J. Denny Weaver memoir


Dr. J. Denny Weaver

Dr. J. Denny Weaver, professor emeritus of religion, taught at Bluffton from 1975-2006. The release of his memoir was celebrated in Musselman Library.

Theological memoir traces understanding

Dr. J. Denny Weaver, professor emeritus of religion, returned to Bluffton University’s campus to celebrate the release of “New Moves: A Theological Odyssey.” The theological memoir follows Weaver’s career as a theologian and the development of his nonviolent understanding of Jesus’ atonement. 

Now a resident of Madison, Wisc., Weaver taught at Bluffton from 1975-2006. While his professional training at Duke University was in church history, Weaver gravitated toward theology starting in the early years of his 31-year career as a professor of religion. 

“This book traces the development of my worldview and my development as a theologian—from a small boy from a quite conservative Mennonite Sunday school to the publication of, ‘The Nonviolent Atonement,’” Weaver shared during the Feb. 9 event. “The book entails my learning from a variety of sources: foreign experiences, embarrassment, mind-changes, career-direction changes, challenges, controversies—I’ve been both damned and praised—the triumphs, the aftermath of the publication of ‘The Nonviolent Atonement,’ and more.”

During the event, Weaver read the prologue and three passages from the book, including a conversation with a kindergarten classmate about war. This conversation led Weaver to the realization that “being Mennonite made me different” at his Kansas City school. 

Another passage focused on his study of womanist, feminist and black theology, and in particular the work of James Cone, after which “I fully inhabited my identity as a theologian.”  

The memoir took years to write. Weaver explained to the crowd in Musselman Library that he started scratching ideas on paper as early as 2008, re-read years of daily journals and took a memoir seminar during the pandemic, before fully focusing on writing the book. While, the memoir pulls several strands of his life together, Weaver explained the cover, featuring a photo of Weaver’s hand moving a chess piece across a board, emphasized the contributions of his father. The chess set is the last of four sets Weaver made using his late father’s lathe. Individual chess pieces also serve as section dividers of the book. 

Following the readings, Weaver answered questions and signed copies of the book. He is the author and editor of many books of note including 13 volumes of the C. Henry Smith book series, now edited by Dr. Alex Sider, interim vice president of academic affairs and professor of religion.

Dr. Gerald Mast, professor of communication, also spoke during the event. 

“I learned from him that changing times are opportunities for new thoughts and new ideas, for new approaches and new solutions,” said Mast during Weaver’s introduction. “I learned from him not to be afraid of the future, but rather to embrace the new moves that the future calls forth.”

“New Moves,” is part of the DreamSeeker Memoir Series from Cascadia Publishing House, edited by Dr. Jeff Gundy, professor emeritus of English at Bluffton.