Fall 2021 · Vol. 50 No. 2 · pp. 134–136 

From the Editor: 50th Anniversary Issue

Jerry Pauls

January 1972 marked the first issue of Direction, a new academic journal that was to consolidate the work of four schools in producing two other journals. Since 1952 the Mennonite Brethren Bible College had been publishing The Voice to serve the Canadian MB constituency by speaking to “theological and church-related concerns and issues.” Likewise, Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Tabor College, and Pacific College had been publishing The Journal of Church and Society to serve its constituency as a journal devoted to the task of “letting Christianity speak to the issues of our time.” The work of these four schools would now be consolidated in a single journal, which, in the words of its first editor and the author of its first article, would “do what it can to help our churches to understand themselves and their world” (Delbert Wiens, “The Questions We Face”).

It has now been fifty years since Delbert Wiens wrote these words, and Direction is still busy working at this task. Since 1972, 123 issues, nearly 900 feature articles, and over 600 book reviews have been published to help academics, pastors, and laypeople think through the endless challenges we face as God’s people in the world.

This 124th issue of Direction is offered as a fiftieth anniversary issue. Anniversaries provide natural opportunities to celebrate and to look back with gratitude, but they are also an opportunity to take stock and prepare for what lies ahead. Like the two faces of the Roman god Janus, anniversaries orient our life around the past and the future simultaneously. This issue attempts to do this for the life of Direction, not only offering important articles that celebrate and reflect on its fifty years of engaging important issues but also offering articles that strive to continue doing what Direction has always done, “to help churches to understand themselves and their world.”

Looking back, this issue includes two articles by long-time contributors to the journal who offer a retrospect on Direction’s fifty years of publishing. The first article—by Doug Miller, George Shillington, Harold Jantz, and Vic Froese—recounts in a conversational style some of their many experiences with the journal and reflects honestly about some of the contributions and shortcomings of the journal. In the process, they also point out directions for the journal moving forward. In the second article, Vic Froese, the current and longest serving editor in Direction’s history, offers a thorough and insightful history of the journal, highlighting its important historical moments and key contributions. {135}

Looking forward, this issue includes four feature articles, all by first-time contributors who have little or no history with the journal. Each of these new—and younger—contributors has been invited to contribute an article in one of the four categories that Delbert Wiens identified in 1972 as questions crucial for the journal to address: (1) theological problems, (2) the church in theory and practice, (3) sociological problems related to MB identity, and (4) discipleship and the individual (“The Questions We Face”).

  1. Concerning theological problems, Jesse Nickel’s article, a synopsis of his PhD thesis, addresses the issue of Jesus and violence, arguing that the Gospels intentionally disassociate Jesus from those in his day who envisioned the kingdom arriving through violent revolution.

  2. Concerning the church in theory and practice, Andrew Kowan argues that the church’s struggle to repent and reconcile with Indigenous Peoples in Canada is indicative of a malformed discipleship that has been shaped unwittingly by cultural influence.

  3. Concerning sociological problems related to MB identity, John Hau offers his reflections on MB identity from the perspective of a newcomer to the MB family who finds himself pastoring a small MB church in Vancouver. John laments a lack of consensus concerning who we are but points to three core Anabaptist convictions that are worth reclaiming in our cultural moment.

  4. Concerning discipleship and the individual, Chris Clements’s article seeks to establish a fundamental connection between humility and care, arguing that the Christ-shaped virtue of humility is forged in us when it is pursued indirectly through the practice of caring for others in a way that puts their interests ahead of our own.

Finally, Tabitha VandenEnden, in the tradition of Direction’s (almost) defunct “Ministry Compass” feature, offers a pastoral reflection on how the practice of reading, reflecting, and discussing books has impacted the communal life and ministry of her church.

This fall I once again had the privilege of teaching Deuteronomy, a tremendously underappreciated book that stands as an important and enduring Janus between two wilderness generations, between the desert and the promised land. It looks back in order to look forward. In doing so, the book gives witness to God’s faithfulness through forty years of desert wandering in order to call the people of God to a deeper practice {136} of faithfulness moving forward. My own hope is that fifty years of Direction along with the years that lie ahead for this little journal, will continue to serve a similar witness to God’s faithfulness and a similar call to our own.

Jerry Pauls
Biblical Studies Program Director
Columbia Bible College