Since 1975, the Brethren in Christ Church has continued (in a variety of ways) to embrace, resist, and reform evangelicalism. At the same time, members of the church have continued to see themselves as both distinctively “Brethren in Christ” and a part of the larger evangelical movement. As a 2006 survey of church members revealed, when asked Brethren in Christ people self-identify as “evangelical” (44%), “Anabaptist” (29%), and/or “Brethren in Christ” (72%).

Even as they have continued to engage with evangelicals, the Brethren in Christ have also drawn on their own history to shape contemporary church life. Specifically, the church has examined the history of their engagement with evangelicals to draw inspiration for the future. In 2011, for example, moderator Warren Hoffman pointed to church leaders’ late-night prayer meeting at the 1950 NAE convention to inspire changes in contemporary church life. Just as those mid-century leaders had welcomed changes for the sake of growth, so too should present-day church members welcome changes that will “strengthen our outreach and [help us] become a more embracing community.”

But Hoffman’s analysis focuses on only one part of the story. As this exhibit has shown, Brethren in Christ people did not just see evangelicalism as a means by which to change their community for the better. They also saw it as a threat to resist and as an imperiled entity to reform. How might these stories of mid-century evangelical encounter help the Brethren in Christ to shape their future?

Share your responses below!


5 thoughts on “Coda”

  1. benjaminpwhite said:

    This is very cool, Devin. I think this is very accessible. It spells out the debate crystal clear. I’d like to see your analysis of the past 20 years too. How has the drift toward evangelism affected us in the overly “religiousized” political climate of post Reagan USA, and even worse, post G.W. Bush USA?

  2. benjaminpwhite said:

    This is very cool, Devin. Best part is how accessible it is. I’d like to hear your take on the last 30 years of evangelicalism in the BIC. I feel some of Ron Sider’s prophetic utterances have come to fruit. The dangers of evangelicalism as a political movement have in many ways caught us, hook, line and sinker. Seeking to enter the main stream, we’ve gotten pulled down stream into something we didn’t really bargain for at the beginning of the movement. The best thing about the BIC throughout our history has been our adaptability and willingness to follow with what we believe the Spirit to be doing next (which you spelled out well in this site). Evangelicalism in 1950 seemed like a good idea, but is it now? Using the means of the culture to communicate the gospel is just fine, brilliant in fact, as long as the means of the culture do not end up being our meaning. The gospel has been co-opted by forces that we haven’t really considered–forces that have led us away from some of what makes the gospel so compelling (particularly nonresistance). We need to discern and pray in order to sift out the good from the bad and keep forging ahead with the Spirit toward what is next. Because Evangelicalism is dead anyway. Mainstream evangelical churches are dropping like flies. We need to reconsider our strategy and continue to be the best of who we are. Lord, lead us!

  3. Alan & Beth said:

    I am excited about the way the church is moving forward. I think one important key relates to the Henry Ginder/Japan experience that shaped some of the conversation about changes in the mid-20th century. We need to allow ourselves to be shaped by our BIC brothers and sisters from around the world! The time for the model of white North Americans sending missionaries out to the “lost” rest of the world is definitely over! The BIC have vibrant congregations around the world who have important insights about evangelism, nonconformity, nonresistance, social justice, the Spirit, and many more areas. We are all part of God’s mission together. Lord, lead us! ¡Señor, guíanos!

  4. dorothy gish said:

    Thanks, Devin, for this helpful historic look. Hopefully it will help us as we seek to chart our way in a rapidly changing global world.

  5. Elaine Reed said:

    Well done and absolutely fascinating. I grew up during the 50’s and part of the 60’s
    BIC. I didn’t know then how much our church leaders planned and lead us in these
    changes. What wise, compassionate, and brave men and women of God. I especially liked what Ron Sider said about Christian nonconformity being not about dress, but about nonconformity to materialism. This would seem to also mean nonconformity to anything political or nationalistic that is not of Christ’s compassion for all.

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