Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO)

Last Friday and Saturday the Management Board for the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online met in Goshen, Indiana. Some significant decisions were made, but I’ll wait to comment on them until after a press release is distributed. Rather, I thought I’d reproduce a blog article on GAMEO I first published in January 2016, since GAMEO has significant roots in Ontario.

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Mennonite Encyclopedia celebration

Celebration of the Mennonite Encyclopedia, 4th Volume, August 11, 1959: Left to right: Cornelius Krahn, Harold S. Bender, Melvin Gingerich.
Source: H.S. Bender Photographs. HM4-083. Mennonite Church USA Archives – Goshen. Goshen, Indiana.

GAMEO (pronounced găm-e-o) descends from two earlier projects. The first is well-known–the five-volume Mennonite Encyclopedia that was published from 1955 to 1959, with a supplementary fifth volume in 1990. It began as the brainchild of Prof. C. Henry Smith, who suggested in 1945 that an inter-Mennonite group of American Mennonite scholars translate and expand the earlier volumes of the Mennonitisches Lexikon published by European Mennonites. Even though Smith died in 1948, Harold Bender and Cornelius Krahn brought the vision to fruition. Cornelius J. Dyck and Dennis Martin brought the supplemental volume to completion in 1990.

The second project related to the three-volume Mennonites in Canada history series sponsored by the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada (MHSC) from 1968 to 1996.

Marlene Epp

Marlene Epp in 2015. Courtesy Conrad Grebel University College.

In the mid-1980s, Marlene Epp, presently a Professor of History at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, was a research associate for her father, Frank H. Epp. He was then preparing to write a third volume in the series. Both Frank and Marlene were based at Conrad Grebel.

Frank Epp died in early 1986 while awaiting a heart transplant. This suspended the writing project until Ted D. Regehr of the University of Saskatchewan was identified as the author for the third volume. Marlene Epp continued as research associate for the project, and spent much of her time developing databases of information on Canadian Mennonites — on congregations, institutions, conferences, businesses, periodicals and biographies. By far the largest of these databases was the one on congregations. It included basic information on 1200 Canadian Mennonite congregations, some of which no longer existed.

In 1987 the MHSC created a database committee to consider how best to utilize this wealth of material. The committee members were archivists at three Mennonite historical centers in Canada (Bert Friesen, chair; Sam Steiner, Lawrence Klippenstein, Ken Reddig) plus Ted Regehr, the vol. 3 author and Marlene Epp. Already in early 1988 Marlene Epp mentioned the possibility of a Canadian Mennonite Encyclopedia.

Since the World Wide Web was not yet available, discussion within the committee focused primarily on how to make this electronic data available at the various Mennonite historical research centers in Canada.

Finally in 1995 the MHSC authorized a committee to study the feasibility of loading the database onto the Web. In 1996, with the assistance of the University of Waterloo Library, Sam Steiner, then the librarian-archivist at Conrad Grebel College,  loaded a prototype Canadian Mennonite Encyclopedia utilizing the congregational database onto an MHSC website hosted by the university library. At the end of 1996 it contained 550 brief congregational articles.

In March 1998, MHSC obtained permission from Herald Press (Scottdale, Pennsylvania) and the Institute of Mennonite Studies (Elkhart, Indiana) to digitize the print Mennonite Encyclopedia. The project also received a significant Canadian government grant that year to facilitate the work. In the initial year Sam Steiner selected Canadian-related articles from the print encyclopedia for copying and adding to the website. Because of his technical work on the website, Steiner became identified as the managing editor.

Finally, in 2004 it occurred to the encyclopedia’s editorial board (still composed of representatives from various Canadian Mennonite archives) that this could become a larger project that was worldwide in scope.

In 2005 the name changed to Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Volunteers from Mennonite archives throughout North America began to scan and proofread sections of the print Encyclopedia. They forwarded the articles to Waterloo for loading onto the site, hosted after 1998 on Conrad Grebel College’s own server. By the end of 2005 there were 2,700 articles on GAMEO. In 2008 web hosting moved from the College to Peaceworks Computer Consulting (now Peaceworks Technology Solutions), a firm that has provided software support to GAMEO from the late 1990s.

GAMEO-Board-2017

GAMEO Management Board meeting, May 2017. L-R: Sam Steiner, Jason Kauffman, Jon Isaak, Richard Thiessen, Eric Kurtz, John D. Roth, Bert Friesen

In 2005 two partners — the Mennonite Brethren Historical Commission and the Mennonite Church USA Historical Committee — joined the project. Mennonite Central Committee joined the partnership in early 2006, Mennonite World Conference joined in January 2007 and the Institute for the Study of Global Anabaptism (Goshen, Indiana) in October 2011.

GAMEO was invaluable in the research for In Search of Promised Lands. Visit GAMEO if you have not already done so.

20th Anniversary of Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO)

GAMEO's front page, 2016

GAMEO’s front page, 2016

This year is the 20th anniversary of the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO).

Mennonite Encyclopedia celebration

Celebration of the Mennonite Encyclopedia, 4th Volume, August 11, 1959: Left to right: Cornelius Krahn, Harold S. Bender, Melvin Gingerich.
Source: H.S. Bender Photographs. HM4-083. Mennonite Church USA Archives – Goshen. Goshen, Indiana.

GAMEO (pronounced găm-e-o) descends from two earlier projects. The first is well-known–the five-volume Mennonite Encyclopedia that was published from 1955 to 1959, with a supplementary fifth volume in 1990. It began as the brainchild of Prof. C. Henry Smith, who suggested in 1945 that an inter-Mennonite group of American Mennonite scholars translate and expand the earlier volumes of the Mennonitisches Lexikon published by European Mennonites. Even though Smith died in 1948, Harold Bender and Cornelius Krahn brought the vision to fruition. Cornelius J. Dyck and Dennis Martin brought the supplemental volume to completion in 1990.

The second project related to the three-volume Mennonites in Canada history series sponsored by the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada (MHSC) from 1968 to 1996.

Marlene Epp

Marlene Epp in 2015. Courtesy Conrad Grebel University College.

In the mid-1980s, Marlene Epp, presently a Professor of History at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, was a research associate for her father, Frank H. Epp. He was then preparing to write a third volume in the series. Both Frank and Marlene were based at Conrad Grebel.

Frank Epp died in early 1986 while awaiting a heart transplant. This suspended the writing project until Ted D. Regehr of the University of Saskatchewan was identified as the author for the third volume. Marlene Epp continued as research associate for the project, and spent much of her time developing databases of information on Canadian Mennonites — on congregations, institutions, conferences, businesses, periodicals and biographies. By far the largest of these databases was the one on congregations. It included basic information on 1200 Canadian Mennonite congregations, some of which no longer existed.

In 1987 the MHSC created a database committee to consider how best to utilize this wealth of material. The committee members were archivists at three Mennonite historical centers in Canada (Bert Friesen, chair; Sam Steiner, Lawrence Klippenstein, Ken Reddig) plus Ted Regehr, the vol. 3 author and Marlene Epp. Already in early 1988 Marlene Epp mentioned the possibility of a Canadian Mennonite Encyclopedia.

Since the World Wide Web was not yet available, discussion within the committee focused primarily on how to make this electronic data available at the various Mennonite historical research centers in Canada.

Finally in 1995 the MHSC authorized a committee to study the feasibility of loading the database onto the Web. In 1996, with the assistance of the University of Waterloo Library, Sam Steiner, then the librarian-archivist at Conrad Grebel College,  loaded a prototype Canadian Mennonite Encyclopedia utilizing the congregational database onto an MHSC website hosted by the university library. At the end of 1996 it contained 550 brief congregational articles.

In March 1998, MHSC obtained permission from Herald Press (Scottdale, Pennsylvania) and the Institute of Mennonite Studies (Elkhart, Indiana) to digitize the print Mennonite Encyclopedia. The project also received a significant Canadian government grant that year to facilitate the work. In the initial year Sam Steiner selected Canadian-related articles from the print encyclopedia for copying and adding to the website. Because of his technical work on the website, Steiner became identified as the managing editor.

Finally, in 2004 it occurred to the encyclopedia’s editorial board (still composed of representatives from various Canadian Mennonite archives) that this could become a larger project that was worldwide in scope.

In 2005 the name changed to Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Volunteers from Mennonite archives throughout North America began to scan and proofread sections of the print Encyclopedia. They forwarded the articles to Waterloo for loading onto the site, hosted after 1998 on Conrad Grebel College’s own server. By the end of 2005 there were 2,700 articles on GAMEO. In 2008 web hosting moved from the College to Peaceworks Computer Consulting (now Peaceworks Technology Solutions), a firm that has provided software support to GAMEO from the late 1990s.

GAMEO Management Board

GAMEO Management Board, 2011. L-R: Abe Dueck, Bert Friesen, Richard Thiessen, John Thiesen, John Roth, John A. Lapp, Sam Steiner. GAMEO photo

In 2005 two partners — the Mennonite Brethren Historical Commission and the Mennonite Church USA Historical Committee — joined the project. Mennonite Central Committee joined the partnership in early 2006, Mennonite World Conference joined in January 2007 and the Institute for the Study of Global Anabaptism (Goshen, Indiana) in October 2011.

In 2012 GAMEO shifted its financial relationship from the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada to Mennonite World Conference. A management board composed of representatives of all the partners gives oversight to GAMEO. Bert Friesen remained chair of the management board in 2015. Richard Thiessen of Abbotsford, British Columbia became managing editor in 2012. In 2015 there were over 15,900 articles in GAMEO.

GAMEO was invaluable in the research for In Search of Promised Lands. Visit GAMEO if you have not already done so.

A Mennonite and Canada’s Department of National Defence

Jacob J. Koop

Jacob J. Koop (1923-2009). GAMEO photo

One of the most interesting biographical entries recently added to the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO) is that of Jacob J. Koop, written by William Janzen, a longtime Mennonite Central Committee staff person in its Ottawa office.

Koop was a devoted, life-long Mennonite. Although born in Ukraine, he came with his family to Canada in 1924 when he was one year old. He grew up in southern Manitoba, and attended the Mennonite high school in Gretna.

He entered the military in 1943, but prayed that he would not have to kill anyone. He was persuaded of the legitimacy of self-defence because of the Mennonite experience in Ukraine after the Russian Revolution, and felt he could not shirk military service. Because he took training to become an officer, Koop was not deployed to Europe until 1945, and never faced actual combat.

On his return to Canada he continued academic studies, and ended up with the Ph.D. in Chemistry from McGill University. He then accepted a position at the Defence Research Board (DRB) in Ottawa, an agency of the Department of National Defence.

Koop worked for the DRB for 35 years. As described by Janzen in the GAMEO article, “he worked in the area of science and defence, contributing substantially to various arms limitation efforts.”  In the 1950s in an era of nuclear testing, Jake coordinated a program that monitored the atmosphere for nuclear debris. On this basis he contributed background papers to support the negotiations that led, in 1963, to the treaty banning all atmospheric nuclear testing.

Nuclear reactor at Dimona, 1968

Nuclear reactor near Dimona (israel) in 1968, by American reconnaissance satellite KH-4 CORONA (Uncropped version at GlobalSecurity.org) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In 1964 as a DRN intelligence analyst he wrote  a then secret paper arguing that Israel likely had a military nuclear capacity. He suggested that Israel had two distinct nuclear programs: a small civilian research unit, and a larger, secretive one that likely was a first step in developing weapons.  Koop predicted that Israel could conduct an initial nuclear test by 1966 and could develop a “limited nuclear weapons capability” of six to 10 low-yield bombs by the end of 1968. His forecast wasn’t far off. Israel built its first nuclear devices shortly before the 1967 Six-Day War.

Despite his decades of work for the Defence Department, Koop was a charter member of the Ottawa Mennonite Church when it formally organized in 1963. He served as a deacon, congregational chair, and even occasionally preached. Jake saw himself as strongly pro-peace but on the basis of “just war” principles. He regretted that the Mennonite stance on peace seemed not to acknowledge the work that he and his colleagues did from inside the defence department.

At his funeral in 2009 Jake Koop was described as a “gentle soldier.”

Who are other Mennonite “gentle soldiers” you have known?

Two other published articles on Jake Koop are:

Tu Thanh Ha, “How Canada exposed Israel’s secret nukes with help from a Mennonite.” Globe & Mail (12 July 2013). Web. 2 January 2016  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/canadian-mennonite-played-key-role-in-discovering-israels-nuclear-program/article13193235/

Bill Janzen. “A Mennonite in Canada’s defence department.” Canadian Mennonite (5 October 2009): 26. Web. 17 December 2015. http://legacy.canadianmennonite.org/vol13-2009/13-19/13-19small_115_2009-10-05.pdf