July 2000 Bush

Contents of Volume
July 2000 Number Three

“United Progressive Mennonites”: Bluffton College and

Anabaptist Higher Education, 1913-1945


Abstract: In contrast to the more
established narratives of Mennonite higher education as represented by
schools like Goshen and Bethel Colleges, the story of Bluffton College
in Ohio is less well-known. As one of the first accounts rooted primarily
in the archives at Bluffton, this article redresses that imbalance. It
argues that what emerged at Bluffton was a self-consciously progressive
approach to Mennonite higher education, one much more accepting of assimilation.
As such, the “progressive Anabaptism” developed by Bluffton leaders like
Samuel Mosiman, Noah Byers and C. Henry Smith emerged as a major target
of attack for Mennonite Fundamentalists in the 1920s. This was an attack
rooted partly in personal and institutional rivalries. By the 1940s, an
emerging new cohort of institutional leaders at Bluffton, led by president
Lloyd Ramseyer, worked to address the flaws of the earlier vision and
reshape it into a durable program for the future.

On August 5, 1913,
having just arrived and rented a home in Bluffton less than a month before,
the recently departed president of Goshen College Noah Byers delivered
one of the principal addresses at the “Bluffton Home Coming and College
Day.” “United Progressive Mennonites. These are significant words,” Byers
intoned to the crowd, since “the union of different sects in this great
work is surely in line with the best spirit of the age. . . .”[1]
Of course, he added, “I need not tell you of the good qualities of progressive
Mennonites. Five branches representing over fifty thousand members will
unite here to build up here an institution of higher learning. There are
other Mennonite colleges,” Byers proclaimed, “but none that have aimed
to do the advanced College and Seminary work to be offered here.”[2]

In 1999, as Bluffton College reached its
hundredth birthday, the events of the preceding century left an ambiguous
record as to whether Byers’ optimism of 1913 was fully warranted. As innovators
and institution-builders, Byers and his fellow Mennonite academics were
certainly progressive in pushing their own church to accept the ways of
the broader society. And in their affirmation of assimilation, they were
consciously absorbing a national mainstream culture that was progressive
in an explicitly political sense as well.

In such a cultural embrace, however, the
Mennonite scholars and church leaders at Bluffton College plunged their
own institution into nearly twenty years of conflict with many of the
churches in its constituency. Though these battles were ostensibly about
theology, viewing them through the lens of power dynamics at Mennonite
colleges reveals that they also emanated from rivalries that were both
personal and institutional. The conflicts that ensued would ultimately
threaten not only individual careers but also entire institutions. By
the 1930s the cumulative effect of years of such battles would combine
with the financial calamities of the great depression to destroy whatever
hopes remained of the great “union movement” that Byers and his colleagues
had so grandly inaugurated.

Even so, the college at Bluffton survived,
partly because of the residual power of its founding vision. Several generations
of college leaders adeptly built from and elaborated upon the heritage
of progressive Anabaptism established in earlier years by Byers and his
colleagues. In so doing, the community of Mennonite scholars and church
leaders at Bluffton came to nourish a progressive Anabaptist vision for
Mennonite higher education that may prove serviceable even for today and
into the future.


The first dozen years of the new college
were difficult and contentious. Born in 1899, the institution barely managed
to survive the presidency of its first leader, the young and headstrong
Noah C. Hirschy. Like its sister schools at Bethel and Goshen, Central
Mennonite College was small and struggling, hardly much of a college at
all; indeed, the vast number of its students were enrolled in the academy
as secondary students.[3]

Moreover, virtually from the moment of
its founding the young institution had been locked into conflict. For
the entire eight years of his presidency, Hirschy engaged in a running
fight with the leaders of the large, local Swiss Mennonite congregation.
On the surface the initial dispute-foreshadowing those that came later-seemed
to involve differences in theology between the innovator Hirschy and more
conservative local Mennonites.[4]
Yet Hirschy’s principal combatant in the dispute, the Swiss congregation’s
pastor John B. Baer, was a Union Theological Seminary graduate and prohibition
advocate-probably just as progressive as Hirschy himself.[5]
The conflict thus assumed the tones of an intensely bitter and destructive
personal feud, one that brought the college to the very edge of closing
in 1906.[6]
Emergency fundraising appeals kept the institution afloat, but the conflict
continued to simmer. Although Hirschy resigned the presidency in 1908,
his antagonists gathered to nurse their grudges in what came to be two
separate congregations, St. Johns and Ebenezer Mennonite churches, both
of them nearby.[7]

Yet in 1913 the college faced a sudden
and exciting rejuvenation. The impetus came, somewhat ironically, from
the head of a rival institution, Noah C. Byers of Goshen. Like many other
Mennonite educators, Byers thought that, rather than maintaining three
struggling colleges, his church should unite its energies behind one of
them and really make it succeed. In 1909, as president of Goshen, he wrote
to the heads of Central Mennonite and Bethel colleges, pointing out that
Goshen was the only Mennonite school thus far to offer the A.B. degree,
and proposing that it should take the lead in such efforts.[8]

Not surprisingly, the other presidents
did not bother to reply to Byers’ suggestion; so in November of 1912 he
made it again, this time more publicly. Sensing that the growing clout
of conservatives in the Mennonite Church would render support for such
a “union movement” unlikely at Goshen, Byers signaled from the beginning
his receptivity to considering another locale. In several unpublicized
meetings, and then public gatherings in the winter and spring of 1913,
a growing number of Mennonite educators and lay people from five different
Mennonite groups laid plans to create a college that would unite their
efforts and jointly serve the young people from all their different groups.
In their dreams, Central Mennonite would become a new institution, Bluffton
College, and would clearly be the Harvard of the Mennonite world, offering
not only a bachelor’s degree but a Master’s of Divinity as well, available
through the creation of the first Mennonite seminary.[9]

By February of 1913 Byers agreed with
Central Mennonite College president Samuel Mosiman that the best location
for this institution would be Bluffton.[10]
With Bluffton as the central focus for the joint educational efforts of
the Mennonite churches, they were confident that they could attract a
veritable all-star line-up of academic talent, led by Byers himself, who
had agreed to serve as Mosiman’s dean. All that spring he and Mosiman
exchanged letters, sometimes once or twice a week, in which they compared
the relative merits of various individuals with the enthusiasm of buyers
at a horse auction. As president of Goshen, Byers assured Mosiman on May
9, for example, that “you can count on several of our best men for your
faculty and some hearty support from some progressive members in our branch.
I believe the movement is timely and can be worked.”[11]
They quickly lined up Bible professor Jacob Langenwalter to come from
Bethel and were wooing a number of Goshen faculty, including oratory teacher
and expert fundraiser Boyd Smucker and Bible professor Paul Whitmer.

Byers’ talents aside, the real star of
the group of “Old Goshen” faculty who made the switch was C. Henry Smith,
whose presence on the streets of Bluffton came to embody the very epitome
of the sophisticated intellectual. The “C” in “C. Henry” actually stood
for nothing at all but was added by the young scholar to embellish an
otherwise very undistinguished name. Smith held a Ph.D in history from
the University of Chicago and wore a Phi Beta Kappa key; he had traveled
extensively and could converse in several languages; he was a habitue
of the opera and the theater; and he was an immensely popular professor
and lecturer. When not on campus, Smith was a prominent and respected
local businessman. As the founder and president of a local bank, his astute
investments had accumulated a substantial personal fortune. In sum, C.
Henry Smith was about as close to a “renaissance man” as the Mennonites
had produced.[12]

In his lifelong quest for academic excellence,
Smith wholeheartedly and openly embraced mainstream American culture.
He had tasted much of this life and he had found it good. Much of his
life’s mission would be to expose his Mennonite people to these fine fruits
as well. “The whole object of education,” he proclaimed in a student chapel
service in 1899, “is to break up old habits of thought”; he wanted to
destroy “the ruts into which we have fallen.”[13]

All the Mennonite colleges, historian James
Juhnke has written, “took on a creative but difficult task in their early
years: to reconcile traditional, rural Mennonite values with American
democratic society and its progressivism.”[14]
Smith seemed to embody this observation. His adoption of mainstream American
academic culture meant that he also embraced the political and cultural
orientation of early twentieth-century progressivism. He made repeated
and approving references to the progressive writers and thinkers of his
day, contrasting them favorably throughout his writings and speeches to
the “superannuated ministers” and “outworn church workers”[15]
of his Mennonite community. The guiding theme of Smith’s life-as well
as his lifetime of scholarship on Anabaptist and Mennonite history-was
clearly to help reconcile rural Mennonites and their traditional values
with progressive, democratic American culture.[16]
Smith’s Anabaptists were the “essence of individualism” and the true architects
of modern church-state separation; they were the overlooked, but crucially
important, pioneers and pathfinders of modernity, “blazing the way through
the wilderness of bigotry, superstition and intolerance.”[17]
Instead of hiding their light under a bushel, he proclaimed repeatedly
in the 1930s, Mennonites should once again be in the vanguard moving towards
the light of progressive learning and truth.[18]

Guided by such precepts, Smith and a cohort
of educators at Bluffton worked tirelessly to immerse hundreds of Mennonite
young people in a progressive variant of Anabaptism that would stand in
bright contrast to the fundamentalist squabbles dominating other Mennonite
schools. At Bluffton they would take young Mennonites and others attracted
to the same vision and graft Mennonite tradition onto the best of what
their society offered. In so doing, he hoped they would produce cultured,
refined young Mennonites for a lifetime of service both to their church
and their society. Mennonites no longer needed to regard themselves as
members of some eccentric or isolated religious sect, but could instead
take up an honored and legitimate place in mainstream society, to which
they had much to offer. As President Mosiman informed the graduating class
of 1916, “The great aim of the Christian College is the production of
Christian character. The Christian College insists that the Christian
man and Christian woman are the most useful types of men and women in
our society today.”[19]

The progressivism that informed such efforts
was expressed in both inward and outward directions. Envisioning the college
as an incubator of Christian character, the educators at Bluffton created
a rich student culture around a host of related activities, from which
students received not only academic credit but the deeper inculcation
into what was widely called the “Bluffton spirit.” By the early 1920s
students were enjoying intercollegiate debate teams, four separate campus
literary societies, and annual productions of Shakespeare and more contemporary
plays. They participated in a rich and highly refined music program that
included a variety of campus choirs and orchestras and numerous other
groups brought in from the outside; the musical program for 1912-1913
included, for instance, the Metropolitan Opera Company from New York,
the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and a touring church choir from Chicago.
Generations of Bluffton students were likewise infused with both spiritual
values and the imperatives of Christian service through weekly chapel
and vespers services and through the active campus chapters of the YMCA
and YWCA.[20]

The vision of progressive Anabaptism could
be functional in mainstream American culture as well. Seeking funds for
a new men’s dormitory in the 1920s, for example, Mosiman declared that
the building would be a “memorial to Lincoln,” and “employed as an incentive
to the development of patriotism and good government.”[21]
With the possibility of a large number of Mennonites from Russia entering
the country, it was not just Lincoln Hall but the entire enterprise at
Bluffton, he informed another potential donor in 1920, which could be
a “mighty factor” in the “process of Americanization.”[22]
In the world of a conservative ethno-religious people whose own process
of acculturation was only beginning to accelerate, Smith, Mosiman and
others at Bluffton offered a new vision for higher education that many
found breathtaking and exciting.


Yet the vision also had some problems.
In their rush to assimilate the best of outside culture into their own
Mennonite tradition, Smith and others accepted some aspects of American
culture far too uncritically. The progressivism of C. Henry Smith, for
example, meant a quiet acceptance of American nationalism and racism.
In a series of articles in 1914, for example, he narrated a confident
description of “The Hand of God in American History” in which God was
the prime mover in the nation’s past. He echoed the progressive call for
immigration restriction, worrying about the rising birthrates of “the
inferior races of Southern Europe,” and stated that “if the American nation
is to survive and fulfill the mission for which an all-wise providence
has thus far prepared it, it must keep pure both its Anglo-Saxon blood
and Christian ideals.”[23]
For their part, student writers for the school newspaper sometimes used
racial epithets to refer to people of color. In 1918 students donned blackface
and mounted a minstrel show to bring themselves, wrote the yearbook unashamedly,
“into closer touch with our colored neighbors.”[24]

Even more ominously for a Mennonite college,
many in the Bluffton academic community embraced with varying degrees
of enthusiasm the ultimate crusade of national progressivism, World War
I. President Mosiman was indignant with his critics who charged him with
betraying Mennonite peace principles. “There is no need for a Mennonite
College unless it stands for the principles of the Mennonite church,”
he declared repeatedly. Nowhere did he urge young men to take up regular
combatant service. Nevertheless, he believed that “the allied cause was
the cause of righteousness and justice” and that all Mennonites owed their
country some sort of service. Hence he consistently urged young Mennonites
to “be patriotic” and enter noncombatant ranks.[25]

Given the air of patriotism permeating
the campus, large numbers of Bluffton students and faculty entered both
noncombatant and regular military service. Under Mosiman’s leadership,
the college actively promoted Liberty loan and thrift stamp sales and
also the gung-ho war work of the YMCA; young women energetically gathered
supplies for the Red Cross.[26]
The student newspaper the Witmarsum praised the young men who entered
military ranks and ran a regular feature on their adventures. The paper
particularly celebrated the exploits of Pvt. Edwin Stauffer, who had won
the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in battle and returned home in March
1919 to a hero’s welcome from his fellow students. Throughout the war
the Witmarsum breathlessly reported on the adventures of former
student Pvt. Clayton Welty, following his boot camp experiences in the
United States through his embarkation for France, his wounding in the
battle of Belleau Wood and the combat death of his brother, to his slow
convalescence in a Brooklyn hospital, still coughing up blood and the
bits of uniform that German bullets had smashed into his lungs.[27]
The 1918 yearbook editorialized that “trusting the cause be a just one,
let us pray for peace; but we cannot have peace until the God of war is
overcome and run off the face of the earth.”[28]

Mosiman soon met with the happy discovery
that such activity lent substance to his fundraising descriptions of the
good work of “Americanization” the college was engaged in. For one New
York City philanthropic foundation he was happy to list the numbers of
Bluffton college military men without distinguishing between their combatant
and noncombatant roles, and he brandished Stauffer’s medal with a flourish.
Equally instructive is his reply to Rep. John Cable of Lima. Congressman
Cable had written warm letters of endorsement for the college, but now
in 1923 something had begun to trouble him. He had heard of Mennonite
pacifism and wanted to know the degree to which the denomination’s refusal
to defend their country was being inculcated in the Bluffton student body.[29]

Mosiman hastened to lay the congressman’s
fears to rest. Certainly Mennonites stood for peace, he admitted, but
only in the same manner as did the late President Harding, whom he quoted
as professing his abhorrence of war. His church stood, above all, for
freedom of conscience, Mosiman informed Cable, and never dropped from
their membership roles those who felt called to participate in warfare.
Indeed, “when it comes to war Mennonites are a good deal like other people,
and they have difficulty to harmonize their ideals with the exigencies
of the hour,” Mosiman assured him, proceeding to list all the contributions
to the recent war offered by Mennonites in general and Bluffton College
in particular.[30]

All this obvious and enthusiastic support
for the war at their denominational college soon began to raise the eyebrows
of a number of Mennonite pastors whose pacifism, unlike Mosiman’s, did
not embrace President Harding as a brother in the faith. Early in 1918,
for example, Mosiman began to hear pointed concerns about the college’s
adherence to Mennonite pacifism from the important and influential Central
(Illinois) Conference minister Aaron Augsburger. “As Christians we become
part of two kingdoms,” Mosiman replied, and while the government could
command Mennonites’ temporal obedience, it had no “right to claim any
of my spiritual goods.” Moreover, he appealed to Augsburger’s premillennialist
mindset, arguing that he could see “the hand of God” in Wilson’s crusade
and in many other “signs,” such as “the British driving out the abominable
Turk and the Kaiser from Jerusalem, making it possible to have the Jews

Yet Augsburger remained unsatisfied. In
fact, Mosiman’s expedient adaptation of premillennialism and his questionable
reading of two-kingdom theology only heightened the minister’s suspicions.
Augsburger demanded that the president issue an “open statement” of the
college’s position on the war, branded YMCA work an integral part of the
war effort, and openly stated his fear that college was “following the
path of ‘Least Resistance’. . . . Now is the time for Bluffton to show
its colors, whether it is Mennonite or otherwise.”[32]

Mosiman responded with a remarkable display
of verbal gymnastics. He issued a hot defense of the college as wedded
to the teachings of the church, adding that he was not familiar enough
with the work of the YMCA to venture an opinion about it, which was disingenuous
at best. But he also forthrightly stated his conviction that “Europe is
at the mercy of a big Bully, and if I can jump across the fence to help
the fellow that is getting the worst, I should not like to have my act
construed as an act of war.”[33]


With such a fervent embrace of mainstream
progressive culture, the leadership of Bluffton College soon nudged much
of the student body into a cultural/religious position somewhat removed
from the college’s conservative rural constituency. Many of these church
members had held fast to traditional Mennonite precepts such as nonresistance
but had themselves also borrowed from other outside currents such as Fundamentalism.
Thus, throughout the 1910s and early 1920s, Mosiman patiently replied
to a series of conservative pastors and lay people who asked whether the
college had embarked upon the course of religious “modernism.”

Augsburger, for example, remained unmollified
by Mosiman’s assurances, and by 1922 had begun to expand his list of concerns
beyond the college’s shaky record on nonresistance. He discerned a number
of disturbing trends at the college: its seeming tolerance for the teaching
of evolution and other signposts of “modern” theology, its gung-ho participation
in intercollegiate athletics, and even the songs delivered by the college
Glee Club in its tours of Illinois churches. “We hear much about the Bluffton
spirit, but as yet we have not learned what that spirit is,” Augsburger
wrote somewhat acidly, warning the president that he had “the utmost contempt
for those who would willfully deceive.”[34]
Mosiman’s lengthy and patient defenses of the college seemed to satisfy
Augsburger little if at all. “A majority of us feel that the administration
and faculty is simply trying to play horse with us, and are just going
ahead with their own notion and ideals,” he told Mosiman bluntly. “We
may be block-heads out here in Ill[inois], but there is one thing which
we refuse and that is, to be softsoaped and swallowed whole.”[35]

In 1920 sympathetic ally E. F. Grubb summarized
for Mosiman the kinds of rumors that had begun circulating in the churches:
that the college “knocks” the conservative Bible institutes; that it discriminated
against Moody students who had transferred to the college; and that it
opposed revivals and quietly approved of higher criticism of the Bible.[36]
Gradually the progressives at Bluffton began to realize they faced an
escalating crisis.

By the early 1920s this kind of unhappiness
had cost the college the support of two of the denominations that had
contributed in a small but important way to its revitalization in 1913.
In 1920 the Mennonite Brethren in Christ (MBIC) members on the board could
no longer contain their dissatisfaction. The college’s decision in 1923
to approve of intercollegiate football teams, reports of student card-playing
and a general sense that “the students are going to run the thing” indicated
to MBIC leader and Bluffton College trustee L. J. Lehman that “we are
nearing a crisis . . . that will mean the severing of relations.” Shortly
afterward MBIC withdrew its official support from the college.[37]

Another of the college’s founding Mennonite
denominations, the Defenseless Mennonites, likewise withdrew their support
after the failure of a remarkable series of maneuverings by Jasper A.
Huffman, who represented this church on the seminary faculty. At a joint
meeting of these two small denominations in 1921, Huffman prodded two
Bluffton College board members from these denominations to propose that
the two groups together create a Bible college. Mosiman suspected that
the move was purposefully designed to unite the two groups and also drive
a wedge between Bluffton College and its constituent churches, with the
Central Conference and many of the fundamentalist dissidents in the larger
GC church rallying to the support of the new school. Instead, the proposal
failed and Huffman, along with his church, left Bluffton. Throughout the
1920s the college would continue to include a few individuals from both
denominations on its board in an unofficial capacity, sometimes provoking
sharp protests from these churches themselves.[38]

While their leaving was regrettable, the
college could manage without the support of these two small denominations.
Yet it could not survive if the larger General Conference Mennonite Church
likewise turned against it. Not long into the 1920s, forces were at work
in the church to make this happen when Mennonites in a number of different
groups began to respond positively to the larger movement of Christian
fundamentalism that rampaged through American Protestantism in these years.
People so inclined soon began to identify the concentration of progressives
at Bluffton as a major headwater of the currents of theological liberalism
they saw as threatening the church. They were supported in such conclusions
by determined individuals in circles both close to and farther away from
Bluffton. While issues of theology united this intertwined coalition of
Mennonite fundamentalists, a closer examination of their perspective and
motivations reveals that their attacks on the college also had much to
do with personal and institutional rivalries.

Some rumors were fed by local sources,
especially by one prominent pastor whose suspicions of the college had
originated in Hirschy’s fight with the Swiss Mennonite congregation. In
1909 William Gottschall had been appointed as pastor of the Swiss Congregation
to replace J. B. Baer. From 1917 until 1923 Gottschall pastored the congregation
at St. Johns, after which he assumed the pulpit at Ebenezer Mennonite
Thus the congregations where Gottschall served harbored hostility against
the college for over two decades. Gottschall willingly promoted this hostility.
He had been disturbed by the college’s enthusiasm for plays and football
and by what he saw as its lack of interest in revival meetings. What really
alarmed him, however, was the campaign he perceived on the part of certain
college faculty to have him removed as pastor of the Swiss Mennonite Congregation.
At that point Gottschall joined allies such as Berne’s pastor P. R Schroeder
and fundamentalist pastors in Kansas like P. H. Richert and Peter Unruh,
all of whom were determined to break the power of the church progressives-centered
at Bluffton and its Witmarsum Seminary-and return their denomination to
what they defined as the fundamentals of the faith. “There is a tremendous
current in the general conference at the present time to prevent any progressive
movement of any kind,” Mosiman complained in 1919.[40]

In 1922 Mosiman received a questionnaire
from this group, demanding that all GC colleges answer specific doctrinal
questions regarding the virgin birth, the perfection of Christ, and the
inerrancy of scripture. In his seven-page reply, Mosiman left no doubt
that his college held to a conservative evangelical theology but would
not buckle under to what was clearly a Fundamentalist litmus test. He
complained at length that such a questionnaire could not fairly examine
an educational institution, and any attempt to do so would have “demoralizing
tendencies.” No, he did not subject faculty candidates to a rigid statement
of faith, Mosiman confessed. Instead he examined the whole of their spiritual,
moral and intellectual character. He quibbled with his questioners’ phrasing
of doctrinal principles and refused to answer their questions with the
Fundamentalist formulations that would satisfy them. He knew what the
game was and he simply refused to play. “Personally, I am not interested
nor do I feel under obligation to join in the fight of the Baptists and
the Presbyterians with the ‘Fundamental Party,” Mosiman declared. “. .
. I feel that the Colleges have a mission to guard the faith delivered
to the Saints from being mixed up with all sorts of modern fads.”[41]

In terms of both their theology and their
personal style, the president and his colleagues could not comfortably
don the Fundamentalist mindset. Neither could much of their constituency,
for the Bluffton Spirit had assumed a momentum and trajectory of its own.
Even the minor concessions the president made to his denomination’s conservatives
had provoked an outcry from the opposite quarter. “I am constantly warned
that I am giving in to conservatism and that I am guiding the College
on to the rocks,” Mosiman complained to one Fundamentalist detractor.
The college would simply try to ride out the storm.[42]

Yet coming events would render this an
increasingly difficult course to pursue. The Fundamentalist charges were
greatly amplified by forces beyond Bluffton’s immediate constituency,
specifically by (MC) Mennonites in Goshen, Indiana and Scottdale, Pennsylvania
who had every reason to feel threatened by Bluffton’s success and consciously
acted to damage or even eliminate a rival. Bluffton people, meanwhile,
came to see in Goshen’s trials an opportunity for their own institution’s
gain. After Smith, Byers and others left Goshen for Bluffton in 1913,
a “panic” had set in among remaining Goshen faculty and students, reported
Paul Whitmer (who remained for a time on Goshen’s faculty).[43]
Subsequent events over the years would do little to ease the threat that
Bluffton seemingly posed to many at Goshen, especially as conservative
MC church leaders hired and fired Goshen presidents on a nearly annual
basis in the late 1910s and early 1920s, substantially alienating many
students and a growing number of Goshen alumni who remained more devoted
to progressive persuasions.[44]

When MC leaders at Goshen closed the school
for the 1923-1924 school year and Goshen’s alumni association recommended
to students that they transfer to Bluffton, Bluffton College leaders saw
their chance. “This is the year that we win or lose with the Old Church,”
wrote Witmarsum seminary president John E. Hartzler excitedly. “No one
‘rock the boat.'” Having “found the sentiment strong in our favor” in
a recent visit to MC churches, Hartzler alerted his colleagues that “we
may have their students and their money for Bluffton. . . . This is our
day, let us not miss it.”[45]
Mosiman began to receive queries asking about a proposed “union” of Bluffton
and Goshen, rumors he did not move to entirely dispel. Meanwhile, he confidently
laid plans to welcome the transfer of about 75 Goshen students, several
more faculty and much of Goshen’s funding base.[46]

Some Goshen people like Harold S. Bender
worried that, in his words, Bluffton was becoming “an all-Mennonite college
which would subsequently take the place of Goshen College.”[47]
The most direct efforts to avoid this possibility came from the reckless
pen of Bender’s father-in-law John Horsch, an (Old) Mennonite publicist
in Scottdale, who discovered that the Bluffton threat could be averted
by tarring the college with the broad brush of religious modernism. He
had begun such efforts with Bluffton’s first burst into prominence in
1913. In July of 1913, still in the office of Goshen’s president, Byers
had dismissed Horsch’s charges of Bluffton liberalism, confidently writing
to Mosiman that “his criticism will not amount to much.” Referring to
himself and Smith, Byers told Mosiman that “our standing in our branch
is fully as good as Bro. Horsch, a man who has never been given any responsible
work. Our people don’t take him seriously.”[48]

But Byers was wrong. In 1924, when Bluffton’s
threat to Goshen seemed greatest, Horsch published an explosive polemic,
The Mennonite Church and Modernism, which labeled a number of the
leaders of the church as dangerous modernists, “traitors” who were betraying
the church into the hands of religious liberalism. He had no doubt where
they were centered. “Bluffton is the citadel of religious modernism among
the Mennonites of America,” he told Bender.[49]
His list of prominent Mennonite modernists included Mosiman, Byers, Hartzler
and Smith. Horsch followed this blast with another pamphlet repeating
the charges, which he mailed free of charge to every Mennonite minister
in the country. With Horsch happy to feed them documentation, GC fundamentalists
in Berne, Indiana prepared their own pamphlet laying out the Evidences
of Modernism at Bluffton College in 1929.[50]

The ferocity and suddenness of the attacks
astonished the institutional leaders at Bluffton. The dignified Smith
moved to defend his name, writing privately to Horsch with admirable graciousness
but still accusing him of “deliberately trying to misinterpret” his words
and engaging in “unfair and unchristian procedures.”[51]
Since they had been publicly slandered, both Hartzler and Byers responded
in a hot and public manner, highlighting in church publications the many
instances where Horsch had taken their words out of context or otherwise
misinterpreted them, and defending their own conservative theology. Hartzler
fully agreed, he said, with the common opinion that Horsch’s book was
“decidedly unscientific, inaccurate, unfair, unreasonable and uncalled
For his part Byers dismissed Horsch derisively as a “proof reader and
translator” who was “responsible to no one” in his drive to reexert the
MC old guard’s power over individuals who had escaped its grasp. Both
Horsch’s son and son-in-law penned vehement protests to Byers. Harold
Bender, the son-in-law, wrote cordially, but M. J. Horsch promised to
take the dispute to new lows, hinting darkly of exposees of “a few bathing
beach episodes” involving Bluffton people.[53]

Likewise, President Mosiman struggled to
find an appropriate response. Privately the fundamentalist onslaughts
left him sputtering with anger. Such attacks were “bunk . . . ; people
resent such lies here,” he wrote a supporter. “I am at a loss to know
where all the bunk comes from, unless it be from a diseased, debased or
perverted imagination.”[54]
Most of the time Mosiman refused to even answer the charges, realizing
that “as soon as you have answered one new ones will be ‘trumped-up’ and
one could waste all his time answering false charges.”[55]
When Mosiman spoke to the critics, he usually regretted it. For example,
attempting to placate the dissidents at Berne in 1929, he wrote them a
long letter laying out “in very simple and plain language . . . what we
believe and teach.” The Berne deacons immediately submitted Mosiman’s
statement to national leaders of the fundamentalist movement, who excoriated
it as doctrinally insufficient. Princeton’s Greshem Machen judged it as
“bad throughout”; William Bell Riley of the Christian Fundamentals Association
denounced it as “sadly deficient,” adding “if this is your college, I
am sorry.”[56]

But Mosiman had to do something, because
the attacks had begun to take a toll. In 1925, for example, sympathetic
pastor Elmer Basinger toured Mennonite communities in South Dakota and
met with scant success in his efforts to interest prospective students
in Bluffton, mainly because Gottschall had informed local pastors that
the school was no longer “safe.”[57]
In October of 1928, at a neutral site in Lima, he decided to confront
the critics head on in a meeting with Schroeder and five deacons of the
Berne church. As one of the few occasions when the combatants sat down
to discuss matters face to face, the event was also notable because Schroeder
brought along a stenographer who faithfully recorded the entire proceeding.
The transcript furnishes a rare glimpse into the gulf that had opened
between the college and its critics.

For the most part, the participants retained
a strained cordiality in their debate over the college’s theology, teaching
and spiritual life, although at times even this mask of civility fell
away. Schroeder took umbrage at Mosiman’s calling him a liar, which Mosiman
denied. After a particular hot series of exchanges, there was a brief
pause, followed by Mosiman’s flat defense of the college: “We are not
all going to the devil.” Much of the discussion concerned the theology
of Bluffton College Bible professor Jacob Quiring; as Schroeder cried,
“What he teaches will rob a young man of his faith.” Mosiman sprang to
his friend’s defense. Quiring “has often been misquoted,” he stated, and
was “a man who lives closely to his God and Saviour,” something which
the Berne leaders had trouble accepting. They brought out the modernist
charge and thought incredulous Mosiman’s description of Quiring as “a
Christian mystic and pietist.” Back and forth the volleys went. In the
end, however, the exchange did not seem to resolve anything.[58]


In stepping back to analyze the larger
confrontation, we must be careful to take the words of historical characters
at their face value. Schroeder, Gottschall and Horsch may well have been
sincere in their beliefs that Bluffton was infecting the church with religious
modernism, though participants at the time and historians later found
such charges doubtful.[59]
Some modern historians have posited that Mennonite fundamentalism was
a necessary byproduct of the Mennonite denominationalizing process; others
have suggested it was one way in which Mennonites worked at cultural transitions
accompanying their increased acculturation and trials during World War
While these accounts are persuasive, viewing the phenomenon through the
lens of the church’s progressives at Bluffton allows for another explanation:
these fights were not only about theology; they were also about personal
power rivalries.

Noah Byers learned this unmistakably in
1925. When he and other “Old” Goshen progressives came to Bluffton in
1913, they remained within the MC church and attended the MC Zion church
west of town.[61]
Identified in 1925 as a center of “modernism,” the Zion congregation found
itself suspended by the Mennonite Church.[62]
The church shortly thereafter broke apart, with Byers, Whitmer and others
finally moving into GC circles. Byers had hard words for the area MC bishop,
A. J. Steiner of Lima, who had taken a central role in Zion’s excommunication.
“Bro. Steiner you know very well that my theology isn’t any different”
than other stalwarts in the church, Byers told him sharply. “No Bro. Steiner
you’re not afraid of my theology!” Instead, in Byers’ view, the bishop
had lined up with a group of conservative MC leaders who were taking an
authoritative stand on dress standards. “Ashamed of the real issue,” Byers
continued, Steiner was “trying to put the blame on a few ‘modernists’
and thus make your fight as respectable as that in the ‘popular’ denominations.”[63]
An Illinois pastor caught the same point in 1926, pleading with Horsch
to stop his smears. “There must be some further motive beyond the well-being
of our beloved denomination,” he wrote Horsch. “There is too much personal
feeling permitted to enter into it.”[64]

By the early 1930s the cumulative weight
of a decade of rancorous debate began to assume a momentum that threatened
the life of church institutions. Shortly after national fundamentalist
leaders condemned the college’s statement of faith, the Berne deacons
ceased communicating with Mosiman and- “somewhat hesitantly,” argues Paul
Toews-formally charged the college with teaching modernism. This happened
at the GCMC’s general conference meeting in 1929. The conference responded
by passing a declaration of loyalty to “the faith of our fathers” and
by appointing an investigatory committee to explore the substance of the
charges and report back to the next meeting. Partly because combative
spirits had been sobered by the Great Depression, the college seemed to
easily dodge this particular bullet. At the gathering in 1933, more conciliatory
spirits prevailed. The investigative committee delivered an inconclusive
report that generally condemned the teaching of modernism, but without
mentioning any particular context.[65]

The attacks would levy their own price
nonetheless. Even in better financial times Witmarsum Seminary had never
found solid financial or theological footing, and it could not survive
this tough new climate. In the later 1920s seminary president J. E. Hartzler’s
annual statements to the board sounded increasingly pessimistic notes
about inadequate facilities, poor faculty salaries and a scanty financial
When Hartzler resigned the presidency in the summer of 1930 and student
prospects for the fall declined still further, the seminary board reluctantly
agreed to close the seminary temporarily-for no more than five years.
It would never reopen, in Bluffton at least, and Mosiman clearly recognized
why. “One dare not overlook the systematic efforts that have been made
to discredit Bluffton as a suitable place . . . for the seminary,” he
wrote a sympathetic pastor in 1931. Goshen historian and ideological leader
Harold Bender expressed avid hope to John Horsch in 1930 that Bluffton’s
“seminary will die a natural death.” But if it would do so, conservative
attacks had certainly helped to hasten that death along.[67]

The dispute reverberated in church politics
for several decades, revealing both its fundamentally theological character
and its personal nature as well. The conflict was due, Witmarsum professor
and Bethel president J. H. Langenwalter asserted in 1930, to “selfishness
and jealousy and not unbelief,” and also to “men who bear an old grudge.”[68]
The purposeful smears of people like Horsch-emanating from Scottdale but
cheered on by Goshen people like Harold Bender[69]-effectively
inflicted their intended damage. The Berne church was no longer the firm
financial prop of the college that it had been for decades; although individual
members there continued their support, its deacons would no longer allow
the college officially to canvas the congregation.[70]
By 1934 sometime college field man and business manager Harold Alderfer
informed Mosiman what he probably already knew: that about half of the
ministers in the Eastern, Middle and Central Districts of the GC church-half,
in other words, of the college’s constituent churches-were “placing question
marks in back of Bluffton College.”[71]

Even in normal times that would have been
a severe blow. Combined with the financial calamities visited by the depression,
it spelled nothing less than unmitigated disaster. The college would pay
the price for decades. Bluffton’s big dreams of 1913 were never realized.[72]
Until rivalled by Eastern Mennonite College some decades later, Goshen
would remain the dominant Mennonite college east of the Mississippi, with
Bluffton a discredited left-wing substitute.[73]
Over the next several decades it would watch the percentage of Mennonites
in its student body slowly decline. Already by 1930 the percentage dipped
below fifty percent; in 1970 it was down to thirty; and presently it hovers
near fourteen percent.[74]


Yet all the power and momentum of the Fundamentalist
attacks could not dismantle the integrity of the progressive Anabaptist
vision that had shaped the college’s founding. During World War II and
into the postwar years, a new generation of Bluffton leaders and faculty
would correct the flaws of the earlier vision and reconstruct this progressive
heritage into a serviceable vehicle for Mennonite higher education. Most
centrally, this reconstruction of progressive Anabaptism came about through
the capable efforts of a doughty Bluffton alum and former football captain,
Lloyd Ramseyer.

Given the dismal state of affairs when
Ramseyer assumed Bluffton’s presidency in 1938-a huge deficit, rocky church
relations and an exiting president on the edge of a nervous breakdown-Ramseyer’s
accomplishments appear almost breathtaking in retrospect. Within a year
he had the college operating once again in the black and managed to balance
the budget for every year but one in his presidency, which stretched until
1965. After the collapse of enrollment during World War II, Ramseyer slowly
rebuilt both student and faculty numbers and also the college endowment,
so that in 1953 the college achieved a dream that it had pursued since
its infancy: accreditation by the North Central Association.[75]

More importantly, even as the nation bent
itself once again to the cause of world war, Ramseyer refastened the college
to the ways of peace. In World War I, he later told a student, he had
been gung-ho for the fight, and only his father’s needs on their Illinois
farm had kept him from enlisting.[76]
During World War II he had enough respect for his students’ integrity
of conscience that he maintained cordial relations with the college’s
many military men: he exchanged letters with them,[77]
wrote letters on behalf of their military promotions,[78]
and on at least one occasion preached at the memorial service for a former
student killed in the marines’ attack on Saipan in 1944.

Nonetheless, enough of the college’s peace
commitments of the 1920s-reinforced by the national revulsion to war in
the aftermath of World War I- had seeped into Ramseyer that he had graduated
from Bluffton in 1924 as a thorough pacifist. Even in the darkest days
of World War II, Ramseyer rooted the college in Mennonite teachings about
peace. When several Bluffton College students left CPS for noncombatant
service in 1943, Ramseyer-in contrast to Mosiman’s advocacy of the noncombatant
position-wrote to camp administrators wanting to know why.[79]
Privately he castigated friends for buying war bonds.[80]
Publicly he invited several Japanese-American students to come from relocation
camps to study at the college.[81]
Neither Bluffton’s wartime student newspaper nor the yearbook took pro-war
positions. Ramseyer realized early in the war that if he could depend
on young conscientious objectors for postwar service, he might further
anchor the college in peace commitments. Throughout the war he wooed promising
young scholars lodged in the CPS camps. His efforts resulted in the long
postwar careers of formers COs like Delbert Gratz, Carl Lehman, Richard
Weaver, William Keeney, Robert Kreider, Lawrence Templin and Elmer Neufeld.[82]

Pursuing peace in a nation making total
war, however, came fraught with risks-risks that Ramseyer willingly faced.
When a local military manufacturer, the Tripplet corporation, requested
permission to use an empty campus building, Ramseyer pushed the board
of trustees to tell them no, thereby inviting the wrath of the surrounding
village of Bluffton.[83]
As the cold war later hardened and the nation embarked on an anti-communist
crusade, Ramseyer publicly stood by a young history professor Larry Gara,
who was charged with urging students not to register in response to the
1948 draft bill. Ramseyer testified at Gara’s trial and proclaimed the
college’s support, even as evidence mounted that the stance cost the college
financial support.[84]

Internally the president constantly pushed
students towards the same kinds of commitments. In his annual baccalaureate
addresses and his weekly chapel talks, Ramseyer denounced the consumption
of cigarettes and alcohol, relentlessly condemned war and racism, and
called students to lifetimes of service. Long before Little Rock or Birmingham,
Ramseyer rehearsed the evils of American racism. For example, he asked
the class of 1944 “how can we as Christians look on this field with serenity
when the God whom we serve has made us as one . . . all nations and races
of men'”[85]
Even as the world descended into world war, he admitted to the class of
1940 that he would not “judge those who, caught against their will in
a social system which is not of their making, believe it their duty to
enter this carnage. I am convinced, however,” he continued, “that war
and the war system is a sin.” And he concluded by calling students to
be consistent disciples of peace, prepared to lose their lives in service
to others.[86]

Finally, in November of 1944, as the war
ebbed, Ramseyer began to articulate a vision that could carry the college
a long way in the postwar world. He conceded to the board of trustees
that the great “union movement” that had given birth to the college was
dead. The resources of the General Conference Mennonite Church would probably
flow westwards towards Bethel College in Kansas. The possibility of the
(Old) Mennonite Church providing any significant amount of students or
funds was so remote that Ramseyer did not even mention it. Bluffton’s
Mennonite constituency of three small conferences with a total membership
of 12,000 people pointed toward an uncertain future indeed. Ramseyer dismissed
the option of making the college into a “work college” like Berea, because
students then would come for the option of “self-help” and the college
would “lose our greater aims.” What kind of future could they hope to
construct in the face of such obstacles’[87]

Yet Ramseyer had one glittering idea. In
his 1944 report to the Board of Trustees, he suggested that “we enlarge
our constituency by making this a center of a certain type of thinking,
a certain brand of educational and religious philosophy which is different.”
The guiding “distinctive things . . . must coincide with Mennonite principles,
but not be confined to Mennonites.” Ramseyer almost seems to have been
thinking out loud. “Having found these principles,” he wondered, “how
can we capitalize upon them to attract others than Mennonites who would
be interested in these ideals'”[88]

The vision was hazy, but it shone with
promise. As it turned out, he did not have to look far for the guiding
principles he hoped to find; as a Bluffton College alumnus, he had had
them all along. They came to him from the teachings of his mentors-confident
progressives such as Smith, Byers and Mosiman. In the postwar decades
Ramseyer joined with other alumni who had absorbed the teaching of the
earlier generation-emerging young scholars and leaders like Richard Weaver,
Edna Ramseyer Kaufman, William Keeney, and Delbert Gratz. Through them
-and through the efforts of compatriots who had likewise caught a glimpse
of the vision, like Robert Kreider and Elmer Neufeld-the flaws of the
prewar progressivism were slowly ground away to expose a serviceable form
of progressive Anabaptism. The vision would be rooted in the traditional
Mennonite precepts of peacemaking and service to others. Partly out of
pragmatic necessity and partly because of the particular historical trajectory
of Bluffton College, its ideals would be shared with an increasingly non-ethnic,
non-Mennonite student body and aimed at a national society that a progressive,
outward-focused heritage had rendered a little less distant and a little
more approachable. In an era when a decreasing percentage of the church’s
youth are opting for Mennonite colleges,[89]
and when the ever-accelerating pace of acculturation is further dissolving
Mennonite ethnic sensibilities, Bluffton may well offer in this manner
another model for the future of Mennonite higher education.


When C. Henry Smith died over half a century
ago, the momentum and the future seemed to be with Harold Bender’s particular
phrasing of the proper Mennonite place in the larger world, his monumental
Anabaptist Vision. Smith came to stress a less holistic vehicle for preserving
Mennonite life in a time of great transformation. By the middle of World
War II, his own progressive optimism shattered, he wrote Bender in 1943
that he was “firmly convinced” that such a transformation “will have to
come through a process of the right kind of education and perhaps reeducation
in our church schools and colleges.”[90]

While the temptation towards assimilation
was strong both in Smith’s vision and at Bluffton, so too was a determination
to reach out and shape others beyond the boundaries of Mennonite ethnic
peoplehood with emphases derived from the Anabaptist tradition. Impelled
by such a calling, Smith’s institution finally flourished. And in the
five decades since his death, Mennonites throughout North America have
been vastly widening their sense of social responsibility and increasing
in volume and tenor their voices of advocacy with the state.[91]
Embattled and frustrated in their own day, Bluffton stalwarts such as
Byers, Smith and Mosiman might be enjoying a rather ironic but still delicious
small moment of triumph if they were living in this one.

[*]Perry Bush is Professor of History
at Bluffton College and author of a recent history of Bluffton College, Dancing
with the Kobzar: Bluffton College and Mennonite Higher Education, 1899-1999.
1. N. E. Byers, “Bluffton Educational Advantages,” The College Record
12 (Sept. 1913), 86. Return to Text

[2]. Ibid. Return to Text

[3]. Von Hardesty, A Narrative of Bluffton
College (Bluffton, OH: Bluffton College, 1975), 3-6. Return to Text

[4]. For the conflicts of the college’s
first eight years, see Chapter 1 of my Dancing with the Kobzar: Bluffton
College and Mennonite Higher Education, 1899-1999 (Telford, PA: Pandora
Press, 2000). Return to Text

[5]. On Baer, see Edmund G. Kaufman, General
Conference Mennonite Pioneers (North Newton, KS: Bethel College Press, 1973),
312-14. Return to Text

[6]. On the college’s near closing in
1906, see C. Henry Smith and E.J. Hirschler, eds, The Story of Bluffton College
(Bluffton, OH: Bluffton College, 1925), 279-81. Return to Text

[7]. “[T]here has been more or less opposition”
from St. Johns and Ebenezer “ever since the college started,” wrote Elmer Basinger
to Mosiman.-March 19, 1923, Mosiman papers, I-A-b, Box 9, “Executive Comm. Meeting,
Sept. 12, 1923,” Bluffton College Archives (hereafter, BCA). Return to Text

[8]. Smith and Hirschler, The Story
of Bluffton College, 115-16. Return to Text

[9]. For a summary of this movement in
1913, see Smith and Hirschler, The Story of Bluffton College, 116-25.
Return to Text

[10]. See Byers to Mosiman, Feb 3, 1913
and Mosiman to J. W. Kliewer, March 13, 1913, both in N. C. Hirschy Papers,
Box 1, “Letters, Resolutions leading to the merger of Central Mennonite College
into Bluffton College,” BCA. Return to Text

[11]. Byers to Mosiman, May 9, 1913,
N. C. Hirschy Papers, Box 1, “Letters, Resolutions leading to the merger of
Central Mennonite College into Bluffton College,” BCA. Return to Text

[12]. These details taken from Robert
Kreider, “C. Henry Smith: A Tribute”; Lloyd L. Ramseyer, “Obituary for Dr. C.
Henry Smith”; and “C. Henry Smith: A Tribute”-all in Box 1, Smith Papers, 4-MS-CR,
Mennonite Historical Library, Bluffton College (hereafter, MHLB). Return
to Text

[13]. Quoted in James Juhnke, Vision,
Doctrine, War: Mennonite Identity and Organization in America, 1890-1930
(Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1989), 164. Return to Text

[14]. Ibid. Return to Text

[15]. C. Henry Smith, Mennonite Country
Boy: The Early Years of C Henry Smith (Newton, KS: Faith and Life Press,
1962), 202, 211. Return to Text

[16]. On this point, see Juhnke, Vision,
Doctrine, War, 164, and Keith L. Sprunger, “C. Henry Smith’s Vision of Mennonite
History,” Mennonite Life 50 (March 1995), 4-11. Return to Text

[17]. Smith quoted in Sprunger, “C. Henry
Smith’s Vision of Mennonite History,” 7, and Smith, “The Mennonites as Pathfinders
in American History,” Bluffton College Bulletin I (Jan. 1915), 2. Return
to Text

[18]. On this point see C. Henry Smith,
“Mennonites and War,” Christian Evangel 22 (March 1932), 66; Smith, “Mennonites
and Culture,” MQR 12 (April 1938), 84. This article was from a speech
Smith delivered at the Mennonite World Conference at Amsterdam in 1936. Return
to Text

[19]. “Baccalaureate Sermon by President
S. K. Mosiman to the Graduating Class of Bluffton College, June, 1916,” Bluffton
College Bulletin.-Mosiman Papers, I-L-0, Box 3, “Inaugural Addresses for
BC Presidents,” BCA. Return to Text

[20]. For a summary of these activities,
see Hardesty, A Narrative of Bluffton College, 9, 13-16. Return to

[21]. S. K. Mosiman to Eddison Mosiman,
Aug. 21, 1921, Mosiman Papers, I-A-B, Box 2, “Mosiman’s letters seeking funds,”
BCA. Return to Text

[22]. Mosiman to John Wesley Hill, Nov.
27, 1920, Mosiman Papers, I-A-B, Box 2, “Mosiman’s letters seeking funds,” BCA.
Return to Text

[23]. C. Henry Smith, “The Hand of God
in American History,” Christian Evangel 4 (May, June, July 1914), 186-88,
225-27, 262-63, qtd. 226. Return to Text

[24]. Witmarsum (hereafter, WIT)
2 (Jan., 1915), 13; WIT 13 (Dec. 5, 1925), 3; WIT 14 (Nov. 26,
1926), 1; Ista (1918), 176-77. Return to Text

[25]. Mosiman to Aaron Augsburger, June
11, 1918, Mosiman Papers, I-A-B, Box 7, “Rev. Aaron Augsburger,” BCA; Mosiman
to C. J. Claassen, June 22, 1918, Mosiman Papers, I-A-B, Box 1, “C. J. Claassen
Correspondence,” BCA. Also on Mosiman see Gerlof Homan, American Mennonites
and the Great War, 1914-1918 (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1994), 132-33.
Return to Text

[26]. See Homan, American Mennonites
and the Great War, 61, 92-3. Return to Text

[27]. WIT 6 (March 1, 1919): 1;
WIT 5 (Oct. 27, 1917): 3; WIT 5 (May 4, 1918): 1; WIT 6
(Oct. 12, 1918): 1, 3; WIT 6 (Nov. 30, 1918): 1, 3; WIT 6 (March
29, 1919): 3. Return to Text

[28]. Ista (1918), 183-9, quoted
189. Return to Text

[29]. Mosiman to General Education Board,
April 29, 1919, and Cable to Mosiman, Oct. 15, 1923, both in Mosiman Papers,
I-A-b, Box 5, “Agencies and Systems for Raising Money,” BCA. Return to Text

[30]. Mosiman to Cable, Oct. 17, 1923,
Mosiman Papers, I-A-b, Box 5, “Agencies and Systems for Raising Money,” BCA.
Return to Text

[31]. Augsburger to Mosiman, Feb. 5,
1918; Mosiman to Augsburger, Feb. 14, 1918, both in Mosiman Papers, I-A-b, Box
7, “Rev. Aaron Augsburger, 1916-18,” BCA. Return to Text

[32]. Augsburger to Mosiman, May 14,
1918, Mosiman Papers, I-A-b, Box 7, “Rev. Aaron Augsburger, 1916-18,” BCA. Return
to Text

[33]. Mosiman to Augsburger, June 11,
1918, Mosiman Papers, I-A-b, Box 7, “Rev. Aaron Augsburger, 1916-18,” BCA. Return
to Text

[34]. Augsburger to Mosiman, July 12,
1921, Mosiman papers, I-A-b, Box 7, “Rev. Aaron Augsburger, Rev H.G. Allenbach,”
BCA. For other examples of Mosiman’s exchanges with pastors making these charges,
see his replies to Augsburger, same file, and also E. F. Grubb to Mosiman, Jan.
13, 1920 and Mosiman’s reply, Feb. 26, 1920, Mosiman papers, Box 1, “River Station
Mission”; and Mosiman to A. S. Bechtel, July 9, 1920 and Bechtel’s reply, July
18, 1920, Mosiman Papers, Box 9, “A. S. Bechtel, J. B. Bechtel, Geo. Bender,
1917-25.” Return to Text

[35]. Augsburger to Mosiman, Nov. 1,
1922 and July 12, 1921, both in Mosiman Papers, I-A-B, Box 7, “Rev. Aaron Augsburger,”
BCA. Return to Text

[36]. E. F. Grubb to Mosiman, Jan. 13,
1920, Mosiman Papers, Box 1, “River Station Mission,” BCA. Return to Text

[37]. Lehman to Mosiman, July 17, 1920
and undated “Report of Trustee Members on Bluffton College Board,” Mosiman Papers,
I-A-b, Box 2, “Mennonite Brethren in Christ relations,” BCA. Return to Text

[38]. Mosiman to Maxwell Kratz, Sept.
14, 1921, Mosiman Papers, Box 9, “Kratz Corresp.,” BCA; A. B. Yoder to Mosiman,
June 18, 1923, Mosiman Papers, Box 12, “Letters of Condemnation and Commendation,”
BCA. Return to Text

[39]. Raid, The First Seventy-Five
Years, 51, 68-74. Return to Text

[40]. Gottschall to Miller, Oct. 18,
1927, Papers of Development, Public Relations and Advancement, I-D-e, Box 1,
“The 1923 Modernism . . . ,” BCA. Mosiman rejected Gottschall’s reading of this
history; his own notes disputing the accuracy of the pastor’s account were repeatedly
scribbled on the margins of this letter.-Mosiman to Grubb, July 2, 1919, Mosiman
Papers, I-A-b, Box 1, “River Station Mission,” BCA. Return to Text

[41]. Paul Toews, Mennonites in American
Society, 1930-1970 (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1996), 77; Richert to Mosiman,
Sept. 21 and Mosiman’s reply, Oct, 13, 1922, both in Mosiman Papers, I-A-b,
Box 12, “Correspondence, 1920,” BCA. Return to Text

[42]. Mosiman to L.J. Lehman, June 28,
1919, Mosiman Papers, Box 5, “…L.J. Lehman,” BCA. Return to Text

[43]. Whitmer to Mosiman, Dec. 23, 1913,
N. C. Hirschy Papers, I-A-A, Box 1, “Letters, Resolutions leading to the Merger
of Central Mennonite College into Bluffton College,” BCA. Return to Text

[44]. See Susan Fisher Miller, Culture
for Service: A History of Goshen College, 1894-1994 (Goshen, IN: Goshen
College, 1994), 87-122. Return to Text

[45]. Hartzler to “Ministering Brethren
of the Middle District Conference,” Aug. 20, 1923 and to S. K. Mosiman, March
31, 1923, both in Mosiman papers, I-A-b, Box 1, “Correspondence w/ J. E. Hartzler,”
BCA. Return to Text

[46]. See V. C. Ramseyer to Mosiman July
20, 1923 and Mosiman’s reply, August 9, 1923, both in Mosiman papers, I-A-b,
Box 2, “Miscellaneous Ramseyer, Rickert, Ringleman,” BCA. Return to Text

[47]. Bender quoted in Juhnke, Vision,
Doctrine, War, 176. Return to Text

[48]. Byers to Mosiman, July 13, 1913,
Hirschy Papers, I-A-a, Box 1, “Letters, Resolutions leading to the merger of
Central Mennonite College into Bluffton College,” BCA. Already by 1913, Byers
could see the conservative clouds gathering at Goshen and clearly wanted out.
Writing from Goshen shortly before he left for Bluffton, he told Mosiman that
“as to Smith and I, you can tell people personally that we were well tested
here for 15 yrs and were earnestly solicited to reconsider our resignation and
remain longer. They want only ‘sound men’ here.”-See Byers to Mosiman, ibid.
Return to Text

[49]. John Horsch, The Mennonite Church
and Modernism (Scottdale, PA: Mennonite Publishing House, 1924), 107-8.
Horsch quoted in Toews, Mennonites in American Society, 76. Return
to Text

[50]. For a helpful encapsulation of
Horsch’s anti-modernist crusade directed at Bluffton, see James Juhnke, “Mennonite
Church Theological and Social Boundaries, 1920-1930-Loyalists, Liberals and
Laxitarians,” Mennonite Life 38 (June, 1983), 18-20. Board of Deacons,
First Mennonite Church, Evidences of Modernism at Bluffton College (Berne,
IN: 1929). Horsch’s correspondence leaves no doubt of his central role in helping
GC fundamentalists prepare their case against Bluffton.-See letters to him from
W.S. Gottshall, Jan. 9, 1924, June 9 and 18, 1924, Sept. 9, 1924, and October
2, 1924, in Horsch Papers, I-8-1, Box 3, folder titled “Corr 1924, G-N, Archives
of the Mennonite Church, Goshen, IN [hereafter, AMC]; and P. R. Schroeder to
Horsch, March 26, 1926, Horsch Papers, I-8-1, Box 3, folder “Corr 1926, N-Z,”
AMC. Return to Text

[51]. Smith to Horsch, June 21 (quotes)
and Dec. 12, 1925, Horsch Papers, I-8-I, Box 3, “Corr 1925, P-Z,” AMC. Return
to Text

[52]. J. E. Hartzler, “The Mennonite
Church and Modernism,” Christian Exponent 1 (Aug. 15, 1924), 271. Return
to Text

[53]. N. E. Byers, “An Explanation,”
The Mennonite 41 (May 13, 1926), 5-6; Albert N. Keim, Harold S. Bender,
1897-1962 (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1998), 203-4; M. J. Horsch to Byers,
May 18, 1926, Horsch Papers, Box 3, “Corr. 1926 H,” AMC. Return to Text

[54]. Mosiman to Elmer Basinger, Aug.
11, 1925, Mosiman Papers, I-A-b, Box 9, “Semi-Annual Board Meeting, Feb. 6,
1925,” BCA. Return to Text

[55]. Mosiman to T. H. Brenneman, Feb.
17, 1925, Mosiman Papers, I-A-b, Box 9, “Semi-Annual Board Meeting, Feb. 6,
1925,” BCA. Return to Text

[56]. “Evidences of Modernism at Bluffton
College,” 5-9; Juhnke, Creative Crusader, 142. Return to Text

[57]. Basinger to Mosiman, Aug. 19, 1925,
Mosiman Papers, I-A-b, Box 9, “Semi-Annual Board Meeting, Feb. 6, 1925,” BCA.
Return to Text

[58]. Transcript of Meeting, Oct. 30,
1928, in Development Office Papers, I-D-e, Box 1, “Berne Church Bd. of Deacons,
meeting at Lima. . . ,” BCA. Return to Text

[59]. For the judgements of later historians,
see Paul Toews, “Fundamentalist Conflict in Mennonite Colleges: A Response to
Cultural Transitions'” MQR 57 (July 1983), 244; and Keim, Harold S.
Bender, 138-39. Return to Text

[60]. See generally Toews, “Fundamentalist
Conflict in Mennonite Colleges” 241-56. Return to Text

[61]. Junhke, “Mennonite Church Theological
and Social Boundaries,” 19. Return to Text

[62]. Steiner et al. to N. O. Blosser
and Paul Whitmer, Oct. 28, 1924, Ohio Mennonite Conference Papers, II-11-1,
“Letter of Oct. 28, 1924 from Executive Committee to N. O. Blosser and P. E.
Whitmer,” AMC. Return to Text

[63]. Byers to Steiner, July 16, 1925,
Hist. Mss I-472, A. J. Steiner Collection, Box 1, File 4, AMC. Return to

[64]. A. S. Bechtel to Horsch, April
24, 1926, Horsch Papers, I-8-I, Box 3, “Corr. 1926 A-B,” AMC. Return to Text

[65]. Toews, Mennonites in American
Society, 77; Samuel F. Pannabecker, Faith in Ferment: A History of the
Central District Conference (Newton, KS: Faith and Life Press, 1975), 225-26.
Return to Text

[66]. President’s Report to the Board
of Trustees, Witmarsum Seminary, Jan. 28, 1928 and Feb. 4, 1930, Witmarsum Seminary
Papers, I-T, Box 3, “President’s and Dean’s Reports,” BCA. Return to Text

[67]. Samuel F. Pannabecker, Ventures
of Faith: The Story of Mennonite Biblical Seminary (Elkhart, IN: Mennonite
Biblical Seminary, 1975), 19-20; Toews, Mennonites in American Society,
77-78; Mosiman to W. S. Shelly, Oct. 23, 1931, Mosiman papers, I-A-b, Box 11,
“Corr., 1929-31,” BCA; Bender to Horsch, July 20, 1930, Horsch Papers, I-8-1,
Box 5, “Corr., 1930, A-B,” AMC. Return to Text

[68]. Langenwalter to Mosiman, Oct. 4,
1930, Mosiman Papers, I-A-b, Box 4, “Board of Ed. Gen Conf members,” BCA. Return
to Text

[69]. “I do not think that any great
number of Mennonites in any of the groups are liberal now,” Bender wrote Horsch
from Germany in 1930, “but there surely is a danger in the General Conference
group that the movement will go in that direction. I think the real battle in
this line is still to come, and I want to get ready to do my part in it.”-See
Bender to Horsch, July 20, 1930, Horsch Papers, I-8-1, Box 5, folder titled
“Corr 1930 A-B,” AMC. Return to Text

[70]. D. J. Sprunger to Mosiman, May
23, 1929, Publications papers, I-D-e, Box 1, “Berne Church, Bd. of Deacons .
. . ,” BCA. Return to Text

[71]. Alderfer to Mosiman, Nov. 30, 1934,
Mosiman Papers, I-A-b, Box 10, “S.K. Mosiman Refinancing . . . , BCA. Return
to Text

[72]. See Juhnke, “Mennonite Church Theological
and Social Boundaries,” 20; Toews, Mennonites in American Society, 77.
On the financial hard times of the 1930s, see Hardesty, A Narrative of Bluffton
College, 19-20. Return to Text

[73]. See Juhnke, Vision, Doctrine,
War, 268-69. Return to Text

[74]. The numbers up to 1970 have been
tabulated by a Bluffton College student, Tamara Foster, and are in my personal
possession. For the percentages since 1970, see Leo Driedger, “Monastery or
Marketplace? Changing Mennonite College/Seminary Enrollments,” Journal of
Mennonite Studies 15 (1997), 69. Dancing with the Kobzar traces Bluffton
student enrollment patterns, and Mennonite enrollment, quite carefully. Return
to Text

[75]. Hardesty, A Narrative of Bluffton
College, 20, 26. Return to Text

[76]. Ramseyer to Dale Francis, Sept.
24, 1941, Ramseyer Papers, I-A-d, Box 4, “Ramseyer letters, 1939-42,” BCA. Return
to Text

[77]. As an example, see Donald Hilty
to Ramseyer, Jan. 23, 1944, Ramseyer Papers, I-A-d, Box 11, “Correspondence”;
and Ramseyer to Dale Francis, Jan. 5, 1943, Ramseyer Papers, I-A-d, Box 4 “Letters,
1939-42,” BCA. Return to Text

[78]. For instance, see his letter of
recommendation for young army private Mark Houshower, “To Whom it may concern,”
Nov. 8, 1943, Ramseyer Papers, I-A-d, Box 11, “Kaufman, Ed.G., 1938-48,” BCA;
his letter for Richard Backensto, Feb. 2, 1942, Ramseyer Papers, I-A-d, Box
4, “Letters, 1938-42,” BCA. Return to Text

[79]. Ramseyer to Henry Fast, Jan. 11,
1943, Ramseyer Papers, I-A-d, Box 6, “Corr., 1938-46,” BCA. Return to Text

[80]. Ramseyer to Willis Rich, Jan. 25,
1944, Ramseyer Papers, I-A-d, Box 11, “Correspondence 1943-47,” BCA. Return
to Text

[81]. Ramseyer to Carl Landes, April
4, 1942, Ramseyer Papers, I-A-d, Box 11, “Correspondence 1939-46,” BCA. Return
to Text

[82]. See Chapter 4 of Dancing with
the Kobzar. Return to Text

[83]. Oral Interview, Bill Barbaree with
Delbert Gratz, Feb. 13, 1995, interview notes, p. 2, interview deposited with
MHLB. Return to Text

[84]. Hardesty, A Narrative of Bluffton
College, 25-26. Return to Text

[85]. L. L. Ramseyer, “Lift Up Your Eyes,”
May 14, 1944, p. 6, Ramseyer Baccalaureate Sermons, Ramseyer Papers, I-A-d,
Box 13, BCA. Return to Text

[86]. L. L. Ramseyer, “Looking Forward,”
June 9, 1940, pp. 7-8, 10, Ramseyer Baccalaureate Sermons, Ramseyer Papers,
I-A-d, Box 13, BCA. Return to Text

[87]. “President’s Report to the Board
of Trustees,” Nov. 17, 1944, p. 5, Board Meeting Minutes and Letters, I-B-a,
no box number, Folder titled “1936-1945,” BCA. Return to Text

[88]. Ibid. Return to Text

[89]. See Rodney Sawatsky, “What Can
the Mennonite Tradition Contribute to Christian Higher Education'” in Richard
T. Hughes and William B. Adrian, eds., Models for Christian Higher education
(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 187. Return to Text

[90]. Smith to Bender, April 10, 1943,
pp. 2-3, Smith Papers, MHLB. Return to Text

[91]. See Perry Bush, Two Kingdoms,
Two Loyalties: Mennonite Pacifism in Modern America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1998). ?? 386 The Mennonite Quarterly Review 379 Bluffton
College and Anabaptist Higher Education 357