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July 1974 · Vol. 3 No. 2 · pp. 215–16 

A History of the Mennonite Brethren - A New Book

Board of Christian Literature

The search for identity, characteristic of our time, is in part a search for one’s roots. Already for years it was agreed that a carefully written history could serve well to identify some of the shaping forces that have issued in the corporate life Mennonite Brethren presently experience.

Despite the availability of some written summaries (identified in the accompanying article), teachers in Mennonite Brethren schools and colleges who are in touch with the third and fourth generation of Mennonite Brethren have become increasingly vocal. They desired a more comprehensive statement on the historical roots and the shaping forces within the Mennonite Brethren Church.

Among the general Mennonite Brethren population also an interest in the past was becoming increasingly strong. The interested non-Mennonite could be given no up-to-date book that dealt adequately with the history of the Mennonite Brethren. Assignments in years gone by had not been completed and that for a variety of reasons. A history updating the story of the Mennonite Brethren to the 1970s was needed.

The Board of Christian Literature, in setting itself the assignment of producing a history of the Mennonite Brethren Church, was fortunate to find in Dr. J. A. Toews a man willing to undertake the task.

Professor Toews has lived in three major settings for Mennonite Brethren life. He was born in Russia and emigrated to Canada where he was ordained to the ministry of the Mennonite Brethren Church. While at Tabor College in the United States, he combined pastoral work and studies. He received additional training in two of the Canadian prairie universities and earned a Ph. D. at the University of Minnesota in 1964.

Dr. Toews’ acceptance of the assignment was reported at the BCL fall meeting, October, 1970. Dr. Toews was invited to the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Fresno for a year, 1971-72, where he taught a course in Mennonite-Mennonite Brethren History and where he secluded himself for research and writing. Guidelines for such a history were developed in the course of a session which brought together Mennonite Brethren theologians, historians, and writers. As the manuscript took shape it was circulated to selected brethren who offered their critiques. The final details and editing and the completion of glossary and bibliography were assumed by Dr. A. J. Klassen.

Dr. J. A. Toews has performed a laudable service. The history is characterized by a balance that comes from the pen of a gifted writer who is trained in his discipline. True, the South American part of the story is not developed, but this is so by design, partly in the interest {216} of space and partly because another volume, that of the History of the Mennonite Brethren Church in South America, will give space to this concern. As a scholar, Dr. Toews has taken care with his sources and has been most painstaking in translating the German into accurate English. His work is of excellent literary quality. He writes from within in a spirit that is characterized by love for the Mennonite Brethren people, but he does not shun constructive comment and criticism.

Not only will the book serve as a text book for the classroom, it will serve as a source book for pastors and will be read avidly by Mennonite Brethren families generally. It is our desire that this record of God’s work among one section of His people will magnify the faithfulness of God.

A vote of thanks is tendered by an entire brotherhood to the author upon the imminent release of the history—a vote of thanks that will become more vocal and appreciative once the book is in the hands of readers.

Board of Christian Literature

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