ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — The Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) community is grieving the sudden loss of a beloved colleague, teacher, mentor and friend. Willard M. Swartley, Ph.D., professor emeritus of New Testament, died of natural causes at age 83 on Nov. 6, 2019, in Goshen, Indiana. He had lived with a heart condition for many years.
Swartley, who retired from the Elkhart, Indiana, seminary in 2004 but continued to be a regular presence on campus, will be remembered for the ways in which he lived out his deeply rooted faith in Jesus — both within and beyond his academic work. Those who knew him speak of his gentle and humble spirit, his pastoral presence and his consistently encouraging nature, in addition to his intellectual curiosity and numerous contributions to biblical and peace scholarship.
“Willard was an exceptional and widely respected biblical scholar and a committed teacher,” said Beverly Lapp, Ed.D., acting president and academic dean. “He lived his faith, looking after those who were struggling in life, and he believed in the work of Christ and the church to increase God’s kingdom here and now. He loved AMBS so very much.”
From 1978 to 2004, Swartley was a professor of New Testament at AMBS. During his tenure, he also served as academic dean (1979–81; 1995–2000), acting president for half a year (1996), and director of AMBS’s Summer School (1990–93; 1995–2000). Swartley was actively involved in fostering scholarship for the church, serving as director of the Institute of Mennonite Studies (IMS), AMBS’s research agency, for more than a decade (1979–88; acting, 1997–99). At IMS, he was also editor of the Occasional Papers series (1981–88) and co-editor with Ben C. Ollenburger, Ph.D., retired professor of biblical theology, of the Studies in Peace and Scripture series (1990–2006). His final book, Jesus, Deliver Us — published earlier this year — is the 16th volume in the latter series.