Rebirth of Peacemaking in a Much Different Context

Elizabethtown College's Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies

As a descendant of Moravian settlers in Lititz, PA, I made sure not to miss the presentation of the 2010 The Dale W. Brown Book Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies to Katherine Carté Engel (Assistant Professor of History, Texas A&M) for Religion and Profit: Moravians in Early America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009).  I greatly appreciated her challenging lecture and the opportunity afterward to chat with her on “God in America”, the general inability of radical Christian communities to sustain radical Christian practices over time and across generations, my “Theology of the Church” paper on the religious history of Elizabethtown College, and some of my own Moravian roots.

More on Katherine Carté Engel‘s research coming, but today we’ll return to Elizabethtown College to address the specific question of how the college wrestled with its religious roots on a practical/detail level and came to advocate/embrace peacemaking. As we wrestle with the history of a specific campus, I pray that you’re encouraged to dig into the history of your campus/discipline (or even your own religious community) and the vision/goals which work out in its larger way of life and the details which emerge from the overarching institutional perspective.  May this process inflame your passion for and undergird your prayerful seeking of “Students and faculty transformed. Campuses renewed. World changers developed.”  Note:  For those whom the lengthy historical details are of less interest, feel free to skim through and focus on the conclusion.

Bible College for Church of the Brethren

The Elizabethtown College: The First Hundred Years true/false pop quiz asks, “’While students at other campuses were burning their draft cards in the 60s, Etown students were burning their chapel attendance cards.’ (True. See page 73)” (Downing, 1). On page 73, 70s Protests contrasts changes in various mandatory campus policies (including mandatory convocation attendance) and the 275 students, faculty, and administrators who solemnly marched through Elizabethtown in opposition to the Vietnam War in the face of strong student opposition.  Note:  Post on the humbling and amazing story of countercultural peacemaking faculty coming 😉

The Bible received attention in the early years as a mandatory item to bring to campus, but falls from the list in the 26th Annual Catalogue. In the first two catalogues one reads:

“All students are expected to attend Sunday school and church services while under the care of the institution. … Parents should see that each student is provided with a Bible. … All those who are members of the Brethren Church should bring their certificates of membership, and it is expected that all such conform to the order of the Church in all her doctrines, plainness of dress and daily Christian deportment.” (Elizabethtown College, 1900, 12-13. Elizabethtown College, 1901, 16-17).

How does one interpret the journey from decreasing the number of chapels offered (chapel on each instructional ended in 1948) to chapel card burning in the 1970’s?  Hanle offers that the shift from a college with the Bible read through the lens of German Baptist Brethren/Church of the Brethren to an institution which only refers to its Christian heritage stems from the failure of the German Baptist Brethren/Church of the Brethren to create “direct, positive religious instruction in the curriculum of the college” (265, 280-281). In contrast, Schlosser, a former Elizabethtown College President, understood chapel card burning as an example of “one doesn’t learn under compulsion” (323).

Liberal Arts College Serving a Growing Market

With regard to a shift from serving the youth of Church of the Brethren to others, the Fifth Annual Catalogue states:

“The purpose of the school stands for the perfection of the individual. We regard education, not as an end to be attained, but rather as a means to an end. To live completely, to render the highest service, are the aims of the Institution. Its doors are open to both men and women. While being under the control of the Brethren, and primarily intended for the education of their own children, yet her opportunities are open to everybody, regardless of creed.” (Elizabethtown College, 6)

Observe the expansion of the concluding remarks from the First Annual Catalogue:

“We feel confident that our plans and purposes are such as will meet with general approval; and that the growing educational sentiment will so unite around our school as to make Elizabethtown College such as school and home for our young people that the Brethren and others will find it both safe and profitable to patronize it.” (Elizabethtown College, 16)

In the 34th Catalog, Opportunities for Church of the Brethren “open to everybody, regardless of creed” changes to “Church of the Brethren, members of other churches and also non-Christians of good moral character … Practically every year from twelve to fifteen denominations are represented in the student body.” (Elizabethtown College, 4).  The 43rd Catalog drops the inclusion of “non-Christians” in this section (Elizabethtown College, 4).

The 62nd Annual Catalog shifts to an emphasis upon the Liberal Arts philosophy of learning where “Elizabethtown College is, in every aspect of its program, a Christian institution. Its facilities are open to all without discrimination” (Elizabethtown College, 6-7). In the 61st Annual Catalog (1966-1968 College Bulletin) there remained a section explaining how “Elizabethtown College endeavors to cultivate Christian attitudes and convictions in all students in all areas of life” (Elizabethtown College, 4). This included a brief statement of doctrine, chapel and the various denominations represented on campus.

In the 65th Catalog, the requirement of Bible 101 and Bible 102 changes to six credit hours of Religion classes (Elizabethtown College, 31). The “major purpose” of the Bible and Philosophy Department is altered from “confronting the students with the Word of God as revealed in the written record of the Holy Bible under the guidance of the Holy Spirit” (Elizabethtown College, 20) to “confronting students with contemporary religious and philosophical thought” (66th Catalog, Elizabethtown College, 83).

The Church of the Brethren history moves from the Statement of Purpose to a new, later section entitled The College: It’s History and Development (67th Catalog, Elizabethtown College, 106). At this time, the statement of purpose shifts to “personal.”

Its program is intended to free the student of his limitations of experience and ignorance, and to broaden the span of his interests. … The College accepts and promotes among the members of its academic community the values, attitudes, and motives which are historically associated with the Christian faith (67th Catalog, Elizabethtown College, 8).

Furthermore, chapel becomes a broad speaker and artisan convocation program (67th Catalog, Elizabethtown College, 12).

The Emergence/Re-emergence of Peacemaking

A new Statement of Purpose appears in the 1987-1988 Academic Program, one which includes, “In keeping with its Brethren tradition, and in affirmation of the values of peace, justice, and human dignity which are rooted in this tradition, the College strives to achieve a union between the world of work and the world of spirit” (Elizabethtown College, 2). Additionally, a Sociology concentration in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies comes to the offering with five Anabaptist focused courses including Pacifism among Anabaptist and Pietist Groups, 1525-1985 (Elizabethtown College, 55). This program, along with Peace and Conflict Studies, becomes listed as an Interdisciplinary minor in the 1989-1990 Academic Program with a growing number of associated classes from a variety of disciplines (Elizabethtown College, 55-56).

Although Anabaptist teaching on peacemaking may have occurred much earlier in Bible Doctrine classes, one does not find until the 24th Catalogue, a class on Distinctive New Testament Doctrine:

The chief emphasis in this course is put on the meaning of the ordinances of the New Testament. The following means of grace will be considered: baptism, feetwashing, the Lord’s supper, communion, anointing, laying on of hands, and the salutation of the holy kiss. The practice of the apostolic church will be considered on the following topics: the prayer veil, the oath, secrecy, war, going to law, adornment, divorce, and amusements. The importance of these doctrines in our present age will be carefully noted. Senior elective. Two hours, second semester.  Professor Schlosser (Elizabethtown College, 50).

This class does not appear in 27th Catalog, but similar material may be reintroduced in

New Testament Doctrine: This course is a complement of Bible 40 (General Bible Doctrine). A study of various phases of the doctrine of salvation is continued. Specific doctrines connected with this general subject are studied” (Elizabethtown College. 1928-1929, 35).

In the 44th Catalog, the History and Program of the Church of the Brethren becomes a class, but it does not center on teaching the ideals of the Church of the Brethren.

This course is designed to acquaint students with the historical background of the Church of the Brethren and to give them a comprehensive view of the present program of the church. …. (Elizabethtown College, 55).

In the 76th Catalog, the class transitions to A History of the Anabaptist and Pietist Movements.  The basic purpose of the course is to study the historical and theological backgrounds in Church history as they relate to the Church of the Brethren (Elizabethtown College, 87). The Fund for the Advancement of Ethnic Understanding receives first listing in the 67th Catalog. Sociology of War and Peace is introduced in Catalog 1983-1985:  A study of the social sources and consequences of war and peace cross-cultural perspective with special attention to nuclear deterrence and the systemic forces that contribute to a peaceful world order (Elizabethtown College, 87).

‘Make Jesus King’ and/or Educate for Service?

Motto for Elizabethtown College

“In 1915, two mottoes appeared on campus, ‘Make Jesus King’ … While this motto did not make a lasting impression on the College, another one did. … Educate for Service” (Downing, 12; also see Schlosser, 78). Educate for Service triumphs in the 1979-1981 Catalog where the Christian faith fails to be mentioned in the Statement of Purpose. In addition, church-related, Christian, and the Church of the Brethren roots are not even mentioned in the introductory section, where it was still present in 1977-1979 Catalog. Elizabethtown College advances itself as “a place to live, to learn, to launch a career” (1977-1979 Catalog, Elizabethtown College, 9) and remains such until the Church of the Brethren receives acknowledgment in The Academic Program 1987-1988’s Statement of Purpose.

The board must have been in discussion of Elizabethtown College/Church of Brethren ideals as no purpose receives expression in The Student Handbook 1970-1971.  Ideals are listed in The Student Handbook 1971-1972, but have no connection with the Church of Brethren roots until The Student Handbook (Effective beginning September 1, 1974). Both the Christian and Church of the Brethren roots are dropped in The Student Handbook 1981-1982, but reinstated in the following handbooks.

The focus upon the Bible Department, which becomes Bible and Philosophy, Religion and Philosophy, and now Department of Religious Studies steps away from all its members being “committed to the Christian tradition” (2001-2002 Catalog, Elizabethtown College, 156-157) by confessing Religious studies is a highly diversified discipline, which draws on a variety of scholarly methods and involves the empathetic study of myriad religious traditions. Our department reflects the historical, theological, scriptural, ethical and comparative aspects of this field. The faculty is, therefore, able to offer a balanced and thorough course of study for students in the areas of history of Christianity, biblical studies, Christian theology and ethics, and comparative philosophy (2002-2003 Catalog, 158-159).  In the 2001-2002 Catalog, “Asian religions” and “ministry studies” are added to the list, “Christian theology and ethics” changes to “ethics and society” (Elizabethtown College, 213). None-the-less, the department seeks to cast its purpose, “[i]n keeping with the heritage of the Church of the Brethren and the mission of the College.” How?

[D]epartmental courses explore ways in which religious beliefs, practices, and traditions promote peace within the human community; commend the use of nonviolent methods of transforming conflict; establish justice both locally and globally; proclaim the essential worth of human beings; and encourage respect for diversity. …  Following the Church of the Brethren heritage of Elizabethtown College, the department emphasizes the study of nonviolent resistance and conflict resolution and fosters an understanding of the historical Brethren commitments to peace, justice and service. Thus, the department participates in two interdisciplinary minors: Peace and Conflict Studies and Anabaptist Studies (2002-2003 Catalog, Elizabethtown College, 158-159)

How does one find Peacemaking expressed today at Elizabethtown College?

A brief personal correspondence with a former administrator summarized the 1990’s:

During my time at E-town, the pacifist/peacemaking tradition of the college, while known and acknowledged by some, was hardly at the center of our public relations or our daily lives. There were some faculty (Ken [Kreider] and Gene [Clemens] are notable) who held up the tradition, and Dr. Spiegler honored it, but the college in general did not incorporate it into its self-understanding. I am glad to infer from your note that that may have changed.

Ted Long (President, 1996 – ) has built upon the tradition honored by Gerhard E. Spiegler (President, 1985-1996) and given expression in the formation of the interdisciplinary minors of Anabaptist and Pietist Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies. Over the course of the past fifteen years the campus has hosted numerous “peacemakers,” including Arun Gandhi, the former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, Archbishop Desmund Tutu, Terry Waite, and Nobel Peace Prize winners F.W. de Klerk and Jody Williams. Programs which have been started, given additional support, or received affirmation include:

Has Elizabethtown College experienced a rebirth of its founding ideals or were the early German Baptist Brethren/Church of the Brethren opponents of higher education correct with regard to their concerns? For example,

In September, 1856, Brother Rufus, an agent of the Visitor, wrote in opposition to the establishment of the school [i.e., a proposed school for the education of young Brethren to be teachers]. He argued that upon examination of other denominational schools, they too started with the simple intention of a limited education for teachers. However, “adding one branch to the other—one science to the other,” they gained fame and renown, not representatives of the true Christian witness. … (Hanle, 91-92).


Today few members of the Church of the Brethren can be found among the faculty, administration, or students of Elizabethtown College. The College “Educates for Service” from a wider perspective than intended to a much wider pool than intended. A significant investment of energy, structure, and teaching is necessary for a Christian College to remain firm to countercultural commitments such as the Anabaptist understanding of peacemaking. Elizabethtown College’s rise as a fiscally sound, accredited provider of a quality education parallels a decline of a Biblical focus and Church of the Brethren ideals. The institution’s acculturation and secularization led to a loss of their peacemaking perspective, resulting in the widespread support of World War II, an embracing of the gift of the G.I. Bill, and the campus conflicts of the Vietnam era, for more see PeaceMaking Falls in the Face of Military Conflict.

Although President Ted Long’s support of peacemaking has caused significant progress, there is a long road ahead to teach and incarnate a Biblical perspective on peacemaking at Elizabethtown College. More broadly speaking, it would truly take a work of God among administration, faculty and students, to realign the college with its Church of the Brethren roots. Maybe that is what the Lord has ahead with the calling of a new president in summer of 2011. But the author wonders, if Elizabethtown College returned to its roots, would the youth of the Church of the Brethren respond with interest toward such an education? Where are they and those who are responsible for their education?


Clemens, Eugene P. A Primer for Peace. Self-published. 2001.
Crocker, Richard. RE: Inquiry: Elizabethtown College as a Peacemaking College. Personal Email Correspondence. 9/30/2010, 10:54 am.
Downing, David C. Managing Editor. Elizabethtown College: The First Hundred Years. Manheim, PA: Stiegel Printing Inc., 1999.
Elizabethtown College. Catalog. Elizabethtown, PA: Elizabethtown College. 1900 – .
Elizabethtown College. Student Handbook (The Rudder). Elizabethtown, PA: Elizabethtown College. 1926 – .
Elizabethtown College. Department of Athletics. Ian H. Showalter, Personal Author. A Short History of Elizabethtown College Athletics: 75 Years of Blue Jay Athletics. Elizabethtown, PA: Elizabethtown College, 2004.
Falkenstein, George N. The Organization and the Early History of Elizabethtown College. Publication Info [s.l. : s.n.]. 193-.
Hanle, Robert V. A History of Higher Education Among the German Baptist Brethren: 1708-1908. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1974.
Kreider, J. Kenneth. A Cup of Cold Water: The Story of Brethren Service. Elgin, IL: Brethren Press, 2001.
Schlosser, Ralph W. History of Elizabethtown College: 1899-1970. Lebanon, PA: Sowers Printing Company, 1971.
Williamson, Chet. Uniting Work and Spirit: A Centennial History of Elizabethtown College. Elizabethtown, PA: Elizabethtown College Press, 2001.

Note:  A special thank-you to Matthew Shindell for his recommendation of Robert Hanle’s insightful 1974 Ph.D. dissertation, A History of Higher Education Among the German Baptist Brethren: 1708-1908.

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Tom Grosh IV

Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the South Central PA Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). The Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine is the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!

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