a. Response to Cal Redekop by Abe Dueck
6. The Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church: Some
Historical Notes by William Schroeder
7. Call for Papers
8. Book Reviews
Menno Simons: 500th Birthday Anniversary
by William Schroeder
In the sixteenth century Europe was a place of uncertainly and change.
Martin Luther had challenged the mightiest power on earth in his day,
the Roman Catholic Church, causing many people to abandon that medieval
institution and to follow him in his teachings. However, the torch
of the Reformation did not remain there but was taken up by other
reformers who modified Luther's teachings in some important respects
and soon gained a following of their own.
The Anabaptists in Zurich, led by Conrad Grebel, constituted such
a group. They advocated a personal faith in Christ, adult baptism
and separation of church and state. Persecution compelled them to
flee to neighbouring countries and so to spread Anabaptist ideas.
In the Netherlands one of their converts, Menno Simons, became their
leader and in the course of time the whole movement adopted his name.
Menno Simons was born in Witmarsum, Friesland, in 1496, four years after Columbus
discovered America. 1
In 1520, at the age of twenty-four, he was ordained as priest and assigned to
the Catholic Church in the village of Pingjum, two kilometres northwest of Witmarsum.
Menno was a successful and contented priest before a series of events
brought about a crisis and radical change in his way of life. First,
while carrying out his usual priestly duties, doubts came to him about
the reality of a miracle transpiring with the Mass. Did the bread
and wine he was using actually change into the body of Christ? When
these doubts persisted, Menno discussed his personal perplexity and
doubt with his superior. He searched the writings of the Church Fathers
and the Reformers but none could offer a satisfactory solution to
Finally, and with great apprehension, Menno decided to search diligently
in the New Testament, a book he had never read before. He was surprised
to discover that the Bible taught nothing of the traditional teaching
of the Church on the Mass.
The second event that changed Menno's life occurred in Leeuwarden
on March 20, 1531. On that day a tailor named Sicke Freerks was publicly
beheaded because he had been rebaptized. When Menno heard that the
victim was a good, God-fearing man, he wondered why a man would be
ready to die for faith linked to his baptism. He wondered whether
the Catholic Church could be mistaken about child baptism as it was
wrong about transubstantiation.
Once more he turned to the Scriptures for an answer. He discovered
that there was in fact no Biblical basis for infant baptism. In spite
of all his inner turmoil, outwardly Menno still appeared as a successful
priest. He was promoted to the position of pastor in Witmarsum.
The third event that changed Menno's life was the tragedy at Bolsward
on April 7, 1535. On that day a group of some three hundred radical
Anabaptists (Melchiorites), who had taken refuge in an old cloister
and had barricaded themselves against government forces, were overpowered
and slain. Among those killed was Menno's own brother. This catastrophe,
occurring less than four kilometres south-east of Witmarsum, made
a profound impression on Menno Simons. He saw the victims as poor,
misguided sheep who, although in error, dared to face death for their
convictions. He, on the other hand, knew the truth of the gospel but
didn't have the courage to follow it. While in this traumatic state
of mind and soul, Menno turned to God for forgiveness and was fully
changed. The whole truth dawned on him gradually. For another nine
months he remained within the Catholic Church, but in January, 1536,
he gave up his priestly office. He turned his back on a life of ease,
security and pleasure, and deliberately chose the way of the cross.
For several months after his conversion and subsequent renunciation of the
priesthood, Menno went into hiding in the vicinity of Witmarsum. He stayed in
the home of Hermann and Gerrit Jansz, who lived about one kilometre southeast
of the village, for at least part of the time. Their house was one of a cluster
of four cottages. A small shed (Scheune), which was almost totally hidden
from view by the four neighbouring dwellings, was attached to the Jansz house.
According to tradition it was in this Scheune that Menno was baptized.
It was also there that he married Gertrude Hoyer, his life's companion. And it
was there that he first preached the gospel and won men and women to Christ.
2 When Menno's activities and hiding place became known,
his persecution at the hand of the state and church officials commenced. On October
24, 1536, the public prosecutor of Friesland demanded that Hermann and Gerrit
Jansz publicly admit their error or be sentenced to death for having sheltered
"Menno Simonzoon," the former pastor in Witmarsum. However, before they could
be apprehended, the two couples fled to the vicinity of Groningen. In Groningen
Obbe Philips and several other leaders of the moderate wing of the Anabaptists
persuaded Menno Simons to accept ordination as elder of their new church. From
that day forward Menno, his wife, and their three children wandered from one hiding
place to another and from one city or state to another wherever Anabaptists were
tolerated. In 1543 he fled to Emden, in 1545 to Cologne, and in 1546 to Wismar.
It was during his stay in Emden that his followers were first referred to as "Mennists".
Wherever Menno Simons went he preached the gospel, baptized new converts,
ordained ministers, organized churches and wrote books.
3 At all times he had to travel and work in secret because of
threats to his life. In 1542 an imperial edict in the name of Charles V was issued
against Menno. The edict placed a price of 100 gold guilders on his head and forbade
anyone from giving him aid or shelter and from reading his books. These edicts
were not mere words, but were strictly enforced. In 1539, Tjaert Reyerts was tortured
and killed at the wheel in Leeuwarden because he had given lodging to Menno Simons.
Another man was executed because he had transported Menno Simons in a boat down
the Meuse River from Fischerswert to Roermand. On April 16, 1545, Quirinus Pieters
was burnt at the stake in Groningen because he had been baptized by Menno Simons
six years earlier. To help government officials apprehend their most wanted criminals,
Menno Simons being one of them, they employed artists to prepare posters which
displayed sketches of the offenders and provided information about the reward.
These posters were displayed in public places. It is believed that followers of
Menno Simons retained some of these posters as treasured souvenirs. Later these
sketches were used by artists such as van Sichem, de Cooge and van de Velde to
prepare the first formal portraits of Menno Simons, some of which are available
to us today. Menno's stay in Wismar from 1546-1554 was a relatively peaceful one.
He was able to spend most of his time visiting newly organized Mennonite churches
from Flanders to the Vistula Delta in West Prussia.
However, as time went on, the civil and ecclesiastical authorities in Wismar
made it difficult for Mennonites to reside in that city. They declared that all
Anabaptists should be banished from Wismar by November 11, 1554. Menno fled to
the village of Wüstenfelde on the Fresenburg estate, north of Bad Oldesloe,
a few months before the deadline. The owner of the estate, Bartholomaus von Ahlefeld
(?-1568), had participated in a military campaign against Charles V in 1542. He
was greatly impressed with the Mennonites whom he had met in Julich, North Brabant
and Antwerp. When Bartholomaus von Ahlefeld inherited Fresenburg in 1543, he immediately
invited the Mennonites to settle on his estate. Many Mennonites eagerly responded
to Ahlefeld's invitation and immigrated to Fresenburg. They settled on a small
knoll about two kilometres northeast of Bad Oldesloe. Their settlement was locally
known as Wüstenfelde. In spite of numerous requests and demands from King
Christian III and his brother Prince Adolph to evict the Mennonites from his property,
Ahlefeld continued to shelter them.4
For Menno this was an ideal refuge where he could spend the last few years of
Menno Simons wrote his first book just before he left the Catholic Church.
He continued to write and publish books as he fled from one state to another.
With the help of Ahlefeld he set up a print shop in what is now know as the Menno
Cottage (Mennokate) between Bad Oldesloe and Wüstenfeld. There with
the help of an experienced printer he revised and printed his earlier books and
published some new ones. His sermons were Bible-centred and Christ-centred. The
people who heard or read Menno's sermons thought his style and content were profound.5
The fact that Philip II had the writings of Menno Simons placed on the Index 6 on December 10, 1557, confirms the effectiveness of his books.
Menno Simons died in 1561 at the age of sixty-five and was buried in the vegetable
garden behind his house in Wüstenfelde.
Menno Simons created a place for himself in the history of the Christian Church.
During the years of the most relentless persecution by Charles V and Philip II
he encouraged the harassed brethren and gave them leadership in doctrine and faith.
In 1541 a royal advisor in Friesland complained to the King's regent in the Netherlands:
"The pesky sect of Anabaptists would have been eradicated by now if it weren't
for Menno Simons who visits the area once or twice every year and leads many people
astray." Menno caught a vision of what Christ meant when he said, "...teach them
to obey everything I have commanded you."8 For him Christianity
was more than faith only.9 It was faith and
works, the fruit of the Spirit, "for faith without works is dead."
Stone markers have been erected near Witmarsum and Bad Oldesloe so that future
generations may remember where Menno Simons lived, laboured and died. However,
by far the most significant memorial is the church that still bears his name and
whose members accept his understanding of discipleship.
1. Historians disagree about the dates of Menno Simons'
birth and death. The dates used in this article were suggested by Karel Vos (1874-1926).
Jacob G. de Hoop Scheffer (1819-1894) believed the dates should 1492 and 1559.
The monument in Witmarsum bears the dates 1496 and 1561. Back to document
2. The church which stood at that site for more than
300 years was always called the Scheuenenkirche.Back to document
3. Menno Simons also became involved in two prolonged
public debates on theological problems of the day, first in Emden and again in
Lubeck. Back to document
4. The region was under the rule of the King of Denmark
at that time. Back to document
5. Menno Simons published 24 books and pamphlets. In
his writings he discussed a wide range of topics relevant to the Christian Church:
the authority of the Scriptures, the Holy Trinity, atonement, repentance, sin,
justification by faith, regeneration, the church, non- resistance, swearing of
oaths, non-conformity to the world and others. His most important works are The
Foundation of Christian Doctrine and Of the True Christian Faith. Every book and
every pamphlet he wrote had on the front page the motto, "For no one can lay any
foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians
3:11). Back to document
6. The Index Lubrorum Prohibitorum was a list of books
which the Roman Catholic Church forbade its members to read. Back to document
7. Menno was survived by one daughter. He was predeceased
by his son, one daughter and his wife. Back to document
8. Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19- 20a). Back
9. In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied
by action, is dead (James 2:17). Back to document
10. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control (Galatians 5:22-23a).
Back to document
11. There are about 1,000,000 people around the world
who are members of a Mennonite church. Back to document
William Schroeder is a retired school teacher
and historian who resides in Winnipeg, MB. This article was adapted
from an earlier version which appeared in Preservings Part Two, Hanover
Steinbach Historical Society Inc., No. 8, June 1996, Used with permission.
Back to the top of this article
GENEALOGY AND FAMILY HISTORY
by Alf Redekopp
Braun / Loewen - I am seeking information on the ancestors,
siblings and descendants of Johann Braun (b. 26 May 1836 - 1897) and
Gertrude Loewen (15 April 1836 - 1904). Apparently some relatives
of Gertrude Loewen came to Canada in 1923 at the same time as their
nephews Franz, Dietrich, Peter and David Braun but they lost contact
in Canada. I would like to get in touch with this family as well as
obtain any other information regarding the above. Please contact:
Deborah Stasiewski, 12742-23 Avenue, Surrey, B.C. V4A 2C7
Dueck - I am seeking information on the family of Johann
Dueck (1848-1933), son of Isaac Dueck and Maria Blatz of Fürstenland,
who was married to Aganetha Redekopp (1852-1909), daughter of David
Redekopp and Aganetha Giesbrecht. Any information about Isaac Dueck's
ancestors, siblings and descendants would be appreciated. Contact:
John Dyck, Box 344, Blumenort, MB R0A 0C0.
Dyck / Zacharias - I am seeking information about Mrs. Agatha
Dyck nee Dyck. She was a foster child in the home of William Zacharias
before she married a Gerhard Dyck. Gerhard Dyck was murdered in Russia
and Agatha came to Canada with her three boys in 1923. Contact: Esther
Dyck, 301-32040 Peardonville Road, Abbotsford, BC V2T 6N8.
Funk - I am seeking information on the parents of Peter Funk
(b. 17 March 1805 d. 15 March 1855) and his wife Helena Schroeter
(b. 5 Nov. 1806 d. 16 April 1869). Contact: Queenie Martens, 4435
Cascade Drive, Vernon, BC VlT 8J7.
Hamm/Berg - I am seeking information on the ancestors, siblings,
and descendants of Heinrich Hamm (b. 15 Sept. 1825) and Margareta
Berg (b. 17 Sept. 1835). They were married 11 Oct. 1855. Margareta
is a descendent of a Jacob Berg (b. 16 Oct. 1791) and Helena Sawatsky
(b. 1792). The parents and siblings of Heinrich Hamm are unknown.
Please contact: Deborah Stasiewski, 12742-23 Ave., Surrey, BC V4A
Hamm/Dyck - I am seeking information on my great grandparents,
David Hamm and Sarah Dyck. David was born in Southern Russia and his
family immigrated to Canada when he was two years old. They settled
near Morden, Manitoba. I estimate he was born sometime between 1870-1885.
Sarah Dyck was born in Morden, Manitoba, about 1870-1885. I think
her family originally came from Pennsylvania, USA. They were probably
married in Manitoba in the late 1890's. My grandmother, Annie, the
fifth of 12 children was born in Manitoba on December 28, 1904. The
family later moved to the Rosthern, Saskatchewan area, where they
farmed. About 1929 many of the Hamm's moved to the Chilcotin area
of British Columbia where they homesteaded. Names of the children
are: Sarah, Elizabeth, Lena, Hugo, Annie, Mary, John, Bert, Matilda,
David, Wanda, and Edgar. Contact: Lorie Wilson, 1785 Rutland Rd, Kelowna,
B.C. VlX 4Z8, ph 604-491-0363, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nickel / Geddert - I am seeking information on the ancestors
of Peter Nickel (1826-ca.1877) who was married to Anna Geddert (ca.1829-1882).
They lived in Liebenau, Molotschna and also Wohldemfürst, Kuban.
Their children were Anna (b. 1852) who first married Peter Isaak and
then Abram Loewen; Peter (b.1853 d. 1937) who emigrated to Kansas;
Sara (b. 1858) who married a Schmor; Abraham who married Sara K. Klassen
and emigrated to Borden, SK, in 1903; Jacob b. 1868 and Kornelius
b. 1870. Contact: Wesley Nickel, 2402 Wiltse Dr., Penticton, BC V2A
Voth - I am looking for information on Andreas Voth (1826-1885)
and Kathatina Wall (1828-1908). They had a son Johannes (1854-1920)
who was born in in Pastwa, Molotschna where Andreas was teaching.
Andreas Voth was one of the eighteen men who signed the 1860 document
of secession which brought the MB Church into being. This family lived
for a few years near Neuhoffnung and then moved to Neuman, Crimea,
where Andreas died. Contact: A. Schroeder, 434 Sutton Ave., Winnipeg,
MB R2G OT3.
Katy Penner, ed. The Penner Family : Faithful through Adversity
(Saskatoon, SK: PENN Publishers/Penner, Katy, 1996), pb., 490 pp.
This book traces the ancestry and descendants of Kornelius Heinrich
Penner (1842-1933), seventh child of Heinrich Penner (1801-1843) and
Margaretta Loewen, born in Schoenhorst, Chortitza settlement, South
Russia. Kornelius was first married to Helena Peters (1844-1881) and
then to twice-widowed Helena Wiebe (1852- 1932), daughter of Jakob
and Helena Friesen. Shortly after his first marriage, he moved to
the village of Schoendorf, Borozenko Colony where he lived the rest
of his life. Contact: Katy Penner, 5-80 Berini Drive, Saskatoon, SK,
Canada S7N 3P8.
Ernest Dyck. ed. The Peter Dyck Family (St. Catharines,
ON: Ernest Dyck, 1996) pb., 42 pp.
This book contains the family history of Peter Dyck (1873- 1926) who
was born and resident in Hierschau, Molotschna, Russia. He was married
first to Margaretha Sukkau (1875-1908) and then to Katharina Toews
(1887-1968). Peter Dyck was murdered by roving bandits the night after
the family held its auction sale in preparation for emigrating from
Russia to Canada in 1926. The book describes the events surrounding
the survival and growth of this family in Canada, first in Alberta
and then in British Columbia after 1937. Contact: Ernest Dyck, 102-201
Dorchester Blvd., St. Catharines, ON, Canada L2M 7W1.
Esther Patkau. ed. The Paethkeau Book 1714-1987 Volume 2
(Saskatoon, SK: Private publication, 1996) hdc., 376 pp. $65.00.
The first volume of Paethkeau Book 1714-1987 was published
in 1987. Volume 2 contains several large sections of information that
were not available in 1987. It is primarily information which came
from the families who were resident in the northern parts of the former
USSR, especially from the Orenburg settlement, and are now in Germany.
The biographical sketches and short stories appear in both English
and German and there are many photographs. The common ancestor for
this family is Jacob Paetkau (1789-1843) who lived in Burwalde, Chortitza,
South Russia. Contact: Esther Patkau, 2206 Wiggins Avenue, Saskatoon,
SK Canada S7J 1W7.
The Mennonite Heritage Centre and the Centre for MB Studies have
recently acquired copies of the following: The Complete Brandregister
of 1727 transcribed by Glenn H. Penner of Guelph, ON; The Deutsch
Kazun Mennonite Church baptism register 1834-1943 and The Molotschna
School Attendance Register of 1862, (P.J. Braun Archives)
both transcribed by Arnold M. Schroeder of St. Catharines, ON; and
Two Alphabetical Lists of Baptisms in West Prussia 1773-1804 for Rosenort,
Elbing-Ellerwald, Ladekopp and Orlofferfelde edited by George H. Fast
of Lynn Lake, MB, Canada, and previously published in Mennonite Family
Send inquiries to Alf Redekopp, 600 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg,
MB R3P 0M4 or 169 Riverton Ave, Winnipeg, MB R2L 2E5. E-mail: email@example.com
Mennonite Heritage Centre News
New Mennonite Sources from Russia and Ukraine
The post-Gorbachev period has opened up new opportunities to do
research in archival centres of the Former Soviet Union, and also
to procure materials from those collections.
One of the largest bodies of materials to reach the Mennonite Heritage
Centre and the Centre for MB Studies, and several other Mennonite
insitutions, is a set of microfilm of Mennonite records in St. Petersburg.
Personnel from the St. Petersburg Christian University have helped
to make these arrangements. Ten rolls are at the Centre now, ten more
are on the way, and the finishing of the task ( we are told, by the
end of the year), may result in yet another ten. An inventory is available
for the materials already on hand.
A second collection available here now includes 2000 pages (mostly
written in Russian) of photocopied material from the Zaporozhian State
Archives in Zaporozhe, Ukraine. It was offered in exchange for help
in securing a computer which is now in use there. The assistant archivist,
Alexander Tedeev, has been very helpful also to private Mennonite
researchers who are able to access the files in that institution.
An inventory for this material is being prepared, and should be ready
An extensive collection of printed materials in both Russian and
German has been deposited here through the courtesy of Dr. Terry Martin
of Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Martin has spent extensive time doing research
in Moscow, and was able to obtain copies of many articles not available
in North America before. An inventory of this material can be obtained
from the Centre here also.
Smaller collections include audio-tapes from the Mennonite village
of Neudachino, Siberia, miscellaneous files on the All-Russian Mennonite
Agricultural Society, documents related to Forstei service in tsarist
Russia (including 18 letters written in German from a recruit in the
CO camps to his relatives), lists of persons executed in the Altai
region in Siberia, and other items.
We will be happy to send duplicates of inventories and other items
if they can be located easily, for the cost of copying, handling and
Our thanks go to generous donors who have helped make it possible
to obtain the materials noted. If anyone can assist financially with
the publication of several books on pacifism in Russia, please write
or call and we will provide details. An outline of these projects
appeared as an insert in the June Historian. If you would like
another copy of this outline, please notify us.
Recent Archival Contacts in the FSU
by Lawrence Klippenstein
It was my privilege to direct an August tour to the FSU , and to
make a number of helpful archives-related contacts along the way.
Unfortunately we were not able to connect with people working on our
microfilm project in St. Petersburg, but recent messages have kept
us up-to-date on that work.
In Moscow I wanted to see Dr. Sergei Sokolovskii to return some
materials on Siberian Mennonites which he loaned to us several years
ago. Sergei was away but he has communicated with us a few weeks ago,
noting also that a book he has done on Siberian Mennonites has just
come off the press. We have placed an order for several copies.
In Moscow too I wanted to visit with another scholar, Peter Rempel,
but he seemed to be out of town. We are trying to secure some materials
he has gathered on former Mennonite khutors (estates), and may be
able to report more on that shortly. You will find a photo he had
submitted elsewhere in this issue.
We were very pleased to obtain the promised help of a young teacher
in Orenburg to do some research for us in the archives of that city.
She has submitted her first report, with the name of another researcher,
Ms. Neufeld, who is deeply interested in Mennonite research.
In Zaporozhe we enjoyed a very cordial conversation with Alexander
Tedeev, mentioned above, and also with the director of his institution,
Valentine Ivanovich Leventsov. They showed us some of their collections
and expressed their appreciation of contacts with western Mennonites
who are interested in materials available in their holdings. Mr. Tedeev
submitted the final half of the photoduplication project which is
mentioned in the New Holdings article of this issue.
An interesting new experience was an invitation to look at a collection
of old books that once were in the library of the former Chortitza
Mennonite Church. We were taken to the apartment of their owner, an
Armenian artist, who is interested in selling these materials if he
can. The same pile of books had a large collection of annual parts
catalogues from Germany, once owned by the Lepp and Wallmann factory,
and dating from the 1870s. They are for sale also. We had been told
there was some manuscript material in this collection but were not
shown anything on this visit. Something may be available later, we
One evening a young scholar, Sasha Beznozov, came to our hotel with
Oksana, his wife, and presented us with an interesting map showing
places of Mennonite activitiy in the city of Dnepropetrovsk in the
early 1900s. He also gave us several copies of journals from the University
of Dnepropetrovsk containing very recently- published studies of Germans
and Mennonites in that general region.
We hope it will be possible to sustain connections with these people,
and to create a network of scholarly work which will be beneficial
both to our Russian and Ukrainian colleagues, and to our own communities
here in North America.
Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies News
Recent Events at CMBS
This summer has been a very busy one at the Centre for MB Studies
in Winnipeg. On June 7 and 8 the Centre hosted the annual meeting
of the Historical Commission of the Mennonite Brethren Church (North
America). Although the Commission generally has met in Fresno, California,
it has recently met at various other locations, including Hillsboro,
KS, Abbotsford, BC and Salem, OR. These have been educational experiences
for Commission members because they have provided opportunities to
learn something about the history of congregations in the particular
Highlights of the meetings included extensive discussion of microfilming
projects in Russian/Ukrainian archives, approval of several forthcoming
publications and sharing of the activities of each of the Centres
(Hillsboro, Fresno, Abbotsford, and Winnipeg). John Sharp also attended
all the meetings, representing the Mennonite Church, and Lawrence
Klippenstein attended some of the meetings on behalf of the General
Conference Mennonite Church.
In early July the convention of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite
Brethren Churches met in Winnipeg. The Centre sponsored several well-attended
workshops entitled, "Heritage Celebration: Writing Family and Congregational
History." Abe Dueck also organized a tour which included visits to
the Mennonite Heritage Village near Steinbach and a Hutterite colony
at Crystal Springs.
Alberta Mennonite High School Reunion
A reunion celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of
the Alberta Mennonite High School in Coaldale, Alberta, in 1946 took
place at the Dalhousie Mennonite Brethren Church in Calgary on August
31 to September 1. Approximately 300 guests, most of them former students,
teachers and spouses, attended the very successful event. The Mennonite
Historian hopes to publish more on the history and significance
of this school in a future issue.
Special funding has enabled the Centre to pursue several projects
during the summer of 1996. Funding from the federal government's CareerStart
program allowed the Centre to hire Jennifer Rogalsky for ten weeks
to continue the computer cataloguing of books in the J.A. Toews Historical
Library. This project was begun last year when Tamara Dyck worked
at the Centre two days a week.
Alvina Block has been working on a Personal Papers Redescription
project which is funded by a Control of Holdings Grant received through
the Canadian Council of Archives. This project, when complete, will
provide a much more detailed and accurate inventory of the Personal
Papers Collection at CMBS. Many of the major collections, such as
the B.B. Janz Collection, had very inadequate descriptions of the
Saskatchewan Records Transferred to CMBS
For many years a large number of records of the Northern District
and Southern District conferences of the Mennonite Brethren churches
of Saskatchewan as well as the records of a number of congregations
have been stored in an archival room at Bethany Bible Institute. It
became increasingly clear that this storage facility was inadequate
and that trained staff was not available to process the material and
to allow proper accessibility. After discussions with the Saskatchewan
Conference executive it was agreed that the material should be transferred
to the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies in Winnipeg. In early
September Abe Dueck travelled to Bethany and loaded apporximately
35 boxes of material in a rented van. These were then transported
to Winnipeg where they will be processed and stored.
Many congregations continue to house their records in their local
church. The Centre has had considerable success in the last several
years in encouraging congregations to transfer these to the Canadian
Conference archives in Winnipeg. This will provide better guarantees
that the records will be preserved for future generations. Dialogue
with variuos congregations will continue in the hope that more will
transfer their records to the Centre.
The EMBs - I Wonder...
by Cal Redekop
I have just read your second instalment of the EMB story in Alberta
and thank you very much for the important reporting you have done.
As you may know, I am just now finishing a socio- historical work
on the DMB/EMB/FEBC. Your research has corroborated the information
and generally the conclusions I have arrived at regarding the Alberta
congregations. I am citing your research in the text.
However, your conclusions regarding the renaming of the conference
the "Evangelical Mennonite Brethren" because of the immigration in
the 1920s of the Russian Mennonites connected with the Allianz
evangelicals is not necessarily proven by the information you provide.
I'll start with the implied arguments. The Alberta congregations
were not very significant for DMB (Defenseless Mennonite Brethren)
life during the time of the name change. To begin with, they were
not sure who they were (i.e., MB or Allianz or what), thus
could not have been very influential, especially in the late 1920s
and early 1930s. Secondly, they were just becoming organized and so
could not affect decision-making among DMBs very much. As a matter
of fact, the 1935 Yearbook includes an extensive historical report
by A.A. Toews, indicating that this may have been the first time the
conference heard a report from them. What is more, the early DMBs
were in touch with the Allianz movement and members in Russia,
so the Alberta contingent was not the only contact.
I also find your comment that evangelicalism was not known as a
term during the 1930s since "neo-evangelicalism did not emerge until
the 1940s" somewhat mystifying and tangential. Neo- evangelicalism
emerged out of evangelicalism which had a long history and was quite
healthy during the 1920s and 1930s, if I know anything about the history
of religion in America. So why should the DMBs wait until neo-evangelicalism
came along in order to make an authentic name change to evangelicalism
when it was the reigning paradigm in America?
You are assuming it was influential, and I agree that it was. My
research and reading of the DMB is that they were "evangelical" from
the outset, and that it is the most logical and predictable name for
an emerging movement in the process of losing its Anabaptist emphasis.
The third article of the original constitution (1889) reads, "The
Purpose of this conference is not only to build each other up in the
faith, but to spread the net of conversion (das Netz des Evangeliums)."
Nothing is more clear in the history of the DMB/EMB/FEBC than its
strong emphasis on conversion and missions/evangelism. This was what
they meant by being evangelical (evangelisch in German may
have had a slightly different meaning.)
Hence I would say they had an inherent understanding of "evangelical",
supported and enhanced by the reigning evangelicalism in America which
was influencing the DMB as they were becoming assimilated. Here is
where my earlier "Embarrassment" argument is relevant. I would admit
that the argument in my "Embarrassment" article is not fully adequate,
though not wrong. I wrote that before I began to research the history
for my present manuscript.
I do not want to downgrade the importance of the Alberta events,
but I do not think they were that crucial. The 1937 Yearbook gives
the reason for putting the word "evangelical" in the name change as:
"Das Wort Evangelium bedeutet dass die Konferenz beim wahrem Evangelium
bleiben will." If my reasoning above is correct, and I am sure
it is, then the name change is not that significant in the first place.
Dr. Cal Redekop resides in Harrisonburg,
Virginia. He is retired from teaching at Conrad Grebel University
College in Waterloo, ON.
Back to the top of this article
Response to Cal Redekop
by Abe Dueck
Cal Redekop's response to my article is appreciated and helpful.
He is right that I have not proven that the renaming of the Evangelical
Mennonite Brethren was the result of the influence of the Alberta
Allianz. The language I used was "suggests" and "appears."
Perhaps my inferences were unwarranted or overstated, but I do not
find the counterarguments totally convincing.
It may be true that the EMBs did not know who they were, but they
nonetheless insisted that they be allowed to retain the name "Evangelical
Mennonite Brethren" when they decided to join the Defenceless Mennonite
Brethren in Christ in 1934. Redekop argues that the Alberta group
could not have been very influential, but then states that contacts
of the DMB with the EMB dated back to the earlier period in Russia.
This suggests that the connections were even stronger than I had realized.
The issue of the role and understanding of evangelicalism in America
is a rather complex issue. Firstly, I did not say that "evangelicalism"
was not known as a term during the 1930s. Rather, I stated that the
neo-evangelicalism of the post-1940s could not have been a factor
in the change of name.
Evangelicalism of a particular kind was indeed the reigning paradigm
in America during the 19th century, but the late 19th century and
early 20th century brought about many changes in evangelicalism including
the emergence of a new coalition which came to be called "fundamentalism"
by the 1920s (see e.g., George M. Marsden, Understanding Fundamentalism
and Evangelicalism (Eerdmans, 1992, pp. 62ff.). After the
fundamentalist controversy of the 1920s, evangelicalism appeared to
be in disarray until the 1940s, when the National Association of Evangelicals
was formed and new evangelical strength emerged under the influence
of people like Carl F. H. Henry and Billy Graham and in institutions
such as Fuller Theological Seminary. As a result, evangelicalism reemerged
as a force in American culture (Marsden, 63). My point was simply
that the change of name in the DMB came before the advent of this
new evangelicalism as a prominent religious movement in America. Many
denominations adopted the term "evangelical" after these developments,
I look forward to your forthcoming work on the DMB/EMB/FEBC. Perhaps
this exchange can further illuminate what is sure to be a fascinating
story relating to the identity struggle of this particular (Mennonite)
The Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church: Some Historical Notes
by William Schroeder
The original Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church in Alexanderwohl, Molotschna
settlement, was built in 1865. The walls measuring twelve by twenty-two
metres were constructed from red kiln-dried bricks. Inside arrangements
included a large L-shaped balcony.
Because of its large size and central location in the settlement,
the building was often used for conferences which were attended by
representatives from neighbouring settlements such as Borozenko, Bergthal,
Chortitza and Fuerstenland.
During the 1870s, for instance, a number of conferences dealing
with the military question and conscription were held on these premises.
In April, 1874, General Eduard Ivanovich Totleben (1818-1884) had
a meeting here to attempt to dissuade the Mennonites of southern Russia
from emigrating. He also brought Tsar Alexander's offer to provide
an alternative service so that Mennonites would not need to join the
regular army which was being rebuilt at the time.
Half a century later, in 1921, the Mennonites had another conference
here, this time resulting in the choice of B.B. Janz to serve as spokesperson
for Mennonites who might wish to emigrate from Soviet Russia at this
In Gerhard Lohrenz's book, Heritage Remembered (First
edition, 1974, p.156), one can find a photo of a group of baptismal
candidates (37 persons) and ministers standing at the main entrance
to the building. The year was 1930, so it will have been one of the
last groups to be baptized in the Stalin period. The church was partially
destroyed during World War II. Only the lower part of the building
remained, to be incorporated in reconstruction for other purposes.
Call for Papers
Conference: An informal consortium of Mennonite historical societies
invites papers and proposals to an upcoming conference entitled "One
People, Many Stories: Comparing Mennonite Experiences in the United
States and Canada through the Twentieth Century."
The sponsoring organizations include The Mennonite Historical Society
of Canada, the Mennonite Historical Society (US), the Historical Committee
of the Mennonite Church, the Historical Commission of the Mennonite
Brethren Church (North America), and the Brethren in Christ Historical
Held at Columbia Bible College, Abbotsford, BC on October 23- 25,
1997, the conference will be focused on the Mennonite experience in
North America, north and south of the US/Canada border.
Sessions (though not necessarily individual papers) should thus
include an explicit comparative dimension. Topics could address, for
instance, Canadian and US Mennonites' responses to social forces such
as military service, nationalism, minority status, Evangelicalism/fundamentalism,
popular culture or urbanization. Mennonite experiences in terms of
race, gender or ethnicity could come under scrutiny; similarly, contrasting
Mennonite initiatives in missions, service or peacemaking might be
examined. Papers of a more reflective nature are also encouraged.
Papers may be weighted towards, but are not restricted to, twentieth
century developments. The Mennonite Quarterly Review is interested
in publishing some of the conference proceedings, and will have the
right of first refusal on conference papers.
Proposals are welcome both for individual papers and for entire
sessions (2-3 papers, comments and discussion in a 1 1/2 to 2 hour
session). The proposals should include a short 1-2 page abstract by
the presenters and commentator(s), along with a one page curriculum
vitae from each participant.
All proposals should be sent to Perry Bush, co-Chair, Planning Committee,
History Department, Bluffton College, 280 W. College Ave., Bluffton,
OH 45817; tel. 419-358-3278; e-mail: BushP@Bluffton.edu.
All materials must be postmarked no later than January 10, 1997.
A limited number of travel subsidies for conference speakers and for
student participants will be available.
Ens, Anna. In Search of Unity. Story of the Conference of
Mennonites in Manitoba (Winnipeg, MB: CMBC Publications, 1996)
pb., 290 pp., $20.00
Reviewed by John J. Friesen
The Conference of Mennonites in Manitoba was formed in 1933. Or
was it in 1936, or in 1947?
In sorting out the story of the tattered beginnings of the Conference
of Mennonites in Manitoba (CMM), Anna Ens sets the stage for a history
which, she maintains, is a long search for unity. In her view, the
CMM's major agenda was bringing together two diverse groups, the Bergthaler
and three immigrant Gemeinden (a multi-congregational church),
into one united conference.
Anna Ens' meticulously-researched and well-documented study takes
the reader on an interesting journey through numerous difficult issues.
During the World War II years, when the conference was in the process
of forming, disagreements on how to relate to the government over
the issue of exemption from military service severely strained relations
between the Bergthaler Gemeinde and the three immigrant Gemeinden:
Schoenwieser, Whitewater, and Blumenorter.
The war was not quite over when a conflict arose between the Schoenwieser
Gemeinde and the rest of the Gemeinden. This conflict
resulted in the Schoenwieser Gemeinde withdrawing from the
CMM, and not rejoining for more than two decades.
Church splits over the transition to the English language, the pain
of leadership changes from lay ministry to professional pastors in
autonomous congregations, the origin of radio work, camps, youth work,
the changing role of women, all this and more Ens discusses in a style
that is readable, interesting, and even handed.
The book is liberally documented, although the author notes in the
foreward that a more fully documented version of the manuscript is
in the Mennonite Heritage Centre. The book includes a listing of the
archival sources which were researched for the book, as well as a
list of the people interviewed. An extensive selected bibliography
is also added.
To help her tell the story, Anna Ens in-cluded numerous pictures,
maps, charts, and tables. Ens compiled a list of all the Aeltesten
(bishops) who served the Gemeinden of the CMM. An organizational
chart of the present CMM is provided in the appendix. A fascinating
section is the one in which each congregation in the CMM is briefly
characterized, its history summarized, and leaders listed.
To return to the question of when the CMM began, one could ask whether
Ens' study may not suggest that the CMM began with the formation of
the Bergthaler church. The addition of the Herald congregation and
of the immigrant Gemeinden, can be seen as an expansion of
the Bergthaler vision, as articulated by Benjamin Ewert, to unite
all Mennonites. In fact, the earliest movements toward the formation
of the CMM occurred at the 1933 annual Bergthaler Church- sponsored
Anna Ens' In Search of Unity is a very fine study
which sensitively and honestly interprets both the positives and the
negatives of CMM's history.
John Friesen is professor of history and
theology at Canadian Mennonite Bible College in Winnipeg, MB.
Bergmann, Günther. Auslandsdeutsche in Paraguay, Brasilien,
Argentinien (Bad Münstereifel: Westkreuz-Verlag, 1994),
pb., 256 pp.
Reviewed by Titus F. Guenther
Based on his 1993 Ph.D. dissertation, Bergmann offers his readers
a well-documented history of the migrations and settlements of the
over 5 million Auslandsdeutsche (i.e., Germans abroad; p. 221)
now living in South America (SA).
The study focuses on the Auslands-deutsche in Paraguay, Argentina
and Brazil, from the early 19th century to the present. Considerable
attention is given to the impact of National Socialism on these Germans
abroad. Overpopulation in Europe and the economic misery, coinciding
with the search of countries like Paraguay, Chile and Brazil for able
settlers, led to sizable migrations. Over time the colonists' German
identity slowly waned. The Nazis attempted to stir up old patriotic
sentiments in them to gain power in SA through them.
This caused a deep identity crisis among the Auslandsdeutsche,
when the host countries reacted by closing German institutions and
forcing wholesale assimilation to the national cultures and languages.
The case of Brazil was especially drastic.
Later chapters deal with post-war migrations (homeless Jews, Germans
and fugitive Nazis) to the same region and their impact on the communities
there. Bergmann also looks at the inner regional migrations in their
socio-economic context as big agribusiness forced small farmers to
retreat further inland or into adjacent Paraguay. Finally he reflects
on the future prospects for the Auslandsdeutsche in these countries.
The German Mennonites in these countries are treated separately
as a group with distinctive characteristics. Mennonite life is defined
primarily by religious-biblical principles (pp. 74f.) and not by nationalism
(though some Mennonites did flirt with Nazism -- pp. 89-94). This
gave Mennonites greater cohesiveness and was expressed in various
cooperative community structures. Affirming many contributions by
Mennonites, Bergmann cites the Mennonite-Indian relations in the Paraguayan
Chaco as being a model for other communities (pp. 166-168).
The other German colonies also formed numerous community-based institutions:
schools, churches, cultural clubs, clinics and financial co-ops. Their
small-scale farms offered a promising alternative to the Latino large
landowners. After WWII, most of the Auslandsdeutsche redefined
themselves as being of German descent but consciously became citizens
of their SA countries of residence, some reaching high-ranking political
positions. The immigrant churches played a leading role here by forming
regional and transnational synods in SA, shifting their allegiance
from Germany to their new national and social contexts. The German
Democratic Republic, in complete contrast to the Third Reich, has
helped the Auslandsdeutsche to build and run German schools
open to both German descendants and Latino citizens. This policy facilitates
integration while allowing maintenance of the German heritage and
serves to build amiable relations between Germany and the SA countries,
which are eager for trade and technological development. Bergmann
makes a valuable contribution to the understanding of the Auslandsdeutschtum
in SA. One criticism pertains to Bergmann's perpetuation of the notion
of an oppressive paternalism in the Jesuits towards the Guaran¡ Indians.
Jesuit historian C.J. McNaspy's reassessment of the Jesuits' amazing
experiment with democracy two hundred years before the rest of the
world would dare to try it, could offer a helpful corrective here.
Libraries and specialists will find the book a valuable resource.
Interested lay readers will enjoy it as well.
Titus Guenther is assistant professor of
theology and missions at Canadian Mennonite Bible College in Winnipeg,
©Copyright 1996, Mennonite Historian.