Friday, February 29, 2008

Annual Meeting of 1864

In the meditation for February 23 we noted that John Kline served as Moderator for the 1864 Annual Meeting held in Indiana (it was the 4th consecutive year he had served as Moderator) and was killed soon after returning home to Virginia. We thought it might be interesting to review the Minutes of the 1864 Annual Meeting during the Civil War.

By the kind permission of our heavenly Father a very large number of brethren were permitted to meet.... The religious services commenced on Saturday, and were continued until Monday noon. The multitude present was very large. On Lord's-day there was preaching at six places. ... On Monday morning the meeting was organized for business by appointing a standing committee and the necessary officers. The delegates then reported themselves; whereupon it was ascertained that there were represented in this meeting one hundred and fifty churches. These churches were represented by two hundred and thirty delegates.... [Some 39 queries or articles were dealt with by the meeting.]

Article 35. As our national troubles, consequent upon the rebellion now existing in our country, have caused considerable difficulty in our church, and have tried our non-resistant principles, and have caused several questions concerning the paying of bounty-money, voting, etc., to come before this council-meeting, what counsel will this Annual Meeting give upon these subjects?

Answer: We exhort the brethren to steadfastness in the faith, and believe that the times in which our lots are cast strongly demand of us a strict adherence to all our principles, and especially to our non-resistant principle, a principle dear to every subject of the Prince of Peace, and a prominent doctrine in our fraternity, and to endure whatever sufferings and to make whatever sacrifice the maintaining of the principle may require and not to encourage in any way the practices of war.

And we think it more in accordance with our principles, that instead of paying bounty-money, and especially in taking an active part in raising bounty-money, to await the demands of the government, whether general, state, or local, and pay the fines and taxes required of us, as the gospel permits, and, indeed requires.

And lest the position we have taken upon political matters in general, and war matters in particular, should seem to make us, as a body, appear to be indifferent to our government, or in opposition thereto, in its efforts to suppress the rebellion, we hereby declare that it has our sympathies and our prayers, and that it shall have our aid in any way that does not conflict with the principles of the gospel of Christ. But since, in our Christian profession, we regard these gospel principles as superior or paramount to all others, consistency requires that we so regard them in our practices.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Amsey Hascall Puterbaugh

Amsey Puterbaugh was born on the homestead near Elkhart, Indiana in December 1851 where he would learn life's early lessons. As a youth he was bright, attentive and persistent. While a teenager he was a constant student of the New Testament which he always carried with him. At the age of 17 he united with the Brethren and was called to ministry a year later.

Throughout his life, he was a strong advocate of education, for he recognized its value to Christian experience. For many years he taught homiletic classes at Manchester College and was a frequent contributor to church periodicals. He served as as editor of "The Pulpit" in the Bible Student and "The Preacher's Page" in the Gospel Messenger.

Brother Puterbaugh's attitude of life is reflected best in his own words: My occupation has been the ministry, but I taught school and engaged in farming to make ends meet and to gain a competency for sickness and old age. He taught school for seventeen years and was urged to become superintendent of public instruction for Kosciusko County but this he declined.

As a student he was ever searching for a clearer vision, a deeper insight, a brighter light, a firmer ground of truth, and at all times a reason for the faith which lieth within. As an educator he taught the lessons of life rather than texts. As a minister he was excelled by few, for he was clear, logical and sincere. As an elder he was kind but firm. As a husband, he attributed much of his success to his wife.

He once remarked, When my armor is to be laid aside I pray it may be in my library among the volumes whose pages have become so dear to me, and contributed so much to my life's work among God's people. His wish was fulfilled when death came on this date, February 28, 1903 in Elkhart, Indiana.

Source: Some Who Led, D.L. Miller and Galen B. Royer

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Separation from the World

The experience of persecution during the Civil War seemed to emphasize to Brethren their belief in separation from the world (Romans 7:1-2). The costume that Brethren came to wear during the frontier years was intended to free them from the styles and arrogant ways of the world. Like baptism, the costume meant that a person was seeking to live in the teachings of Jesus simply and directly. It began as a rejection of the elegant styles of the eighteenth century, and was later shaped by reaction to military styles. The mustache was discouraged at a time that it was fashionable in military circles. The first mention of dress by an Annual Conference was in 1804, which declared that "The new fashions which are in vogue in the world (grieve) God and the angels in heaven."

Before the Civil War Brethren generally encouraged one another to dress in a simple plain manner, but after the Civil War the Annual Conference began to indicate just how clothes were to be made and how hair was to be cut and combed. The question of how much pressure could be put upon church members to live according to the decisions of Conference became a very important issue. The efforts of Henry Kurtz, John Kline and others to create a common mind in the church failed.

Source: A Self-Instruction Guide through Brethren History, Donald E. Miller

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


From the writings of Henry Kurtz, 1851:

No true church ever fell into lasting decay, while it maintained that contrast, which the scriptures inculcate, to be necessarily between the church and the world, and while it continued to observe the apostolic injunction, Be not conformed to this world... (Romans 7:1-2). The early Brethren left it "altogether to the teachings of the Holy Spirit and to the power of the truth and to the free will and option of every individual member, how far they felt themselves called to follow in this practice (non-conformity), and never taking under dealings ... any member for short-comings in this practice, unless it was connected with a gross violation of the principle itself; only teaching and exhorting their fellowmembers, to live and act consistent with their professed principles, to which all had given their full and free assent, when received into the communion of the church.

Monday, February 25, 2008


From the Theological Writings of Peter Nead, Dayton OH, 1866:

The people of God are a distinct and separate people, from the world - that is, they are of another character and party, engaged in a calling which is opposed to the sinful maxims, customs, and practices of the world; yea, in many things, which not only the unconverted, but lamentable to say, many of the professed disciples of the meek and lowly Jesus, do not discover any impropriety; and thus contend and plead for the unnecessary fashions of this sinful world. [Note: Yes, it is all one sentance.]

Here I would remark that it is a great pity, and is certainly a great injury to the cause of Christ - that there is so little uniformity in sentiment and more so in practice on the subject of self-denial in the brotherhood; oh! that the people of God, were of one mind and judgment.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Jacob Wine

February 24, 1811 marks the birth date of Jacob Wine who ministry was focused in Virginia. He provided much of the early history of the first settlers among the Brethen in Virginia, and especially near Flat Rock, much of which was published in the Brethren Almanac.

While his education was equally divided between German and English, he preferred to speak in German during the early part of his ministry. However, he did not speak the German proper - he used the "Valley Dutch" and his sermons were said to be the finest specimens of the dialect known in that day. It is said he would later preach a sermon in English after rehearsing it briefly in German. As a speaker he was prompt, ready and fervent. When he arose to speak, he commanded attention at once often opening with this phrase: It will not be long till you and I will have to stand before that Great I Am.

During his ministry he performed nearly 300 weddings between 1849 and 1880 along with a great many funerals. He was especially active in preaching the Gospel in new fields making many journeys through the scattered membership in West Virginia on horseback. In August 1863, during the Civil War, he joined John Kline on the yearly visit to several West Virginia counties that resulted in their arrest and taken before military authorities. After giving a satisfactory account of their journey they were released. Shortly after the death of John Kline in an ambush, Jacob Wine also received a note warning him not to attend church on Sunday.

Jacob Wine born on February 24 would die nearly 69 years later on February 21, 1880 and was buried in the Flat Rock cemetary, a beautiful elevation overlooking the surrounding country, the place of his birth and the scene of his labors.

Adapted from Some Who Led

Saturday, February 23, 2008

John Kline

John Kline is perhaps the most well-known of the horseback preachers who traveled widely to keep the Brethren connected as they moved westward on the frontier. Living in Virginia, Kline traveled through what is now West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio, preaching, holding council meetings, presiding over love feasts, and baptizing. Nearly every spring and fall he would make a tour to the Brethren in the "West". His ministry carried him perhaps 100,000 miles during his lifetime, and those mostly by horseback.

John Kline lived at a time when the Brethren suffered under the Civil War. Both the Federal and Confederate governments tried to draft the Brethren into military service, but the pressure was especially strong from the South. John Kline and others wrote to government officials asking for some kind of exemption. They explained that Brethren support the government in every way possible, but cannot support it when its requirements violate the commands of God in the New Testament. Through these efforts the governments of both North and South allowed Brethren to pay a fee ($500 in the South) for the privilege of exemption from the army. However, many Brethren were persecuted for their beliefs, and some were killed.

In the spring of 1864 John Kline insisted on traveling through the military fronts of the Civil War to go to Indiana, where he was to serve as moderator of Annual Conference. He knew that many people in Virginia were angered by his opposition to slavery, his work to exempt the Brethren from the army, his willingness to give medical assistance to anyone who was ill, and his travels to churches in both the North and the South. Some suspected him of spying for the North. He told his friends at the Indiana Annual Conference that they would perhaps not see him again. Shortly after the long trip home to Virginia, he was taking his horse Nell to be shod when a shot rang out. John Kline fell dead from his horse, a martyr to Christ's way of peace.

John Kline stated very clearly: The Brotherhood is a unit, heart and hand against arms-bearing.

Source: A Self-Instruction Guide through Brethren History, Donald E. Miller

Friday, February 22, 2008

True Patriotism

John Kline heard the distant thunder of cannon in 1849.

It could have been a premonition of the Civil War that would test his character and eventually take his life, but actually it was merely a celebration of George Washington's birthday. Kline had no objection to such public displays of patriotic feelings, but he was stimulated to think of a different sort of patriotism. So he wrote in his diary for Thursday, February 22, 1849:

I have a somewhat higher conception of true patriotism than can be represented by the firing of guns which give forth nothing but meaningful sound. I am glad, however, that these guns report harmless sound, and nothing more. If some public speakers would do the same, it might be a better place for both them and their hearers. My highest conception of patriotism is found in the man who loves the Lord his God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself. Out of these affections spring the subordinate love for one's country; love truly virtuous for one's companion and children, relatives and friends; and in its most comprehensive sense takes in the whole human family. Were this love universal, the word patriotism, in its specific sense, meaning such a love for one's country as makes its possessors ready and willing to take up arms in its defense, might be appropriately expunged from every national vocabulary.

Source: Preaching in a Tavern, by Kenneth I Morse

Thursday, February 21, 2008

George Washington

When George Washington and a number of noteworthy men of his time were selecting a site for the Capitol of the United States, they visited Hagerstown, MD. Persons in the company who were responsible for the entertainment of the company called at the house of Christian Ebersole, a Brethren farmer, and desired to make preparations there for George Washington and the others to dine.

Mr. Ebersole modestly suggested some other place, that of a more distinguished man ... but George Washington had heard something of Mr. Ebersole and desired to make his house his stopping-place.

The traveling company had its own cooks and many of the conveniences needed for the preparation of the dinner. There were some things, however, they desired the family to furnish, and these were at once supplied. Ebersole's daughter later remembered and passed on the story in which the company partook of the dinner and they way they conducted themselves at the table. When they were seated, some thirty or more in number, Washington said grace, and there was no levity at the table ... When the company was about to leave, the proper person asked for the bill, but he was told that the honor of entertaining such a company was sufficient compensation. He, however, took out a ten dollar gold piece, and when it was refused, it was thrown down with the remark, "Give it to the girls."

And that's the way it was - the day George Washington came to dinner with the Brethren.

Adapted from Preaching in a Tavern

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Alexander Mack Legacy

Alexander Mack was a truly humble man, and out of his humility he fashioned the most precious gift he could leave his spiritual progeny: a vision of life always open to new guidance by God through Christ, to new understandings of truth, and to new expressions of faith.

If, in his illness, he uttered prayers for his brethren and sisters, he certainly would have prayed that they love one another, keeping ever before them the vision of a community ruled by God in love and peace, rather than by man in greed and violence.

And, if in his last days his memories turned back to his wife and two daughters buried in Europe, to the loss of his homeland, and to the alienation from his family in Schriesheim, Mack may have counseled the friends who gathered around his bed:

If you have learned from Him the teaching as it is outwardly commanded in the [New] Testament, so that you will remain steadfast in it, and resolve yourself to sacrifice your life, your property, family, yes, all that you have in the whole world ... you must become used to taking his cross upon yourself daily....

Mack must have pondered deeply the drastic changes which had occurred in his own lifetime. As a young man he had made a "covenant of good conscience" with God. During his lifetime he had "counted the cost" many times, had "fought a good fight," and had remained faithful to the transcendent vision he had received of the human possibilities within a disciplined, supportive, Christ-centered community. Confident also in the mysterious realm existing beyond human life, he could proclaim:

Blessings and glories of such great dignity will be obtained through Christ that no human tongue can express it, nor can be described what God has prepared for those who love him.

Source: Counting the Cost: The Life of Alexander Mack, by William G. Willoughby

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Alexander Mack Funeral

On February 19, 1735, to the deep sorrow of his brothers and sisters in the faith ... Alexander Mack died. Notices were promptly sent to all of the surrounding congregations, inviting them to attend his funeral.

The services began with a noonday meal provided by the Germantown congregation. Mack's coffin, made of choice walnut wood, was placed in the "big room" of his house, where his body could be viewed. The house could not hold everyone who attended. In spite of the cold weather, most of the people stood outside. The Pietistic hymn-singing and preaching lasted until sundown.

Julius Sachse described the funeral procession: ...when darkness had fairly set in a cortege was formed. First came flambeau-bearers; then followed the Wissahickon brotherhood chanting the De Profundus alternately with the Ephrata contingent, who sang a hymn specially composed for the occasion. The rear was brought up by the relatives, friends, and Germantown Brethren.

It was an impressive and wierd sight as the cortege, with its burden and flickering torches filed with slow and solemn step down the old North Wales road. A walk of about a quarter of a mile brought them to a graveyard. It was merely a small field, half an acre in extent.

The graveyard was known as the Upper Burying Ground, and was open to all, regardless of faith. When the procession arrived at the grave, the sight was an inspiring one, worthy of the artist's brush - the hermits and the Brethren in their peculiar garb, with uncovered heads and long flowing beards chanting their requiem; the snow-covered ground; the flickering torches; the coffin upon its rude bier; the black, yawning, grave and the starlit canopy above. As the mourners surrounded the grave another dirge was sung while the body was lowered into its resting place.

Source: Counting the Cost: The Life of Alexander Mack, by William G. Willoughby

Monday, February 18, 2008

Alexander Mack in Philadelphia

When Alexander Mack first arrived in Pennsylvania, he could not speak English. Yet the intellectual curiosity and "enlightened" atmosphere of Philadelphia did not escape his attention. The scientific pursuits of Benjamin Franklin exemplified the mood of the time. Mack was not insulated from this, and wrote in his Bible:

The learned astronomers write that the sun is 166 times larger than the entire earth and that the sun is 187,000 miles in distance above the earth and that the planet Mercury is twenty-two times larger than the earth and is many thousands of miles in distance above the earth. Oh, what a wonderfully great incomprehensible Creator must He be who had created and sustained such creations.

Social patterns which affected Mack's growth at this time were much more equalitarian and accepting of diversity than any Mack had experienced in either Germany or Holland. ... It is not surprising that Mack modified his strict in-group stance under the influence of such patterns. It may be further assumed that Mack's own probing of the mind of Christ led him to a more accepting and loving attitude toward non-Brethren and those who differed with him.

Source: Counting the Cost: The Life of Alexander Mack, by William G. Willoughby

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Annual Conference Beginnings

After the Brethren ended their participation in the Zinzendorf's synods (see February 14 entry), George Adam Martin approached Martin Urner about a general conference of the Brethren at which true doctrine might be taught. Urner sent out a call for a general conference, and the first meeting was held in May 1742. The meeting was very democratic in that decisions were made by a vote of all persons present.

George Adam Martin wrote the following account:

It happened that Count Zinzendorf and many of his brethren came into the country and occasioned a great stir, especially by his synods. And because all denomonations were invited to them, I too was delegated by my superintendent (Martin Urner) to attend them. When I arrived at the synod which was held at Oley, I found there some of our Brethren.... The count himself was president and for three days I heard queer and wonderful things there. After my return home I went to my superintendent and said that I looked upon the count's conferences as snares, for the purpose of bringing simple-minded and inexperienced converts back to infant baptism and churchgoing and of erecting the old Babel again. We consulted with each other what to do, and agreed to get ahead of the danger, as some Brethren had already been smitten with this vain doctrine, and to hold a yearly conference, or, as we called it, a great meeting, and fixed at once the time and place. This is the beginning and foundation of the great meetings of the Brethren.

Source: A Self-Instruction Guide Through Brethren History, Donald E. Miller

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Slavery and the 1782 Annual Meeting

In their treatment of minorities Brethren counseled one another not to hold slaves. Christopher Sauer, Jr. spoke in his newspaper against the selling of people into slavery (see February 15 entry). The Brethren asked anyone who wanted to join the church to give up their slaves. When John van Laschet of the Conestoga congregation was discovered to be holding a slave, the Annual Meeting of 1782 asked him to release the woman and her children.

Concerning the unchristian Negro slave trade, it has been unanimously considered that it cannot be permitted in any way in the church, that a member should or could purchase Negroes, or keep them as slaves. But concerning Brother John van Laschet, who had bought a considerable time ago a Negro woman ... it is the united and earnest counsel of the brethren that the said Brother L shall let the old Negro woman go free from this time on, and shall tell her that she is free; but if she will not leave him after he has given her liberty, then he may enter into a contract with her for her wages. But this setting free or emancipation shall be done before some brethren, as witnesses of the transaction. Concerning the children, it is also unitedly considered that he is to free the children at the age of twenty-one years, and is to have them schooled, and provided with (food), clothing, and bedding during the time, as it is just and proper; and when they are twenty-one years old he is to give them free (new) outfits of clothing....

Source: A Self-Instruction Guide Through Brethren History, Donald E. Miller

Friday, February 15, 2008

Editorial Statement on Slavery - Christopher Sauer II

Donald Durnbaugh notes in his book, The Brethren in Colonial America, that "the Brethren from the first took a strong stand against the institution of human bondage." Christopher Sauer II wrote strong editorials in his publications to influence public opinion against it. The following editorial comment is from February 15, 1761:

It is with the utmost regret that we learn that Germans are to engage in the nefarious slave traffic. Though they are well paid for everything they sell, they still begrudge laborers, servants, or maidservants their pay. This godless traffic could find, up to the present, no safe footing in Pennsylvania, owing to the abhorrence the Germans still have for it. But, for some years now, even some of them have begun to take part in this great injustice. For, as merchants learn that these "black goods" find a ready market they engage in it. Thus we are assured that three ships have been sent from Philadelphia to the African coast to steal these poor creatures, though this has never happened before. May God be merciful to our country before its measure of iniquity is full and the vials of His wrath are poured out upon it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Count Lewis von Zinzendorf

The Brethren in Colonia America were very much engaged in the issues of there time, thereby having considerable influence among the people.

In the autumn of 1741, Count Lewis von Zinzendorf came to America for the purpose of uniting all German Christians into what he called the Congregation of God in the Spirit. This was only eighteen years after the Brethren beginnings in America and a number of Brethren attended the meetings he called. Zinzendorf's first synod of representatives from various churches was held January 1, 1742 and another was held in February of that year.

Brethren delegates, including Andrew Frey and George Adam Martin, were present at these synods. Three trustees of the Congregation of God in the Spirit were chosen, of which one was Andrew Frey. However, George Adam Martin and other Brethren were alarmed at some of the doctrines being taught, such as baptism without immersion, decision by drawing lots rather than by discussion, and the general mixing together of all points of view. Gradually the Brethren dropped out of participation in the synods.

Zinzendorf was naturally disappointed when the Brethren ended their participation and wrote the Brethren: The conferences (synods) were arranged for your benefit and not ours. The Lord, who is the Lord of my heart, had commanded me that I should heal Babel, and that I should seek salve for her wounds, as long as I can. This is so that Jesus might retain souls therein and not let them perish. Each sect should retain its good salt, lest it loses its savor. You are dealing with a person who will do this faithfully as long as it is possible.

Source: A Self-Instruction Guide Through Brethren History, Donald E. Miller

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Morgan Edwards describes the Brethren

Morgan Edwards the 18th century Baptist historian describes the Brethren, whom he refers to as Tunkers, in this way:

It is very hard to give a true account of the principles of these Tunkers as they have not published any system or creed, except what two individuals have put forth ... However, I may assert the following things concerning them from my own knowledge. They are General Baptists in the sense which that phrase bears in Great Britian; but not Arians nor Socinians, as most of their brethren in Holland are. General redemption they certainly hold; and, withall, general salvation; which tenets though wrong are consistent.

They use great plainness of language and dress, like the Quakers; and like them will neither swear nor fight. They will not go to law; nor take interest for the money they lend. They commonly wear their beards; and keep the first day sabbath, except one congregation. They have the Lord's supper with its ancient attendants of love-feasts, washing feet, kiss of charity, and right-hand of fellowship. They anoint the sick with oil for recovery; and use the trine immersion with laying on of hands and prayer, even while the person baptized is in the water; which may easily be done as the party kneels down to be baptized; and continues in that posture till both prayer and imposition of hands be performed.

Their church government and discipline are the same with those of the English Baptists; except that every brother is allowed to stand up in the congregation to speak in a way of exhortation and expounding; and when by these means they find a man eminent for knowledge and aptness to teach, they choose him to be a minister, and ordain him with imposition of hands, attended with fasting and prayer and giving the right hand of fellowship. They also have deacons; and ancient widows for deaconesses; and exhorters; who are licensed to use their gifts statedly. They pay not their ministers unless it be in a way of presents, though they admit their right to pay; neither do the ministers assert the right, esteeming it more blessed to give than to receive. Their acquaintance with the Bible is admirable.

Source: The Brethren in Colonial America, Donald F. Durnbaugh

Monday, February 11, 2008

Morgan Edwards

Morgan Edwards (1722-1795) was a Baptist pastor and writer whose writings in the latter part of the eighteenth century provide us much knowledge of the early Brethren in America. Edwards traveled widely to research Baptist groups from New England to Georgia. His research and writings culminated in a multivolume work written around 1770: Materials Toward a history of the American Baptists both British and German.

As a historian, Edwards was interested in preeserving some anecdotes, chronologies and facts which would otherwise have perished. Since he understood believer's baptism to be a root principle of Christianity, he held this in common with the Brethren although he also noted beliefs which he did not share with the Brethren. Edwards also wrote about the Mennonites and often distinguished them from the Brethren whom he referred to as "Tunkers."

They are called Tunkers in derision which is as much as to say Sops, from tunken, to "put a morsel into sauce;" but as the term signifies Dippers they may rest content with the nickname, since it is the fate of Baptists in all countries to bear some cross or other. They are also called Tumblers, from the manner in which they perform baptism, which is by putting the party's head forward under water (while kneeling) so as to resemble the motion of the body in the action of tumbling. The Germans sound the letters t and b like d and p; hence the words Tunkers and Tumblers have been corruptly written Dunkers and Dumplers.

Source: The Brethren in Colonial America, Donald F. Durnbaugh

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Gospel Visitor

The Gospel Visitor was a church paper first published in 1851 by Henry Kurtz who believed it was important for the whole church to be in touch with one another. In the first issue he gave these reasons for beginning a church paper for the Brethren:

We are asked: What do you want to print, and what is your object? We will try to answer in a few words. We are as a people devoted to the truth, as it is in Christ Jesus. We believe the church as a whole, possesses understandingly the truth, and every item of it. But individual we are all learners, and are progressing with more or less speed in the knowledge of the truth. For this purpose we need each other's assistance. But we live too far apart. If one in his seeking after a more perfect knowledge becomes involved in difficulty, which he is unable to overcome, this paper opens unto him a channel, of stating his difficulty, and we have not the least doubt, but among the many readers there will be someone, who has past the same difficult place, and can give such advise, as will satisfy the other .... This paper will open a channel, to have wrong views corrected, and right views promulgated .... In making our selections, we shall be guided by a sincere love of truth, and publish only what may appear, to us, most generally useful.

Studies in Brethren History, Floyd Mallott

Friday, February 08, 2008

Edward Frantz at the Bicentennial

The Brethren, like other early Americans, settled in the East and then began to move west. The Brethren have largely remained in the East and the Midwest, but by the time of the Bicentennial in 1908 there were 15,000 Church of the Brethren living west of the Mississippi. Edward Frantz was one of the speakers at the 1908 Bicentennial in Des Moines, Iowa and spoke about the opportunity for expansion of the Brethren in the states west of the Mississippi. His remarks are included in the book, Two Centuries of the Church of the Brethren.

Frantz remarked 100 years ago that plans should begin to grow the western church before the tercentennial: What are we going to do in the next 100 years? ... It is not too soon to lay our plans for our tercentennial meeting. You and I, indeed, will not be there. Few, very few, of our children will be there. Our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be at that great meeting. Ah! That's the burning question: Will they? Where will they be? I want them there. Don't you?

And so I am going to move you, Brother Moderator, on this Bicentennial Pentecostal Day, the appointment here and now of the western section of the tercentennial committee ... the duty of that committee to be to see to it that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren are present at the tercentennary celebration .... and to see further, if it please our heavenly Father that when at that meeting the roll is called of the trans-Mississippi States, the register shall show, not fifteen, but fifteen hundred thousand.

That's idle dreaming? I tell you, my brethren, it's the serious task we ought to lay upon our hearts. Not that we may glory in mere numbers, but because human souls are of such priceless worth.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Edward Frantz

Edward Frantz was born in Southern Ohio in 1868; attended Bridgewater College, 1886-1890; and was elected to the ministry at McPherson, Kansas in 1891. He taught at McPherson College from 1890 to 1902 when he was called to serve as President of McPherson College. In 1910 he moved to California for health reasons and managed an orange plantation while also serving part-time for three years as President of La Verne College (then known as Lordsburg College).

In 1915 Frantz became editor of the Gospel Messenger and held that position for twenty-seven years until his retiement. During this period the magazine gave a greater place to articles, editorials, and discussions of issues while retaining reports of church activities. He was the author of Basic Belief (1943), which contained the views expressed in his many articles on doctrinal themes that had been published in the Gospel Messenger.

In June 1908 he was invited to be one of the speakers for the Bicentennial Meeting of the Brethren Church which was held in connection with the Annual Meeting at Des Moines, Iowa, June 3-11, 1908, being the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of the Schwarzenau congregation. The focus of his remarks was the growth of the Brethren to the Pacific. An excerpt of his remarks will be shared tomorrow.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

On Taking Oaths

Graydon Snyder and Kenneth Shaffer, in their book Texts in Transit II, write that "From their beginnings the Brethren have objected to the practice of swearing an oath as proof that one is telling the truth or as assurance that one will abide by an agreement."

Alexander Mack writes in his Rights and Ordinances (1715) that a government can depend more upon citizens who affirm with yes and deny with no than upon citizens who insist upon swearing oaths. Refusal to swear the oath, according to Mack, is "in accordance with the teaching of Christ."

Snyder and Shaffer write that during the American Revolution the oath of allegiance required by state governments presented problems for Brethren. These problems, however, had more to do with the Brethren beliefs concerning the relationship of church and state than with the Brethren refusal to swear an oath, since the law allowed a person to affirm the oath instead of swearing. Even so, in 1785, only two years after the revolution, Annual Meeting specifically referred to Matthew 5:37 when dealing with the issue of oaths: "As to the swearing of oaths, we believe the word of Christ, that in all things which we are to testify, we shall testify what is yea, or what is true with yea, and what is nay, or not true with nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Rufus Bowman in his book, Seventy Times Seven, tells the following story about his father:

When the writer was a boy on a Virginia farm, there was a rogue in the community who would steal our corn and apples. To the dismay of other people, my father would sometimes have this man work for him because he felt that his family needed the money. My father treated this rogue with the utmost kindness and never spoke an unkind word about him. When the man came to die he called for my father, made a confession of how he had lived, and asked for prayer. My father discovered in the man's house a dusty Bible, opened its pages and read Scripture, knelt down and prayed for the man who had wronged him, asked for his restoration to health and to his family, and gripped his hand when he left as friend and brother.

Monday, February 04, 2008

George Miller

George Miller was a Brethren minister living in Pennsylvania before the American Revolution. One day he had one of his oxen stolen. He knew who had taken it, but he refused to sue for the return of the ox for fear the offender would suffer the retaliation which British law prescribed for a thief in such cases - a whipping.

His neighbors, however, knowing the situation, had the thief arrested. When Miller heard of the arrest, he walked twenty miles to intercede for the thief and offered to provide the thief with warm bedding since the weather was cold and the jail was lacking.*

As early as 1810 the Brethren Annual Meeting stated that the Brethren were not permitted to use the law to collect a debt; and later Annual Meeting statements of the 1800s continued to uphold the practice of not going to law.

In 1920, however, the Brethren officially changed their position citing Matthew 5:40-41 and Luke 6:30 to show that Jesus taught that if the legal process cannot be avoided, then the Christian should do more than required by law. Later in the statement Brethren are given permission to go to law with three cautions. First, Christian principles, such as nonresistance, are not to be violated. Second, one member should not go to law with another member except by common consent. Third, always the counsel of the church should be sought before going to law.

Sources: *J.E. Miller, Stories from Brethren Life
Texts in Transit II, Snyder and Shaffer

Sunday, February 03, 2008

A Struggling Church Grows in Fort Wayne

Otho Winger, writing his History of the Church of the Brethren in Indiana, says: "In the city of Fort Wayne there has been a struggling church for nearly twenty years." The beginning of the Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne dates to the first Brethren family moving there in 1889. By February 1897 a church was organized with 14 charter members. A building was constructed in 1901.

While the church began as a cooperative effort of the mission boards of both Middle and Northern Indiana districts, the work was finally given over to Northern Indiana and by 1906 there were 45 members. Then trouble within the church almost disorganized it as the membership dwindled to just a few people. The doors of the church were actually closed for a time in 1913 and consideration was given to selling the property.

A turning point came in 1925 with the hiring of Wilbur Bantz as the first full-time pastor and the congregation grew rapidly. On January 20, 1952 a group of about 50 from the congregation met with Charles Zunkel of the denominational offices to talk about how new churches were being started throughout the country. By 1952 there was a need for a new church in Fort Wayne as the membership was over 400. Within weeks a committee was formed and an option taken on a tract of land on Beacon Street. A first worship service of the Beacon Heights Church was held on September 7, 1952.

Meanwhile, the Fort Wayne Church on Smith Street continued to grow until it was decided a new and larger church building was needed. Property was purchased on South Calhoun Street which led to a new building and a new name - the Lincolnshire Church of the Brethren.

From a struggling church that nearly closed its doors for good, came two strong churches.

Planting the Faith in a New Land: Church of the Brethren in Indiana

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Life on the Indiana Frontier - Part 2

John Wagoner of Anderson tells of a tradition in his family about some of his Indiana ancestors who encountered Indians. Indians on hunting trips occasionally entered the area where this family lived in central Indiana and sometimes stopped at the log cabin to ask for food. The family always welcomed them and gave them something to eat.

The father of this pioneer family had to take some corn to market, a journey of several days. He was careful to make sure they had enough food for the time he would be gone, but heavy rains set in soon after he left. When he tried to return, he found the creeks and rivers had gushed over their banks, and he was unable to cross them for some time. The family's food supply soon began to dwindle without the father there to supply fresh game.

After a few weeks, a band of Indians knocked on the family's log cabin door and asked for food. The wife tried to explain her predicament and told them she had very little food. The Indians forced their way inside to see for themselves, but left after they were satisfied she was telling the truth. The Indians returned later, but did not stop at the cabin to ask for food. After they left, the family found a large piece of fresh venison left for them on a nearby tree stump.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land: Church of the Brethren in Indiana

Friday, February 01, 2008

Life on the Indiana Frontier - Part 1

Frontier life in Indiana kept the whole family busy. The need for food drove much of life as women and children gathered nuts, berries, grapes, crab apples and more while the men and older boys were out hunting and fishing. Time that could be spared from gathering food was spent clearing land so it could be farmed. Soon seed corn could be planted in the rich, Indiana soil. It produced more food per acre than any other crop and quickly became a mainstay of the pioneer diet.

Once the family had established itself, vegetable gardens and fruit trees were added which provided more variety to their diets. Women and children were primarily responsible for the gardens and preserving the food after harvest.

Winter slowed the pace of life somewhat, but there was still much to do. Men built furniture and worked with leather to make their own shoes. Women spent many hours with needle and thread making clothes and bedding for the whole family.

Medicine was practically unknown on the frontier and disease and accidents often took a heavy toll. Indians were still part of the landscape. There are few records of encounters between the Brethren and Indians in Indiana, although Elder Jacob Miller, living in Ohio is said to have visited Indian encampments where he became a welcome visitor with his prayers and songs. Otho Winger records that the Indians called Elder Miller "The Good Man, the Great Spirit sent from the East."

Another Indian story tomorrow.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land: Church of the Brethren in Indiana