During his life, Luke Keefer, Jr. achieved a well-deserved reputation as a pre-eminent Brethren in Christ theologian. Before the health issues that eventually took his life prevented him from further research and writing, Luke was planning a series of lectures on heresy, inspired by a controversy involving an accusation of heresy at Ashland Seminary where he was teaching. His friend, neighbor, and seminary colleague Rob Douglass took Luke’s notes and preliminary writings on heresy and fleshed them out in an essay that appeared in the festschrift he and another colleague, Wendy Corbin Reuschling, edited in honor of Luke. Ever since Celebrations and Convictions: Honoring the Life and Legacy of Luke L. Keefer, Jr. was published in late 2015, I have been hoping to reprint this essay in the journal, and finally with this edition have made that hope a reality. Rob has done the church a great service in not only putting some of Luke’s last unfinished theological work in usable form, but also contributing some of his own scholarship on the subject of heresy and how to think about it.
This edition of the journal also continues the comprehensive history of Sikalongo Mission in Zambia by Dwight Thomas. Part 3 focuses on the years leading up to and including the birth of Zambia as an independent nation (it was formerly Northern Rhodesia, a British colony) and the transfer of church leadership from the Brethren in Christ Church in North America to Zambian leadership.
While this is a history of one mission station, it is much more than that; it sensitively raises a number of issues that would be worth further consideration. For example: In a section entitled “Unsung Heroes and Heroines,” Dwight recognizes the roles of African support staff, missionary women (especially single women), and missionary children. He describes the reluctance of missionaries to be involved in the political movements toward national independence, an understandable reluctance given historic Brethren in Christ separatism, but one which may have been misinterpreted by native Zambians. He openly names the feeling of Sikalongo Mission folks that their mission was (perhaps unintentionally) considered less important than other mission endeavors, especially Macha Mission. (Editor’s personal note: even as a missionary child in Northern Rhodesia in 1958-1961, I picked up on this attitude even though I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it at the time.) Dwight’s history of Sikalongo, therefore, not only tells the story of one mission, but also provides some welcome analysis from one who was not part of the original story but who has observed the mission, been a part of its ongoing life in more recent years, and talked extensively with Zambian church members and leaders. The last part of the history, bringing the story into the present and being co-written by Zambian leaders, will appear in a later edition of the journal.
Two additional articles are based on recent presentations, one at Messiah College in March and one at the historic Ringgold Meetinghouse in June. Greg Boyd was the speaker for the 2017 Schrag Lectures at Messiah College, and, as is our custom in the journal, we are reprinting the public lecture. Greg Boyd, senior pastor at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, is well-known in neo-Anabaptist circles, and has been a major influence on the theology of several current (many of the them younger) Brethren in Christ pastors. John Yeatts, retired from many years of teaching at Messiah College, was this year’s speaker for the annual Heritage Service at Ringgold and told his personal story of “following peace and holiness,” based on Hebrews 12:14. His talk is reproduced here.
Six book reviews complete the issue, including one on Greg Boyd’s influential book, The Myth of a Christian Nation, by Tracie Hunter who was introduced to the book in one of the Brethren in Christ core courses.
Harriet Sider Bicksler, Editor
Correction: In the April 2017 edition of the journal, we incorrectly identified one of the men in the photograph at the top of page 33. The person second from the right is Lewis B. Steckley, not Elmer Eyer. We apologize for the error.
Author: Harriet Sider Bicksler
Harriet Sider Bicksler is editor for the Brethren in Christ Historical Society. She also edits "Shalom! A Journal for the Practice of Reconciliation," a quarterly Brethren in Christ publication on peace and justice issues, and is a member of the Grantham (PA) Brethren in Christ Church. She and her husband Dale have two children and four grandchildren.