kevin Stewart Rose, University of Virginia, “Menno Markets: Ten Thousand Villages, More-with-Less, and the Neoliberal Self”
  • Eric Schnitger, Azusa Pacific University, “Mutual Aid and MCC: A Way of Understanding Just Economic Relationships”
  • Robert Suderman, “MCC and the Church: a Continuing Saga of Ambiguity”
12:30-1:30 pm
1:30-3:30 pm
Service, Mission, Partnership
  • Chair: Ben Nobbs-Thiessen
  • Alain Epp Weaver, MCC U.S., “‘Social Concern’ and ‘Evangelistic Witness’: Anxieties about MCC’s Relief and Service Programs in the 1950s”
  • Lucille Marr, McGill University, “MCC, Gender, and Service in Québec: A Case Study”
  • Bruce Guenther, MCC Canada, “From Russia to Syria, MCC’s Changing Approach to Humanitarian Assistance: Local Partnerships and Synergies”
  • Philip Fountain and Laura Meitzner Yoder, Victoria University, Wellington NZ, “Celebrating Service: An Anthropology of Mennonite Festivity”
3:30-3:45 pm
Conference wrap-up; Reflections; Thankyous

Conference Details

Delivery via Zoom webinar

Major Contributors: Special thanks to MCC Canada, MCC U.S., Mennonite Historical Society of Canada DVCM program, the University of Winnipeg, and Canadian Mennonite University

Planning Committee: Esther Epp-Tiessen, Alain Epp Weaver, Aileen Friesen, Lucille Marr, Stephanie Phetsamay Stobbe, Ruth Rempel, Eliakim Sibanda, Anna Vogt, and Ben Nobbs-Thiessen

Special Thanks: Jeremy Wiebe and University of Winnipeg student volunteers

Journal of Mennonite Studies

Selected, peer-reviewed papers from this conference will be published in 2022 in Journal of Mennonite Studies. For more information, visit: