Board of Publication (General Conference Mennonite Church)
The work of publication in the General Conference Mennonite Church dated back to the early beginnings of the General Conference movement. On 7 June 1852 the first paper printed by John H. Oberholtzer appeared under the name of Religiöser Botschafter in Milford, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. It was not long until a stock company was formed under the name "Mennonite Printing Union," with offices at Milford Square, Pennsylvania. The paper was now called Das Christliche Volksblatt, the first number appearing 30 July 1856. In 1867 the name was changed to Mennonitische Friedensbote and in 1881 it was consolidated with a paper called Zur Heimat under the title Christlicher Bundesbote. In the discussion on the points upon which the General Conference was to be organized (1860) the work of publications was considered, one of the resolutions stating, "That the Publishing House already in existence in our denomination is appreciated as a helpful institution and that it is hereby fraternally recommended to general support" (H. P. Krehbiel, History of General Conference I, 60).
At the eighth General Conference held at Wadsworth, Ohio, 25 November 1878, the question of placing the work of publication under conference control was raised. In 1881 the Publication Board was created with A. B. Shelly, A. E. Funk, S. F. Sprunger, Christian Krehbiel, and Christian Schowalter as first members. The board was responsible to the conference and reported its work at every conference session.
In 1884, the board established the Mennonite Book Concern at Berne, Indiana, as publishing agency and bookstore. The next year the board undertook the publication of a German Sunday-school paper, Der Kinderbote. By 1887 the Mennonite Book Concern had sold over 11,000 volumes. J. F. Lehman, a member of the Publication Board, was made the business manager and served in this capacity for 34 years. The Publication Board now consisted of six members elected by the conference. In 1896 the following were members: N. B. Grubb, W. J. Ewert, H. J. Krehbiel, J. F. Lehman, J. Janzen, and J. van Steen.
In 1902 the need for an English periodical was expressed in conference session. The Eastern District Conference had been publishing The Mennonite which was now adopted as the General Conference weekly publication for which the Board of Publication became responsible. In addition to this the board also published the Sunday-school quarterly in 14,800 copies and in 1914 had also published by that time the following books: Gesangbuch mit Noten; Mennonite Hymnal; Fest-Klänge; Cornelis Ris, The Confession of Faith of the Mennonites (German and English); Handbook for Ministers (German and English); Catechism (German and English); Bundesbote-Kalender; etc.
The reports of the Publication Board covering the years 1917-1933 list among others the following additional books: The Mennonites by C. H. Smith; Words to Young Christians by C. H. Wedel; A Plea for the Abolition of War by H. J. Krehbiel; Mennonite Hymn Book; The Coming of the Russian Mennonites by C. H. Smith; Mission Study Courses; Twenty-five Years with God in India; Mennonite Yearbook and Almanac; The Development of the Missionary and Philanthropic Interest Among the Mennonites of North America by E. G. Kaufman and others.
In 1947 the Board of Publication opened, in addition to the Conference Book Store at Berne, Indiana, one at Newton, Kansas, and another one at Rosthern, Saskatchewan. The board also had interests in the Central Conference Book Store at Bloomington, Illinois.
From its beginning the General Conference investigated possibilities of establishing a conference publishing house. This was achieved when in 1949 the Mennonite Press was established, which was a joint enterprise of the Board of Publication and Bethel College and was located in the Grattan Building at North Newton, Kansas. Most of the conference publications were printed here.
In 1950 the General Conference in session at Freeman, South Dakota, adopted a new constitution through which the Board of Publication and the Board of Education were merged under the new name, The Board of Education and Publication. Under this board the Editorial Committee, the Publishing Committee, and the Historical Committee aided the Publication section in its work. In 1949 the Historical Committee started a Mennonite Historical Series published under the Board of Education and Publication. The publication efforts of the conference were centralized and unified more than before.
Some of the outstanding publications of the board in the mid-20th century were The Mennonite Hymnary by Walter H. Hohmann and Lester Hostetler; Handbook to the Mennonite Hymnary by Lester Hostetler; The Story of the Mennonites (third edition) by C. Henry Smith; and The Fellowship of the Gospel, Ruth Ratzlaff, ed. During this time it was in charge of publishing the following church papers: The Mennonite, Der Bote, the Junior Messenger, and Der Kinderbote; it also published the following Sunday-school quarterlies: Sonntagschul-Lektionen, the Mennonite Adult Quarterly, Mennonite Junior Quarterly, the Mennonite Junior Quarterly Teacher's Handbook, the Mennonite Young People's Quarterly
A subsequent constitutional change in 1968 saw the some of the work of this board carried by a new Commission on Education.
Krehbiel, H. P. History of the Mennonite General Conference. Newton, KS, 1898-1938.
Minutes and Reports of the General Conference of the Mennonite Church of North America (1860-1950).
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 375-376; v. 4, p. 227. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Wedel, D. C. and H. J. Andres. "Board of Publication (General Conference Mennonite Church)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953, 1959. Web. 19 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B611.html.
APA style: Wedel, D. C. and H. J. Andres. (1953, 1959). Board of Publication (General Conference Mennonite Church). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B611.html.