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Monday, April 25, 2016

Peter Burkholder

My widowed immigrant ancestor, Barbara Schenk Burkholder, brought her six children to Pennsylvania in 1754. She had three daughters, Barbara, Anna and Elizabeth, and three sons, Ulrich, Peter, and Christian. Barbara and Anna have been lost in the pages of history. We can only hope that something will be found someday to tell us what happened to them. Elizabeth married Jacob Sensenig. Ulrich was a Mennonite minister in Brecknock Township. Peter moved to Rockingham County, Virginia. Christian was a Mennonite bishop in Lancaster County and is well-known for his leadership during the Revolutionary War and his writing.
Both of my parents were Burkholders and descended from Christian. In the last few years I traced the first three generations of the descendants of Ulrich and Christian. It seemed to me that someone in Virginia would have done the same for Peter, but no one has. Some of his descendants are included in the Kauffman and Brenneman books, but there is no Peter Burkholder genealogy in one place.
Peter and his wife, Margaret (Huber), moved their family from Lancaster County to Virginia in the late 1700s. He first appears on the Rockingham County tax records in 1789. They settled on a farm along Cedar Run on the north side of the hill where Trissels Mennonite Church is now located.
Peter's son, Peter Jr. (1783-1846), was a well-known and influential Mennonite bishop in Virginia and also known for his writing. Peter Sr.'s grandson, Martin Burkholder (1817-1860), was another influential Mennonite bishop whose house is now preserved at the Mennonite-Brethren Heritage Center at Harrisonburg.

Samuel Coffman (1822-1894), who followed Martin Burkholder as bishop was also a descendant of Peter Burkholder. Coffman is known as the "Civil War bishop" as he guided the church through those turbulent years when the Shenandoah Valley was devastated by war and burning. Samuel's son, John S. Coffman (1848-1899) was an evangelist and leader who also greatly impacted the Mennonite church.
With this strong line of Burkholder leadership, it seems unfair to Peter not to develop the same type of genealogy that we have for his brothers, Ulrich and Christian. It would be a great advantage for researchers to have it all in one place rather than having to pick parts and pieces from other genealogy books.
And so, since no one else has done it, I decided to pick up the challenge. In the process, I found that quite a bit of it was not published anywhere and huge gaps had to be filled in. I'm getting close to finishing it and then we must decide how to publish it. I had a lot of fun putting it together and hope it will be useful to the Virginia descendants of Peter.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Whose Morality?

Here are some excerpts from a recent column by Cal Thomas:

"The question of morals and ethics has been debated since the dawn of humanity. It won't be settled by the shifting winds of politics, because not everyone can agree on what is moral and what is not. defines morality: "Conformity to the rules of right conduct."
Ah, but here's the rub. That definition fits a different era. Morality today is personal. It is not a standard to which one is encouraged to conform for one's own, or society's benefit. Rather, it is about what makes one feel good. By this nonstandard standard, people can easily change their sense of what is moral as they might a suit of clothes or a pair of shoes and suffer no societal condemnation because that moral code, such as it is, exists only for the individual.
 When Obama speaks of ethics and morality, the follow-up questions should be: "Whose ethics and whose morality? Who, or what, established that standard?"
Moral relativism has contributed to a host of societal and relational problems few wish to acknowledge. To do so would force people to admit their standard, which in reality is no standard at all, isn't working. And such an acknowledgement could lead to what theologians call repentance, a turning away from the old and embracing the new, which is not new, but the old, tried, and proven best.
Obama may be the most pro-abortion president America has ever had. By what standard is his position moral? The president used to be against same-sex marriage. Now he's for it. Was he moral when he opposed it, or is he moral now that he supports it? And what is his standard, because these positions are contradictory?
Mark Twain is quoted as saying: "Always do what is right. It will gratify half of mankind and astound the other."
That's funny, but Twain didn't tell us what he thought was right. What is the new standard for "right" and "moral?" Who established it, and why should anyone follow your standard when mine might be the antithesis of yours?
The inability or unwillingness to answer these questions and to enforce a moral code that mostly served humanity well until the self-indulgent 1960s began to destroy its foundations is responsible for the confusion and moral chaos we witness today.
Who will rescue us from this moral quagmire? It won't be anyone running for president. These things bubble up from the human heart; they do not trickle down from Washington."
When I read that column I remembered what my mother said: "You can't legislate righteousness." The whole mess in our nation today comes from disregarding the Word of God. The unchanging Word of God is the only standard that can be trusted. Without it, we have no solid foundation on which to build our lives and no absolute standards for morals and ethics. The answer is to get back to the Bible.