Gordon Oyer


Gordon Oyer learned to question priorities that drive Western society early on, reared in the Anabaptist Mennonite tradition. Oyer grew up on a small dairy and grain farm in central Illinois, and received his BS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His readings in nonviolence introduced him to writings of Thomas Merton, which in turn led him to appreciate Merton's contemplative reflections and social critique. Beyond these influences, his parents' love of history encouraged him to seek insights into faith and culture through historical inquiry. His professional career in University of Illinois administrative offices offered the occasion to complete his MA in history at its Urbana-Champaign campus. These experiences combined to inform his interest in the 1964 Merton-led retreat of peacemakers and their consultation about spiritual roots to challenge America's embrace of violence and related maladies. Parallel to his professional career, he participated in denominational history projects and leadership. This included serving on various regional Mennonite historical committees, assisting with aspects of Illinois Mennonite Heritage Center programming, and serving on the board of the Central District Conference of Mennonite Church USA, including a two-year term as conference president. He served eight years as editor of Illinois Mennonite Heritage Quarterly and has written various articles on Mennonite history. Oyer lives in Champaign, Illinois. His work, Pursuing the Spiritual Roots of Protest, has heightened his desire to "continue the conversation" Merton and thirteen others began fifty years ago at Gethsemani Abbey.


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