The April 2019 issue of Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage looks at responses to war from Mennonite communities, churches, and individuals. While Mennonites have generally maintained a clear witness against war, how that witness is practiced has been continually negotiated.
In “Lancaster Mennonites and the Politics of Nonresistance during the Great War,” Steven M. Nolt examines Lancaster Mennonite Conference’s response to World War I with a special eye for how the peasant republican political system, which still persisted in Lancaster County while it was being replaced nationwide with Progressivism, affected the options available to church leaders and men who were drafted. This is embodied by the discussion Nolt follows between Lancaster conference leaders Samuel G. Zimmerman, bishop Noah L. Landis, and minister I. B. Good with Congressman William G. Griest. Nolt also touches on how this discussion led Lancaster Mennonite Conference to define nonresistance differently than the (Old) Mennonite Church.
Edsel Burdge, Jr., takes up the World War I narrative from a different perspective in “‘A Better Vision of the Defenseless Life’ Washington-Franklin Mennonites Resist Doing Their Bit.” Despite pressure from non-Mennonite patriots in Pennsylvania and Maryland to participate, not merely through military service but through homefront efforts such as Liberty Bonds or the Red Cross, Washington-Franklin Mennonite Conference maintained its opposition to raising funds to support the war effort. Burdge attends to disagreements that developed between leaders in Washington-Franklin and Lancaster on how strict a position to hold. Such disagreements furthered the distance between the two conferences and persist to the modern era.
Kyle A Stocksdale’s “Anabaptists in the Military: Stories of Conscripted Men from Indiana-Michigan” is a markedly different take on Anabaptist responses to war. Stocksdale examines individuals who served in the military—specifically during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam—and chose to rejoin the church after their military service ended. Often this involved making public confession before the congregation. Stocksdale originally presented this article at “What Young Historians are Thinking,” a symposium hosted by the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society; the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College; the Sider Institute for Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan Studies at Messiah College; Menno Simons Historical Library at Eastern Mennonite University; and the Mennonite Church USA Archives.
The dialect piece in this issue is provided by Mark L. Louden. He translates “Grieg im Alde Land (War in the Old Country),” an anti-war poem that was written in 1914 by Harvey Miller, a non-Mennonite businessman from Elizabethville, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.
Yvonne K. Kimmel’s genealogies Zwingli: Volume I: The Key to Finding Your Amish/Mennonite And Church of the Brethren Ancestors, Zwingli: Volume II: My Brethren Ancestors were Reformed, Anabaptist, Moravian & Waldensian, and Miriam Toews’ novel Women Talking receive book reviews.
This issue, and all previous issues of Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage, is available online for Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society members.