Tuesday, December 09, 2008

William Beahm at Bethany

Note: Earlier references to William Beahm may be found on April 13 and 16.
William Beahm was the son of noted Brethren evangelist, educator, and theological conservative I.N.H. Beahm. He served as a Church of the Brethren missionary in Nigeria from 1924 to 1937. Upon his return from Nigeria, he began the pursuit of a PH.D. at the University of Chicago. His return came at the same time that Rufus Bowman was named president of Bethany Seminary. One of Bowman's first acts as president was to name Beahm as professor of theology and missions. In 1944 Beahm was named as dean at Bethany where he served until his retirement in 1962.
William Beahm was truly an unforgettable figure, noted as a "connoisseur of words and idioms." He combined his famous dry sense of humor with a remarkable ability to remember names and faces. In addition to his heavy responsibilities at dean, Beahm served the Church as secretary of Annual Conference from 1942-1953, and as Moderator in 1954 and 1959.
Beahm was deeply committed to the church. As a theological moderate, he often criticized both liberals and evangelicals for failing to see that the church was an end in itself. As he noted, the Social Gospel tradition's tendency to reduce the mission of the church to the promotion of a particular social agenda had the same deadening effect upon the institutional church as Fundamentalism's tendency to push the kingdom entirely into the future. He wrote in 1947: "The church is not self-centered but God-centered when she nurtures and perpetuates her inner life. This inner life, by the same token, is nurtured by God."
In a time when many emphasized service to the exclusion of evangelism and mission, Beahm remained a traditionalist. Standing squarely in the tradition of A.C. Wieand, he emphasized both the reality of sin and the transforming power of the gospel. Although he frequently quoted liberals, Beahm believed that humanity's central problem was sin and Christ was "our savior because he saves us from sin." In one of his notable quotes, "Sin is a raspberry seed under God's denture."
Beahm died in April 1964.Earle Fike noted in his funeral sermon, "In the Bible, it is of paramount importance to know who you are, and to do this you must know from whence you came and to whom you belong. Brother William knew to whom he belonged ... and therefore he knew the One to whom all rightly belong. In Beahm's words, everyone is a person "for whom Christ died."
Source: Bethany Theological Seminary: A Centennial History
by William Kostlevy