Cover photo for James L. “Jim” Dunn's Obituary
James L. “Jim” Dunn Profile Photo

James L. “Jim” Dunn

d. February 13, 2023

James “Jim” Lewis Dunn was born in McPherson, Kansas on December 3, 1941 to Jasper and Linda (Ewy) Dunn. The family moved to a farm near Arlington, Kansas.  Their marriage was blessed with two sons, James and Kenneth.  After his mother’s tragic death to cancer in 1946, Jasper married Hazel Edwards in 1948.  They had three children together, Donald, Kathy, and Linda (who also died of cancer at age 8).

Throughout his adult life Jim had two callings.  He was both a pastor and a farmer.  He graduated from Arlington (KS) High School in 1959.  He attended Bethel College, North Newton, Kansas, for two years, studying Industrial Arts and Bible and Religion. As Jim tells the story, one day the local African Methodist Episcopal Church called a student church leadership club.  They said they wanted a preacher for that Sunday.  The rest of the students begged off.  When the church leader that morning introduced Jim, he said, “This is our new preacher.” Jim didn’t say no, so his single Sunday preaching gig became a two-year unintentional intercultural ministry internship.   He had always loved farming and ranching, too, and thought that’s what he would do with his life, so he transferred to Kansas State University, intending to get an Agriculture degree.  After one year, he returned to Bethel and graduated in 1963.

While at Bethel College he met a lovely young musician, Ann Suderman.  He told her if they would marry, she’d be a farmer’s wife.  But he also continued to love preaching and the church.  He wondered if God was calling him to ministry, so he enrolled in Mennonite Biblical Seminary (today called Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary), Elkhart, Indiana. Whether he would be a farmer or a minister, they didn’t know, but they married on August 4, 1964 after Ann graduated college.  Their marriage was blessed with two beloved sons, the oldest, Michael James, biological and the youngest, Jeffrey Lewis, adopted.

For several years after he graduated from seminary he focused on ministry.  His first full-time pastorate was in Carlock, Illinois from 1967 to 1970.  The family moved to Champaign, Illinois where he pastored First Mennonite Church on the campus of the University of Illinois 1970-1980.  Michael noted, “He was always a farmer at heart, though.  Our home in Champaign was a corner lot.  He dug up all the grass and planted corn and other vegetables in the front and side yards.”  In 1980 Jim and his family moved to Newton, Kansas.  He worked at the denominational office for six years, then became campus pastor at Bethel College for three years. Even as he loved the church, he never lost his love of farming.  In 1987, Jim and Ann bought a small farm on the outskirts of Hesston.  On the small property he raised cattle, as well as wheat.  His next ministry call was as lead pastor at First Mennonite Church, Newton 1989-92.    While there he increased his cattle herd.  Ultimately, he ran cattle in four counties, all while pastoring a large congregation.  When asked what he did for fun, he’d say, “Work the land. Raise cattle.”

During his tenure at First Mennonite Church, Newton, he admitted that he had engaged in ministerial misconduct while at Champaign.  Today we call it abuse.  He did his best to take responsibility for what he had done, resigning from First Mennonite, trying to understand why he did what he did, and completing an extensive censure and restoration process that his regional denominational body, Western District Conference, required of him.

He assumed he would never minister again.  But Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church, Goessel, KS called him to be their pastor 1998-2004.  Burrton (KS) Mennonite Church was his final call in 2004-15.  He retired from ministry when the congregation closed.  He continued farming and ranching until 2019 when Jim and Ann sold their beloved farm to move to Schowalter Villa.

Jim got a rare cancer diagnosis in late July 2022.  The God who loved him called Jim to become part of the “great cloud of witnesses” on February 13, 2023.

He is preceded in death by Jasper and Linda Dunn, sister Linda Dunn, Hazel Dunn, and son Jeff.

He is lovingly remembered by Ann, Michael and Kathy Neufeld Dunn, his siblings, grandchildren Jordan and Tanner Dunn, and great grandson Taybor, as well as many friends and colleagues.

Memorial gifts may be sent to Bethel College, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, or The ALS Association.

The memorial service will be held Saturday, April 1, 3 pm at Whitestone Mennonite Church.  It will also be live streamed via YouTube Live through Whitestone’s account.



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