Monday, August 29, 2005

Newsline Special Report
Donald F. Durnbaugh is remembered as 'dean of Brethren historians.'

Church of the Brethren historian, educator, and church leader Donald F. Durnbaugh died on Saturday, Aug. 27, at Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, N.J., at age 77. He and his wife, Hedda, were returning from a trip to Europe. He lived in James Creek, Pa., and attended Stone Church of the Brethren in Huntingdon, Pa. He was born in Detroit, Mich., in 1927. The Durnbaughs have three children and two grandchildren.

Durnbaugh held a unique position in the Church of the Brethren as "the dean of Brethren historians," in the words of Dale W. Brown, a colleague when Durnbaugh taught at Bethany Theological Seminary. He also was considered a leading authority on the Historic Peace Churches and American communitarian movements. "Don is internationally known and widely considered to be the leading twentieth century historian of the Church of the Brethren and other Brethren groups that originated in Schwarzenau, Germany, in the early 18th century," wrote seminary colleague Donald E. Miller in a 1997 "festschrift" celebrating Durnbaugh's work.

Among his numerous books and articles are "European Origins of the Brethren: A Source Book on the Beginnings of the Church of the Brethren in Early Eighteenth-Century Europe" (Brethren Press, 1958), "Brethren in Colonial America: A Source Book on the Transplantation and Development of the Church of the Brethren in the Eighteenth Century" (Brethren Press, 1967), "The Believers' Church: The History and Character of Radical Protestantism" (Macmillan, 1968), and "Fruit of the Vine: A History of the Brethren, 1708-1995" (Brethren Press, 1997). Durnbaugh served as editor-in-chief of the three-volume "Brethren Encyclopedia," published in 1983-84. He was working on completing the editing of the fourth volume that is to be published soon.

Durnbaugh taught at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., for four years before he began teaching church history at Bethany Theological Seminary in 1962. In 1988 he became the J. Omar Good Distinguished Visiting Professor at Juniata, and in 1989 became the Carl W. Ziegler Professor of History and Religion at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College. He held degrees from Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind.; the University of Michigan; and the University of Pennsylvania; and studied at Philipps-Universitaet Marburg, Germany. His many professional associations included affiliation with the Young Center for the Study of Anabaptist and Pietist Groups at Elizabethtown, and service as president of the Brethren Journal Association.

Among Durnbaugh's Brethren mentors were Gladdys Muir and M.R. Zigler. Commissioned by Zigler, he collected a book of documents entitled "On Earth Peace: Discussions on War/Peace Issues Between Friends, Mennonites, Brethren, and European Churches 1935-1975" (Brethren Press, 1978). His biography of Zigler, "Pragmatic Prophet," was published by Brethren Press in 1989.

Durnbaugh's career as a church leader began with volunteer service in Europe through the Brethren Service Commission, beginning in 1949. He was in the third unit of Brethren Volunteer Service and worked with refugees in Austria, later returning to direct the Brethren Service program there. He met his wife, Hedda, at a peace seminar in Vienna. It was with her help in translating documents from the German that Durnbaugh began his study of Brethren history in Europe.

In 1986 he served in the highest elected position in the Church of the Brethren as Annual Conference moderator. Other church leadership positions included a Conference study committee on church and state, leadership of the Brethren Colleges Abroad program in Europe 1964-65, membership in the Brethren Historical Committee and the Germantown Trust, leadership in a Brethren-Russian Orthodox Exchange in 1971, and service in the Fraternal Relations Committee. With John Howard Yoder he was a co-coordinator of Believers' Church conferences that gathered "free church" traditions in a new configuration.

Most recently, he was a member of the committee planning the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Church of the Brethren. He served a term as chair and was a key leader in contacts with other Brethren bodies, who held him in high esteem. In recent years, he and Hedda also led Brethren history tours of Europe.

A memorial service is being planned for a future date.

Source: 8/29/2005 Newsline
Brethren disaster staff prepare for aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Staff of the General Board's Emergency Response/Service Ministries are monitoring the progress of Hurricane Katrina, in anticipation of much work to do in the aftermath of the storm. Disaster Child Care volunteers are being put on alert, and the two active Brethren Disaster Response projects in Florida and Ohio are being shut down because of the storm. The category four hurricane, which passed over southern Florida Thursday, hit the gulf coast east of New Orleans this morning, and is expected to make its way north in the coming days.

"A lot of what's going on right now is the coordinating effort of responding organizations," said Emergency Response director Roy Winter, who was unable to fly to visit the Brethren project in Pensacola, Fla., this morning because the airport there is closed. His staff have been engaged in conference calls today to coordinate the Brethren involvement in the response effort. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross are setting up emergency centers, and Church World Service (CWS) has activated its response as well.

Disaster Child Care staff hope to get teams into the federal and Red Cross emergency centers. Child care volunteers are asked to contact their regional coordinators to indicate their availability; or to call the Emergency Response office at 800-451-4407.

The team of volunteers scheduled to work at the Pensacola project this week has been canceled because of the proximity to the hurricane, Winter said. Volunteers at the Ohio project are being relocated because of more flooding in the area anticipated from heavy rainfall as Katrina moves north.

He said the city of New Orleans was "fortunate" that the storm moved east, but expressed concerned about the situation in other areas in Mississippi. The movement east "may have been the saving grace for a lot of people" in New Orleans, he said.

Winter called on Brethren to help support a CWS appeal for help for the storm victims, through the General Board's Emergency Disaster Fund (1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120). "With 28 percent of New Orleans' residents living below poverty level, CWS is mobilizing to help the most vulnerable with long-term recovery," said CWS associate director for Domestic Emergency Response Linda Reed Brown, in a press release from the ecumenical agency. "While we'll have to wait for results of assessments, it's clear that even though New Orleans was spared the worst of storm surge catastrophes, there's no doubt that damage to homes and possessions will be major, throughout affected areas."

For further information about the CWS response to Hurricane Katrina, visit For more information about Emergency Response/Service Ministries, see

Source: 8/29/2005 Newsline

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board, on every other Wednesday with special reports as needed. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Ken Shaffer and Mary Lou Garrison contributed to this report.