Grace Faculty Illuminate Anabaptist-Evangelical Intersections in New Publication
Grace College scholarship figured prominently into a unique new title from Pickwick Publications (Wipf and Stock) published early this April. “The Activist Impulse” features numerous pieces of research and commentary on the history and intersection of the Anabaptist and evangelical movements in North America and was co-edited by Grace’s own Dr. Jared Burkholder, Associate Professor of History. The book also featured an individual chapter by Burkholder as well as one by Dr. Mark Norris, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and Chair of the Department of History and Political Science.
The 14-chapter, 400-page book boasts its critical acclaim not only because of the variety of university talent it represents—Texas A&M, Baylor, Notre Dame—but also because of the endorsements that it has received. Mark A. Noll, Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame and a renowned Christian historian, lends the editors high praise in his promotion of the text. “There have been good books before on the complexity of evangelical-Anabaptist relationships, but this one is the best,” he states in one of the book’s endorsements. George M. Marsden, retired professor of history at Notre Dame, has written the book’s foreword, skillfully laying out the groundwork for the editor’s choice of material.
Burkholder was inspired with the idea for this project in 2008 while attending the biennial meeting of the Conference on Faith and History, held that year at Bluffton University in northwest Ohio. Enthused by the evangelical and Anabaptist context of the event, Burkholder began to converse with colleagues who had similar academic interests and solicited chapters for the volume. Burkholder points to the combination of these interactions as well as a personal history rooted in both the Anabaptist and evangelical traditions as the primary catalysts to this month’s release of the book. David C. Cramer, who at the time was teaching part time at Bethel College in Mishawaka and who also has a chapter in the book, was brought on as co-editor about half-way through the project.
The title refers to a desire among both evangelicals and Anabaptists to live out an “activist” faith that engages the world in meaningful ways. “While both traditions share this impulse for active witness,” Burkholder says, “there are significant tensions that exist both within these movements as well as in their relationship with each other.” The main goal of the book according to Burkholder “is to revisit the conversation and renew interest in this topic within academic and historical circles.” The last book that was written on this specific topic, he adds, was written 30 years ago. Burkholder points out that, since Grace College is affiliated with the Grace Brethren movement, one of many Anabaptist traditions, the themes that the book presents have significance to the college and seminary. “Grace College is a product of the evangelical-Anabaptist encounter; it is a part of this whole story,” he explains. Of specific interest to this point is Norris’ chapter on Alva J. McClain, founder and first president of Grace Seminary. Although McClain was committed to Anabaptism (the Brethren Church), he also adopted facets of American evangelicalism.