Anne-Cathy Graber and Matthew Krabill received academic awards in 2020. Both Graber and Krabill minister through the Paris Mennonite Center in France.
GOSHEN, Indiana (Mennonite Mission Network) — Two Paris Mennonite Center staff members received academic awards last year. Anne-Cathy Graber has a long association with the center, and Matthew Krabill was appointed by Mennonite Mission Network in 2019 to serve as co-director with his wife, Toni.
Graber — an itinerant Mennonite pastor and member of Chemin Neuf, a Catholic community which promotes unity among the world's Christian churches — was one of three recipients of the 2020 Harding Meyer Prize in Ecumenism. Harding Meyer, who died in 2018, was a leader in interdenominational dialogue and reconciliation for half of a century. He worked from a base in Strasbourg, France.
Graber received the award in recognition for her 2017 book on the mother of Jesus, which compares Pope John Paul II's thoughts on Mary with Martin Luther's commentary on Mary's Magnificat — Marie. Une lecture comparée de Redemptoris Mater (Johannes Paul II) et du Commentaire du Magnificat (Luther) (Mary: A Study Comparing John Paul II's Redemptoris Mater and Luther's Commentary on the Magnificat in Light of Ecumenical Dialogues). Graber's book is only available in French.
The Harding Meyer Prize in Ecumenism awards 3000 euros to academics who use Meyer's methodological approaches to contribute to ecumenical dialogue. These approaches enable "Christian families," or denominations, to seek reconciliation and church unity, without sacrificing their distinctive identities. One of Meyer's phrases, "unity through reconciled diversity," encourages denominations to avoid making their differences a cause for separation but instead, expose different theological understandings to the work of reconciliation and transformation.
Graber acknowledged that it may seem unusual for a Mennonite to write her doctoral dissertation about Mary. "But I've discovered that Marian theology focuses on all the theological challenges, especially the complex questions of human mediation and participation in the mission of Christ," Graber said.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the award was not conferred this year, but it will be presented at the international summer seminar, organized by the Institute for Ecumenical Research in 2022.
In addition to her work at the Paris Mennonite Center, Graber teaches in the Jesuit Faculties in Paris, is a member of the international committee for the Global Christian Forum, and serves on the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches.
Matthew Krabill was recognized by Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, with the David Allan Hubbard Achievement Award for his outstanding academic work, which will contribute to ongoing ministry. The award is given in honor of Hubbard, an Old Testament scholar and the third — and longest-serving — president of Fuller.
Krabill's dissertation deals with migration, religious identity, and ecclesiology — the study of the origins and structure of the church. His research focused on African Mennonites in the United States who were not affiliated with Mennonite congregations in their countries of origin.
Krabill sought to construct an immigrant ecclesiology based on ethnographic interviews in Los Angeles and West Africa. (Ethnography attempts to explore cultures from the point of view of the subjects of the study, rather than from an outside perspective.) He found that African people attending Mennonite churches in California draw from many cultural and church traditions, to bring new life to the congregations they attend.
"African immigrants inhabit a polycentric world that is characterized by forms of ecclesial hybridity, transnationality, and networked structures, which, invariably, challenge traditional Mennonite assumptions and paradigms," Krabill said.
African Christianity, if it is noticed at all by White academics, is often dismissed as a social safety net for disheartened strugglers in a strange land. White church leaders in the U.S. often perceive African Christianity as foreign, transient, and a minority phenomenon in need of their protection and support. It is not deemed to have any significant contribution to make in the beliefs and practice of North American churches, Krabill explained.
"But to see the world through the eyes of an African immigrant Mennonite is to understand that another kind of Reformation is currently unfolding, even if it is not recognized as such," Krabill said.
Sharon Norton, Mission Network's co-director for Africa and Europe, sees Krabill's research as a valuable resource for the mission agency and for churches in the United States. "With more people on the move in our world than at any other time, Matthew's work is highly relevant, as we think about the how partnership is practiced among migrants in this era," Norton said.
The Paris Mennonite Center, created in the 1980s, resources Anabaptist scholarship with its library and publications, hosts workshops and training sessions, promotes Anabaptist theology in a missional perspective, and nurtures relationships with French-speaking seekers of peace around the world.