In recent weeks, I’ve been reading Messenger of Grace, E. Morris Sider’s biography of Messiah College president and Brethren in Christ church leader C.N. Hostetter, Jr. Hostetter is one of my favorite Brethren in Christ figures: a man of great dignity, intellect, and compassion; a committed pacifist; and a tenacious fighter for the rights of the marginalized and oppressed.
Having said that, I recognize the glaring incongruity in the title of this post. Labeling Hostetter a “crusader” of any kind is a slight against a man so fully dedicated to embodying Christ’s nonviolent witness.
Rather than an allusion to the eleventh-century “holy wars,” the title of this post alludes to the famous Christian figure pictured with Hostetter (and fellow church leader Arthur Climenhaga) in today’s Photo Friday installment: Billy Graham.
Graham’s evangelistic crusades were a staple of postwar American Evangelicalism. Hostetter himself had a positive view of the preacher and his work. As Sider records,
Hostetter was consistently impressed with Graham. He heard Graham speak frequently at the [National Association of Evangelicals] conventions; he invariably labelled Graham’s sermons with such adjectives as “powerful” or “impressive.”
In 1961, Hostetter set out on a “crusade” of his own: to dialogue with the world-renowned evangelist about the Christian peace position. An article in the Evangelical Visitor describes the meeting, which included Graham, Hostetter, and fifteen other Brethren in Christ and Mennonite church leaders:
The purpose of the meeting was to engage in a personal conversation with Dr. Graham concerning the New Testament ethic of love and nonresistance and also to hear from Dr. Graham a word which might encourage and stimulate our churches to become more evangelistic. . . .
In response to the presentation [of the Christian peace position], Dr. Graham replied that he appreciated deeply the privilege of listening to the testimony of other Christians. . . . He commented briefly on the problems involved in taking the nonresistant position, but noted the uncertainty and confusion among Christians regarding the proper attitude toward participation.
For more on the meeting and on Hostetter’s opinion of Graham, see Sider, Messenger of Grace (Nappanee, Ind.: Evangel Press, 1982), 216-217; see also “Sixteen Church Leaders Meet with Billy Graham in Philadelphia,” Evangelical Visitor, October 2, 1961, 14-15.