“...Whatever I Could to Serve The Lord”
Significant Laymen of the Bible Fellowship Church
October 30, 2004
With research assistance by Richard Taylor
According to The Merriam Webster Dictionary, a layman is a person “of a religious faith as distinct from its clergy.” Clergy is defined as “a body of religious officials authorized to conduct services.” In the Bible Fellowship Church, formerly called the Mennonite Brethren in Christ, there have been significant laymen as well as significant clergymen.
In discussing significant laymen, a word needs to be said about the title of “deacon” as used in the early years of the Conference. The title was used in very much the same way as the Mennonites used it; it was an elected position and the man was then ordained. Soon after the establishment of the Conference, the title of deacon is not seen much in the records, even though there were deacons. It seems that they were more layman than clergyman. For this reason, some of the deacons are featured in this study of significant laymen.
Levi N. Shelly
One of the first layman mentioned in the minutes of the Conference is Levi N. Shelly in 1869 (Verhandlungen, p.62). Levi was the brother of preacher William N. Shelly; both were sons of Daniel and Mary Newcomer Shelly of Milford Township, Bucks County, Pa. He served as treasurer of the missionary society which oversaw and paid expenses for traveling preachers. (Foreign missions for the Conference was still over two decades away.) Levi served only a few years as treasurer, paving the way for other laymen and helping in the formation of the Conference.
In the 1870’s, William Yeakel was elected treasurer of the Missionary Society. Yeakel, from the Upper Milford (Zionsville) congregation, was the son of Joseph and Anna Maria Zellner Yeakel(Heebner, Rev Balthasar. Genealogical Record of the descendants of the Schwenkfelders. Manayunk: Josephus Yeakel, Printer, 1879, p.128, 265). He was a farmer by trade, as was his father. He served as treasurer for about ten years, and was responsible to keep a record of the money in the treasury and to pay out the money to preachers as directed by the committee in charge. He was then to give a report at each conference. He was also a delegate from Upper Milford, Lehigh County, to Annual Conference in the 1880’s and 1890’s, though not every year. He served on various committees as well, including the Committee on Correspondence, the Committee over the Treasury for the Poor, and the Committee to Make Arrangements for Camp Meeting. In 1893 he served on a committee “seeking to free Elder William Gehman from the Reading church matters” (Verhandlungen, p. 219).
William Yeakel also served on the Committee for Stations which assigned preachers to their circuits of churches. In 1880, the first time members of this committee were named, the list included preacher Joel Rosenberger and five laymen. In 1882, it was resolved that “a committee of four delegates be chosen (one from each circuit) to serve as the Stationing Committee” (Verhandlungen, p. 133). So the stationing committee officially was comprised of laymen, along with one preacher.
It was about this time that Milton A. Zyner entered the picture. Milton, the son of Isaac and Rebecca Zyner of Upper Saucon Township, Lehigh County, Pa., was a school teacher for a number of years, indicating that he had more education than many of the preachers and laymen. He was a delegate to Annual Conference for several years, representing the Coopersburg, Springtown, and Ruch’s circuit. In 1882 he was elected treasurer and English secretary for the next annual conference, and the following year, was elected treasurer of the Heathen Missionary Money. It was resolved “that the treasurer elected at the Annual Conference shall be treasurer for the Home and Heathen Mission money handed to the Annual Conference” (Verhandlungen, p. 137), thus combining the two positions. Milton Zyner also served on the Committee to make arrangements for camp meeting and on the Stationing Committee.
In 1887, Milton became a candidate for preaching. He was accepted as a probation preacher in 1888, and the following year he was assigned to Springtown and Ruch’s. As a result, in addition to having a significant influence as a layman, he had a significant career as a pastor; a career worth mentioning here. Being an educated man, he served on the Committee to Examine Probationers on the Reading Course, as well as pastoring the Quakertown church which he refused to leave when Annual Conference assigned someone else to pastor there. Most of the congregation did not want him to leave, creating a split and a spat over the property. A court case ensued, the details of which can be found in the Bible Fellowship Church Historical Society newsletters of 2004.
Delegate to Annual Conference Milton Kauffman of Coopersburg, is first mentioned in 1882. The son of Samuel and Esther Musselman Kauffman of Upper Milford Township, Lehigh County, Pa., he was a farmer, as was his father. He was also the grandson of early preacher Abraham Kauffman (b.1780, d.1860), and the brother of preacher Abraham Kauffman (b.1840, d.1889), as well as the first cousin of Sarah Brunner (wife of C.H.), Anna Gehman (wife of “Father” William Gehman) and preacher Jonas Musselman.
Milton Kauffman was involved in Annual
Conference business as a member of the Committee to
make arrangements for camp meeting. Indeed, the
first camp meeting was held on his property, Chestnut
Grove, in 1881 (Gospel Banner, September 15, 1881,
p.142). William Gehman then purchased the property
from him for the purpose of having annual camp
meetings. Milton was also treasurer of Annual
Conference, and a member of the Committee on
Worship Services, and the Committee to receive
money collected annually on Thanksgiving Day
for the poor. Since he was a delegate for many years, he also served on the Stationing Committee. In 1893, he served, along with layman William Yeakel and preacher Abel Strawn, on a committee seeking to free Elder William Gehman from the Reading church matters. That same year, Milton Kauffman, along with Harvey Hottel and Thomas Hockman, decided to make tents and rent them to camp meeting goers. Milton began his service on the Finance Committee when it was formed in 1894, and in addition, served on and was treasurer of the Foreign Mission Board, also established in the 1890’s.
In 1901, when Milton Kauffman was recognized at Annual Conference for having served as Treasurer of Conference for 18 years, hearty appreciation was expressed, and that baton was then handed to someone else. This was also his first year on the Board of Deacons where he served as president, a position he held for only two more years. There is no more mention of Milton Kauffman in the yearbooks after 1903. Perhaps because of declining health, he no longer had responsibilities concerning Conference business. Milton Kauffman died in 1921 and is buried next to his wife in the Coopersburg church’s cemetery.
Allen M. Gehman
As Milton Kauffman was fading from the scene, Allen Musselman Gehman was emerging. He was born in 1866, the son of “Father” William S. and Anna Musselman Gehman, and the older brother of preacher William G. “Daddy” Gehman. A farmer by occupation, he specialized in raising and breeding registered Holstein cattle. He was a successful businessman and eventually owned two farms. Allen married Permelia Snyder, daughter of Jonas and Sara Snyder of Emmaus; they had nine children, two dying young. The Gehmans lived just outside of Macungie, and Allen was a charter member of the Macungie church, which was in a circuit with the Emmaus church and (sometimes) the Zionsville church. Allen served as delegate to Annual Conference for many years.
His first involvement with Conference business
was in 1902 when he served on the Board of Trustees
and as Treasurer of the Foreign Missions Committee.
He soon picked up other responsibilities, including
treasurer of Annual Conference; member of the
Committee on Finance; of the Board of Trustees of
the Norristown Church; of the Board of Trustees for
the Orphanage and Home; treasurer of the Camp
Meeting Equipment Fund; and delegate to General
Conference. In 1911 he added the responsibilities of
president of the Laymen’s
Benevolent Society; member of the Gospel Worker Society Board (for one year); and of the Committee to Formulate Rules for Layman’s Beneficiary Society. In 1912, he served on the Committee on Valuation of Church properties.
In 1916, Annual Conference resolved that the Conference Treasurer would also be treasurer for the Executive Board, the Board of Foreign Missions, the Board of Trustees of Orphanage and Home, the Home Mission Fund, and the Annual Conference Fund, thus combining those positions. Allen continued to serve as Treasurer of Annual Conference until 1928, when preacher C. H. Brunner became Secretary and Treasurer of Annual Conference.
Besides his official position on the Committee over Camp meeting Equipage and Tabernacle Outfits, Allen Gehman stored the tents for camp meeting on his farm for many years. He would repair and waterproof them in preparation for camp meeting time. On a more local level, he hosted congregational baptisms on his farm, and his own grandson, also named Allen Gehman, was baptized in the creek there, downstream from the cows.
Remembered by many as a man with a good sense of humor and a positive, upbeat outlook on life, a resolution from the 1909 yearbook paid him this tribute:
“Whereas, Allen M. Gehman has served this Conference faithfully in the capacity of Treasurer for a number of years, which caused him to give us much of his valuable time, and incurring considerable expenses in the line of postage, etc.; therefore,
“Resolved, That this Conference donate him $25, to be paid out of the Conference Fund.
“W. S. Hottel, E. N. Cassel, W. G. Gehman, Committee
“Whereas, This Conference donated to Allen M. Gehman $25.00, and,
“Whereas, Bro. Allen M. Gehman, Treasurer of the Conference, has refused to accept this offer, on the ground that he has done all cheerfully as unto the Lord; therefore,
“Resolved, That this Conference give him a rising vote of thanks.
“W. S. Hottel, E. N. Cassel, W. G. Gehman, Committee” (1909 Yearbook, p. 26,27).
As he got up in years, Allen Gehman limited his involvement to president of the Board of Trustees of the Laymen’s Benevolent Society and to membership on the Board of Trustees of the Home. He continued offering his time and expertise in this way until his death in 1943.
Daniel K. Ziegler
Daniel King Ziegler was born in 1907 in Denton, Maryland, the son of Daniel C. and Kate King Ziegler. He grew up in the Church of the Brethren and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Juniata College. He was a science teacher at the East Greenville – Pennsburg school when he married Caroline Didden in 1930. The Church of the Brethren did not allow wedding rings, and since Caroline wanted a ring, the couple ended up at “Little Heaven,” the derisive name given to Bethany Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church in Hatfield by the locals. Dan was one of the first college graduates in the Mennonite Brethren in Christ denomination. Daniel’s wife, Caroline, was the daughter of George and Laura Christ Didden who owned Diddon’s greenhouses in Hatfield, a wholesale business. Daniel’s brother-in-law, Clarence Diddon, was to take over the family business, but became a preacher instead. Daniel was then asked by the family to leave teaching to run the business, which he did. His leadership ability was demonstrated in his business dealings and in the church, where he proved himself at annual conference. Articulate, he was always willing to speak publicly, and Dan served as delegate to annual conference from Hatfield for most of the years from 1937 until his death in 1966. For most of those years, he served on the auditing committee as well.
Dan’s gifts were recognized and used as he also served on the Board of Education and related committees; on the organizing board of Berean Bible School; on the committee to investigate a suitable site for Bible conferences; and on the Board of Foreign Missions. He served, too, on several study committees, including the committee to study the government of the Conference; the committee to study the questions of financial support, insurance, etc.; the committee on moral standards; and the committee to review annual conference auditing procedures. Daniel K. Ziegler was respected for his willingness to stand for what is right, for his tenacity and integrity, and for his living a life consistent with his Christian confession. On Wednesday evening, March 2, 1966, Dan was at prayer meeting at Bethany Bible Fellowship Church in Hatfield showing slides of a mission trip he and his wife had taken to Mexico and Central America. Suddenly, to the astonishment of all there, he was stricken and collapsed, dying before he hit the floor.
Albert and Paul Wentz
The Wentz brothers of Emmaus made a difference in the Conference in another way. Albert Wentz and his brother, Paul, had a successful plumbing supply business in Emmaus, and were generous in their giving to the Lord’s work. Besides the personal testimony of those who knew of their generosity, some records of their giving money and specific items to the Home for Orphans and the Aged, and to Mizpah Grove, are included in the treasurer’s reports in the Conference yearbooks.
Albert Lewis Wentz, born in 1895, and Paul Isaac Wentz, born in 1897, were the first two of seven children born to Charles and Lizzie Yeahl Wentz. Some of their growing up years were spent in Walnutport, the family being active members of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church there. Before the boys were grown, the family moved to the Allentown – Emmaus area, joining the church in Emmaus. Neither Albert nor Paul finished high school, though Albert had taken a correspondence course on accounting. Both boys held a series of jobs that included working on a farm, working at the Emmaus brick yard, and working at a foundry; they did a variety of tasks, from manual labor to bookkeeping.
In 1915, Albert married the girl next door, Mary Weaver, daughter of Charles and Ellen Musselman Weaver. In 1916, Paul married Bertha Brensinger, daughter of Charles and Anna Reinhard Brensinger. After a few years of working a variety of jobs, in 1923 the brothers formed the Service Supply Company, a plumbing supply business, in Emmaus. Later, Paul bought several farms, including the estate of Allen Musselman Gehman, to provide fresh and abundant food for his family and as a business venture.
Both men were hard workers and careful with their personal spending. In Albert’s home, there was a “tithe drawer” in the buffet in the dining room. His daughters, Evalyn and Joanna, did not dare touch that drawer, fearing perhaps their fingers would burn off if they did; such was the seriousness of their father’s command. However, it was Albert’s faithful tithing, acknowledging the Lord with his giving that Evalyn credits for her father’s financial success. Paul worked many hours but he also enjoyed some recreational activities. He was an avid hunter and fisherman, and he included his sons and daughters on his expeditions and fishing trips.
Both brothers used some of their business expertise as they served on various boards and committees. Paul served many years on the Board of Trustees of the Home as assistant secretary, and later as treasurer. He also served on the Auditing Committee; on the Committee on Examination of Traveling Elders; and on the Committee on Finance. He was treasurer of Annual Conference; of the Board of Publication and Printing; and of the Home Mission Fund in the 1940s and 1950s. He was also on the Committee to Secure a Site for a Bible Conference, and continued to serve on various boards and committees until 1971, four years before his death in 1975.
Albert served for many years in the 1940s and 1950s as treasurer of the Laymen’s Benevolent Society, and in the latter decade, he added the responsibility of the Board of Education, serving as treasurer there. He participated on the Committee to study the Government of the Conference, and served one year (1959) on the Board of Church Extension. In the 1960s, Albert joined the Board of Mizpah Grove and the Board of Directors of Berean Bible School; he continued to serve until the time of his death in 1970.
Besides the official titles they held, the Wentz brothers personally helped both pastors and projects with gifts of money. If a pastor, any pastor, not just the pastor of their church, was in financial need, it was suggested to him that he approach Albert and Paul, “…from Wentz cometh my help.” Both Albert and Paul Wentz made a significant impact on the Lord’s work through their donation of time and money, giving encouragement, confirmation, and assistance by doing so.
Byron Cassel was born June 18, 1906, the son of preacher E. N. Cassel and his wife, Ida Price. Byron trusted the Lord while a youth, having been led to the Lord by his father. A bright child, he was advanced in school several times through the years, and as a result, accidentally graduated from high school before he was sixteen years old, the legal age for dropping out of school in Pennsylvania. This occurred in spite of the church leaders who discouraged “higher education.” After high school, Byron worked for the Collegeville, Pa., newspaper for a short time then went to work for the Reading Railroad, working in the coal freight department, and eventually becoming the coal freight agent. Later, he became assistant to the president then finally, he was controller. His employment record reveals his intellectual and business abilities. Sometime early in his career, Byron had taken an accounting course at a business college which he “developed into a career that ended up in being the Controller of the Reading Railroad.” While employed by the Reading Railroad, he was able to help the Graterford church secure a right-of-way over the railroad tracks when they wanted to add on to their building and make a new driveway.
A member of the Salem MBC in Philadelphia for many years, Byron Cassel declined running for election as delegate to annual conference for a long time, since he knew it would mean being part of the Stationing Committee. He said he was not going to be involved in the future of his father, preacher E. N. Cassel; of his father-in-law, preacher F. M. Hottel; of his brother, preacher Willard Cassel; and of his brother-in-law, Isaiah Wismer, caretaker of the Home for Orphans and the Aged.
Eventually, Byron did run for election as delegate to Annual Conference, and then used his accounting and financial management skills in the BFC as treasurer of the Board of Directors, as treasurer of the Board of Missions, as a member of the Committee on Pensions, and as a member of the Committee on Finance for a number of years. Moreover, having grown up in a preacher’s home, he had had opportunities to learn the “inside” story of the workings of the Conference leadership, and ably served on the Committee to study pulpit supply and related committees.
Byron’s intelligence and academic record also qualified him to serve on the Board of Education, which he did for over twenty years. In 1974, he left the Reading Railroad to take the position of business manager of Pinebrook Junior College, a position he filled for 14 years. Beside his official duties, his informal contact with Conference leaders gave him opportunity to speak up to an elder. At one point, Byron questioned Presiding Elder H. B. Musselman about his practice of stationing his friends at the choice churches. His mild rebuke was not well-received; nevertheless, Byron Cassel faithfully did his part in fulfilling his responsibilities in the Lord’s service. In his later years, Byron and his wife, Verletta, moved into the home of their daughter and son-in-law, Carolyn and Bruce Ellingson, in Coopersburg. He passed into the presence of the Lord from the Ellingson home on January 4, 1998. His earthly remains have been planted in the cemetery of Calvary Bible Fellowship Church of Coopersburg.
Joyce Musselman had a different kind of impact on the Bible Fellowship Church. She was born in 1929 to Charles and Helen Keller, and grew up in a Lutheran Church in the Emmaus area. After graduating from Emmaus High School, Joyce went to work in the office at Gehman’s Garage in Emmaus where Reuel “Bud” Musselman, son of preacher B. Bryan Musselman, brought in for service the cars that belonged to the radio station. Dorothy Gehman, sister of co-owner Kermit Gehman, also worked in the office there, and she invited Joyce to attend camp meeting. It was there that Joyce trusted the Lord as Savior and got acquainted with Bud Musselman; they were married in May 1948.
Joyce and Bud attended Bethel MBC in Allentown, and when Carl Cassel was pastor there, his wife Charlene (nee Sorensen) asked Joyce to do something about missions for the young people. Joyce then took it upon herself to write to the missionaries, to learn more about them. The missionaries responded, also sharing prayer requests. With the information she received, she wrote a folksy letter for the missionaries to give them news about other missionaries and churches. Other churches found out about it and asked for the letters to be sent to them which they then duplicated and distributed. Out of this project Joyce developed the monthly prayer calendar which she wrote for over 30 years, until the 1990’s, when Dana Weller came on the Board of Missions which then picked up the responsibility of gathering information and writing, printing, and distributing the monthly prayer calendar which we use today.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:11,12, that “it was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” This study shows how some of God’s people were prepared for works of service and helped build up the body of Christ through their involvement in Conference business.
There have been many laypeople throughout the years who served the Lord in a mighty way in their own congregations and some who had influence outside their own churches. Kathleen Stortz ably represented the conference to missionaries over many years, encouraging them through her correspondence with them. H. H. Bergey served as delegate to annual conference from the Quakertown church for over 50 years, offering the continuity that only the accumulation of years can give. More recently, there are “Aquila and Priscilla” couples that have relocated to new or struggling churches, offering their time, expertise, experience, and love in order to help those congregations grow. Most recently, that list includes Russ and Nell Ruch, Phil and Sandy Mitchell, Harry and Sandra Workman, and David and Nona Gehman.
In this review of significant laymen, one might think that positions of responsibility were only given to close relatives of the leaders of the conference, perhaps in an effort to keep tight control over the affairs of the Church. It is true that a number of them were related to the leaders of the conference, some more closely than others. As time went on, however, there were others among the significant laymen who were not closely related to the leaders. Moreover, it is unfair and unwise to judge the motives of those who are long gone and thus are unable to speak for themselves. The following and final essay will serve as the last exhibit of a significant layman, someone who is able to speak up for himself and inspire us.
Horace Kauffman Jr.
Horace Kauffman, Jr. was born in 1917, the son of preacher Horace Kauffman and his wife, Esther Gehret. In 1918, Horace’s father was one of the millions of victims of the Spanish influenza. His mother married a second time to preacher N. H. Wolf who raised Horace and his sister Ellen as his own. Horace is descended from early preachers Abraham Kauffman and his son, Abraham Kauffman of Upper Milford; his half-sister Thelma is the wife of preacher Bob Smock.
After high school, Horace went to Normal School, then taught school as a young
man; he holds a permanent certificate to teach math and science. Horace has a
bachelor’s degree in math and science from Susquehanna University, and a master’s
degree in physics from Franklin and Marshall where he has also done graduate work.
His step-father encouraged him to pursue higher education, something he lacked
himself. Horace worked as an industrial engineer for the DuPont Company where he worked on the Manhattan Project. He worked at RCA in management and engineering for twenty years, then worked at Community Hospital.
Growing up in a preacher’s home gave Horace the opportunity to become acquainted with Conference leaders and preachers at camp meetings and in other settings. This probably helped get him elected to the positions he has held, since the leaders and preachers were able to get to know him.
Horace served on the Board of Directors of Berean Bible School for nine years; has been on the Board of Directors of the BFC since 1969; and has served as financial secretary since 1970. Sometimes his duties are time-consuming, for his responsibilities include depositing checks and recording them properly. Board meetings give him decision-making opportunities. Horace does not view his contribution as a position of honor to be coveted. Instead, he humbly declares, “I just wanted to do whatever I could to serve the Lord” (Personal Interview, Spring 2004.)
The Gospel Banner, September 15, 1881.
Mathews, Alfred and Austin N. Hungerford. History of Counties Lehigh and Carbon. Philadelphia: Everts and Richards, 1884.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 1994.
Montgomery, Morton L. History of Berks County, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Everts, Peck, and Richards, 1886.
Records of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church (Blue Church), Upper Saucon, Lehigh County, PA.
Ruth, John L., Maintaining the Right Fellowship. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1984.
Shelly, Harold P. The Bible Fellowship Church. Bethlehem, PA: Historical Committee, Bible Fellowship Church, 1992.
Taylor, Richard E., ed. Verhandlungen (1859-1895). Coopersburg, PA: Historical Committee of the Bible Fellowship Church, 1989.
U. S. Federal Population Census, 1850-1910
Wenger, J. C., History of the Mennonites of the Franconia Conference. Telford, PA: Franconia Mennonite Historical Society, 1937.
Yearbooks of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ/Bible Fellowship Church, 1896-2004.
Anna Mae Wentz Knauss
Evalyn Wentz Wetzel
Daniel G. Ziegler