What Young Historians Are Thinking

For the last five years, it has been my pleasure to organize “What Young Historians are Thinking” as part of my responsibilities at the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. This event brings together young or early-career historians connected to historic peace churches, and lets them share their work in a public forum. Over the years, presentations have covered topics as varied as early Anabaptist hymnody and the life of John F. Funk, to the treatment of Moravians in the American revolution and the legal position of the Amish in the United States today.

This year’s lecture will be held Monday, June 5, beginning at 7 p.m. at Ridgeview Mennonite Church, Gordonville, Pennsylvania. Preview the evening with their abstracts below.

“What Young Historians Are Thinking” is sponsored by the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society; the Sider Institute for Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan Studies; The Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies; and the Menno Simons Historical Library at Eastern Mennonite University.

Mapping Peace: 100 years of American Friends Service Committee Transnational Work

Steven Baumann

After World War I, when most of the world was focused on punishing Germany, Quakers crossed international boundaries to establish a program called Quakerspeisung which helped over one million people get food in thousands of feeding centers. While this operation was unique for the world, in that most people did not think to help rebuild after the devastation of war, it was not unique for the Religious Society of Friends, a church with a long history of peace work.

This year is the one-hundredth anniversary of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), an organization on a mission to promote lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. Although the AFSC won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947, it remains one of the most understudied historical peace organizations in the world, despite an enormous amount of personal memoirs, official documentation, and local histories. Using the Philadelphia archives of the AFSC, I will map the locations and operations of the AFSC throughout its history in order to show the global reach of its relief and rehabilitation efforts.

My study will not just show where the AFSC worked and operated, but also inquire as to why places were chosen for transnational peace connections to be made. By tracing the location and the connections between the operations in Philadelphia and work done across the world, I will argue that the AFSC is a truly global non-governmental organization that transcended national boundaries long before it was standard practice to do transnational work.

One of God’s Avenues of Progress: Exploring the Outcomes of the Brethren in Christ’s Evangelical Visitor

Micah B. Brickner
In 1874, the Brethren in Christ General Council considered creating a denominational publication, but the subject was postponed.1 After thirteen years of debate and discussion, the Brethren agreed to a petition from the Michigan district to publish the Evangelical Visitor for a trial period of four years.2 However, the implementation of this new communication medium was not without opposition. In the 50th anniversary edition of the Evangelical Visitor, Editor Vernon L. Stump addressed the opposition to the publication:

“There were those then, and they are to be found in every age, who could not see the need, nor recognize this as one of God’s avenues of progress, and felt that there were too many evils attendant to the launching of a publication […]”3

Despite the disapproval that the editors of the Evangelical Visitor faced, the periodical played a significant role in shaping the identity of the church. Historian Carlton O. Wittlinger identifies four outcomes that resulted from the publication: (1) unifying a geographically diverse church; (2) expanding the religious and intellectual horizons of the community; (3) facilitating change regarding methodologies of ministry; and (4) illustrating the advantages of education.4

For this paper, my research will expound upon Wittlinger’s observations on how the Evangelical Visitor impacted the Brethren in Christ. I will also explore how the opposition to the publication may have directly correlated to these aforementioned outcomes. Finally, I will propose several insights for contemporary Anabaptist churches in regards to their communication methods and potential areas of caution.

Mennonite Films as Cultural Markers

Joel Horst Nofziger

Modern American society often turns to film as a tool to understand past, giving this medium vast control over how the collective memory is retained. This relationship between film and memory is curious in the Mennonite community, which has not been a major viewer of movies, nor prolific producers of feature length films. Since 1974, there have been only four Mennonite non-documentary films made in the United States. The first of this these was Hazel’s People (originally titled Happy as the Grass was Green) by Merle Good. Three others followed: The Weight (1983), The Radicals (1990), and Pearl Diver (2004).

For the purpose of this presentation, Mennonite films are defined as films made by people self-identifying as Mennonites. As works of art reveal their creators, these films necessarily also deal with Mennonite identity. While meant for broad audiences, all four films retain a distinct character due to the Anabaptist tradition which created them. These films are documents of Mennonite identity. This presentation will consider these films in context, and specifically examine how they address martyrdom.

  1. Origin Confession of Faith, and Church Government (Abilene, Kans.: The News Book and Job Print, 1901), 10. 
  2. Minutes of the General Conference of the Brethren in Christ, 1887. 
  3. Stump, Vernon L. “When… Why… How…” Evangelical Visitor Vol. L, (August 28–29, 1937): 7. 
  4. Carlton O. Wittlinger, Quest for piety and obedience: the story of the Brethren in Christ (Nappanee, Ind.: Evangel Press, 1978), 269. 

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