A narrative to accompany A Century of
Church Programs in Context, 1897-1997
At this, what may be the final
General Assembly before integration, it is appropriate for us to look
back and to look ahead. To give you a sense of the church's mission of
healing and hope within the context of the world in which we live, let
us revisit the past 100 years. John Sharp, director of the Historical
Committee of the Mennonite Church, will share with you his reading of
the century. As he proceeds, the others on the platform will help to
tell the story, specifically of when, where, and how the Mennonite
Church and its program boards interfaced with social history.
Professor Historian Sharp,
are you ready?
"History is a profession and a hobby of mine. It's a privilege for me
to review this century. Let's begin ... "
1897, 1898, 1899
A century ago William McKinley was inaugurated as president of the
United States and Wilfred Laurier was prime minister of Canada. In
Mennonite circles, George Lambert was becoming a household name as he
stirred the church to respond to a crisis far beyond North American
borders -- a severe famine in India.
The church rallied, not only by sending food and money to starving
India, it also sent out its first missionaries to India -- J.A.
Ressler, W.B. and Alice Page. Here is a statement, written by J.D.
Graber, about the Mennonite Church's first overseas mission:
"Primarily and fundamentally, India needs the Gospel of Christ. She
needs this Gospel because we believe that any soul anywhere without a
living faith in Christ is lost. I should like to make my appeal for
India not on the basis of her sinful practices or of her revolting
heathenism. I shall not attempt to enlist your sympathies for India by
telling you terrible stories of child marriage, of accursed widowhood,
or of some of her customs that seem revolting to us. I shall not
attempt to draw the usual map of the world of India, China, Africa and
other Oriental countries painted in black and the rest of the world in
white ... I contend that this attitude and these tactics are not right,
and I earnestly hope I shall never be guilty of producing in anyone's
mind this feeling of complacent race superiority."
1900, 1901, 1902
While Sigmund Freud was publishing his psychoanalytic theories,
Mennonite women rolled up their sleeves and activated needles and
thread to support mission work, both at home and abroad.
Following the lead of their organizing elders, young people gathered in
literary societies for fellowship and activities, while the first old
people's home was also established.
The world was shocked by the assassination of President McKinley. Big
business was forging a new era, as J.P. Morgan organized the giant U.S.
Steel Corporation. But beyond the sounds of forging steel a new sound
developed: ragtime jazz. This new music, sometimes lively and sometimes
melancholy, expressed the soul of African-Americans.
Beatrix Potter introduced English-speaking children to the antics of
Peter Rabbit, who suffered the consequences of his disobedience at the
hands of farmer Brown. Not taken in by frivolous tales of talking
rabbits, Mennonites sang their way through a new English-language
hymnbook, The Church and Sunday School Hymnal (1902).
1903, 1904, 1905
Soft and cuddly Teddy bears made their appearance in 1903, named after
the "rough and ready" cowboy and presidential candidate, Teddy
Roosevelt. We'll never know whether the Wright brothers took a Teddy
bear on their first powered airplane ride, or how many pioneers who
settled the Alaskan frontier wished for the companionship of Teddy
bears in the face of Alaskan Grizzlies.
Helen Keller, the incorrigible blind and deaf child, was transformed by
her miracle-working teacher, Anne Sullivan. This child conquered
incredible odds to graduate from Radcliffe College in 1904. Helen
Keller become the hero and model for hearing- and seeing-impaired
people the world over.
Mennonite educational leaders probably paid little attention to the
mathematical genius Albert Einstein in 1905. They were more concerned
with the implications of higher education on the Mennonite Church than
with the Special Theory of Relativity. Nor did they pay attention to a
young man named Ty Cobb, who was beginning his baseball career with the
1906, 1907, 1908
Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus, which would
create a stir among theologians, had little effect on Mennonite mission
leaders who organized the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities in
1906. They were surely moved by the 700 people who died in the
devastating earthquake that hit San Francisco.
Oklahoma became the forty-sixth state of the union. Some Mennonites had
been among the eager settlers who rushed across the line into the
Cherokee strip when the government opened the land for white
settlement. How many were aware of the Native Americans, who had once
again been displaced?
In 1908 Henry Ford produced the first Model T Ford. Known by many as
the Tin Lizzy, she could be purchased for $850. This marvel of
mechanical technology revolutionized North American society. The
founders of the Mennonite Publishing House could hardly imagine that
soon the periodicals and books they would produce would be carried all
over North American in 18-wheeled descendants of the Tin Lizzy.
1909, 1910, 1911
The first commercial manufacture of Bakelite marked the beginning of
the Plastic Age. Can you imagine life without it? No Tupperware, no
plastic bags, no light-weight glasses frames, no plastic ware for the
new students at Hesston Academy and Bible School?
Of course we've always had it, but the weekend took on new meaning in
1910. Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday became a block of time for
leisure, for travel, for anything but work! And of course, we had
fathers, but we didn't celebrate before the residents of Spokane,
Washington started the trend, which became a national holiday in the
The burgeoning of popular culture coincided with (and possibly caused?)
struggles in the typical Mennonite congregation. The issue wasn't
whether church members could go to peep shows - that was a clear no.
Rather, the church was disquieted by the controversies among
traditionalists, Fundamentalists, progressives, and modernists. A lot
of effort by church leaders went into the clarification and advocacy of
correct doctrine throughout the second and third decades of the
In 1911 China found itself in a revolution. The Manchu dynasty, in
power since 1644, was overthrown. The new republic abolished pigtails,
reformed its calendar, and elected a president. Chiang Kai-shek was
appointed the president's military adviser.
1912, 1913, 1914
The modern world was shocked by a great tragedy on April 15, 1912. The
unsinkable Titanic on its maiden voyage sank off the coast of
Newfoundland. Captain Smith had said his career had been uneventful.
This was to be -- and was -- his last voyage. Of special interest for
Mennonites was the death of General Conference Mennonite missionary
Annie C. Funk, a second class passenger. She had been called home from
India to Bally, Pa. to see her mother one last time.
Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian Passive Resistance Movement. was
arrested. The world would hear much more about this hero of nonviolent
resistance in the future. Under Gandhi's leadership, India gained its
political independence from Great Britain.
It is unlikely that Gandhi was a household name among Mennonites in the
early teens. When the war in Europe came close to home, even in the
form of persecution, Mennonites thought about their own forms of
witness for peace.
June 28, 1914, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne,
and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo. This triggered an
Austro-Hungarian declaration of war against Serbia. Great Britain
declared war on Germany. Canada, a part of the British Empire found
itself automatically at war. The domino effect had begun which led to a
war never before experienced on earth -- World War I. It was to be the
"war to end all wars."
1915, 1916, 1917
In New York, Margaret Sanger was jailed for writing Family
Limitation, the first book on birth control. After her release she
helped open the first birth control clinic. North American
sensibilities had little tolerance for such intervention of God's
natural processes. Rural Mennonites had their eyes on Henry Ford's
newest invention: the farm tractor.
In 1916, Woodrow Wilson, the professor from Princeton University, was
reelected president of the United States, barely defeating Charles
Evans Hughes. Rather than singing popular political tunes, Mennonites
began singing new gospel songs from the new collection published by
MPH, Life Songs #1.
What some feared, and what others demanded, came to pass in 1917: The
U.S. declared war on Germany, and then on Hungary and Austria. Canada
passed the Military Service Act to reinforce its volunteer fighting
force. The war and the new rage, bobbed hair for women,
notwithstanding, Mennonites sent missionaries to South America and
opened a new school in Park View
(Harrisonburg ), Virginia.
1918, 1919, 1920
Finally, the "great" war which was to make "the world safe for
democracy" ended. Woodrow Wilson proposed Fourteen Points for world
peace. Russian Ex-Czar Nicholas II and his family were executed. The
Serbo-Croatian-Slovene Kingdom of Yugoslavia emerged. The global
influenza epidemic claimed thousands of lives.
The emergency needs of starving Mennonites in the Ukraine precipitated
the organizing of Mennonite Central Committee, founded in 1920, with
the participation of many from our denomination. Among them was Clayton
Kratz of the Franconia Mennonite Conference who was arrested in Russia
and never heard from again. That same year, Herald Press published Feeding
the Hungry by P. C. Hiebert.
Workers in Winnipeg initiated Canada's first and only general strike
(May 15, 1919). Laborers reacted against industrial abuses, high
prices, low wages, long hours. For six weeks all essential services
were shut down. This explosive event was a harbinger of the growing
role of the labour movement in Canadian politics.
The optimistic "Roaring Twenties" arrived on the American scene as the
19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, Warren G. Harding was
elected 29th President, and Babe Ruth was sold by the Boston Red Sox to
the NY Yankees for $125,000. Scottdale's new Youth's Christian
Companion did not comment on these events.
1921, 1922, 1923
Mackenzie King, the popular, highly-skilled leader of the Liberal
Party, was elected Prime Minister of Canada (1921). Meanwhile in
Pittsburgh, Pa., KDKA began transmitting the first regular radio
program in the U.S. The Mennonite General Conference, in session at
Garden City, Mo., incorporated Fundamentalist language and concepts
into its new Confession of Faith.
The Ku Klux Klan, assuming the name of the post-Civil War organization,
gained political power and boldness. In 1922, Klan activities became
violent throughout the southern United Sates, destroying property and
branding and whipping African-Americans and those who sympathized with
them. At the same time Louis Armstrong, arrived in Chicago to join Joe
"King" Oliver's band, and soon made his mark as a legendary jazz
Disaster struck Japan when the centers of Tokyo and Yokohama were
destroyed by an earthquake, leaving 120,000 dead (1923). Instability of
another kind caused the closing of Goshen College. The controversies of
the teens and early 20's dealt sometimes with large theological issues,
but is was often expressed in painful disagreements.
In 1922 Noah Oyer, dean of Hesston College, began writing the first
vacation Bible school curriculum, which would eventually be published
1924, 1925, 1926
The following year (1924) Sanford Calvin Yoder, the new president of
Goshen College, was charged with the task of rebuilding a faculty that
would reflect the values and standards of the church. That same year
another Calvin (Coolidge) became president of the U.S. when Warren
Harding died in office.
In 1925 public opinions raged in a small courtroom in Tennessee. John
T. Scopes, a high school teacher, became the focal point of a campaign
to test a controversial law banning evolution theory in Tennessee's
public schools. The case, known as the "monkey trial," pitted
Protestant fundamentalism against the encroachment of scientific method
in one of the most publicized cases of the era.
Ironically, in the same year that Hitlerjugend was founded
(1926), the Mennonite World Conference held its first meeting in Basel
and Zurich, Switzerland.
1927, 1928, 1929
The world focused its attention upward these years: Charles A.
Lindbergh flew nonstop from New York to Paris. Amelia Earhart was the
first woman to fly across the Atlantic. And Canada was the first to use
airplanes to dust crops. Airplanes weren't the only objects in the air:
Babe Ruth kept baseballs in the air too! He hit 60 home runs for the
Yankees in 1927.
In 1927 Mennonite Publishing House bought its first bookstore from
Weavers in New Holland, Pennsylvania.
The Greenwood Mennonite School in Delaware has the distinction of being
the oldest Mennonite elementary school in continuous operation. It
began in March, 1928, after the Mennonite students were expelled from
the Greenwood public school for refusal, on grounds of conscience, to
salute and pledge allegiance to the American flag.
1930, 1931, 1932
With the Stock Market collapse of '29, the Roaring Twenties came to a
dramatic halt. The "Dirty Thirties" took their place. The Lindbergh
baby was kidnapped. Grant Wood's American Gothic appeared. But
not all was grim. Hattie T. Caraway was elected the first woman in the
U.S. Senate. Amelia Earhart flew solo across the Atlantic. And Maude
Buckingham Douglass, who discovered Mennonites in Colorado, inspired
many by her mission work among her own people in the Ozarks.
Farther north, in Chicago, mission workers began to hold Spanish
language services for Hispanic migrants.
It seems rather insignificant today, but what an innovation: church
meetings, designed for youth! Many of these were held on Sunday
The Mennonite college presidents of the 1930s, such as Milo Kauffman,
Sanford Yoder and J. L. Stauffer helped our colleges survive the Great
Depression. There are many touching stories of their personal
sacrifices on behalf of students and faculty members.
1933, 1934, 1935
In 1933 FDR was inaugurated into the first of four terms as president
of the U.S. He won the '32 election over incumbent Herbert Hoover by a
landslide. Promising to pull the country out of the Depression, he
initiated policies of the New Deal, such as Social Security. In Canada
Prime Minister Richard Bennet's Conservative government founded the
Bank of Canada, and proposed his own "New Deal." But McKenzie King was
elected once again
Oversees, Adolf Hitler was appointed German Chancellor. After gaining
dictatorial powers, he began building the first of the infamous
concentration camps, and began boycotting Jews.
The Vacation Bible School movement was young but healthy. C. F. Yake
and Paul Erb were the editors of Mennonite Publishing House's Bible
school curriculum. The church appointed a committee to study Christian
Stewardship and to bring plans for an organization that would provide
for medical care, hospital bills, and funeral expenses of needy members
of the church.
1936, 1937, 1938
Women made gains in the market place when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled
in favor of minimum wages for female workers. The rights of
African-Americans to gain an education were recognized
when the Supreme Court ruled that the University of Missouri Law School
must admit African-Americans. U.S. workers benefited when the 40-hour
work week was established. This era had its tragedies, too. Johnstown,
Pa., was devastated by flood waters. And the heroic aviator, Amelia
Earhart, died when her plane plunged into the Pacific.
The Sunday School movement entered the church earlier in the century.
However, in establishing a Commission for Christian Education, the
church signaled its earnest attempt to be an educator of quality.
Calvary Mennonite Church in Mathis, Texas, began in Tuleta as a mission
to Hispanics in south Texas.
1939, 1940, 1941
All the world became a stage--for another world war. Canada joined
Britain in declaring war on Nazi Germany. The U.S. congress passed the
Selective Service Act, and provoked by the Japanese bombing of Pearl
Harbor, declared war on Japan and Germany. FDR allowed for Civilian
Public Service for Conscientious Objectors, which must include "work of
national importance." The Peace Churches must administer and pay for
this alternative service. The first CPS camp was opened in Grottoes,
Cleaning up after a flood, raising a barn, helping a sick neighbor
harvest crops, providing alms for the widows of the church: In 1939, we
began to use a term for it: mutual aid.
In 1941 Camp Men-O-Lan opened in Quakertown and Niagara Camp opened in
Fort Erie, Ontario. In the next two decades camps were established
throughout Canada and the United States.
Forty years after mission work in India began, Ezra and Orpha
Hershberger went to Darjeeling, India and S. Jay and Ida Hostetler went
to Bihar, India.
1942, 1943, 1944
General Dwight Eisenhower was placed in command of all Allied armies.
News headlines reflected the European carnage: The murder of millions
of Jews in Nazi gas chambers, "round the clock" bombing of Germany, the
massive invasion of Normandy, and the "Battle of the Bulge.".
While the world's attention is focused on Nazi Germany and the Pacific
Theater, the U.S. government imprisoned 100,000 Japanese-Americans.
Fearing that these American-born citizens of Japanese descent would
turn against their chosen country, the U.S. built its own prison
Harold S. Bender gave a hurried speech that declared Mennonites had a
noble heritage. It was a repeatable and a biblical heritage. A new
identity could be found in The Anabaptist Vision. It was a
World War II brought new awareness of societal challenges to Mennonite
life and witness, and Mennonite high schools were started in most
population centers of the Mennonite Church. At first these schools
tried to protect Mennonite youth from secular influences. Now the goals
focus on integrating faith with all other dimensions of life, and
preparing students for service.
In 1944, the Mennonite Board of Missions (MBM) Relief Committee
received a mandate to begin Mennonite Service Units, thus beginning the
Voluntary Service Program. That same year, J. D. Graber became the
first full-time, paid secretary of the MBM.
1945, 1946, 1947
FDR, elected for an unprecedented fourth term, died suddenly and was
succeeded by VP Harry S. Truman. "V. E. Day" ended the war in Europe.
The partitioning of Europe set the stage for the post-war Cold War.
Truman authorized the use of the newly developed Atomic bomb on
Hiroshima (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9). Japan surrendered five days
later. Estimated casualties of WW II: an incredible 45 million.
Mennonite Mutual Aid (MMA) was founded in 1945 to help the church
practice the Biblical principles of mutual aid and stewardship. Its
first program was to provide loans for returning CPS men.
MMA was born on May 31, 1945. Twenty-seven persons gathered in
Adelphian Hall at Goshen College for the historic event. The Mutual Aid
Committee drew up Articles of Incorporation and a Constitution. The new
organization was authorized to "immediately arrange its offices" and
raise $5,000 for operating expenses.
C. L. Graber, functioning as secretary, was made administratively
responsible for the new organization. Within a few weeks the new
organization had a room in a house on South Eight Street in Goshen, and
some stationary to begin business. By the end of October 1945, Graber
reported receipts in loans and contributions of $8,750. He also
reported spending $254.91 in startup costs.
In September Guy Hershberger wrote three articles for the Gospel
Herald announcing the formation of Mennonite Mutual Aid, Inc. MMA,
he assured his readers, would help them find each other.
The Mennonite community movement was an effort on the part of church
people, who observed the post-war migration to urban centers, to extol
the virtues of rural community. Mennonite Community magazine,
which later became Christian Living, carried the spirit and
content of the
movement. Out of this movement came the Mennonite Community Cookbook
by Mary Emma Showalter, a best-seller ever since.
MBM's initiative to China was significant but short-lived because of
the Communist revolution. You can learn more from the book We Tried
to Stay by Dorothy McCammon, who died in 1997.
Having been exposed to new worlds, Mennonites would never be the same.
The church could no longer remain isolated. A new era had arrived. An
electronic brain built on the campus of Pennsylvania University in
Philadelphia, would help Mennonites do their new work. We call it the
1948, 1949, 1950
National boundaries and names continued to change. The survivors of the
Holocaust formed the new nation of Israel. Ghandi was assassinated.
Apartheid became national policy in South Africa. Communist People's
Republic of China was established under Mao Tse-tung. North Korea
invaded South Korea. Harry S. Truman was elected U.S. President,
soundly, and unexpectedly,
defeating Thomas Dewey.
The Mennonite Church sent missionaries to Japan (Carl and Esther Beck
and Ralph and Genevieve Buckwalter) and Belgium (David A. and Wilma
Shank). 1-W men started congregations in the urban centers where they
In 1950, Ruth Stoltzfus broadcast the first Heart to Heart
message on radio in North America, and MMA introduced its first medical
and burial plans that same year.
Elizabeth Bender began to translate Mennonitisches Lexikon
which grew into the four-volume Mennonite Encyclopedia,
published in the 1950's.
Builder magazine as well as the graded Sunday School
series were cooperative publications of Mennonite Publishing House and
the General Conference Mennonite Church's Faith and Life Press.
1951, 1952, 1953
Color television appeared, adding multiple hues to the black and white
screen. The publication of the Revised Standard Version Bible
added considerable color to the religious scene. 32 scholars,
Protestant and Catholic, collaborated on the project. Many Christians
considered it a perversion and condemned the new version that dared
differ with the King James Version. Millard Lind and Howard
Charles were asked to give Gospel Herald readers perspective on
the RSV. The King James prevailed in most Mennonite
congregations for several more decades. It also prevailed in the
coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Mennonite Foundation receives, manages and distributes gifts of cash
and property for Mennonite conferences and institutions. Today its
portfolio totals more than $250 million.
In 1953 the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities appointed a Radio
Evangelism Committee. It also made The Mennonite Hour an
"official arm of the Mennonite Church," and agreed to sponsor and
promote the program of the Mennonite Crudaders. Among the hymnbooks
listed on the time line, Songs of the Church, published in
1953, is likely the least known.
1954, 1955, 1956
Biblical justice, read from KJV and the RSV, became the
basis for the civil rights movement. The charismatic Baptist preacher
Martin Luther King, Jr., emerged as the movement's able leader. The
U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation by color in public schools
was a violation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. In
Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks sparked an effective city-wide bus
boycott. A few radical Mennonites joined in the demonstrations seeking
justice and equal opportunity for their African-American brothers and
In 1954 J. R. and Susan Burkholder and Peter and Alice Sawatsky began
work among Portuguese-speaking people in Brazil. That same year H.
James and Anna Martin and Clyde and Anna Mosemann began mission work in
In cooperation with Goodville Mutual Insurance Company, MMA began to
offer automobile insurance. In 1955, the Puerto Rico Mennonite
Conference was founded.
1957, 1958, 1959
A new era of exploration--and international competition--began when the
U.S.S.R launched the world's first satellites, Sputnik I and II. The
U.S. raced to launch its tiny, 31-pound satellite, Explorer I. The
3,000-pound Sputnik III followed. The USA established NASA (National
Aeronautics and Space Administration), and launched the first moon
rocket, which failed to reach its target.. The Soviets achieved two
more firsts in the space race: they sent two monkeys into the Earth's
orbit, and successfully sent Lunik to the moon.
Menno Insurance Service (a stock corporation owned by MMA) was founded,
providing access to various insurance and employee benefit products
from other carriers. One year of the establishment of the Menno
Insurance Service, MMA set up the Catastrophe Aid Fund.
In 1957, MBM missions workers were sent to Algeria, Ghana and Nepal. In
1959, Edwin and Irene Weaver were sent to Nigeria to provide leadership
training institutions for Bible teachers in West Africa, and to help
indigenous national church groups grow in their understanding of the
Hundreds of thousands of dollars for relief, channeled largely through
MCC, is the result of four decades of relief sales. The first one took
place 40 years ago (1957) in Morgantown, Pennsylvania.
1960, 1961, 1962
Two men named John entered the world's stage and made their mark in
history--John F. Kennedy and Pope John XXIII. JFK was elected the 35th
and youngest president of the United States. Pope =John XXIII, a bold
reformer, convened the Second Vatican Council to renew and reshape the
Roman Catholic Church. Both served short terms: President Kennedy,
three years, and Pope John IIXXX, less than five years. Both were
energetic and visionary leaders.
Mennonite Secondary Education Council united the various high school
programs. Eastern Mennonite Seminary began a three-year graduate
program. And Mennonite elementary schools formed an association.
MMA introduced its first life insurance plans -- called "survivors'
aid" -- providing assistance for survivors of the deceased. Quite a
large number of Mennonites found life insurance in its traditional
forms to be a worldly gamble.
Another significant shift was taking place around 1960. There was a
move, slow but noticeable, for decision-making to move from a few
powerful leaders to congregations, and in the congregations, the
decision-making began to include non-ordained members.
1963, 1964, 1965
John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, and Pope John XXIII
died in Rome after a painful illness. Kennedy's assassination by Lee
Harvey Oswald was symbolic of the national mood of violence. Jack Ruby
shot and killed Oswald. Riots and beatings of African-Americans by
Whites and police marked civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham,
Alabama. 200,000 "Freedom Marchers" descended on Washington, D. C. The
war in Viet Nam escalated. Malcom X was shot in New York. College and
university students demonstrated against the U.S. bombing of North Viet
Nam. Some resisted the draft. Race riots broke out in the Watts
district of Los Angeles.
On January 1, 1964 we began referring to the bookstores of the
Mennonite Publishing House as ProvidentBookstores. And speaking of
books, we think of the many writers who have supplied us with material.
The following is an excerpt from a letter sent to the planners of this
meeting from one of the writers, Katie Funk Wiebe:
"I owe a great deal to the Mennonite Publishing House. My first
connection was through Daniel Hertzler when he was editor of Christian
Living. I submitted an article on reading. I was just beginning to
freelance. No word from him for a long time. Then I received a letter
from him with a check for $5. But he returned most of my article. The
check was for two paragraphs "cut out" literally of the article ... I
still have the mutilated article somewhere in my files. But I was
overjoyed.I had made my first sale! Some time later, at the 1962
Mennonite World Conference in Kitchener, I timidly asked Dan about
submitting an article. After all, I was talking to a real editor. Quite
simply he said, "Submit it." Helen Alderfer asked me for articles. She
was also the first to invite me to speak at a widow's retreat. So she
launched another scary aspect of my development - speaking in public.
The summer of 1976 I received a phone call from Paul Schrock asking me
to write a manuscript about Mennonite Disaster Service, an overdue
project for a 25th anniversary of the organization. Paul was the book
editor for Good Times with Old Times and Bless Me Too, My
Father. Mike King has ably edited my last three Herald Press books.
I also felt privileged to write two Adult Bible Study guides
for Laurence Martin. I had had chapters in numerous other Herald Press
books. As I said, I owe a great deal to Mennonite Publishing House."
1966, 1967, 1968
Canada celebrated its centennial in a big way at the World's Fair in
Montreal. Canadians commemorated the confederation that was established
by the British North America Act in 1867.
On March 29, Queen Victoria signed the documents authorizing the new
"Dominion of Canada." The movement for a strong centralized government
was motivated in part by the desire to avoid the "mistakes and
weaknesses" of the U.S. government, in which the states were given too
much power. The bloody Civil War had seemed proof enough. In 1968,
Canada's neighbor to the south endured still more violence when Martin
Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated.
Mennonite Publishing House faced an unusual problem. It wanted to
publish a magazine for youth. It had a successful magazine called Youth's
Christian Companion, but the YCC was everybody's, including
Sunday school superintendents and senior citizens. So the board created
two new magazines to replace it -- Purpose for the adults and With
for the youth.
1969, 1970, 1971
The Mennonite Church, recognizing the need to incorporate its
African-American members, approved the organization of the Urban Racial
Council in 1969. While NASA put the first man on the moon, the
Mennonite Church put its first woman in the pulpit. Emma Richards was
ordained for pastoral ministry by the Illinois Conference. Change
continued. The church reorganized itself in 1971 in order to better
represent members of congregations, and to recognize the congregation
as the primary body for fellowship and discernment. Paul Kraybill was
the first general secretary of the Mennonite General Board.
Through an MBM inititative, the Mennonite Church launched the Minority
Ministries Council with John Powell as executive secretary in 1969. The
Mennonite Hymnal made its debut during these years.
1972, 1973, 1974
Richard M. Nixon was reelected U.S. President by a landslide in 1972.
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger assured Americans that peace in Viet
Nam was "at hand." But in Washington, D. C., five men were arrested
inside the Democratic National Headquarters in a complex called
Watergate. "Watergate" became notorious as a senate committee
investigated the scandal and its cover-up, complete with "gaps" in the
White House tape recordings. President Nixon is forced to resign after
additional tapes reveal his involvement in the cover-up.
Perhaps it was the need to shed the doom of political scandal that led
to the shedding of clothing in the new fad on college campuses called
Daniel Hertzler summarized the Mennonite Board of Education's
Philosophy of Christian Education Study. Published as Mennonite
Education: Why and How, it led to a two-year "Churchwide Thrust on
In the early 1970's there was a consultation on the Holy Spirit, then
festivals of the Holy Spirit, and in 1974 a meeting of charismatics at
1975, 1976, 1977
Oil prices were raised 10% by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting
Countries (OPEC) in 1975. By 1977 President Carter warned that the
energy crisis in the U.S. could lead to a "national
catastrophe." He urged Americans to respond with the "moral equivalent
of war" to make "profound" changes in oil consumption. Long lines at
the gas pump and high prices became commonplace. Small, fuel-efficient
cars replaced luxury-sized "gas hogs."
Responding to the new awareness of consumption habits, Mennonite
Publishing House published the More With Less Cookbook, which
has become an all-time best-seller for Herald Press. Later it published
Extending the Table, which took on an international
1978, 1979, 1980
The world was shocked by the news that a test-tube baby was born in
England. Lesley Brown gave birth to a girl--the first human baby
conceived outside the body of a woman. Intense discussions of bioethics
followed. President Jimmy Carter made history when he negotiated the
Camp David peace accord between Israel and Egypt. In England Margaret
Thatcher becomes Britain's first woman prime minister. In Pennsylvania
a small "Three Mile Island" in the middle of the Susquehanna River
gained instant notoriety when a partial meltdown released high levels
of radiation from its nuclear plant.
In consultation with the Hispanic Concilio, MBE established a
Spanish-language leadership training program at Nazerene Bible College
in Texas: later this became the Hispanic Ministries department at
The variety of legal entries established by Mennonite Mutual Aid didn't
quite cover the map. People wanted to contribute, not just to pay their
own insurance premiums but also to help other in need. In response, MMA
established the Sharing Fund. Since its establishment, the Sharing Fund
has disbursed about $15 million.
The James and Rowena Lark Award is presented to people who have been
faithful in urban ministries. The first recipients were Carl Smucker,
Amber Wright and Lupe DeLeon, Jr.
1981, 1982, 1983
The hostage crisis in Iran ended when 53 U.S. citizens held by militant
Iranians for 444 days were released. The hostages were released just
hours after President Carter left office. The new president, Ronald
Reagan, welcomed the hostages home. Sandra Day O'Conner became the
first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court.. In 1982 instituted
constitutional reforms, including a charter of rights; the
strengthening of provincial control over natural resources; and the
recognition and affirmation of the existing rights of Canada's
The Wellness Program listed there in 1982 was an initiative to become
pro-active in health maintenance, that is, to invest in building health
and not just to pay for broken health.
Eastern Mennonite Seminary opened its Center for Evangelism and Church
1984, 1985, 1986
In 1985 Gorbachev became general secretary of the soviet Communist
Part. Little did the world realize the reforms he would initiate. South
Africa, increasingly under pressure to abandon its apartheid policies,
declared a state of emergency. Desmond Tutu, a respected churchman and
a powerful voice for freedom and equality, was elected Archbishop of
South Africa. A national tragedy hit the U.S. when the space shuttle
Challenger exploded, with elementary school teacher Christa McAuliffe
aboard. During Challenger's six-day mission, she planned to teach two
lessons from orbit to classrooms across the nation as the first teacher
in space, indeed, the first truly private citizen to win a seat on a
space shuttle. The flight of mission 51-L was suddenly over.
At Mennonite World Conference in 1984, Ron Sider proposed Christian
In the decade of 1985 to 1995, MBM provided rsources for conferences
and congregations for Vision '95. One seventh of current Mennonite
Churches began during this decade.
MBE established the Theological and Pastoral Education COuncil, one of
whose projects now is the distance learning program for pastors and
1987, 1988, 1989
In 1987 the Iran-Contra scandal dominated the news. President Reagan
made a secret decision to sell arms to Iran in opposition to his own
policy to remain neutral in the Iran-Iraq war. Then Reagan's aides used
the arms sales profits and money from third countries to help fund a
civil war in Nicaragua.. In 1989 the world's attention was focused on
the Tiannamen Square in China, where pro-democracy students were
literally overrun by government tanks. Peristroika and Glasnost won the
day in the Soviet Union. Solidarity won over great odds in Poland. The
Berlin Wall, which separated Germany since WW II was knocked down.
The concept of mutual aid had found its context largely in the family,
the congregation, and the conference. With the Share Net Employer Plan,
MMA extended the mutual aid concept into business.
These three years were important ones in congregational life. United
Native Ministries Council was established in 1987, followed by the
Blueprint for Youth Ministry and the Living in Faithful Evangelism
(LIFE) project. In 1989, Service Adventure Units open for the first
time. The first locations were in Sarasota, Champaign, and Philippi.
1990, 1991, 1992
Once again political boundaries were redrawn and political power was
transferred. East and West Germany were reunited. Nelson Mandela was
released from prison. And reforms gave legal equality to black South
Africans. Soviet president Gorbachev wins the Nobel Peace Prize. The
Soviet Congress surrendered its powers, and former Soviet states
emerged as independent nations. U.S. President George Bush ordered air
strikes against Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Operation Desert Shield/Storm
took the lives of 100,000 Iraqis.
Howard Brenneman was appointed president of MMA in December of 1991,
just in time to face the full-blown health care crisis, which came in
the decade of the 1990's. In 1992, MMA adopted a guide for responding
to this crisis.
Mennonites continued to sing. In 1992 after many years of careful work,
musicians gave the new Hymnal: A Worship Book to MPH for
1993, 1994, 1995
Violence again struck the U.S. as federal agents destroyed the Branch
Davidian cult in Waco, Texas. In Idaho federal agents attacked militia
members on Ruby Ridge. Exactly two years after Waco, the Murrah federal
building in Oklahoma City was bombed, claiming the lives of 168
victims. In South Africa former civil rights leader Nelson Mandela
became the country's first black president. South African native
Stanley Green became MBM president. And Donella Clemens became the
Church's first woman moderator.
In 1995, Mennonite Board of Missions Voluntary Service and General
Conference Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) decided to merge. MDS
resoponded to a natural disaster in Florida.
"By the middle of January we could move out of a shed and into a
beautifully renovated home," wrote a memeber of the Homestead Mennonite
Church in southern Florida. He went on: "Many,
probably at least a hundred people, worked on it. It's a Mennonite
miracle. On August 24, 1992 Hurricane Andrew blasted winds of 160 miles
per hour, throwing stones, metal, wood and leaves against the Homestead
Church where people were waiting out the storm. Next morning at 5 am,
the people could look up through the eye of the hurricane and see the
wall of the storm on both sides and stars directly above. Later that
day people came out of hiding to find stuff lying everywhere, leaves
stripped from bushes and trees. Houses of course were in shambles.
Mennonite Disaster Services workers arrived from Sarasota. First they
secured the church building, then organizxed us into teamd in order to
help others get help. Eventually we heard 'now let's go look at your
house.' An amazing range of people and groups were lined up by Howard
and Jean Schmitt (pastors of Bayshore Mennonite Church) to help make it
Laura Schlabach began work in Mongolia in 1993, and two years later
Drew and May Ellen Robinson joined her. The mission work there is part
of a special partnership between MBM, EMM, and the Mongolia Support
Group, a groups of congregations and individuals from Holmes and Wayne
counties in Ohio.
Bill Clinton was reelected to a second term as president of the United
States, though dogged by the alleged scandals of Whitewater, political
fundraising and Paula Jones. TWA flight 800 exploded killing all 230
people aboard in the worst air disaster in aviation history. Hong Kong
was returned to China, and as we all know, Mike Tyson bit off more than
he could chew in his ill-fated boxing match with heavyweight champion
In the past two years, MPH has published the eight volume of Believers
Church Bible Commentary, the 35th Studies in Anabaptist and
Mennonite History, 50 other books aloong with its ten periodicals
and curriculum pieces.
MMA continues to explore opportunities for mutual assisstance. Two
recent programs are Affinity Life plans and Medical Savings Accounts.
For the first time, MBE installed a woman as president of a Mennonite
Church College. In 1997, Shirley Hershey Showalter was inaugerated in
as president of Goshen College.
Delegates to the Mennonite Church General Assembly reviewed the work of
the program boards on Wednesday afternoon in the context of global
Oh, that's us. That's now. I guess we're caught up!
Please join me as we thank God. Holy and reverent is thy name, Lord God
of history. We are grateful to You for the privilege of living in the
20th century. It has been a time of creative work, wonderful
discoveries, and honorable experinces. It has also been a time of
selfishness, sin, and suffering, brought on by human frailty. Forgive
our errors and please forget them. But where we have walked in your way
and carried out your will on earth, let those events rebound in memory
for the glory of God who will be Sovereign Lord of the 21st century.
and maintained by John E. Sharp
Last updated 7 September 1999