Nate Yoder

Nate Yoder

Office Phone: (540) 432-4255


Main Campus, Harrisonburg

Office Location: SB 229

Office Hours: on sabbatical, 2013-2014 academic year

Nate Yoder in the news:

Eastern Mennonite Among Nation’s Seminaries Seeing A Boom In Boomers



Professor of Church History


“I invite students to engage in critical analysis and to bring considered commitment and worshipful wonder to their study and contemplation of the incarnate Word, the embodied Spirit, and the renewed church.

As a student and teacher of the history of Christianity, I rely on historical methods of inquiry to highlight the cultural contexts and historical currents which shape the lives lived by followers of Jesus across the centuries and around the world. Students and I together work with sources that open windows for understanding the options before people and the choices they made. I am particularly interested in how people understood and worshiped God, practiced their faith, and influenced their world.

At the same time that I rely on historical methods, I also keep my ears tuned for sounds that echo the Christian understanding that God takes initiative and calls humans to respond. Both Christian humility and historical awareness urge caution in answering with certainty what it is that God has done. Was it God who prompted Pope Urban II to call for a crusade? How do we explain the shift in theological assumptions about how God operates between the First and the Second Great Awakening? What made Pentecostalism spread to become a major force within global Christianity. Even as humility urges us to be cautious in answering these questions, as Christians we also acknowledge that our narrative begins with the testimony that God acted and that our history began as human response to that divine initiative. I am usually aware of echoes in the back of my mind asking how we figure out – or discern, if we use the vocabulary of spirituality – what God is or was doing and how we respond to and cooperate with that initiative.

For almost twenty years, I have also been an instructor in courses focusing on spirituality and our formation as disciples and ministers of Jesus. In such classes, the agenda of discerning what God is initiating and how we as humans choose to respond becomes more than an echo. It is the dominant chord. Here my goal is to assist students in naming the way God is calling them to help shape the history they are living. To name such calling is to put feet on our prayers that His kingdom come and will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

With experience as both a historian and a pastor, Nate Yoder poses for students the question of whether the past is a resource or a hindrance to contemporary believers. Is the church best served by being rooted in adherence to tradition or by being freed to chart new territory? Nate has a vested interest in not answering that either/or question as it is framed. Instead, he takes a both/and approach that engages the past as resource and challenge for the present and the future. His goal is to equip students to take ventures in scholarship and ministry with a view to how the church discerns faithfulness and experiences renewal. He welcomes opportunities to engage the diverse members of the student body in assessing critical developments such as fourth-century developments signaled by reference to Constantine/constantinianism – he has been known to observe that Anabaptist DNA tells Mennonites to boo-hiss upon hearing those terms and then to ask students why and what alternative reads sound like – or the twentieth-century emergence, withdrawal and re-emergence of fundamentalism – much of his scholarly output described below aims to bring more nuance to understanding fundamentalism’s impact.

Nate focused his dissertation on Mennonite fundamentalists, including the founders of the Eastern Mennonite School in 1917. One way that Nate describes this project’s contribution highlights grammatical construction. Previous scholarship portrayed fundamentalism as infiltrating Mennonitism, positioning the movement as subject and lamenting its influence as detrimental. In pursuing an interpretation with more nuance, Nate focused on specific Mennonite leaders, describing them as actors rather than objects – and therefore the subjects of the sentence – who had chosen to engage the broader fundamentalist movement. He sees his work on Mennonite fundamentalists as an effort to provide better understanding of a movement whose influence he is personally ambivalent about.

Nate’s current research project takes the Conservative Mennonite Conference as a case study in Mennonite-evangelical relations, particularly in the latter part of the twentieth century. Headquartered at Rosedale, Ohio, CMC has a long history of interacting selectively with the Mennonite Church. As Conservative Mennonites laid aside many of their cultural distinctives such as plain dress and as they became increasingly concerned about theological diversity among Mennonites more broadly, they identified themselves more closely with currents in popular American evangelicalism. This book has been accepted for publication in the Series in Anabaptist and Mennonite History.

As EMU’s University Archivist, Nate is preparing sources for examination by Donald Kraybill, author of the centennial history to be released in 2017. During the 2013-2014 academic year, Nate is on sabbatical. He will be focusing on the experience of minority/immigrant/racial/ethnic groups within the Mennonite church, with particular attention to dynamics related to leadership. The best way to reach him while he is on sabbatical is at his EMU e-mail:

  • Ph.D., Department of History, University of Notre Dame, IN, 1999.
    Dissertation title: “Mennonite Fundamentalism: Shaping an Identity for an American Context.”
    Dissertation director: Philip Gleason; readers: Nathan Hatch, George Marsden, and Walter Nugent.
  • M.A., Department of History, University of Notre Dame, IN, 1989.
  • B.A., Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY, 1984.
  • A.A., Jefferson Community College, Louisville, KY, 1982.
  • Together in the Work of the Lord: A History of the Conservative Mennonite Conference. Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite History. Scottdale, Pennsylvania: Herald Press, forthcoming.
  • “‘I Submit’:Daniel Kauffman and the Legacy of a Yielded Life.” In The Activist Impulse: Essays on the Intersection of Evangelicalism and Anabaptism, edited by Jared S. Burkholder and David C. Cramer, 129-155. Eugene, Or.: Wipf and Stock, 2012.
  • “Refracted through Anabaptist Lenses: Doctrine, Piety, Nonconformity, and Mission,” Brethren in Christ History and Life 33.2 (August 2010): 372-392.
  • “Introduction,” and co-editor with Carol Scheppard. Exiles in the Empire: Believers Church Perspectives on Politics. Vol. 5, Studies in the Believers Church Tradition. Kitchener, Ont.: Pandora Press, 2006.
  • “Mennonite Scholars and Mennonite Fundamentalism.” Journal of Mennonite Studies 23 (2005): 111-22.
  • “Mennonite Fundamentalism: Shaping An Identity For An American Context.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Notre Dame, 1999.
Scholarly Presentations and Abstracts
  • “None Can Stop the Spirit,” plenary workshop, School for Leadership Training: “The Work of the Spirit: Pentecost Remixed.” Eastern Mennonite Seminary, 18 January 2011. Stories which set the context for the Pentecostal and Charismatic traditions in the larger Wesleyan and Holiness streams with attention to how Anabaptist related groups have interacted with these themes and values.
  • Martin Schrag Lectures — 2010: “The Anabaptist Vision and the Encounter with Evangelicalism and the Academy,” and “Anabaptism and Evangelicalism: Visions of Conversion and Discipleship.” Annual lectures sponsored by the Sider Institute for Anabaptist, Pietist and Wesleyan Studies, Messiah College, Grantham, Pennsylvania, 22-23 March 2010.
  • “The Meaning of being Conservative Amish Mennonite.” Address to the Adirondack Mennonite Heritage Association and Historical Society,” Croghan, New York, 18 October 2008
  • “Looking Back,” keynote address, Evangelical Anabaptist Symposium 2007 – Knowing Christ: Renewing an Evangelical Foundation, Rosedale Bible College, Irwin, Ohio, 15 November 2007.
  • “The History of Preaching in the Conservative Mennonite Conference,” workshop at the Ministers Fellowship, Conservative Mennonite Conference, Hicksville Mennonite Church, Hicksville, Ohio, 2008 February 20.
  • “The Eastern Mennonite School as Experienced by one of her First Graduates [Mary Nafziger],” presentation to Faculty Luncheon, Eastern Mennonite University, 25 March 2008.
  • “Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts and The Conservative Mennonite Conference: Evangelical Teaching for Traditionalist Families in Transition,” paper presented at the Conference on Mennonites, Family, and Sexuality in Historical Perspective, Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ont., 12 October 2007.
  • “The Conservative Amish Mennonite Conference: A Case Study in Appropriating an Amish Heritage.” Paper presented at The Amish in America: New Identities & Diversities – An International Conference, The Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, 9 June 2007.
Other Presentations
  • “The Anabaptist Heritage: A Resource for Discerning and Nurturing Faithfulness,” a four-lesson unit for combined adult and youth Sunday school classes, Mount Clinton Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg, Virginia, 19 May – 9 June 2013.
  • “Mennonite History and Culture,” presentation to Virginia Commonwealth University Road Scholars, Harrisonburg, Virginia, 16 June 2011.
  • “Constantine and Constantinianism,” lecture to joint classes of Instituto Bíblico Anabautista, Eastern Mennonite Seminary, 6 June 2011.
  • “What Have You Received? (1 Corinthians 11: 23-26),” sermon at ordination service for Joe Furry, Weavers Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg, Va., 18 April 2010.
  • “Divinely Directed Cross-Cultural Travel (Acts 8:26-40),” meditation at commissioning service, LEAP 365, Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Harrisonburg, Virginia, 13 July 2009.
  • “Knowing Who Knows (Psalm 139).” Baccalaureate address, Eastern Mennonite High School, Harrisonburg, Virginia, 31 May 2008.
  • “Sources of Our Common Faith.” Panel participant, conference on Bridging Divides: Uniting The Church For Peacemaking, hosted by the Anabaptist Peace Center, Washington, DC, 11 April 2008.
  • “Looking Forward.” Concluding sermon, Evangelical Anabaptist Symposium 2007 – Knowing Christ: Renewing an Evangelical Foundation, Rosedale Bible College, Irwin, Ohio, 17 November 2007.
Church, Community and Professional Service
  • Manuscript Advisory Committee, Archives of the Mennonite Church USA, 2012-present.
  • Board of Directors. Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center, Harrisonburg, Virginia, 1999-2005, 2010-present. Secretary, 1999-2000; Program Development Coordinator, 2001-2003; Vice-President, 2003-2005; Chair, Program Committee, 2003-2005; task force to update vision statement, 2010-2011; search committee for new director, 2011.
  • Historical Committee of the Mennonite Church and Mennonite Church USA, 1995-2003; chair, 2000-2003.
  • Pastor, Dayton (Virginia) Mennonite Church, 1993-1999.
  • Ordained minister, Virginia Mennonite Conference.
Professional Memberships
  • American Society of Church History
  • American Historical Association
  • Conference on Faith and History
Professional Conferences Attended
  • Assessment Workshop, Association of Theological Schools, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 22-23 April 2013.
  • “Faculty Development in the Midst of Institutional and Vocational Change,” Faculty Focused Consultation, Association of Theological Schools, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 15-17 March 2013.
  • Invited participant, “The Church of the Brethren in Twenty Years,” consultation with Diana Butler Bass, sponsored by Forum for Brethren Studies, Bridgewater College, Bridgewater, Virginia, 28 February-1 March 2013.
  • Respondent to session on “Peoplehood and/or Ethnicity in the Global Mennonite Story,” conference on Mirror on the Globalization of Mennonite Witness / The 2011 Shenk Mission Lectureship, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana, 27-29 October 2011.
EMU Service
  • Director, Master of Arts in Religion, 1995-
  • Director, Master of Arts in Church Leadership program, 2010-
  • Interim Director, Vocational Services and Placement, Eastern Mennonite Seminary, 2011-
  • University Archivist, 2005-
  • University Centennial Planning Task Force, 2008-
  • Centennial History Advisory Committee, 2011-
  • University Writing Committee, 2007-
  • Search Committee, Seminary Dean and Vice President, 2009-2010
  • University Faculty Senate, 2008-2012