Nate Yoder

Nate Yoder

Office Phone: (540) 432-4255


Main Campus, Harrisonburg

Office Location: SB 229

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."

Nate’s book Together in the Work of the Lord studies 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. The book resulting from this study is scheduled for release in July as a volume in the Series in Anabaptist and Mennonite History, published by Herald Press.

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.

As EMU’s University Archivist, Nate is resourcing Donald Kraybill, author of the centennial history to be released in 2017.

  • 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. Vol. 47 in Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite History. Harrisonburg, Virginia: Herald Press, 2014.
  • “‘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.
Scholarly Presentations and Abstracts
  • “John Ruby Mumaw at Eastern Mennonite: A Case Study in Contexts for Discernment,” lunchtime presentation, School for Leadership Training: “Discerning Together, Shaping the Future.” Eastern Mennonite Seminary, 21 January 2014. Mumaw’s life and times as window into currents and paradoxes setting the context for twentieth-century discernment.
  • 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.
Other Presentations
  • “Historical and Theological Framework,” presentation to a Virginia Mennonite Conference Credentialed Leaders Consultation on “Baptism and Memberships – Congregation, Conference, and Denomination: Powhatan (Virginia) Mennonite Church, 2 May 2014.
  • “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.
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.
  • 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.
Honors, Awards and Grants
  • Co-proposer, grant from the Marpeck Deans Fund, supporting the meeting of the Mennonite College / University Archives Network, Bluffton University, Bluffton, Ohio, 10-11 October 2013.
Professional Memberships
  • American Society of Church History
  • American Historical Association
  • Conference on Faith and History
Professional Conferences Attended
  • Meeting of the Southeastern Colloquium for American Religious Studies, for discussion of the draft of a book chapter titled, “Womanhood is Sisterhood,” by Mary Henold, Roanoke (Virginia) College (focusing on Catholic laywomen’s groups and their responses to the Second Vatican Council and the Women’s Liberation Movement), at Bridgewater College, 21 March 2014.
  • Virginia Mennonite Conference Credentialed Leaders Consultation on The Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, Waynesboro (Virginia) Mennonite Church, 8 November 2013.
  • Professional Retreat, Mennonite College / University Archivists Network (MCAN), Bluffton University, Bluffton, Ohio, 10-11 October 2013.
  • “Faculty Development in the Midst of Institutional and Vocational Change,” Faculty Focused Consultation, Association of Theological Schools, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 15-17 March 2013.
EMU Service
  • Director, Master of Arts in Religion, 1995-
  • Director, Master of Arts in Church Leadership program, 2010-
  • University Archivist, 2005-
  • University Centennial Planning Task Force, 2008-
  • Centennial History Advisory Committee, 2011-
  • University Writing Committee, 2007-