Mennonite Church USA Archives

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The Mennonite Church USA Archives was founded in 2001 under the denominational merger of the (old) Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church. Prior to 2001, the two largest Mennonite denominations maintained separate archives: The Archives of the Mennonite Church, located on the Goshen College (Goshen, Indiana) campus, housed materials pertaining to the (old) Mennonite Church, while the Mennonite Library and Archives on the Bethel College (North Newton, Kansas) campus held the records of the General Conference Mennonite Church.

Although now merged, the two repositories remain physically separate and both hold records created by Mennonite Church USA. The Mennonite Church USA Archives is administered by the Mennonite Church USA Historical Committee.

The Archives of the Mennonite Church was founded by the Mennonite Church Historical Committee in 1937 to house collections pertaining to Mennonite and Anabaptist history. The Archives are housed in Newcomer Center on Goshen College campus.[1]


The Archives contain 1,800 personal collections including the manuscripts of significant Mennonite thinkers such as John Howard Yoder, Harold S. Bender, J.C. Wenger, Guy F. Hershberger, and Robert Friedmann, John F. Funk, and John S. Coffman.

The archives also serve as the official repository of the official records of Mennonite Church USA and its affiliated organizations such as:

The collection is split between two sites: one housed at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana, and Mennonite Library and Archives in North Newton, Kansas. Respectively, these sites focus primarily on the documents pertaining to the (now combined under Mennonite Church USA) (old) MC (Mennonite Church) and GC (General Conference Mennonite Church). Combined, these two locations contain some 20 million documents related to the Mennonite and Anabaptist faith [2]


Mennonite archival endeavors in North America began in earnest during the early part of the 20th century. In 1911, ten men, including John Horsch and J.B. Smith, in Johnstown, PA were appointed by the (old) Mennonite Church to create a document of church history. Two years later, the conference began buying books on church history and by 1923 had amassed 200 titles in their library in Scottdale, Pennsylvania. After John F. Funk's library was added to the collection, the committee self proclaimed their records to be "the most valuable library on Mennonite History in America"[3] Eventually the Historical Committee, under Harold S. Bender, began moving towards a central building for archives in Goshen.

In the same year, 1911, the General Conference Mennonite Church began taking steps toward an intentionally preserved historical record. At an assembly in Bluffton, Ohio, Silas M. Grubb lamented to other delegates "What a sad commentary it is upon the historical sense of our people when the only records available are those upon the tomb-stones."[4] C.H. Wedel and H.R. Voth were members of this group.

The Archives of the Mennonite Church (as it was called at the time) was founded in 1937 and originally housed in the basement floor of the school's library. In 1959, the Archives moved to the new Goshen Biblical Seminary Building (later renamed Newcomer Center, when the seminary merged with the Mennonite Biblical Seminary of the General Conference Mennonite Church to form Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and moved to Elkhart, Indiana).[5] The archives are still located in Newcomer Center today.

In the program for the dedication of the Archives, it describes why the collection was originally located where it was. "In view of the prohibitive cost of erecting and caring for a special archives building, it has been decided to accept the offer of the Mennonite Board of Education and Goshen College to locate the archives in the basement floor of the new fireproof library erected on the Goshen College Campus."[6]

The first archivist was Harold S. Bender. Other archivists of significant lengths of time include Melvin Gingrich, Leonard Gross, and Dennis Stoesz. Colleen McFarland is the current archivist.

Additionally, there are several other regional Mennonite and archives of related groups located across the country. Some of these include The Centers for Mennonite Brethren Studies at Tabor College and Fresno Pacific University, The Menno Simons Library and Archives at Eastern Mennonite University, the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, and the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Historical Library.[7]

Bomb scare

On February 1st, an archivist happened across two large caliber shells, a grenade and a small aerial bomb in the Mennonite Archives. These materials had been donated by George Springer, a post World War I relief worker in France. The Elkhart Police Department was brought in to dispose of the ordnance.[8] Other artifacts among George Springer's papers, including trench art created by German prisoners of war, were donated to the Mennonite Historical Library and the Museum of the Soldier in Portland, Indiana.


  1. Bender, Harold S. and Lawrence Klippenstein. "Archives." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1990. Web. 29 September 2011.
  3. Sharp, John E. A Chronology of the Historical Committee and Archives of the Mennonite Church. Historical Committee of the Mennonite General Conference. Goshen, IN: 1995.
  4. Preheim, Rich. "100 Years: A Century of Minding Mennonite Memory." Mennonite Historical Bulletin 72.July (2011): 6-7. Print.
  5. Bender, Harold S. "Historical Committee of the Mennonite Church." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 29 September 2011.
  6. Historical Committee of the Mennonite General Conference. The Archives of the Mennonite church. Dedication of the Archives. Goshen, IN: 1940.
  7. Toews, Paul. Mennonites in American Society: 1930 - 1970 : Modernity and the Persistence of Religious Community. Vol. 4. Scottdale, Penn. [u.a.: Herald, 1996. Print. The Mennonite Experience in America.

External links