For eight months during 2021-2022, I participated in a Be the Bridge discussion group (addressing racial justice and reconciliation) and learned much more than I already knew about the history of African Americans and how white people treated them in discriminatory and often racist ways. Reading David Weaver-Zercher’s two-part series on the Brethren in Christ and the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s to 1970s added to what I learned during my Be the Bridge group, only this was so much more personal because I grew up in the Brethren in Christ Church during the time covered by the series. I hoped that our record as a denomination would be a more full-throated embrace of racial justice during the Civil Rights Movement, but despite our well-intentioned efforts, I believe we fell woefully short.
The first part of Weaver-Zercher’s series appeared in the December 2021 edition of the journal, and the second part, focusing on 1967-1975, is the lead article in this edition. In addition to continuing the story and analysis begun in the first article, this edition includes four responses to both articles—two from scholars whose special interests include Evangelicalism, one who came of age in the Brethren in Christ Church during the years covered by the articles, and one whose response reflects the difficulty of being black during that time (and into the present, for that matter). As I said in “From the Editor” last time, I hope that the Brethren in Christ U.S. can use Weaver-Zercher’s careful research and analysis to help point the way to how to effectively accomplish the Project 250 goal of “Growing to Reflect the Demographic Realities of Our Communities.” I hope we will learn from the mistakes of the past and not repeat them.
Our custom for many years is to feature the papers and presentations from the annual study conference of the Sider Institute for Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan Studies at Messiah University in the April edition of the journal, and this year is no exception. The theme of the November 2021 conference was “Living Our Faith: Exploring Brethren in Christ Core Practices,” following up on the 2020 conference that celebrated the twentieth anniversary or the establishment of the ten core values by “refocusing” and re-examining.” The 2021 conference explored the power of habit (as another word for core practice), historical core practices, examples of current congregational practices related to the core values, and considerations in naming contemporary core practices. Two major papers were followed by two panel discussions featuring three persons each. All eight presentations are reproduced in this edition. You can also watch the Zoom recordings of the four sessions online at https://www.messiah.edu/info/20266/conferences_and_events/330/brethren_in_christ_study_conferences.
Neither the analysis of the Brethren in Christ response to the Civil Rights Movement nor the exploration of what it means to actually live out our faith in keeping with our core values as a denomination is the end of the discussion. Both subjects invite further dialogue, and I invite readers to continue the discussion in your homes and church as well as by submitting your thoughts, perhaps via our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/bichistory).
We close out this edition with four book reviews. I couldn’t help noticing as I was preparing the reviews for publication that the reviewers are all women this time, weighing in on books of potential interest to our readers. It may not be the first time we’ve had all women reviewers, but it doesn’t often happen! The books reviewed include a novel (which I personally recommend) and three non-fiction books about transforming conflict, healing from historical trauma, and finding healing hope in Jesus.
Correction: In the December 2021 journal, in David Weaver-Zercher’s article, footnote #53 on page 338 should read, “Musser, ‘Carl and Avas Carlson,’ 206-207.” I apologize for the error.
Editor’s Note: Eagle-eyed readers who are sticklers for style may notice that with this edition, we are returning to the practice of spelling out most numbers (except for percentages above nine), in keeping with Chicago Manual of Style’s preference.