Jim was born in 1933, in Walworth County, Wisconsin to James McKinnell and Margaret Wiedenhoft McKinnell, the eldest of their three sons and a daughter. As Jim grew up, he completed his public education in the rural Mickle grade school and graduated from the Village of Walworth High School in 1950. He also was baptized into the Walworth Congregational Church on Easter Day, 1950.
In the third year of working with the family farm, while doing Spring fieldwork, God gave Jim a spiritual rebirth, which he understood to be a call to pastoral ministry. That Fall he began eight years of training for ministry. In 1957 he completed his undergraduate studies at Grinnell College, Iowa. After a year at Eden Seminary in St. Louis, he completed his ministry education with Bethany Biblical Seminary, Chicago, Illinois in 1961. At Bethany Seminary in 1959 he met and married Letha Miller.
Jim’s pastoral ministry included student pastorates at Grinnell, and in St. Louis; he and Letha did Seminary internship pastorates with Brethren congregations at Burkittsville, Sharpsburg and Hagerstown, MD. After Seminary graduation in 1961, Jim and Letha served as pastoral family to Brethren congregations in Worthington, MN, Bethany (Northern Indiana), and Rockford, IL. While at Rockford Jim completed Doctor of Ministry studies at Bethany Seminary. He then served in church development pastorates from 1983-1992 in Birmingham, AL and Midlothian (suburban Richmond) VA. The Midlothian pastorate was hi-vocational, so he worked part time with the Human Services Administration of Chesterfield County (suburban Richmond) VA. At the conclusion of the Midlothian pastorate, and having no call to another church, Jim worked full time as Interagency Services Administrator with Chesterfield County.
However, during that time he was elected to serve the Virlina District of the Church of the Brethren, as Board member, then Board chair, as District Conference Moderator, in 2001, and Annual Conference Standing Committee delegate 2002-2004.
After retirement from Chesterfield County in 1998, Jim and Letha were called and served for eleven years (1998-2008) as co-pastors of the New Covenant Church of the Brethren, near Chester Virginia. Then, with aging and some health problems, they decided to sell their home in Midlothian in 2014, and moved to be near their son, Andrew, in the Spiritrust Lutheran Sprenkle Retirement Village in York, PA.
Jim and Letha were the parents of two sons: James [Trudy] and Andrew [Susie]; grandparents of five grandchildren, Kelsey (August) Preuit, Katie and Skye (of James); Ian (Hope) and Brianna (of Andrew) and two great grandsons, Flynn Craig and Loch Lee McKinnell, (of Ian and Hope). Jim was preceded in death by Letha on May 30, 2018. In addition to his sons and their families, Jim survived by a brother, Robert of Princeton, IL, a brother, Neil of Lake Geneva, WI, and a sister, Linda Leyden of Geneva, Illinois.
Jim enjoyed gardening, playing guitar, singing, family genealogy, and kept a diary journal for over 60 years. Bible interpretation was his major interest, and his life and witness being shaped to reflect Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 13:14, “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit”. His favorite slogan: “God is greater than any problem I have.” And another: “With Jesus, my life is not futile, my failures are not fatal, and my death is not final!”
In lieu of flowers his family is suggesting that memorial contributions be made to Brethren Children’s Disaster Services, 601 Main Street, P.O. Box 188, New Windsor, MD 21776-0188.