Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Anna Beahm Mow

Anna Beahm was born in Virginia and educated at Hebron Seminary (1909-14), Bethany Bible School, Manchester College (A.B. 1918), and Bethany Biblical Seminary (B.D. 1921; M.R.E. 1941; Th.M. 1943). During her first term at Bethany, A.C. Wieand actively recruited her for the faculty in spite of her well-known intention to become a missionary to India.

From 1923 to 1940, Mow served as a missionary in India where she established close ties with Vijaya Pandit, sister of Nehru and later president of the United Nations, and E. Stanley Jones, noted Methodist missionary and evangelist.

After joining the Bethany faculty where she served until 1958, Mow taught courses in Christian education and the devotional life and sponsored the popular Thursday night student prayer meetings for many years. Deeply committed to Keswick Higher Life spirituality, like her brother William Beahm, she believed that the primary human problems were spiritual and that "secular service , which is merely human goodwill, is not enough."

In a pointed 1947 essay, "The Surrendered Life," Mow observed that surrender "to missions, service, even Brethren service, to temperance, to peace ... even to prayer" was not what God required. As she noted, "The surrender must be to God as revealed in Jesus Christ, our Lord. It is not a commitment to a cause or an institution, it is a commitment to a Person, the divine Person, first of all."

If people respected Mow for her deep spirituality, they loved her for her humor and common sense. When a young pastor's wife with three small children confided to Anna that, given the great needs of the world, she felt she had no right to own an automatic washer and dryer, Anna informed her that there was far greater simplicity in the ownership of such devices than in a life of slavery to the basic necessities of life.

Not ordained until 1960, Mow's greatest contribution to the church was as an author and speaker. From the late 1950s until the early 1980s, she developed a virtual celebrity status, extending far beyond the Church of the Brethren. Immensely popular in evangelical circles, she averaged ten "revival" or evangelistic engagements a year by the mid-1960s and authored a series of widely read books.

In response to the 1960s' Charismatic movement, Mow dryly noted that since Brethren had a "special dip in baptism for the Holy Spirit," they ought to be in the forefront of the movement. Insisting that the mission of the church was reconciliation, in the late 1960s Mow stood with a young man who had burned his draft card on the floor of Annual Conference, admiring his courage although she personally opposed such actions. As she noted in the midst of the turbulence of the late 1960s, "Being conservative or liberal is not the important matter at all. The question is always, "What is Christ-like?"

Her calm in the midst of the passions of youth, whether inspired by the charismatic renewal or social radicalism, greatly reassured a troubled church. People marveled at the ease with which she bridged the so-called generation gap.

Source: Bethany Theological Seminary: A Centennial History
by William Kostlevy