“Three BIC Books…”: Devin Thomas

As I unveiled on Tuesday, we’re kicking off a new feature at “the search for piety and obedience.” Entitled “Three BIC Books…” (a blatant rip-off of National Public Radio’s far superior series of a similar name), the feature will bring together BIC individuals from across the church and ask them to select and review three BIC-authored texts that “allow for conversation, completion, and understanding” of our shared heritage.

Since I’m responsible for inciting it, I suppose I should go first…

1. Quest for Piety and Obedience | Carlton O. Wittlinger

Wittlinger’s seminal history of the Brethren in Christ is the literary equivalent of my American Express card: I never leave home without it. Sure, it’s dense. And sure, since it’s more than forty years old, it’s pretty dated. But it remains the most widely respected historical narrative of the church up to the 1970s. It deftly narrates the church’s journey from a small River Brethren sect with Anabaptist and Pietist roots, to a burgeoning movement infused with the “holy fire” of the Wesleyan Holiness movement, to an international body heavily influenced by postwar American Evangelicalism. All future historians of the denomination owe a debt of gratitude to Wittlinger for his considerable tome.

2. Nine Portraits: Brethren in Christ Biographical Sketches | E. Morris Sider

If Wittlinger’s Quest for Piety and Obedience is the metaphorical grandmomma of all BIC historical studies, then Morris Sider’s Nine Portraits is everybody’s favorite aunt: warm, energetic, and filled to the brim with great stories. By focusing in on nine women and men who built the church in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Sider nimbly illustrates a community in transition: from strict separation to a nascent interest in home and foreign missions; from agrarianism to urbanism; from quiet Anabaptism to vigorous Wesleyanism.

3. My Beloved Brethren… | E.J. Swalm

By the time he penned this memoir in 1969, E.J. Swalm was likely one of the most experienced and most widely respected leaders in the Brethren in Christ Church — making his reflections, in the words of bishop Henry Ginder, valuable for their “historical value” and for their “enrichment to coming generations.” But more than that, Swalm’s writing is generous and hilarious — two qualities that elevate this book above the average BIC autobiography.

Readers: What are your three BIC books that “allow for conversation, completion, and understanding” about our shared heritage? Send me an e-mail and we’ll line you up for a future installment of “Three BIC Books…”!

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About Devin Manzullo-Thomas

Father to Lucas. Husband to Katie. Prof and administrator at Messiah College. PhD student at Temple University. Member of Grantham BIC.
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4 Responses to “Three BIC Books…”: Devin Thomas

  1. Jean Swalm says:

    My father did not always take a good picture. I like he/him do not like getting my picture taken not for religious reasons but I am not as good looking as my sisters. so that picture of him on the book is the best you’ll get of him. I read and re-read his book. It sure is hilarious and has serious parts as well. There are getting to be less people who remember him and that makes me sad. So glad you have emphasized this again. Jean.

    • Hey Jean.
      I remember him well. A great addition to the people I will always remember and look up to.
      A man I called Grandpa (even thought he wasn’t my Grandpa). I have not read this book, but I will now make it a priority.
      You might be interested to know that I just gave permissions for the printing of the childrens book “E.J. Makes Good Choices” in Spanish for our missionaries in South America. Grandpa Swalm certainly has a wonderful legacy that lives on.

  2. Pingback: What Are Your “Three BIC Books”? « the search for piety and obedience.

  3. Pingback: “Three BIC Books…”: Thomas B. Grosh IV « the search for piety and obedience.

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