'A gift to Baptists in England'
Tributes have been paid to Dr Alan Kreider, who died at his home in the US on Monday (8 May). He was 75.
Alan was the American Professor Emeritus of Church History and Mission at the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. His main interests were mission, worship, peace, and ecclesiastical history, especially the early church and Anabaptism.
But to remember as a Mennonite is to is ‘to obscure the contribution that he and (wife) Ellie have made to the wider church,’ noted one tribute. The couple had a particular influence on British Baptists during their long stay in England.
Alan was Director of the London Mennonite Centre between 1974 and 1991, before moving to Manchester as an Adjunct Lecturer in Church History at the University of Manchester and as Theologian in Residence at the Northern Baptist College.
In 1995 he moved to Oxford, where he remained until 2000, as both Director of the Oxford Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture at Regent’s Park College and a member of the Oxford University Theology Faculty.
British Baptist theologian the Revd Dr Sean Winter described him as 'an outstanding historian of the early church, deeply committed to the values of peacemaking and radical discipleship.’
Sean, currently Associate Professor in New Testament, Pilgrim Theological College, University of Divinity, also remembered him as a friend:
Alan arrived to take up leadership at the Centre for Christianity and Culture at Regent’s Park College in Oxford just after Sean left to take up his first pastorate in Reading.
I soon became involved in the Thursday night table-group that met in Oxford weekly, and of which Alan and Ellie were indispensable members. The memories of common purpose, mutual commitment, deep listening and much, much laughter that marked the experience of that group shaped all who participated in it.
Together, Alan and Ellie preached at our wedding, in the customary Kreider fashion in which each took it in turn to speak a sentence seamlessly emerging out of what the other had just said said.
And when we were discerning important moves, first to Manchester and Northern Baptist College, where Alan and Ellie had also taught, and then to Australia, Alan was on hand to listen and to pose the important questions about vocation, and commitment, and what it meant to serve Christ through serving the church.
Professor Paul Fiddes was Principal of Regent’s Park College when Alan came to Oxford. He paid this tribute:
In a life full of different kinds of ministry, Dr Alan Kreider was the first Director of the Oxford Centre for Christianity and Culture at Regent’s Park College, Oxford (1995-2000). The aim of the Centre is to open up the boundaries between Christian faith and wider society, and Alan brought to this task a rich range of gifts, developed in previous ministry.
Among these were deep skills in fostering reconciliation and friendship between diverse groups of people, a fine scholarly mind (applied especially to ground-breaking work in the study of the mission of the early church), and a very gracious personality.
He not only established the Centre as a key element of the college community, but with Ellie he strengthened the community through their very presence among us and had an impact on the lives of students and staff alike. The College is hugely grateful to Alan for modelling the Anabaptist tradition of ‘following Jesus’, and so being a transformative force in its midst.
The Revd Stuart Murray-Williams, who co-edited the 2011 publication Forming Christian Habits in Post-Christendom: The legacy of Alan and Eleanor Kreider, highlighted Alan's profound impact on his own ministry:
My response to learning yesterday that Alan Kreider had died was deep sadness and a great sense of loss, but also celebration of a life well lived and gratitude for all that Alan has meant to me as a close friend and mentor over more than 30 years. Nobody has had a greater influence on my understanding and practice of Christian discipleship. We have seen less of each other since he and Eleanor returned to America in 2000, but were frequent conversation partners via Skype until a month ago.
Alan’s legacy in the UK includes the widely valued ministry of the London Mennonite Centre; the Anabaptist Network of which he was a founding member; his teaching in many churches, colleges and courses; his careful scholarship and passionate writing; his generous friendship and gentle encouragement of many thousands of people; and the way he and Eleanor worked together that empowered women and men and modelled a fresh understanding of shared ministry.
Their contribution to the church in these islands (and in many other nations) has been immense. Thanks be to God!
The Revd Dr Brian Haymes was another close friend of Alan's. Brian was Principal of Northern Baptist College until 1994. He said this:
Many of us will give thanks to God for the life of Alan Kreider, an inspiring and encouraging brother in Christ. He was a gift of God to us, as a teacher, guide, peacemaker, ecumenical partner and a living example of discipleship.
As a historian he was adept at helping us read the past while listening for a word from God for today. All his books show this quality. His emphasis on building up local congregations as communities of faith was something he embraced out of his conviction that such congregations were key features of God's mission of saving love for the world.
With Eleanor, always with Eleanor in a quality partnership, he served at the Northern Baptist College as theologian in residence. Together they pastored students and staff. Caring little for status, they sought not a name for themselves but only the glory of God. Such acknowledged leadership revealed itself in quiet trusting service.
Personally, I have lost a dear friend, a source of pastoral wisdom. His dedication to Christ remains inspiring, a life offered in worship of God. We remain united in the communion of saints, in the praise of God.
Elsewhere, Alan was described by Baptist minister and blogger the Revd Andy Goodliff as 'a gift to Baptists in England, with many Baptists appreciating his theological and historical gifts and his witness to the Mennonite way’.
He pointed out a number of British Baptist feature in Forming Christian Habits in Post-Christendom: The legacy of Alan and Eleanor Kreider, ‘a small testament to the impact that Alan and Eleanor had on Baptist life'.
Baptist minister and theologian the Revd Dr Ruth Gouldbourne also published this personal tribute.
Picture | Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary