Contents of Volume LXXIV
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 return."[31] 

     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 Church.[39]  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."[52]  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 I.[60]  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 base.[66]  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 Text

[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 Text

[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