Ray Gingerich died on June 17, 2018, after a long struggle with metastatic prostate cancer. Ray was born to Amish parents, Chris and Susie Anna (Miller) Gingerich, near Kalona, Iowa, on Aug. 26, 1933. Ray was reared in a frugal, hardworking, and conscientious extended family; his Conservative Mennonite maternal grandparents lived in an attached Daadi Haus.
By the time Ray was 16, his parents had joined the recently established Beachy Amish Church, where he was baptized. When he was 19, Ray served as leader of the national Beachy Amish youth organization.
Ray attended school through the eighth grade and then spent his adolescence working on the prosperous family farm. He relished all aspects of farming, but was exposed to a larger world when he was drafted into 1-W (alternative military) service during the Korean War. He was assigned to work at Lancaster General Hospital, and subsequently volunteered for a summer teaching Bible school in the Bronx and Brooklyn, which awakened a curiosity that led him to pursue college education.
On Aug. 26, 1956, he married Wilma Beachy, also of Kalona. One week after they married, Ray and Wilma left for Eastern Mennonite College (now University) in Harrisonburg, Va. After Ray completed college and an additional year at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, they headed to Luxembourg as missionaries under Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions, now with two-year-old twin sons in tow. Ray and Wilma would be blessed with two more sons during their seven years in Luxembourg (1961–68), where Ray pastored a small Mennonite congregation and started a Christian bookstore. Significant questions about mission and the way of Jesus emerged through his experiences and ecumenical encounters in postwar (and increasingly post-Christendom) Europe.
After returning from Europe, Ray continued his studies, at Associated (now Anabaptist) Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind. Harboring deep doubts about a traditional doctrinally framed Christian faith, his engagement there with Anabaptist peace theology and his interactions with missionaries returning from interreligious and cross-cultural settings led to what he called a “second conversion.”
Ray continued doctoral studies in historical theology at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tenn. His dissertation explored the mission impulse of the 16th-century Anabaptist movement.
In 1977, Ray began teaching at EMU in the Department of Bible and Religion. He helped develop a peace and justice minor at the college and for years team-taught with valued colleagues, Vernon Jantzi and Titus Bender. These courses had a deep impact on many students, who went on to serve the church and their communities.
Ray also regularly taught courses at EMS. For many years, Ray was faculty sponsor for an active peace fellowship on campus. He helped recruit faculty and envision programs that developed into the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. He has also provided critical support for the Center for Interfaith Engagement. After concluding his teaching career, Ray helped found the Anabaptist Center of Religion and Society, which among other things has gathered and shared the personal and faith stories of numerous teachers and elders in the church.
For more than 25 years, Ray and Wilma have been active participants in small group and congregational life at Community Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Va.
Preceding Ray in death are his parents, Chris and Susie Anna (Miller) Gingerich, and his older sister, Mary (Lewis) Swantz. Surviving him are his wife of 61 years, Wilma Jean Gingerich (daughter of Andy and Lizzie Beachy); sisters, Clara (Harley) Miller and Esther (Jacob) Yoder; four sons and eight grandchildren: James (Barbara) Nelson Gingerich with children, Jonathan Nelson Gingerich (Jyoti Bock) and Daniel Nelson Gingerich (Meagan Parisi); John Gingerich (Eva Mengelkoch); André Gingerich (Cathy) Stoner with children, Tobias (Cecilia) Gingerich Pessoa, Miriam, Matthew, and Martin Stoner; and Pierre (Lori) Gingerich-Boberg with children, Simone and Josette Gingerich-Boberg.
Visitation will be Thursday, June 28, 6 to 8 p.m. at Community Mennonite Church, 70 S. High St. Harrisonburg, Va. A memorial service will be held at Community Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg on Friday, June 29, at 11 a.m. with a fellowship meal and sharing following.