The lead article in this edition is a good follow-up to the two-part series on the Brethren in Christ and the Civil Rights Movement by David Weaver-Zercher (in the December 2021 and April 2022 journals) and the article on Brethren in Christ pastoral identity by Lisa Weaver Swartz in the August 2022 edition. Zachary Spidel makes a rather complicated but significant argument that as a result of a denominational shift, starting in the mid-twentieth century, from emphasizing practices to focusing on methods, the denomination now has no “consistent ethos that is identifiably Brethren in Christ.” Whether that is cause for alarm or not is perhaps debatable, but it seems to affirm Weaver Swartz’s conclusion that “the denomination is in deep need of identity work.”1 As Brethren in Christ U.S. continues to work on the Project 250 goals looking forward to celebrating 250 years as a denomination, thoughtful consideration of and responses to the critiques in all these articles could be extremely helpful.
Periodically, the journal publishes sermons, and in this edition, we have two—both related to the third of our theological streams, Wesleyan Holiness. Robert Douglass spoke at the Annual Heritage Service at the Ringgold Meetinghouse in June 2022, and John Hawbaker preached at Roxbury Holiness Camp in August 2022. In “Understanding the Work of the Holy Spirit,” Douglass revisits and expands on a sermon by the late bishop and college and seminary professor Owen Alderfer, concluding that “we are more in desperate need for the Holy Spirit than we realize.” Hawbaker’s sermon focuses on the first verses of 1 John 3 and reminds his listeners/readers of “the privilege of being children of God, the hope of Christ’s return, and God’s call to lives of purity.”
When Ronald J. Sider passed away in July 2022, there were many obituaries and tributes from the wider world, including in the New York Times, stemming from his prominence as a prolific author and prominent evangelical. Since we as Brethren in Christ can claim him as one of our own, it seems appropriate to offer our own tributes to this man who influenced so many people, including many Brethren in Christ, to be better followers of Jesus and advocates for peace and justice. Brethren in Christ archivist and scholar Devin Manzullo-Thomas has written a short biography of Sider and others have written tributes from the varying perspectives of Brethren in Christ scholars of American Evangelicalism, friends, student, readers of Sider’s books, and denominational leader. His family graciously gave permission to publish the obituary that was printed in the funeral bulletin, and they provided a number of photographs. I was honored to write one of the tributes.
This edition concludes with four book reviews of volumes about former President Dwight Eisenhower (who attended a Brethren in Christ Sunday School in Kansas when he was a young boy), peace in the book of Revelation, the enduring nature of the Bible, and the work of Mennonite Central Committee’s Peace Section.
- Lisa Weaver Swartz, “A Giant Bag of Core Values: Findings from the 2021 Brethren in Christ Pastor Identity Portraits Project, Brethren in Christ History and Life 45, no. 2 (August 2022): 294.