Thursday, July 31, 2008

Gladdys Muir

Gladdys Muir, peace studies pioneer, was born into a loving family who nurtured her in many ways, including art and music. Although she was described as a shy person in her youth, she had an inner strength and courage that drew her to teaching - a career that spanned 52 years at LaVerne College and then at Manchester College.

In 1947 Muir proposed that programs for the study of international conflict be established at each of the Brethren-related colleges. The Peace Studies Institute at Manchester College was the first program in the world to provide a major in peace studies and was a model for dozens of peace and conflict studies programs in the late 1960s.

Muir's zeal for peace was strengthened and encouraged by reading the great world philosophers. World War 1 also made a lasting impression on her and stimulated her interests in world affairs. During the summer of 1929 she traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, to learn more about the League of Nations and the next year to Scotland to study the British viewpoint on world questions. After attending the Insititute of International Relations in Whittier, California, sponsored by the Society of Friends, she accepted the validity of a religious approach to the war-peace question.

Muir was a demanding professor with high standards of scholarship for her students and herself. She exposed her students to "seers and saints," and with the depth of her knowledge, her classes became true educational feasts. She developed lasting friendships, inviting her students to her home for tea and discussion. She also wrote a bi-annual peace letter to almost 300 students whom she considered as family.

Herbert Hogan recalls that with her passing, the Church of the Brethren lost one of its greatest and most dedicated teachers, a creative, dynamic, humble seeker of the highest spiritual life.

Source: Kenneth Morse, Preaching in a Tavern

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Starvation Experiment

The July 30, 1945 issue of Life Magazine included photographs of a starlet, the full text of the Surrender document signed by the Germans, an editorial that warned that Russia was becoming the number one problem for Americans - and photographs of Brethren that might have been taken at a concentration camp!

The 4-page photo spread had the heading Men Starve in Minnesota. It showed thirty-six volunteers - nine of whom were Brethren - who had voluntarily signed up to be starved nearly to death in order to teach scientists the effects of hunger and strategies for restoring starving people. These individuals were conscientious objectors who had been filtered through a rigorous screening program, before being accepted. They were idealistic and looking for a way to help humanity through their service to the nation.

Brethren in the program included Harold Blickenstaff, Wendall Burrous, Carlyle Frederick, Jasper Garner, Earl Heckman, Roscoe Hinkle, Dan Miller, Richard Summers, and Robert Willoughby. The participants were not only limited to less than 1600 calories a day, they were required to walk twenty-two miles outdoors, every week, regardless of the weather.

Participants discovered that they lost interest in everything but food. These healthy young men no longer cared about literature, sports, music, and most especially women. They licked their plates and eagerly consumed every scrap that was given them. Their body weight dropped dramatically until they were literally skin and bones.

The program was designed by Dr. Ancel Keys, whose reputation in nutrition had been established with his invention of the K Ration. And following the war he was the researcher who established the link between diet, cholestral, and heart disease. The massive two-volume study that resulted, The Biology of Human Starvation, is the only sanctioned study of its kind. It would no longer be ethical to produce such a study, and it has proven priceless not only for the rehabilitation of starving people, but has provided data essential to the study of eating disorders such as anorexia.

Source: Frank Ramirez Tercentennial Minute for July 6, 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

William Sevits

Williams Sevits was an elder in the Berlin congregation in western Pennsylvania. A large, strong man, he won many wrestling matches. His grandson Fred W. Brant tells about an ncident that occurred around 1872 when Sevits was holding evangelistic meetings in a mountainous area of Somerset County, where rough characters had a habit of breaking up revival services.

On the third evening of this revival meeting, after the Elder read the Scripture and had announced his sermon topic, a strange thing happened. Elder Sevits announced that his topic was "Casting Out Devils." Two tall, strong, rough-looking ruffians came to the front of the church and stood facing the pulpit. One of them, well over six feet [tall], held up a whiskey bottle and offered Elder Sevits a drink from his bottle in the presence of the whole congregation....

On this challenge, Sevits stepped down in front to where the two men were standing. He quickly grabbed the troublemakers by the necks and bumped their heads together with such a thump that they both collapsed before the people on the floor unconscious. The Elder then, without saying a word, stooped down and took them each by an arm and pulled them outside the church and dumped them on the ground....

Upon reentering the church, he said: "I did not expect to literally demonstrate my text and sermon topic this evening." He walked to the platform and preached such a sermon that no one present even budged an inch. The church was so startled to see a Dunker preacher in such action, and yet they all knew that he was firm in his convictions of peaceful living....

The next day the two men came to see Elder Sevits, pleading that he would not bring any legal charges against them for their actions the previous evening in the church. He told them that he would forgive them on one condition: that they each attend the rest of the revival meetings, every night.

[The two men never missed a meeting during the remaining services. Both were converted and reputed to have become elders in the church.]

Source: Kenneth Morse, Preaching in a Tavern

Monday, July 28, 2008

Peter Lutz

Peter Lutz, born in 1811, was known as an able but eccentric preacher. Both in western Pennsylvania and in Iowa, where he moved in 1844, he was accustomed to walk ten to fifteen miles to fill an appointment, often going barefoot on the way and standing thus in the pulpit.

Seldom taking a text, he quoted freely from the Scriptures. Her sermons were considered unnecessarily long even in that era. At one time his closing prayer at a burial service lasted so long that everyone except one deacon left before he finished. When he spoke as a visiting minister at communion services, other ministers would often pull his coattail to get him to sit down.

These unconventional characteristics, along with his tendency to be outspoken, may explain why Peter Lutz, though considered a "power in the pulpit," was never ordained.

Source: Kenneth Morse, The Brethren Encyclopedia

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Camp Mack's 1st Camp

An interest in summer camping programs for youth began increasing during the early 1920s. Some youth camps were held at Winona Lake near Warsaw, Indiana during the summers of 1921 and 1922 and at Oakwood Park on Lake Wawasee near Syracuse, Indiana in 1924.

L.W. Shultz attended all these camps and several others as an instructor and had done a study at Northwestern University on the value of summer camps and conferences for youth. The idea of building a separate camp for Brethren youth was raised during the summer of 1924 and Shultz was asked to head a committee to establish such a camp.

John W. Lear was also a camp instructor in 1924 and later spent a week that summer at Lake Waubee near Milford, Indiana, in a cabin owned by Jacob Neff. He told Neff that he thought the site would be perfect for a Brethren youth camp. Neff immediately wrote to Shultz offering his farm land as a site for the new camp.

After touring several sites, the committee unanimously agreed that Neff's property on Lake Waubee was the perfect choice. In October the Middle and Northern Indiana district conferences gave their approval to the purchase and on Thanksgiving Day 1924, a group of volunteers began clearing brush from the site.

Plans were made for the first camp to be held in the summer of 1925. A rush of activity followed to build cabins and Sarah Major Hall. A dedication service was held on July 4. Deeter Cabin was the only major building completed and only the foundation for Sarah Major Hall had been built. However, the first youth camp was held only three weeks later on July 27. By that time Sarah Major Hall had been framed in and was used as a dining hall, kitchen, and classrooms. Doors and windows had not yet been set in place when the first campers arrived.

Eighty-three years later, thousands of young people have enjoyed their summer week at Camp Alexander Mack on Lake Waubee. Most have experienced a meaningful religious experience, enjoyed the beauty of God's creation, made new friends, and some even met their future husband or wife while enjoying a week at Camp Mack.

Today, July 27, is a good day to give thanks for the vision of those earlier Brethren who paved the way ... and for current volunteers and staff who make it possible today for young people to enjoy a week at Camp Mack.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Jubilee Journey for I.N.H. Beahm

July 26, 1931 was an important day in the life of I.N.H. Beahm. Celebrating fifty years in the ministry, he undertook a two-hundred mile journey during which he preached twenty times on twenty different topics at twenty locations - all in one day. He began what he called his "jubilee journey" at 4:00 am at the C.W. Sutphin home in Fluvanna County, Virginia, where he preached on "The Morning Star." Beahm was accompanied by singers from Reading, PA; by ministers who assisted in each service; and by three stenographers who took down his sermons in shorthand. He called them "recording angels."

As the day went on, Beahm preached in private homes, on church lawns, and on courthouse lawns, as well as in several churches. He concluded with his twentieth sermon, on the subject "How to Be Saved and Church Ordinances," at the Valley congregation in Prince William County. At that evening service Beahm said, "I feel as I felt this morning, very weak, and yet I have felt the Lord to be with us today." He was seventy-two years old.

His topics ranged from work, giving, fasting, prayer, and education to the state and the church as divine institutions, the positveness and the negativeness of Christianity, and the supremacy of the Bible and the church. He was scornful of preachers who read their manuscripts, and he had little use for notes. He said, "The Holy Spirit makes notes but needs no notes to preach by. Note that."

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia, Ken Morse
Information and stenographic reports of sermons preached
are in the possession of Mary Beahm Baber, his daughter.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Annie Oakley

The woman who received worldwide acclaim for her sharpshooting, who traveled for seventeen years with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, whose stage name was Annie Oakley but whom Chief Sitting Bull called "Little Miss Sureshoot," grew up in Darke County, Ohio, where Brethren were among her friends and neighbors.

When Annie was six years old, her father died and her mother married a neighbor, Daniel Brumbaugh, an elderly man who lived on a few more years before he too passed away. Many years later Annie Oakley claimed Martin Grove Brumbaugh as a cousin, and frequently she and her husband Frank Butler (whom she defeated in a shooting match before she married him at age sixteen) visited the Brethren educator at his home in Germantown.

According the Studebaker family history, Annie Oakley went to live at age eight with David and Mary Jane Studebaker near Greenville, Ohio. She may have had another Brethren connection in her mother's family in Pennsylvania. Her grandmother was a Clapper, the daughter of one of the early Brethren Clapper families.

Her biographers and the people who knew Annie Oakley describe her as "modest," "soft-spoken," "surprisingly feminine," "quiet and sedate," and even "puritanical" in her private life, not at all like the heroine of the musical Annie Get Your Gun. Seriously injured in an auto accident in 1921, Annie Oakley and her husband returned to Greenvile, Ohio. Her niece reported that she heard her pray, just before her death in 1926, "Oh that I might live over again those days of simplicity, when God was consulted and asked to guide the little family through each day."

Source: Ken Morse, Preaching in a Tavern

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Heinrich Landes and His House

Heinrich Landes was seven years old on that Christmas Day in 1723 when his parents were among the first Brethren baptized in America. His father died three years later and his mother, left with four small children, was remarried in Germantown.

In 1737 Heinrich married Elizabeth Naas, the daughter of John Naas, who had arrived in Germantown by boat with her parents four years earlier. Together Heinrich and Elizabeth settled in Ringoes, NJ where Heinrich established a well-known saddlery which attracted customers from as far away as New York.

In 1750 they build a story-and-a-half stone house with a gambrel roof which has since become a registered national historic landmark. It is said that George Washington used the house as a temporary headquarters during the Revolutionary War. It was also used for church services. Here Heinrich and Elizabeth had 10 children. Following her death, he remarried Catherine Graff, to whom 14 children were born.

According to a local historian, Landes was much respected by his neighbors. "Though religiously opposed to wars and fightings, and consequently taking no part in the Revolution, he was a favorite of Washington, who, when he was in the neighborhood, would stop at his house...."

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Abraham Harley Cassel

From his birth in 1820 to his death on this date in 1908, Abraham Cassel was in love with books. His formal schooling consisted of six weeks of school at age eleven. He educated himself through reading and study due to his father's opposition to formal education.

In 1867 Cassel wrote to a friend: "My greatest delight from early infancy was in Books and matters of former times. Consequently the pursuits of my whole life were bent in that channel. I have therefore amassed an amount of matter that is almost incredible. Among which may be found Letters, Geneologies, and other Manuscripts from many of the most ancient Brethren ... I have travelled thousands of miles and ransacked many old Bee-Boxes and Flour Barrels in the garrets and lofts of their dispersed descendants to collect them...."

As a book collector, Cassel was also an avid reader until his eyesight failed. He wrote articles in the Gospel Visitor using the pen name Theophilus and contributed articles and information to a dozen Brethren periodicals. Although he did not write a history of the Brethren, his knowledge and his library were major sources of information for M.G. Brumbaugh's History of the German Baptist Brethren (1899). Brumbaugh dedicated the book to Cassel.

People came from great distances to use the material in the Cassel Library and to question the book collector and librarian who brought together approximately 50,000 items during the second half of the 19th century. When Cassel died in 1908, newspaper obituaries described him as "the foremost Pennsylvania German bibliophile and a widely known authority on the literature of the Germans in America..."

At his funeral, M.G. Brumbaugh stated, "No man ever lived or will live, who will do for the Dunkard Church what Brother Cassel has done. Our history was engraved and preserved on the shelves of his library. He kept safe our records as a denomination."

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Henry Kurtz and His Pipe Organ

Henry Kurtz was a printer, editor, publisher, historian, and minister born July 22, 1796 in Bonnigheim, Wurttemberg, Germany. He received a classical education at the secondary school level and in 1817 immigrated to Pennsylvania where he took a position as a school teacher. There he studied with a Lutheran pastor and was ordained in the Lutheran Church where he served several years as a pastor.

He later moved to Ohio where he met the Brethren and was baptized by George Hoke in April 1828. At his baptism he renounced his Lutheran ordination but was soon placed in charge of the Mill Creek congregation even before being ordained by the Brethren. Kurtz would make many important contributions to the Brethren in publishing and as a clerk of the Annual Meeting.

Despite the opposition of many Brethren to the ownership and use of musical instruments, Kurtz kept in his possession and played in private a small pipe organ he had brought with him from Germany. The organ was built in 1698 and the builder had inscribed on the organ: May God grant that many beautiful and spiritual psalms and songs may be played and struck in this work to His name's honor."

Henry Holsinger, who worked for Kurtz as an apprentice printer, said, "Brother Kurtz was quite a musician, vocal and instrumental .... I shall long remember one occasion on which I heard him perform and sing one of his favorites ... When I complimented him on his success, he explained that he had been tired of reading and writing, and had sought recreation and solace in the music."

The organ was later kept by Kurtz's descendants and was almost forgotten until the 1950s, when it was placed in the care of the Historical Committee. Although it was briefly exhibited at Annual Conference in 1958, it was not completely restored until 1976, when it was played at Annual Conference in Wichita, Kansas. The organ is on display at the Church of the Brethren General Offices. It is now 310 years old, ten years older than the Church of the Brethren.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Monday, July 21, 2008

John Herr Handles A Thief

John Herr was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1848. He grew up in Myerstown where he was married to Anna Zug in 1869. In 1871 was elected to the ministry and later served as an elder and presiding elder. He was an early advocate of Sunday Schools and helped to establish Elizabethtown College.

One night Herr was awakened in his farm home by the noise of robbers in his smokehouse. He found one thief standing at the door of the smokehouse to receive the hams that were handed to him from a thief on the inside. Although Herr approached quietly, the thief on the outside was frightened and fled to safety without warning his colleague. The Brethren elder then took the thief's place at the door in order to receive the hams. The other thief, who could not see him, asked how many they should take. Herr replied that they might as well take them all.

The second thief, now aware that he had been trapped, started to run away but the elder proposed that he take along a ham for his family. The thief refused, but Herr insisted and also reminded him, a neighbor whom he recognized, that if ever he was hungry he should not bother to come at night since he could have what he needed if he would simply ask.

John Herr never revealed the identity of the thieves. When they met him later they could not look him in the eye.

Source: Ken Morse, The Brethren Encyclopedia

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Opening the Circle

Donald Durnbaugh recounted a delightful Annual Conference anecdote in his book, Fruit of the Vine (p. 554). A new Brethren was experiencing his first Annual Conference. As he and others were milling about, a friendly soul walked up, looked at his name tag, and commented: "Why, Garcia is not a Brethren name." To which the new member responded: "It is now."

Another story indicates how the Brethren circle is opening in other directions. The moment of truth comes from a young girl whose mother was a pastor of a Church of the Brethren. One Sunday the two of them attended a service in a neighboring congregation, where the sermon was delivered by a male pastor. The girl sat silently through the service and then turned to her mother with a puzzled look and asked, "Mommy, can men be pastors too?"

In the final analysis, it is not ours to decide whether to open the circle. Christ has opened the circle through his death and resurrection, welcoming all who seek life to enter the circle and find it. The only question is whether we can keep faith with an open Christ.

Source: Let Our Joys Be Known - A Brethren heritage curriculum for adults

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Annual Conference in Canada

In 1899 German Baptist Brethren began "foreign mission work" in Montreal, Quebec in the home of A.B. Maldeis who had come from Germany via Baltimore. Between 1903 and 1922 as many as twelve Church of the Brethren congregations were established. In 1968 the two congregations that remained in Canada became part of the United Church of Canada.

In 1923 the only Annual Conference ever held outside the USA was held at Calgary, Alberta. Minutes of that Conference record that there were 55 standing committee delegates and 204 delegates from the churches. By way of comparison, there were 547 congregational delegates in 1922 at Winona Lake, Indiana and 469 congregational delegates in 1924 at Hershey, PA.

Business items including approving a plan for Standing Committee, a plan for transfer of Bethany Bible School to the denomination, a progress report on a new hymnal, and attendance at Communion. A report was made on revisions to the Brethren's Card which was referred to the Tract Examining Committee.

A query asking the Conference to appoint a committee to formulate an authoritative statement of the whole matter of our relation to the subject of war and peace was referred to the Peace Committee to report to the 1924 Annual Conference.

Sources: The Brethren Encyclopedia
1923 Annual Conference Minutes

Friday, July 18, 2008

The "Deacon"

In 1912 and again in 1917 Brethren moved into the Alberta Province in Western Canada. They purchased newly opened lands at the Blackfoot Reservation. The two congregations met in April 1917 and decided to form a new congregation to be known as Bow Valley. A church building was completed by November with 85 members which grow to 150 by 1918. The church was served by a group of free ministers until 1928. In 1968 when the congregation joined the United Church of Canada, it was the largest congregation of the Brethren in Western Canada and was known for its active outreach ministry. [The Brethren Encyclopedia]

J. Homer Bright included the following excerpt in the December 1918, The Missionary Visitor.

One of our Christians here has been an all-round "handy" man since the beginning of the work. He has served the mission in various capacities, from the lowest to overseeing a hundred workmen. Whenever anything was to be done, he would succeed where others had failed. In securing workmen or animals, or in buying any needed thing, he could always be depended upon. He would see to it that the little details were done, and that promptly, too.

.... He has learned to read and is much interested in the progress of the church. He has been very helpful in assisting some of our weak ones to right living. He has talked and lived honesty and done much to set a higher standard for those in our employ, inside and outside of the church. He has not feared that some one would "lose face" in helping to root out some wrong. Thus in many ways he has made himself useful to our little band here, and he is often spoken of as "our deacon."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

First Chinese Minister

H.C. Yin first came to the Brethren as a teacher of the Chinese language in 1911 to missionaries and their families. This young man insisted on very high wages for he was making money and learning English so that he could take a trip to the United States and then return to China and get big money as an official for his government.

As he worked among the Brethren and on learning English he began to study an English Testament. Because of his interest and his unusual abilities he was given additional mentoring by Brethren missionaries. Yin had earlier been a member of the Baptist church but because of his desire for money and honor he had given up on his religion.

His conversion to the Brethren resulted in a complete renewal and earnest desires for a humble life. He faced persecution and reduced his salary by one-half, as he began providing leadership to a Brethren boys school at Ping Ting. Many of these boys came to be Christians largely because of Yin's example and teaching.

During a period of missionary furlough,Yin did most of the preaching. After much prayer and consultation with Brethren missionaries, the Chinese church at Ping Ting Hsien called Yin to the ministry in early 1918.

Source: F.H. Crumpacker in The Missionary Visitor, September 1918

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

1992 Annual Conference - Richmond VA

The 2008 Annual Conference is meeting in Richmond, VA this week. It has met in Richmond four previous times in the past century: 1952, 1957, 1977, and 1992. Today we highlight the 1992 Annual Conference.

Sixteen years ago was the last time the Brethren gathered in Richmond Va prior to this year. Phyllis Carter was the Moderator and the theme of the Conference was: Forward - Seeking the Mind of Christ. Attendance included 933 delegates and 3,889 registered members.

A major business item in Richmond in 1992 was the approval of an Ethics in Ministry Relations Paper. [This was later revised in 1996 and is again on the agenda for revision in 2008.]

In other business, delegates adopted A CALL TO EVANGELISTIC OUTREACH FOR THE CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN IN THE 90'S, which outlined five specific goals including 10% congregational increases each year in average worship attendance, christian education, addition of new members. Delegates also accepted emerging church groups in Brazil. A query on the church and the homosexual was respectfully returned as delegates judged that the 1983 Statement and a response to a similar query by the 1985 Standing Committee adequately answered the focus of the query.

Annual Conference completed its business by Saturday morning and devoted Saturday afternoon to a "Jubilee in Song" celebration of the new Hymnal.

Source: 1992 Annual Conference Minutes

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

1977 Annual Conference - Richmond VA

The 2008 Annual Conference is meeting in Richmond, VA this week. It has met in Richmond four previous times in the past century: 1952, 1957, 1977, and 1992. Today we highlight the 1977 Annual Conference.

The 1977 Annual Conference met in Richmond VA with Charles Bieber as Moderator. The theme was "To Serve in a Changing World." Some of us may remember, or still have, the small lapel pins with that theme.

S. Loren Bowman who had been elected to the General Board 25 years earlier in Richmond Va was recognized for his upcoming retirement after 6 years service on the General Board and 19 years as an administrator including his current service as general secretary. He was one of the speakers in 1977 along with Moderator Bieber, Ruby Rhoades, Duane Ramsey, and Andrew Young the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

The delegate body in 1977 numbered 1,023, the first time in history that the delegates numbered more than 1,ooo. Sunday morning attendance exceeded 7,000.

A business agenda of 28 items carried the delegate body into an extra session on Saturday evening following worship. A study committee chaired by Jeff Copp brought its answer in response to a query that had originated from the Columbia City congregation (N IN) at the urging of Brother Jeff on Ethical Teachings of Jesus in Public Schools.

In other business, the conference approved a paper on Marriage and Divorce, a report on Equality for Women in the Church of the Brethren, Christian Ethics and Law and Order, and Justice and Nonviolence. A major polity statement on the contained several new actions. One was the creation of the office of Lay Speaker. Another made very specific that Licensed and Ordained Ministry"every candidate for ordination shall give evidence of a thorough knowledge of, and commitment to, the history, belief, practices, and polity of the Church of the Brethren." A query asking that the office of Elder be re-established was rejected.

Finally, a resolution from Brethren Revival Fellowship to the Standing Committee led to the establishment of a committee of five to prepare a paper on the historical Pietist-Anabaptist and Brethren understandings of the Bible's inspiration and authority. In an unusual move, the committee was to be named jointly by the General Board, Brethren Revival Fellowship, and Bethany Seminary. [The committee would bring its final report, which was adopted, to the 1979 Annual Conference.]

Source: 1977 Annual Conference Minutes

Monday, July 14, 2008

1957 Annual Conference - Richmond VA

The 2008 Annual Conference is meeting in Richmond, VA this week. It has met in Richmond four previous times in the past century: 1952, 1957, 1977, and 1992. Today we highlight the 1957 Annual Conference.

The 1957 Annual Conference finalized a report that was in process for five years responding to a 1952 Query regarding the functions of an Elder. The adopted report reaffirmed three degrees in the ministry: the licensed ministry, the ordained ministry, and the ordained eldership. The degree of Elder would continue for another ten years with diminishing functionality within the church.

Reported on a study regarding the Peace Position of the Church with a finding that 94% of pastors stated they held the peace position and only 21% reported any serious opposition to it in their churches. A revised Statement of the Church of the Brethren on War was adopted.

Answered a 1954 Query regarding church membership, statistics, and stewardship assessments by classifying church membership, suggesting minimum standards for Christian discipleship, and encouraging diligent stewardship.

Established dates for the 1958 Annual Conference celebrating the church's 250th anniversary in Des Moines, Iowa and naming official representatives to the 1958 convocation in Germany.

Source: 1957 Annual Conference Minutes

Sunday, July 13, 2008

1952 Annual Conference - Richmond VA

The 2008 Annual Conference is meeting in Richmond, VA this week. It has met in Richmond four previous times in the past century: 1952, 1957, 1977, and 1992. Today we highlight the 1952 Annual Conference.

It is believed that the 1952 Annual Conference was the first with a stated theme: Teaching Them to Observe All Things. Under that theme, the Brethren discussed the future of the Bible Training School which was located at Bethany Biblical Seminary. The Training School was continued under the administration of the Seminary but with some specific guidelines and separation from the seminary.

A two year emphasis on evangelism was approved with the theme: WIN MEN TO CHRIST.

In response to a query regarding the equalization of pastor's salaries throughout the Brotherhood, the delegates adopted an answer pointing out it would be too cumbersome to create a pool of funds with assessments of congregations to carry out such a plan. The report did support the need for a minimum salary scale for all pastors.

Statements on Alcohol and Tobacco were approved.

In response to a 1949 Query that had been under study for 3 years asking for women to have equal rights with men in the ministry, such a recommendation was approved. The final answer to the query included this statement: We recommend that a woman who is the pastor of a church be granted the privileges of the ordained minister to function in the congregation of which she is pastor...."

And that's the way it was for the Brethren in Richmond, VA in 1952.

Source: 1952 Annual Conference Minutes

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Moderator and the Towel

Dan West was 72 years old in 1965 when he was elected to serve as Moderator of the 1966 Annual Conference - a Conference that would become controversial and adversarial because of the debate on whether to become participants in the Consultation on Church Union.

At the opening session of the 1966 Annual Conference, Dan stood and held a towel high above his head as a symbol of order. The towel was a symbol of service, patience, and holding one another in love.

The gesture was not surprising for Dan was loved and known throughout the denomination as a peacemaker, a relief worker, and a good discussion leader. The towel represented Dan's way of working with people more appropriately than did a gavel.

However, before the conference had ended it became necessary to invoke the authority of the gavel and Robert's Rules of Order. Though Dan attempted desperately hard to be fair and to allow everyone who wished to speak, as he had done in working with small groups throughout his lifetime of service to the church, Dan's methods created some disorder among the 1,183 delegates.

Source: Passing on the Gift, Glee Yoder

Friday, July 11, 2008


The following paragraphs are taken from S. Loren Bowman's 1987 book: Power & Polity Among the Brethren, published by Brethren Press. It is the introduction to a chapter titled "Living With Diversity."

Brethren are as ambivalent about diversity as about leadership. Initially there was a commitment to intimate, family-like relationships as the Schwarzenau group sought to live by consensus. This approach did not prevail long in Germany, and early in their American experience, the Brethren moved to a stance of conformity within the fellowship as on matters as dress, personal habits, and church practices. Underneath these outward expressions there was an uneasy commitment to freedom of conscience and an expectation that faith would produce new light as persons applied the Gospel to human experience.

Gradually Brethren understood that diversity offered opportunities for group enrichment as well as possibilities for disharmony. The experiences with tensions related to the Ephrata Movement, the debate on Universal Salvation, the Far Western Brethren, and the divisions of 1881 and 1882 raised questions among the Brethren about the limits of diversity. But the potential for enrichment, and the twentieth century emphasis upon individuality made diversity too appealing for the Brethren to turn their backs on its promise.

Diversity includes a broad range of differences: personal differences of stature, sex, age, temperament, viewpoint, and life style; group differences of family traditions, ethnic backgrounds, professional vocations, economic levels, and cultural affinities; and societal differences in an evolving, rapidly changing national and global community.

The church, as an intimate community with a central loyalty, found it difficult to deal with such changes - especially when complicated by different theological views within the church. Often Brethren referred to differences in talents and ideas - a model for gathering the gifts of all for the enrichment of each and for the building of community spirit. Overall, Brethren have alternately questioned, rejected, accepted, tolerated, and creatively claimed the promise of diversity.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Season for Gathering Roots and Herbs

Yesterday we introduced our readers to the beginning of John Kline's work as a physician. Today we continue that story as told by Benjamin Funk in The Life and Labors of Elder John Kline.

[John Kline] procurred his remedies in their virgin purity from the mountains, meadows and woods.... No recreation could be more delightful to the true lover of nature than to get on a good horse and go with him to see the Brethren, as he called it. This may sound a little odd: but the reader must know that Brother Kline rarely went on an errand with a single aim. His object seemed to be to crowd into his life all the service for both God and man that it was possible for him to do. In his desire to do good he would sometimes humorously repeat the old say:
Kill as many birds with one stone as you can.

When the season approached for gathering "roots and herbs" he would sometimes write to the Brethren among the mountains of West Virginia, that they might expect him to be with them at a given time. ... One Sunday, toward the close of his life, he said to me: "Brother B, would it suit you to go with me over to Pendleton and Hardy? I have a line of meetings in view; and if it would suit you to go with me I will be very glad of your company. I want to gather some medicines by the way, and as you are fond of rambling among the mountains you may enjoy the trip and make yourself useful at the same time."

I agreed to go. So on Thursday morning about the latter part of July, very early, we mounted our horses.
"Old Nell" - as he called his favorite riding mare, that had up to that time, as his Diary will show, carried him on her back over thirty thousand miles - seemed to understand where we were starting for, and how fast she ought to go. ...

After a most refreshing supper and a little rest we were ready to engage in the sacred duties of worship. Brother Kline very kindly took the lead in the services, and in a very plain way delivered one of the best discourses I have ever heard on Col. 1:12. This is the Text: "Giving thanks to the Father, who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." ...

The next day we repaired to the Shenandoah mountain to procure medical herbs. ... to this day I do feel that if ever I have been truly thankful for the good things of this life it was then.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

John Kline's Opinions on Medicine

John Kline's diary shows that during the year of 1936, Brother Kline entered a new field of useful activity. ... This new field was that of administering medical relief to the afflicted.

From his diary of Friday, January 1, 1836: I have long had doubts in regard to the curative efficacy and health-restoring virtue of the regularly established course of medical practice of the present day. Active depletion of the body, by copious blood-letting, blistering, drastic cathartics and starving, is, to my mind, not the best way to eradicate disease and restore the diseased human body to its normal state. I am well aware that every age has thought its own way the best; but fashion and custom have no doubt, had quite a controlling power in this as in other things; and 'the fashion of the world passeth away,' because there is little or nothing of substantial good in in.

Dr. Samuel Thompson of Vermont is introducing a new system of medical practice which I believe to be more in accordance with the laws of life and health than any I know of. His maxim, applied to disease, is: Remove the cause, and the effect will cease.

Every diseased condition of the body is the effect of some cause. This cause being removed, the disease, either simple or complex, must yield to the restorative forces of nature....

Had Brother Kline penned these words fifty years later in the century, they could not be more in harmony with the popular theory of medical science.... They are almost prophetic. He goes on: I am therefore determined to try the new way of treating disease, and see what I can do with it. His subsequent success as a physician for many years proves that he was not mistaken in the conclusions at which he arrived preparatory to his entering the field of medical practice.

Source: Life and Labors of Elder John Kline, Benjamin Funk

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Stonewall Jackson on the Brethren

The Civil War was an issue for Brethren in all parts of the country but was perhaps more focused in the South. The 1864 Annual Meeting had said, in part, "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...."

The Brethren stand against the bearing of arms brought troubles. Individual Brethren met the strain in various ways. Some went to prison. Many paid fiancial penalties, in both the North and the South. Some suffered persecution, even loss of life. Many fled to the sparsely settled parts of the country in Ohio and Indiana.

Rufus D. Bowman in his book, The Church of the Brethren and War, 1708-1941, includes the following testimony of Stonewall Jackson:

There lives a people in the Valley of Virginia that are not hard to bring to the army. While there they are obedient to their officers. Nor is it difficult to have them take aim, but it is impossible to get them to take correct aim. I, therefore, think it better to leave them at their homes that they may produce supplies for the army.

Source: Studies in Brethren History, Floyd Mallott

Monday, July 07, 2008

Annual Meeting of 1861

The Annual Meeting of 1861 was held in Rockingham County, Virginia in May 1861. The reader will recall that the initial hostilities of the Civil War between the North and the South begin in April 1861. There had been some debate about the wisdom of holding the meeting. Following is an excerpt of a report of the Annual Meeting written by Daniel Miller of Lima, Ohio in the July 1861 Gospel Visitor.

...we went to the Beaver Creek Meetinghouse, the time and place appointed for the commencement of the Annual Meeting, where we met with a very large concourse of people. There was public preaching on Sunday and Monday till noon, after which time the meeting proceeded to discuss the queries brought before the meeting, which required till Wednesday....
and we started home.

We got to Harpers Ferry next day before 11 o'clock, and had to wait till after 7 in the evening before a train came. There we were all day among ten thousand soldiers. We talked with a good many of them, and they talked clever, and did not seem in the least to manifest any desire to molest us. ...

... Now as respects the meeting more particularly, there was very good order during the meeting. Union and love was manifested, and I believe that surely the Lord was there. But the churches were poorly represented. There were a good many churches represented by letter, but personally there were only three or four churches represented out side the state of Va.; namely, this one, and South English church, Iowa, and one in Kansas, and perhaps one in Indiana. I suppose the Brethren generally were afraid to go in consequence of the excited state of the country, but they should not have been so easily scared; for there was no danger. ...Some of the soldiers at Harpers Ferry said that they looked with eager eyes, to see the brethren go through. They said they should not be molested. I talked with a captain while there, he said that such people as we could travel in the South where we please. ....
Daniel Miller

Source: Studies in Brethren History, Floyd Mallott

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Our Yearly Meeting

As Brethren prepare to travel to Richmond, Virginia this week for Annual Conference, we include this excerpt from the May 1856 issue of the Gospel Visitor.

Our Yearly Meeting is now near at hand, and many of our beloved brethren will prepare for their journey thither before this comes to hand. Let us only not forget the true preparation, which the apostle Paul describes (Ephesians 6:10-18). We are all weak in ourselves, but IN THE LORD we may become strong, provided the power of his might (his word) accompanies us. Let us then put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

We will not be without temptation. While we will rejoice at the reunion with many, that will meet us there, we will miss some, who will not be there; - and there will probably accur some things there, which are not lovely, not of good report, no virtue, nor any praise. Oh that every member would pray earnestly and daily: "Lead us not into temptation!"

Source: Studies in Brethren History, Floyd E. Mallott, "Appendix"

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Susanna Hummer

Susanna Elizabeth Hummer McSween Barber was born on December 30, 1845. As an adult in New Mexico the Hispanics said she "always looked like a big doll" with her makeup and fancy hair-do's, but she was born Brethren in Adams County, Pennsylvania, near Gettysburg.

Nobody knows why the young Brethren teenager Susanna Hummer jumped out of her window a few days after the famous Battle of Gettysburg - whether because she was only one of sixteen children in the house, whether she was tired of wearing the plain garb, or because of the death of her good friend Jennie Wade, the only civilian killed during the conflict at Gettysburg.

Or maybe it was the sight of all those men in blue and grey uniforms marching past her home gave her the wanderlust. Indeed there is a family tradition that the seventeen year old Susanna fell in love with one of the soldiers, jumped our her window, and never looked back.

What is known is that after disappearing for a decade she turned up in Eureka, Kansas in 1873, married to a mysterious stranger, a red-haired Scot named Alexander McSween, and five years later she was living in New Mexico in what amounted to a palace, before she was caught up in the infamous Lincoln County War. Though her husband died in the gun battles between two finance companies, she was remembered for trying to save her precious piano when her nine room hacienda was burned to the ground by rustlers, and for the fact that her husband had hired an eighteen-year-old named William Antrim - better known as Billy the Kid - to help protect them. Because of Billy the battle became the subject of over two hundred books and Susanna became famous.

The widow McSween later married and divorced, and went to to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs of the old west, earning her the title of "The Cattle Queen of Lincoln County." Susanna Elizabeth Hummer McSeen Barber injured herself as an old woman jumping out of another window when her home burned down around her, but to her dying day she wore bright colors and high fashions, a stark contrast to the muted plain clothers she had grown up with.

Source: Frank Ramirez, Tercentennial Minute for December 30, 2007

Friday, July 04, 2008

Battle of Gettysburg

When Union forces beat back concerted attacks by the Confederate Army at Gettysburg, PA, on July 1-4, 1863, a turning point in the Civil War was attained. Much of the battle took place on the farm of Jacob Sherfy, a member of the Brethren.

Areas now prominent in military history - Little Round Top, Devil's Den, the Wheat Field, Plumb Run, the Peach Orchard - all lay on Sherfy's land. The family of his son Joseph Sherfy, a minister in the Marsh Creek congregation, was driven from its part of the farm which contained the Peach Orchard.

Members of the Marsh Creek congregation distributed funds to Gettysburg residents who sustained losses from the fighting.

Source: Donald Durnbaugh writing in the Brethren Encyclopedia

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Gospel Messenger

The Gospel Messenger had its beginning on July 3, 1883, as the official paper of what was then called the "conservative" Brethren (after 1908 the Church of the Brethren). In 1965, along with other format changes, the name was shortened to Messenger as it is known today.

Its beginnings may be traced to The Gospel Visitor, founded by Henry Kurtz in April 1851. During the next thirty years, a series of independent publications arose within the church competing for subscribers and frequently promoting the issues of the publishers.

At the 1882 Annual Meeting of the Brethren (the Old German Baptist Brethren had withdrawn in 1881 and Henry Holsinger and other supporters would walk out of the 1882 Meeting to form The Brethren Church in 1883), a committee of seven was appointed to consider the matter of having an official church paper.

As a result the owners and publishers of The Primitive Christian and The Brethren at Work agreed to consolidate their papers with the understanding that the Annual Meeting would recognize the new paper as the official church paper. Thus The Gospel Messenger from its beginning on July 3, 1883 was the official paper of the church, although it would continue as a privately published paper until 1897 when its ownership was transferred to the church.

Thus today, July 3, marks the 125th Anniversary of the Church of the Brethren having an "official" church paper.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Hay Loft Reporters

In 1873 Henry B. Brumbaugh was the editor of The Pilgrim, one of the four main church periodicals among the Brethren. He knew that most of his readers wanted a report of speeches at the Annual Meeting (to be held that year in a barn at Meyersdale, PA), but he was aware that the church was hardly ready to accept full reporting.

He wrote later, "Our decision was in favor of the report and we planned to get it in a way that would cause no disturbance in the meeting. So we employed our reported ... and located him on the hay loft directly over the floor where the meeting was held. It was not as desirable a position as our reporters now get, but it was good enough to get a fairly satisfactory report. The interesting feature of the occasion was that Bro. H.R. Holsinger, of the Christian Family Companion, also had a reporter for his paper and brought him to the hay loft. Though competitors, we personally were on good terms and united our efforts in getting as good a report as possible."

The Annual Meeting that year was still inclined to place restrictions on reports, ruling that a synopsis of reasons leading up to a decision could be given but no names of speakers were to be included. Holsinger insisted, however, in publishing the names in next year's report. Brumbaugh tried to help his readers by numbering each speaker and printing separately a "key" that would give the names for each number. He said, "The demand for the key proved as great as it was for the report." Both editors were called to account, but a year later the Annual Meeting decided in favor of a stenographic report.

Source: Ken Morse sidebar in The Brethren Encyclopedia

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Schwarzenau - A Journal of Dunker History

July 1939 saw the publication of a new Journal called "Schwarzenau". It would continue publication until April 1942, a total of 10 issues. In the lead article of the July 1939 issue, Rufus Bowman, President of Bethany Biblical Seminary, explains the choosing of the name.

This is a sacred name in Brethren history. The different bodies of Brethren people all go back to "Schwarzenau." The backward look is valuable for at Schwarzenau we see the great principles that bind us together. The name wins us because of the spirit of those eight pious souls who met on the banks of the Eder. Schwarzenau was the official birthday of Brethren history. The name has become a symbol for the great first principles upon which our Church was founded: the New Testament as our rule of faith and practice, the ordinances as a means of grace, no exercise of force in religion, religious freedom even at the cost of suffering, the simple spiritual life, peace according to the spirit and teachings of Jesus. ...

Dr. Floyd E. Mallott, head of the Church History department of Bethany Biblical Seminary is a man who believes in the destiny of the Church of the Brethren and loves her traditions. For the last few years, Dr. Mallott with a few of his companions has been dreaming dreams of the creation of a Journal of Dunker History for the preservation of historical data. This issue is the first product of these dreams. One is finding today a tremendous interest in our own church history. Our people have a rich history full of inspiration for youth, but we have been short on preserving it. Consequently, we welcome "Schwarzenau" with its clear cut purpose to print historical data and preserve Brethren history. This journal is an independent project sponsored by the Church History department of Bethany Biblical Seminary. The Seminary is in full accord with the purposes and the creation of this project and I am sure that hose who are interested in Brethren history will lend encouragement to these efforts.