The Life and Ministry of A.C. Wieand

September/October, 1997
Volume 32, Number 5


One of the effective ministries sponsored by Brethren Revival Fellowship for the past 24 years has been the summer Brethren Bible Institute (BBI). The Bible Institute has been held on the campus of Brethren-related Elizabethtown College each summer. Early years saw sessions scheduled for as many as four weeks, but during most years, the one-week concentrated studies seem to have best met the needs of the largest number of students.

BBI is not merely for youth, although many students are in their late teens or early twenties. The minimum age for attending BBI is sixteen. Many of the students are older persons. This year 122 persons from seven states and twenty-seven congregations attended the Bible Institute. They took a variety of subjects, taught by eight teachers. The oldest student was 88 years of age.

Most students at BBI are housed for the week in one of the college dorms. Some students commute from their homes. Brother Ken Leininger for a number of years has served as the school registrar, principal, and spiritual life leader. The courses this year were entitled, Old Testament Survey, Personal Evangelism, A Study of the Life of David, Homiletics: Preparing Spoken Messages, The Supporting Cast: Lesser Known Bible Characters, The Lands of the Bible, The Quiet Ways of the Kingdom, Studies in the Book of Ephesians, and Church History/Brethren History

The article featured on the pages that follow is a report that one of the BBI students submitted in response to an assignment given in the Homiletics: Preparing a Spoken Message class. Class members were asked to write a report on the life of a preacher–someone now active in the preaching ministry, or someone who lived and served in the past.

Reading biographies is a noble pursuit. There are challenges which we can receive as we read about the joys, sorrows, disappointments, and achievements of those who have gone before us. Albert Cassel Wieand was one of the founders of the Bethany Bible School (now Bethany Theological Seminary). He was a deeply spiritual man of God. Wieand stood solidly for the trustworthiness of the Bible as the Word of God. He did not believe that Christians must revise their convictions to suit the times. We can benefit from reading the account of his life.

–Harold S. Martin

The Life and Ministry of A.C. Wieand

By Richard Hoffman

The life and ministry of Albert Cassel Wieand is a bright testimony of one man’s Christian piety, consecration, and devotion to God’s call in his life. A leader of theological education within the Church of the Brethren, he is numbered among the long list of illustrious leaders who expended themselves for others in the service of the Kingdom. Although sensitive by nature, and a man of unusually deep spirituality, he was undaunted in overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles to the realization of his dream–a Bible training school for Brethren workers. I was strengthened and challenged alike as I read more about this man of God. Biographies of great people are among my favorite reading choices. Longfellow’s words come to mind: “Lives of true men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, And, departing, leave behind us, Footprints on the sands of time.” A. C. Wieand’s life exemplified just such a witness.


A.C. Wieand was born near Wadsworth, Ohio, on January 17, 1871. His father’s family was of the German Reformed faith, and lived near Boyertown, Pennsylvania. His mother was reared in conservative Mennonitism in Ohio. His parents identified with the Beech Grove (Chippewa) Church of the Brethren in Ohio. Albert was raised on an eighty-acre farm, and as was typical of those days, he learned responsibilities at a tender age.

Family devotions were an important part of Albert’s upbringing. Devotions were held each morning. His father led prayer in German; his mother prayed in English. At the age of nine or ten he accepted Jesus Christ as his Redeemer. One of his schoolteachers was an excellent penman and instilled within Albert an appreciation for fine penmanship. This love for neat writing was manifest throughout his life. Early religious training exerted a strong and lasting influence upon his life. Christian values were not only taught, but demonstrated by the example of his parents. A vital and dynamic prayer life became one of his life’s emphases. The strong bent of rely on prayer was undoubtedly fostered in his early home life.

Albert Wieand married Katherine G. Broadwater in his 38th year. To this union were born five children: Cassel, David, Winton, Alberta, and Ruth. After retiring from teaching in 1946, he moved to LaVerne, California, where he died on July 24, 1954.


Albert received a well-rounded formal education. His parents were unable to pay the costs, but Albert decided that he could pay the expenses himself. He studied at Juniata and McPherson Colleges and spent terms at American and German universities, including Columbia, Harvard, Boston, Yale, Leipzig, and Jena. He received honorary BD and ThD degrees from Bethany Bible School in 1921, and DD degrees from Manchester in 1916, and from Juniata in 1925. He was a teacher at Juniata College from 1888-1891, and he taught at McPherson from 1892-1900. He taught at Bethany Bible School from 1905-1946, and was president of Bethany from 1905-1932.


God first put the idea of founding a Bible School for the Brethren into A. C. Wieand’s mind in the summer of 1893. He was concerned that Brethren workers who were receiving training in non-Brethren schools would be led away from the principles and distinctive practices of the Brethren. He desired a better trained and equipped ministry within the Church of the Brethren. Albert felt that his divinely appointed mission was the establishment of a school of training for our own people.

In this calling, Albert Cassel Wieand was assisted by Emanuel Buechly Hoff, who became his colleague in the founding of Bethany Bible School, now known as Bethany Theological Seminary. Opposition to this venture arose primarily from those in charge of existing Brethren schools and colleges. These leaders felt the proposed Bible School would compete for both students and finances. This feared “competition” did not prove to be much of a threat, however. After surmounting more than a few obstacles, the school opened on October 3, 1905, with twelve students.

The founding fathers of Bethany pursued their mission only after thorough consecration and prayer. These became hallmarks of the endeavor, without which it is doubtful the school could have begun, much less survived. Sacrificial labor was the norm. Salaries for teachers and administrators were at times nonexistent. The founders were committed to Jesus Christ as the only unique Savior and complete revelation of God. The trustworthiness of the Bible was central to the School’s philosophy. Obedience to the Scriptures was expected. After years of wrangling, the ownership of the School was transferred to the denomination. Wieand served as the first president for about 27 years.


A. C. Wieand’s constitution was innately one of a sensitive nature. He was keenly sensitive to his surroundings and unusually receptive to spiritual truth. His deep spirituality was cultivated by a life-long devotion to Bible study, prayer, and family worship. Upon arising in the morning, he spent the first hour of his day engaged in prayers and Bible study. He once wrote that This single habit has more deeply influenced my life and has been a greater blessing to me than any other habit of my life.” Plagued with tubercular conditions, he asked for and received the anointing for healing. He experienced healing following the anointing service. A. C. Wieand was called to the ministry in 1893, and was advanced to the eldership in 1897.

A personal favorite hymn of mine was penned by Wieand when he was a student at McPherson College. He often met with a group of other young men in an east room of Fahnestock Hall for an early morning prayer meeting. As the sun rose across the Kansas plains, he was inspired to write the hymn, On the Radiant Threshold, which was set to music by George B. Holsinger. The hymn appears on page 76 of the 1901 Brethren Hymnal, and was often sung as an opening hymn when the Brethren gathered for worship.

A. C. Wieand was a prolific writer of articles, many of which appeared in the Gospel Messenger. He wrote a number of books, including The Gospel of Prayer, and A New Harmony of the Gospels.

In the course of an evangelistic meeting at the Monitor Church, the meetings were in progress for several weeks. When no visible results were seen, Elder J. J. Yoder suggested to Albert that it might be time to close the effort. Albert responded by asking, “J. J., when do you stop harvesting your corn in the fall?” “When it is all gathered,” replied the Elder. That is the way we are going to do in this meeting,” declared Albert. The meetings continued for several more weeks, and about 40 persons were saved and baptized. This is indicative of the tenacity and the determination of Albert Cassel Wieand.

Observers have said that his contribution to the deepening of the spiritual life was his outstanding characteristic, as well as his single greatest contribution to the church.

Among the books that influenced him most deeply and revolutionized his life were: Hannah Whitehall Smith’s The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, Henry Drummond’s Natural Law in the Spiritual World, Andrew Murray’s With Christ in the School of Prayer, and writings by D. L. Moody, F. B. Meyer, R. A. Torrey, and James Stalker.


A. C. Wieand subscribed to the great tenets of evangelical Christianity. He held to all the doctrines of orthodox Christian belief. He upheld the fundamentals of the faith, but was not among those who are known as Fundamentalists. Rather, he espoused historic New Testament Christianity, and believed and practiced those teachings which have become recognized as distinctive teachings of the Brethren–those teachings and emphases which set us apart from mainline evangelicals. He was a good personification of the Pietistic emphasis.

While firmly committed to the Brethren understanding of the New Testament, he did not, however, hold to a provincial or sectarian view of Christianity. He benefited enormously from the books and writings of non-Brethren, all of whom are considered orthodox, spiritual, and evangelistic. These are referred to in section 4 of this report. Wieand wrote, “In them I was finding what I had not been able to obtain from my local pastors and teachers.” His contacts and association with Christians of other communions did not weaken his own devotion and commitment to the Church of the Brethren. In a general sense, I would regard him as a loyalist. This trait I find admirable. He emphasized the Pietistic understanding of spirituality, which he said gave the Brethren spiritual power. And while he subscribed to the historic Christian faith, and believed in the ecumenicism of the church, he did not favor organic union of the various bodies.


While I had a general knowledge of Albert Cassel Wieand–who he was, and what he accomplished for the Church of the Brethren, it was not until after I read Albert Cassel Wieand by V. F. Schwalm this week, that my appreciation for him was enhanced. My understanding. was enlarged after consulting the sources listed in the bibliography which follows this report. As mentioned earlier, I have long favored his hymn, On the Radiant Threshold, a most lovely hymn.

I admire Wieand’s openness to deepening the interior life by availing himself to the works and thoughts of other Christians, often not of his church fellowship. This was a source of growth in his spiritual journey. He remained loyal, however, to the basic tenets and emphases of our own Brethren understanding of the Scriptures.

His quest for a deeper, more satisfying level of spiritual understanding is a stimulus for all who desire a strengthened interior life. His was not a cold, sterile, legalistic religion. He was a man of conviction and resolve, determined to do God’s will. He wasn’t a quitter. I believe his life was one which radiated a warm spiritual glow, but not without purpose, conviction, and obedience to the teachings of Christ. I see him as a good example of Christian consecration.

Richard Hoffman is a member of the Schuylkill Church of the Brethren (Atlantic Northeast District) and lives near Pine Grove, Pennsylvania. Richard is a rural mail carrier, and teaches a Sunday School class at Schuylkill. The Life and Ministry of Albert Cassel Wieand report was submitted to fulfill an assignment given this summer at the Brethren Bible Institute.


Schwalm, V. F. Albert Cassel Wieand. Elgin, Illinois: The Brethren Press, 1960.

The Brethren Hymnal. Elgin, Illinois: Brethren Publishing House, 1901.

Barnes, Edith, et al. Brethren Builders in Our Century. Elgin, Illinois: Brethren Publishing House, 1952.

The Brethren Encyclopedia. Philadelphia, PA: The Brethren Encyclopedia, Inc., 1983.