In Quest for Piety and Obedience, the authoritative history of the Brethren in Christ Church, Carlton Wittlinger details the significant changes or innovations that characterized the church during what he calls “the first period of transition” from 1880-1910: missions, local church outreach, Wesleyan holiness, institutions like Messiah Lifeways and Messiah College, and the founding of a church publication. One of the first names associated with the new publication, the Evangelical Visitor, was Henry Davidson, its first editor, who served in that capacity from 1887-1896. But who was Henry Davidson?
That question is answered by Lucille Marr in the first article in this edition of the journal. You may remember Marr’s analysis of the call of Henry’s daughter H. Frances Davidson to mission work in the December 2017 edition. Now she turns her attention to the story of Henry and his second wife, Fannie Rice Davidson. Drawing on denominational resources, family letters and diaries, contemporary social science literature, and public records such as ancestry.com, Marr paints a fascinating portrait of Henry and Fannie and their public and private lives and ministry. Marr’s interest in the Davidson family is personal; she is Henry and Fannie’s great-great granddaughter.
Some years after Henry Davidson’s death in 1903, World War 1 was raging and many men from Anabaptist-related communities in the United States and Canada were faced with the choice of whether or not to join the military campaigns their respective countries were waging in Europe. During World War 1, when there was not yet an alternative to military service for conscientious objectors to war, many young men ended up in prison for refusing to put on a military uniform and join the armed forces. Among those who went to prison were members of the Hutterite community.
Duane Stoltzfus, professor of communication at Goshen College, was the Schrag lecturer at Messiah College in February 2018. in his public lecture, Stoltzfus told the story of four Hutterite men who were sentenced to hard labor and imprisoned on the infamous Alcatraz island in San Francisco. The lecture, drawn heavily from his book, Pacifists in Chains: The Persecution of the Hutterites During the Great War (John Hopkins University Press, 2013), is reprinted here.
The year before the United States entered World War I in Europe, a new Brethren in Christ mission station was founded in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) in 1916. In previous editions of the journal (December 2016, April, 2017, and August 2017), Dwight Thomas has told the story of Sikalongo Mission, and now in this edition, he brings his comprehensive history to a close. This fourth part focuses on the period from 1978, the year the first Zambian-born bishop of the Brethren in Christ Church in Zambia was consecrated, to the present, and highlights the progress of four institutions: the Sikalongo Bible Institute, the Sikalongo Hospital (or Clinic), the Sikalongo Primary School, and the Sikalongo Mission Church.
For this section of the history of the mission, Thomas has relied significantly on interviews with Zambians who have been an integral part of the Zambian Brethren in Christ Church in general, and Sikalongo Mission in particular. His thoroughness in telling the story demonstrates how what might be considered a small mission outpost has had a major impact not only on its immediate community but also the larger church. To quote Thomas’ closing comments: “[The Bible Institute] has trained an entire generation of pastors and denominational leaders. Sikalongo Clinic has given medical aid to hundreds of thousands of local people, Tens of thousands of children were educated at both primary and secondary schools. And, the ongoing Christian witness of Sikalongo Mission shines brightly throughout the region.”
Four book reviews round out this edition, covering books on topics ranging from an Anabaptist perspective of what it means to part of in the Kingdom of God now(as opposed to sometime in the future), the art of Amish quilts, American evangelicalism, and an intergenerational dialogue on issues facing the church.
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.