Spring 2022 · Vol. 51 No. 1 · pp. 2–3 

From the Editor: Legacy Issue

Vic Froese

If this issue of Direction were a film, we might call it a prequel. It provides some of the backstory to our last issue, which commemorated fifty years of Direction. Toward that end, the issue reprints a few of the many articles that appeared in the two Mennonite Brethren journals that preceded Direction: The Voice (1952–1971) and The Journal of Church and Society (1965–1971).

Reprinting articles that were published decades ago is not entirely new. My predecessor, Doug Miller, did that in 1997 when, as part of Direction’s twenty-fifth anniversary issue, he reprinted Delbert Wiens’s “The Questions We Face” from the inaugural 1972 issue. It made sense to do that because Wiens was our first general editor, and looking back at the vision he articulated in that issue was important to assessing how the journal had changed in the following twenty-five years. It also helped to direct the imagining of its future. For the editors and the editorial council, I think it led to a renewal of commitment to the journal and new energy to continue the work.

But while some articles from The Voice and The Journal of Church and Society (JCS) have been republished elsewhere—nine of the articles John A. Toews wrote for The Voice were reprinted in People of the Way in 1981—to my knowledge Direction has never reprinted any itself. The temporal distance of even the latest articles published in those journals, their remoteness from urgent contemporary issues and crises, are good reasons not to reprint them now. We should be offering reflections and analyses that enable us to understand “the questions we face” today. We should leave these old articles in their dark obscurity so as not to divert our attention from matters that desperately need addressing in the present.

This seems right to me. Yet, I believe these old articles still have value, and we can benefit from reading them if we restrain ourselves from looking down on them for their antiquity, their sometimes-lax adherence to scholarly standards, their disregard for careful proof-reading, and their theological simplicity. I mean more than being inspired by the earnestness, strong convictions, and courage of their authors, and more than the clearer picture they give us of what our MB forebears thought about faith and the world in which they sought to witness. Neither does their value lie in the nostalgia they might evoke for a simpler, more innocent age. (It never was that simple or innocent.) These articles serve as mirrors inviting us to examine ourselves and our times, allowing us to see aspects of ourselves that we miss when our focus is solely on the present. Moreover, even articles from the more distant past can provide {3} a depth of insight and on occasion an uncanny anticipation of future developments in the MB Church.

The eight reprinted articles in this issue were selected because they caught my attention for one reason or another, but I was happy to find connections between them afterwards. Calvin Redekop’s “Christian Responsibility in a World of Change” and David Ewert’s “The Dangers of Secularism” both address the challenges of Western secularism, but in significantly different ways. Rudy Wiebe and Katie Funk Wiebe both write passionately about the calling of Christian writers and the obstacles they face from the church, however differently they articulate the purpose of Christian writing. Cornelius Wall and Delbert Wiens could not be more dissimilar in how they arrive at knowledge of God, yet both know that there is no subject more worthy of their attention. And while F. C. Peters’s piece on the “commercial film” and A. H. Unruh’s on anti-Semitism address unrelated concerns, their goal in each case is to warn readers about a danger that threatens their spiritual wellbeing and to implore them to steer clear of it.

I have written a brief history of the earlier journals in order to situate them historically and help readers better understand the articles reprinted here. Short introductions to each of the eight “heritage” articles have also been provided. These will be useful to readers unfamiliar with the authors and unaware of why they were held in high esteem.

In editing the texts, I have limited myself largely to correcting typographical errors. Minor errors have been corrected “silently.” Corrections to more serious errors have been put in square brackets and a note has been added to explain the nature of the error. I have also added details to citations to conform them to the Chicago Manual of Style, supplied citations when they were missing, and added a note when an obscure name, term, or idea required further explanation.

I hope readers will enjoy this visit back in time and be, if not encouraged and inspired, at least better informed about the issues that preoccupied some Mennonite intellectual leaders and how they responded to those challenges.

Vic Froese, General Editor