Rev. Dr. James Brenneman, or Jim as he prefers being called, is president and professor of biblical studies at Berkeley School of Theology since the Fall of 2017. Just prior to his call to BST, he completed nearly twelve years as president of Goshen College in Indiana.
Dr. Brenneman is an ordained Anabaptist/Mennonite minister and was the founding lead pastor of Pasadena Mennonite Church where he served for twenty years. During that time, Jim served on the faculty at Episcopal Theological School at Claremont in Old Testament scholarship. Prior to that he was Senior Research Associate for World Vision, USA.
Jim has served on a variety of regional and national boards in the Mennonite Church USA, and beyond, including the Elkhart Economic Development Board, the Horizons Educational Association Board, the national board of the Independent Colleges and Universities, and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities Board. He was among the initial signatories of the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment (2006) and was among fifty college presidents invited to the Obama Whitehouse for climate consultation before the Paris Climate Accords. Jim served as president of the board of the Center for Anabaptist Leadership in Los Angeles, and the founding leader of the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program in Los Angeles.
Brenneman is the author of two books, numerous chapters and articles in journals, reference works, and other publications and has spoken in venues, small and large, all over the world.
Jim grew up in Tampa, Florida, attending school and a bilingual Mennonite church in Ybor City, the Cuban quarter of Tampa. During college he studied and lived in Honduras, and since, has travelled, studied, and taught in various countries around the world. He has taken sabbaticals, led learning tours, done research numerous times in the Middle East, most often in Israel/Palestine. He is a member of First Mennonite Church of San Francisco where he serves on the Pastoral Care Committee and since 2020 has also become a regular online participant in Friday Shabbat services of Central Synagogue in NYC. Jim is married to Dr. Terri J. Brenneman, a clinical psychologist. They are parents of one adult son.
I wish for students to discover the appropriate blurring of distinctions between “worldly” wisdom and the wisdom of God that invites them into relationship with God on a far grander scale than afforded otherwise by limiting knowledge to a strictly Christian worldview. As an interdisciplinary learner myself (biology, natural science, and Bible), I ask myself and, now my students, several questions: If Christians believe that God was self-revealing in nature (Rom.1:20), why then is this not also special revelation? Or, if we believe that God was self-revealing in Ancient Israel (or in Christ), why then is this not also natural revelation? Must holy or “revelatory” readings of history (Heilsgeschicte) and wisdom (liberal arts) be so systematically dichotomized when our own Scriptures refuse such systematic categorization? The Bible as Canon (a set of many books with many points of view) serves as a most profound creative model of education for someone seeking a seminary degree. Between its covers, the Bible contains numerous examples of liberal-arts-like education (or “natural” “worldly” revelation) and plenty more examples of what we more often narrowly call “special” revelation. Both forms of education contained in Scripture, under the canopy of the one God, might better be called “spiritual formation.” What better place than a seminary, with a generous orthodoxy, for students to experience multiple streams of “revelation” in creation, in Scripture, in art, in science, and in ordinary life? Is this not special natural revelation? Is this not natural special revelation? Is this not biblical revelation embodied?
Challenges facing the Christian educator engaged in spiritual formation today include: