Editor’s Note: As some readers will remember, we’ve asked the titular question before. Today, we get an answer to the question from a recent student of Brethren in Christ history — David E. Byer, a retired medical doctor and a faithful reader of The Search for Piety and Obedience. As David shares below, he recently completed the denomination’s Core Course, Brethren in Christ History and Life. Here he reflects on the personal significance of studying denominational history.
I recently attended the Brethren in Christ Church’s Equipping for Ministry Core Course, Brethren in Christ History and Values. This had been a personal goal for several years. Although I’m not currently a member of the Brethren in Christ Church, my childhood was in the church: I was reared in Kansas (though now live in Minnesota), and my roots go back to early 18th century Lancaster County, Pa. I was interested in learning more about the history of the BIC. In taking this course, I hoped to gain a better understanding of my church heritage.
My expectations were met. I benefitted from the classroom teaching of Dr. John Yeatts. I was pleased to learn of the high regard the BIC have always had for the Bible. Of the various reading assignments associated with the class I especially appreciated Luke Keefer, Jr., “Inerrancy and the Brethren in Christ View of Scripture” (Reflections on a Heritage, ed. E. Morris Sider [Grantham, Pa.: Brethren in Christ Historical Society, 2002], 212-223). I had not previously considered the benefits of not using the term “inerrancy” in a doctrinal statement dealing with the Bible. The adaptability of the BIC, sometimes perceived as being rigid in the past, was an unexpected finding. The Anabaptist, Pietist, Wesleyan and Evangelical influences were traced and discussed. The resulting synthesis is our present BIC.
This Core Value Course marks the third study I have taken as part of the Equipping for Ministry Program of the BIC church. I previously completed a Directed Study Course, “The Life and Thought of John Wesley,” and a BIC Impact Seminar, “Ethics and Eschatology: Overcoming the Abortion of Hope.” The availability of these courses in a variety of formats — both online and in-person — reflects the adaptability of the Brethren in Christ Church. I’m pleased Equipping for Ministry courses are open to lay people as well as clergy. I encourage more extensive use of these opportunities.