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This article, the second of two exploring the Brethren in Christ Church’s response to race, racism, and the Civil Rights Movement, picks up the story in 1967. Earlier, in 1963 and 1964, the denomination had adopted two statements on the issue of black civil rights that placed the church firmly in the “white moderate” camp. Not only did the events of the late 1960s call for renewed consideration of these issues, but the denomination itself was changing, with a growing contingent of members who considered working for social change to be an important part of the church’s mission. To be sure, the “activists” who pushed a more socially engaged agenda on the issue of race were always in the minority, outnumbered by “conversionists” who found these social concerns peripheral to the church’s real mission of saving souls. That said, the activists did succeed for a time in making racial justice work a denominational preoccupation—if never a high priority—and their energy sometimes rallied others beyond the denomination to embrace their anti-racist cause.


Permission has been obtained from the journal’s editor to share via MOSAIC.

Originally published as:

David L. Weaver-Zercher. “Words Empty and Hollow? The Brethren in Christ and the Challenge of Race.” Brethren in Christ History and Life 45, no. 1 (April 2022): 3-58.

David Weaver-Zercher is Professor of American Religious History at Messiah University, Mechanicsburg, PA. The research that resulted in this article and the previous one was funded by the Christian Lesher Fellows Program and the Sider Grants Program, both administered by the E. Morris and Leone Sider Institute for Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan Studies at Messiah University.