Reviews

Reviews of In Search of Promised Lands: a Religious History of Mennonites in Ontario have appeared in both scholarly and popular periodicals. Find them through the links below.

Mennonite Historical Society of British Columbia (September 28, 2015). “Book Review” by Robert Martens.

Canadian Mennonite (August 17, 2015): 33 “New Definitive History of Mennonites in Ontario” by Barb Draper.

Mennonite World Review (July 20, 2015): 7 “Diverse Ontario a Leader in Unity” by James C. Juhnke.

Waterloo Region Record (July 18, 2015): D4 “The Evolving History of Ontario’s Mennonites” by Jim Romahn.

Amazon.ca (July 15, 2015): “The Definitive Work on Ontario’s Mennonites.” See at: http://www.amazon.ca/product-reviews/0836199081/ref=dp_db_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

Steiner is very thorough in covering the details of life that built and broke congregations over the centuries, that made for cultural and religious identification then and now, and theological positions of the very many different groups of Mennonites ranging from the completely assimilated to the very separated. Every page I turn exposes similar nuggets of insight and I ordered a copy of this encyclopaedic volume to have the information at my fingertips for future reference. For non-Mennonites, this book will provide an appreciation of the great depth and diversity of the Mennonite Church in Ontario and its relationship to the wider Mennonite community nationally and globally.

Journal of Mennonite Studies (2016): 342-344. Reviewer Jeremy Wiebe’s final paragraph reads:

This is an assiduously research book, as its extensive and valuable endnotes review. Written with clarity, it finds room in a complicated narrative for the personal stories of the women and men who were involved. It will be the definitive reference on Ontario Mennonite history.

Mennonite Quarterly Review (July 2016): 402-404. Reviewer Esther Epp-Tiessen’s final paragraph reads:

In Search of Promised Lands is a major contribution to Canadian Mennonite history. Large clear photos, helpful tables and maps, and a comprehensive glossary all add to the book’s usefulness. The length of the book–600 pages of text and 200 pages of endnotes–may turn away the average reader, but for decades to come students and scholars of Mennonite history in Canada will consider Steiner’s work indispensable.

Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies 4, no. 1 (Spring 2016): 106-111. Available at http://kb.osu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/1811/77992/JAPAS_BookReviews_vol4-issue1_pp106-120.pdf?sequence=1. Reviewer Mark Louden writes:

Steiner’s In Search of Promised Lands will undoubtedly be considered the standard work on the development of Ontario Mennonite and Amish groups; no other monograph comes close in terms of breadth and depth in describing what is a profoundly complex and diverse tapestry of Anabaptist communities in Canada.

Conrad Grebel Review 34, no. 3 (Fall 2016): 307-309. Available at: https://uwaterloo.ca/grebel/publications/conrad-grebel-review/issues/fall-2016/search-promised-lands-religious-history-mennonites-ontario. Reviewer Timothy D. Epp begins his review:

Without a clear guidebook, the complexity and diversity of Mennonite groups can seem confusing. Samuel J. Steiner’s In Search of Promised Lands: A Religious History of Mennonites in Ontario has answered the need for a clear history of Mennonites in the Canadian province. This volume is excellently written, extensively documented, solidly researched, and presented in an accessible style.

Ontario History 108, no. 1 (Spring 2016): 140-142. Reviewer Julia Rady-Shaw begins her review:

Samuel J. Steiner’s In Search of Promised Lands: A Religious History of Mennonites in Ontario is a comprehensive account of the rich past of one of the province’s early settler groups. Steiner’s archival record is voluminous, yet he weaves the evidence together into a rich, cogent, and accessible history of the Mennonites in Ontario.

Mennonite Historian 42, no. 4 (December 2016): 11-12. Available at http://www.mennonitehistorian.ca/42.4.MHDec16.pdf. Reviewer James Neufeld ends his review:

Congratulations, Sam Steiner, on the completion of this pioneering effort to describe the Mennonite and Amish landscapes of the province where I grew up. It will certainly be for many years the “go to” resource for understanding this religiously diverse and fascinating segment of the Christian church.

Anabaptist Witness 3, no. 2 (December 2016): 137-138. Available at: http://www.anabaptistwitness.org/journal_entry/samuel-j-steiner-in-search-of-promised-lands-a-religious-history-of-mennonites-in-ontario/. Reviewer Maxwell Kennel concludes:

In conclusion, In Search of Promised Lands is both comprehensive and accessible, although its comprehensiveness may be a barrier to continuous reading. Both scholars and individuals interested in Mennonites will doubtless find the book to be a valuable resource and reference work. Reservations aside, as historical reflection on Mennonite groups continues, Steiner’s proposed spectrum “from traditionalist withdrawal to conservative boundary maintenance to evangelical renewal to progressive assimilation” should serve as a helpful framework for further research and thought.

Brethren in Christ History and Life (April 2017): 161-163. Available at: https://bic-history.org/journal-articles/in-search-of-promised-lands/. Reviewer Lucille Marr writes:

The Canadian Brethren in Christ are fortunate to have their story told in Morris Sider’s 1988 publication Two Hundred Years of Tradition and Change. Yet it is worth noting that the Meeting House, an Anabaptist mega-church of the Canadian Brethren in Christ, was only in its infancy when Sider’s book was published. Although Steiner’s history treats the Brethren in Christ only peripherally, for those interested in the larger story of Ontario Anabaptist circles in recent decades, it will be well worth reading Steiner’s detailed history as one way of putting that story in broader context.

Steiner’s history of Mennonites in Ontario is also relevant for those farther away, with its distillation of knowledge gained over a lifetime of archival and historical work, including many years as managing editor of the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (http://gameo.org). Although it is too early to get the depth of historical perspective, the later chapters provide a valuable and informative reference resource including stories of people, institutions and the varieties of Mennonite church life.

4 thoughts on “Reviews

  1. On Bruce Jutzi, see Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence
    Issue 16 – Evidence
    OTTAWA, Monday, May 28, 2007
    The Standing Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 10:10 a.m. to examine and report on the national security policy of Canada.

    “Ms. Swords is accompanied by Mr. Bruce Jutzi, Director General, Security and Intelligence, Security and Intelligence Bureau, and Mr. John DiGangi, Director, Foreign Intelligence Division.”

    http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/391/defe/16ev-e.htm?comm_id

    Ross Lynn Bender

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  2. Great work, Sam! My wife gave the book to me for my birthday last month and I very much enjoyed reading it. Since my own experience was growing up in the Amish Mennonite community in Baden/New Hamburg/Kitchener in the 1950’s, and since my father decided to move our family down to the Excited States in 1960, I assumed that my tiny Freundschaft WAS the Ontario Mennonite world. We attended Erb Street, where Dad was assistant pastor while he was principal at Rockway. In the book I believe that is usually referred to as Waterloo Mennonite. At the time, it seemed more conservative than First Mennonite, where my Kitchener cousins attended.

    Of course 1960 was precisely the worst time to transport a nice Ontario Mennonite family down to the Babylonian Empire, where as a child I experienced in rapid succession the Bay of Pigs, Cuban missile crisis, JFK assassination, Malcolm X assassination, MLK and Bobby Kennedy assassination, not to mention a little affair called the Vietnam War. So I have always looked back at my Canadian childhood as a sort of Garden of Eden. Likely that is a bit of a fantasy.

    My father, after seeing the movie Witness, remarked that coming out of the tiny German-speaking AM community and entering the great world he felt like the little Amish boy in the film who witnesses a murder in the men’s room in the Philadelphia train station. There is culture shock and there is culture shock.

    One lacuna I noticed in your book was that there was no mention of Bruce Jutzi, Canadian diplomat and in later life head of the Canadian CIA, if I’m not mistaken. When I was about 7 years old I was a child star in the Rockway Senior play, “A Man Called Peter.” Jutzi played an American senator, and I recalled that he played it very loudly, and I jumped the first time he held forth in rehearsal. In 1967 I traveled to Asia with my father and we met Bruce in Hong Kong, which was bedecked with enormous banners of Mao Zedong. He took us on a sampan one afternoon out into the harbor, where the US Seventh Fleet was parked. Our destination was the Quaker sailing ship Phoenix, carrying medical supplies to North Vietnam. Quite a heady experience.

    One question I had after reading the book was precisely how the Old Order Amish in Ontario came about, a point I’ve always been fuzzy on. If I recall what Dad told me, they were a split from the Amish Mennonites on some issue. Maybe I missed it in the book, but I am still a bit confused.

    Anyhow, great work. A pleasure to read, even if the Ontario Mennonite scene was so much more diverse and fascinating than my childhood memories.

    Ross Lynn Bender

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    • The Old Order Amish division in Ontario happened when some Amish decided to build meetinghouses and others refused this. This happened in the 1880s. The southern part of the Amish settlement all built meetinghouses (Steinmann, East Zorra, St. Agatha), but the northern part was divided on the issue. I believe Bruce Jutzi always was on the diplomatic side (foreign affairs), and was never connected to CSIS (Canada’s CIA).

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