| Historical Committee
Books, Collecting Books, and a Place for an Archives
by Dennis Stoesz
In 1911, the Historical Committee of the Mennonite General Conference
(1898-1971) appointed a committee to produce “an authentic church
history.” The members of the historical committee were S. F. Coffman,
J. S. Hartzler, C. Z. Yoder, I. J. Heatwole, I. J. Miller, J. B. Smith,
John Horsch, C. H. Smith, A. D. Martin, and Jos. R. Ruth. These books
were published in 1942 (John Horsch, Mennonites in Europe) and in 1966
(J. C. Wenger, The Mennonite Church in America).
The committee has also
been an encouragement for other books to be written by such authors as
Elaine Sommers Rich, Rafael Falcon and LeRoy Bechler.
set, Mennonite Experience in
America, 1683-1970 (Richard K . MacMaster, Theron F. Schlabach, James
C. Juhnke, and Paul Toews), published between 1985-1996. And today we
turn to the recently published Global History series of Mennonites
around the world, since Mennonites in North America make up only 37% of
world membership (443,918 of 1,203,995 as of 2000).
|In the introduction to The Mennonite Church in America,
Bender does a survey of books that have been written on the Mennonites
in America from 1841-1945: 1841-German (Benjamin Eby), 1844 (Christian
Herr), 1878 (John F. Funk), 1888 and 1890-German (Daniel K. Cassell),
1895-in German (C. H. A. van der Smissen), 1898-German (Johannes
Bartsch), 1904-German (C. H. Wedel), 1905 (J. S. Hartzler and Daniel
Kauffman), 1909 (C. Henry Smith), 1920 (C. Henry Smith), 1940 (J. C.
Wenger), 1941 (C. Henry Smith) and 1945-revised edition (C. Henry
enough, Bender does not mention the two volume history
produced by H. P. Krehbiel on The History of the General Conference of
the Mennonites of North America, published in 1898 (Volume 1) and 1938
(Volume II). It took until the 1980s for the various Mennonite groups
to cooperate and produce the four
|Fifty-five years after this book was commissioned to be
written, J. C.
Wenger’s book on The Mennonite
Church in America was published by
Herald Press in 1966. Four of the chapters were also written by Harold
S. Bender. The dust jacket designed by Jan Gleysteen features
Germantown Mennonite Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and early
leader Hans Herr. In the introduction, Bender indicates that this
history book features the story of the (Old) Mennonite Church.
|This book was presented to its readers in 1983 in
celebration of the
300-year history of Mennonite women in North America, whose tradition
came to be organized under the Women’s Missionary and Service
Commission (1915-1997) of the (Old) Mennonite Church. Clara (Hooley)
Hershberger, Goshen, Indiana, is featured on the cover. The story of
Ontario women is told by Lorraine Roth, Willing Service (1992). The
story of other faith streams are told by Mary Lou Cummings, Full
Circle: Stories of Mennonite Women, (1978); Gladys Goering’s Women in
Search of Mission: A History of the General Conference Mennonite
Women’s Organization, (1980), and Katie Funk Wiebe, Women Among the
[Mennonite] Brethren (1979).
|“To give a people their history is to give them a future,”
Lovett, Associate Secretary for the African American Mennonite
Association, in the foreword of this 100 year history. The beginnings
were in North Carolina in 1886 with the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren
Church. And one chapter is devoted to the leadership of James and
Rowena Lark from the 1930s-1970s.
|The first Hispanic Mennonite church was founded at Lawndale
in Chicago in 1932, as a result of mission efforts. In the period from
1970-75 the membership and number of congregations doubled, and doubled
again from 1975-81. Falcon concludes that at the present time (1985)
Hispanics make up the most rapidly growing minority group in North
America, and that this phenomenal growth is due, in part, to the large
mass immigrations. A translation of this book into English by Ron
Collins was published in 1986: The
Hispanic Mennonite Church in North
|The cover of the first volume of the Global History Book
features a Brethren in Christ baptism in the Ginqa river in Zimbabwe.
In 2003, the African Mennonite membership stood at 451,341, and
surpassed the Mennonite membership in North America. This volume
features many writers, and the chapters feature Central Africa,
Brethren in Christ, Eastern Africa and Western Africa. French and
Spanish language editions are being prepared for this volume, and
future volumes in this series will feature Asia, Latin America, Europe
and North America.
At the 1913 Mennonite General Conference, the Historical Committee
received permission to buy books on church history. The library was
located at the Mennonite Publishing House in Scottdale and John Horsch
was the custodian of the library. Horsch also served as
secretary-treasurer of the committee. By 1923, the library consisted of
200 titles, and a Catalogue of the library was published in 1929. Under
the leadership of Harold S. Bender these books got transferred to the
Mennonite Historical Library in the new Memorial Library at Goshen
College in 1940.
Photo at top of page:
This S. D. Guengerich book collection, desk and 1531 Froschauer Bible
were part of the Mennonite Historical Library, Goshen College, already
in 1948. This photograph was taken in the basement of the Memorial
Library, which served as Goshen College’s library from 1940-1966.
Source: Mennonite Historical
Library Photograph Collection
"God calls us to preserve our faith heritage, to interpret our stories,
and to proclaim God's work among us."