In Memoriam: John A. Lapp (1933-2023)

Mennonite World Conference mourns the loss of John A. Lapp, who died on Tuesday, 7 December 2023, at 90 years of age. 

John A. Lapp was coordinator and co-editor of MWC’s Global Mennonite History Series. From 1997 to 2012, he and C. Arnold Snyder documented the planting and growth of Anabaptist-Mennonite churches in the world. He worked with Anabaptist-Mennonite leaders in each country on researching, writing and editing five books, one for each continental region. Although the books are more than a decade old, the stories continue to instruct and inspire. “This was his big retirement project, and a big gift to MWC and its member churches,” says MWC regional representative coordinator Arli Klassen. 

John A. Lapp taught history at Eastern Mennonite University (1956-1969), served as academic dean then provost at Goshen College (1972-1984), an served as executive director of Mennonite Central Committee from 1985 to 1996, and was honoured as executive emeritus in 2006. During his tenure, he nurtured MCC’s relationship with MWC and was instrumental in MCC’s $600 000 “jubilee gift” that was used to start MWC Global Church Sharing Fund. 

“I remember him as a gentle, softspoken, friendly man,” say Henk Stenvers, MWC president. “It was an honour knowing him, and to continue his passion for making known the impact that the Anabaptist movement has had throughout the world.” 

“The positive impact of John A. Lapp on our global church is enormous,” says César García, MWC general secretary. “His ministry as a historian, church administrator and coordinator of the Global Mennonite History Project for Mennonite World Conference will continue illuminating the path of many of us. ‘Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever’ (Daniel 12:3).” 

John A. Lapp is survived by son John F. (Sandra Shenk) Lapp; daughters, Jennifer (Robert) Lerch and Jessica W. (Phil Hertzler) Lapp; six grandchildren; great-grandchildren; siblings.

Click here to read the 5 volumes of the history series