The Calvary Hour, Bill and Bob Detweiler

I found this articles on an EMU site.  Bill and Bob were 1st cousins with my dad.  I have an old black and white photo of the three of them in knickers.  My grandmother was a Detweiler and that was my dad’s middle name.  I hope you enjoy the article.

Humble Tools,
Willing Hearts

Bill Detweiler

Distinguished Service Award Class of 1951by Paul Souder

They hardly looked the part of future church leaders when they landed on campus in the fall of 1947. Into a sea of dark plain coats stepped Bill and Bob Detweiler, dressed lightly in double-breasted suits, with their trademark mischievous grins and prankster attitudes to rival David Letterman’s. “At 17, we were terribly immature, intent on waging a running battle with the establishment.”Their gift with words got an early workout when the dean of men opened their dorm door to find them surrounded in a blue haze of tobacco smoke. No, they had not been smoking, they could truthfully say. If only the hot iron pants presser, dusted with pipe tobacco, could speak.

The Shenandoah yearbooks from 1948 to 1951 are peppered with photos of the tall lanky identical twins who often dressed alike in public. “Towering in the confidence of 21” and “He that parts us shall bring a brand from heaven” — quotes from Jonson and Shakespeare — describe the inseparable duo from Orrville, Ohio, as they graduated in 1951 with identical degrees in English.

The next chapter of their intertwined lives has its roots in Canton, Ohio, in the middle of the Great Depression. Their father originally had his heart set on the foreign mission field. But the rigors of India in the 1930s were beyond the health of his wife. So he accepted a mission assignment in working-class Canton. Here, William Detweiler “saw a lost soul for every streetlight” and resolved to reach them with the gospel message. His plan was bold and controversial.

Bill and Bob were one day shy of their seventh birthday when their father’s voice first crackled over the radio airwaves of WHBC on Nov. 28, 1936. He was perhaps the first Mennonite to ever preach on radio (15 years before The Mennonite Hour began broadcasting). In 1936, owning a radio was discouraged or prohibited in the conservative Mennonite heartland.

But William Detweiler was undeterred by the harsh criticism. Walking the city streets, he passed the open door of a Canton bar and heard his voice on the radio above the clink of beer glasses. He knew he was reaching people who would never hear the gospel message from his pulpit.

Growing up, the twins had to know that a radio microphone would probably find its way into their future. For Bill, that moment came when he was a green and nervous 25. He spent a good part of the summer of 1954 preparing for his first radio message.

Bill and his brother were enrolled in a Philadelphia seminary when their father asked whether they would continue the radio ministry if anything should happen to him. William was the strapping picture of good health in his early 50s; his tenure behind theCalvary Hour microphone was likely to stretch into the distant future. Answering yes to their father came easily.

A short two years later on a cold January day, the call from their mother rang in Philadelphia. Bill and Bob were planning to spend the day in the library, completing research on their final dissertation for a second theological degree. That work would remain lunfinished. They raced westward on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the wintry mountains a tear-streaked blur.

Four weeks after their father’s fatal heart attack, Bill and Bob made good on their promise. For the next 34 years, the twins shared the radio pulpit, alternating sermons and introductory announcements. Their easy banter, measured cadence, insightful stories and simple, biblical messages found a growing audience, from Arizona to New York, from Montana to the Caribbean.

It is Bill’s belief that “radio is ideally suited to the message of the gospel, even better suited than television. The face of the speaker is really not very important. But the message is all-important.”

If their radio sermons rang true, perhaps it was because they were grounded in their pastoral ministry in the real worlds of Kidron, Ohio (Bill), and Goshen, Indiana (Bob).

Bill and his wife Ruth live in the same house where they raised their three daughters, across the road from Central Christian High School and a short amble from Kidron Mennonite Church. He served the large congregation from 1957 to 1994. That’s 37 years, more than 350 weddings, about the same number of funerals and sermons numbering in the thousands.

How many pastors do you know who served one church for 37 years? Bill wears well. He laughs easily. He listens intently. He connects with people of all ages. He has spent a lifetime sharpening his native gift with words — striving to achieve what British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called “the vivid precision of thoroughbred language” — in the service of God’s kingdom.

“This is where I grind it out.” The walk-up attic study is his upper-room sanctuary. Surrounded on all sides with solid walls of books, beneath a framed portrait of his father gazing into the future, Bill leans back in his swivel desk chair. His IBM Selectric typewriter waits for the next set of 5 x 8 cards outlining his next sermon or noting a relevant illustration from his voracious readings.

C.S. Lewis, current biographies, history, classic preachers with names like Joseph Parker and Alexander Maclaren, weekly news magazines — Bill has gleaned from them all. These provide the harmony notes, but the melody is scripture, the unchanging biblical themes.

“I am inspired by the substance of solid preaching of the past, in which the preacher is actually addressing the biblical theme, trying to make it relevant for today. Rather than start where we are today and then going to the Bible as a commentary, I would rather use what’s happening today as a commentary on what the Bible has said.”

Scripture speaking to culture. The eternal Word carried by a human voice. The high calling of preaching the gospel. On his business card, the title under Bill’s name reads simply, Minister of Jesus Christ. “Preaching is not a burden. I wish I could preach a hundred more years. I have not run out of sermons.”

In 1989, his brother Bob died of a sudden heart attack. He was two months away from reaching 60. In the next booklet of Calvary Hour sermons, Bill penned these simple words: “You are the very best brother God ever made. Because of the grace of our Lord Christ, I will love you and enjoy you all through eternity, because I, too, am on the happy road home! – Bill.”

Eternity is a recurring theme in Bill’s ministry. “When God made us, he started something which will never end. You and I are creatures of eternity.”

When his father started the radio ministry in 1936, the year 2001 would have seemed like an eternity away. Yet every week for 65 years, a Detweiler voice has gone out faithfully over the air waves, “a simple presentation of the whole-bodied gospel” scattered generously like seeds across the land.

One typewritten card thumb-tacked to Bill’s study wall reads, “How humble the tool when praised for what the hand has done.”

In Bill, as in his brother and father, God’s hand found a willing tool, sharpened and ready to serve.

Paul Souder promises to listen with keener interest to The Calvary Hour on two local radio stations. Paul is a communications consultant. His father was a college classmate of the Detweiler twins.



Manure Spreaders

A friend told me a great story today.  Let me paraphrase:

I was born into an Amish family.  My dad needed a new manure spreader for the farm but he couldn’t find any with steel wheels.  He searched and searched but he couldn’t find one.  He finally bought one with rubber wheels and used it for a couple years with no issues.  One day, a man came and told him where he could get one with steel wheels.  He was happy with the one he had and chose not to change.

The Bishop soon came by for a visit and told dad that he had to change to steel wheels or leave the church.  Dad replied “My relationship with God isn’t based on manure spreaders.”  That’s when we left the Amish Church and became Mennonites!

With all the changes affecting the church today, what is your relationship built on?



Open Letter to Mennonite Family

An open letter to the Mennonite family

Nov 14, 2014 by ,

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We are Richard and Jewel (Wenger) Showalter. As church planters, missionaries, educators, mission administrators, parents and now grandparents, we have walked as part of the Mennonite family throughout our lives.

We love the Mennonite church and the broader body of Jesus Christ. Our lifelong passion has been to reach out to those who do not yet know Jesus. During the past 30 years, we have been privileged to do this in friendship with churches both in North America and around the world.

Now in North America the church is engaged in a wide-spread discussion which ranges through many denominations. Is homosexual practice part of God’s good creation or is it sin? Should same-sex covenantal unions now be included in our definition of Christian marriage?

Especially after reading Chester and Sara Jane Wenger’s eloquent appeal to change the church’s approach to same-sex covenantal unions, we are also moved to write to the church. We would love to agree with them because they are beloved elders (Jewel’s parents) and we want to walk in step with them. We resonate deeply with their call for compassionate, embracing love for all those in the LGBTQ community. We affirm that embrace.

See also “Lancaster Conference Terminates Minister’s Credentials.”

We are grieved with our many sins of self-righteousness, judgmentalism, homophobia and lack of compassionate love in the body of Christ for those with same-sex attraction.

But we believe homosexual actions are sinful and we should not attempt to craft a more inclusive definition of Christian marriage.

“Sin” is not a popular topic, and we all struggle with temptations. But we must go to war with them. Jesus loves us so deeply he died for our sins — our greed, violence, homophobia, pride, self-righteousness, all of them. God knows each of our particular vulnerabilities — different for every one of us. He longs to root out sins that take root so deeply within us that we accept them as part of our identity.

We know that Jesus himself was tempted in “every way” like us. Yet he was without sin (Heb. 4:15).

Now Jesus walks with us to overcome, to “find mercy and grace in our time of need.” He gave us the scriptures as a life-giving message from heaven. His love is both enormously kind and incredibly tough and transformative. True love cannot affirm what God does not, yet Jesus always meets us where we are.

We have been members of West End Mennonite Fellowship in Lancaster, Pa., for many years. We love to read its mission statement written in bold letters on the wall of a former bar, “We welcome all people into a safe and healing community in which we grow to be more like Jesus and join him in extending his kingdom to the world.” Yes, “all people.” Yes, “like Jesus.”

When the early Anabaptists debated believers’ baptism or participation in war with those who would later burn them at the stake, their persistent plea was, “Show us from the scriptures.”

We appeal to those who promote a redefinition of Christian marriage — “Show us from the scriptures.”

We don’t wish to be divisive or to split the church. We don’t wish to cause pain and rejection. We do not support discrimination or violence against people because of their sexual orientation or practice. But we do wish to be faithful to the word of God.

While some point to issues such as slavery, the role of women, divorce and remarriage, and circumcision as ones on which the church has changed its mind, we see in the scriptures new vectors on these subjects in the example of Jesus and the early church.

Slaves are urged to obey their masters, but also to seek their freedom. Women are told to be quiet in the church, but also to pray and prophesy. God hates divorce, yet “because of unfaithfulness” divorce and remarriage were permitted. Both Old and New Testaments point toward obedience and “circumcision of the heart” as being more important than a circumcision in the flesh. The church has followed these vectors.

But we do not see new directions in relation to sexual sin and marriage relationships. Here the New Testament teachings are even more radical and prohibitive than they were in the context of Old Testament culture. “Don’t even look at a woman to lust after her . . . ” “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.” “Run away from all sexual sins.”

Though it would be much easier to flow with the seemingly irresistible current in contemporary western culture on this issue, we appeal, please “show us from the scriptures” where this is God’s ideal and intent since the creation of the world.

On what do we as Christians base our ethics? Many westerners since the 1960s have appealed to love, kindness and compassion. But was it kind and loving of Paul to discipline a church member on grounds of immorality (I Cor. 5)? Not unless we have a Biblical understanding of sin. Please “show us from the scriptures” where same-sex behavior is not understood to be sinful and under God’s judgment. Show us where same-sex unions are part of God’s creation ideals for marriage. Jesus quoted Genesis that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife . . . ” (Matt. 19).

Daniel was a man who stood alone in worship of the one true God in the face of the surrounding culture’s gods. Let us not bow our knees to an ethic of “kindness” and “love” outside the word of God. If the scriptures are to be trusted at all, God’s love is both kinder and tougher than many of our human understandings of it.

Kindness and love are nearly universal human values. We are privileged to have many kind and loving Muslim, Buddhist and secular friends. We talk freely about our beliefs, our similarities and differences. But we don’t assume that we are all part of the same worshiping community. We base our beliefs on different foundations, different authorities and a different relationship to Jesus.

Menno Simons’ favorite verse was, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11).

The Mennonite church in Ethiopia chose this verse to shape its name, “the Christ Foundation Church.” We think it is significant that they and the majority of the church in the Global South do not appear to follow the Western church in raising this issue. Let’s not be afraid to test our theological questions in the global hermeneutical community.

Jesus said, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me . . . ” (Matt. 10:37). “Who is my mother and who are my brothers? . . . whoever does the will of my Father in heaven . . . ” (Matt. 12:48-50).

Jesus calls us to honor him above self, family, clan, tribe and nation. May it be so for us as a church!

Jewel and Richard Showalter are lifelong missionaries and members at West End Mennonite Fellowship in Lancaster, Pa.

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Mennonites becoming liberal

When I was a child growing up in the Mennonite faith, I would have described the Mennonite faith as strict, conservative, Republican and blessed with rules.  We couldn’t dance, drink, have sex out of marriage, marry the same sex, get remarried after divorce, have long hair or hang out with anyone who did any of these things.  We looked different and believed different from most of the world.  It was a conservative body of believers.

I now look at the Mennonite faith from the outside and think, “Is this the same faith that I was raised in?”  Almost all of these rules (and several more) have been overturned.   I see a liberal body that is pushing the envelope to be more liberal.   Of course this isn’t ALL Mennonites, but the body in general does not have the same standards that the previous generations did.  This isn’t necessarily wrong – it is just a different stand than before.

So what happened?  Here are a couple of my thoughts.  These are not scientifically proven by any stretch.  They are simply observations.

1) The church has grown from being mainly rural and farmer based to a much higher percentage urban crowd.  This demographic has made a huge change in the personality of the church and has added different races and ethnic inclusion.  Urban crowds tend to be more liberal/progressive while rural crowds tend to be more conservative.

2) The church has expanded it’s base from a family base to a broader individual scope.  It is getting harder to play the Mennonite Game tracking back relations to similar ancestors.  This more independent crowd is less tied in with “old family roots” and has less of the old standards.

3) The political shift is occurring because members are attaching “love and care” scriptures to the political alignment.  The conservatives of the past believed in helping the poor, the widows and orphans but they thought the church was responsible.  They were highly separated from the government and government aid.  The new generations have jumped on the band wagon of other liberals – the government needs to be compassionate and care for everyone.  Republicans are now viewed as hateful, greedy and mean.   Instead of preaching personal responsibility in giving, we are using scripture to push for a softer and gentler government that seems to be more in line with Jesus’ teaching.  Do we want to join Mennonite Disaster Service or have the government help people in need?

4) Through missions, mainly MCC, the church has become more social based.  We care for physical needs.  We are concerned about social justice and the world economy.  We are concerned about  the effects of war on people as we watch people die daily on TV.  The social gospel is spreading and it has a home in man Mennonite circles.  Do we feed people first or teach them about Jesus?

5) The Mennonite colleges have driven to the edge of the cliff on many issues.  Some would say they drove off a long time ago.  A friend recently said “My daughter is going to _________, I hope she stays a Christian.”   This is not surprising seeing how almost all colleges have taken on the progressive side to every issue.   My dad was concerned about me getting spiritually confused at a secular college.  I would say the same today of the Mennonite schools.

6) We are a rebellious people.  Not just Mennonites.  All of us.  We fight against the rules and authorities.  The church says “don’t drink alcohol, it just makes us want to drink more.”  America has survived through rock music, the love generation, Nixon, TMI, terrorists and the internet.  The world is constantly changing and that is forcing the church to change as well.   Last week I pulled into a pizza shop.  There was a buggy sitting outside with a young mother and several young children.  Inside was a young dad getting take out pizza while talking on his cell phone and paying the bill with a credit card!  How does a church control change when we are immersed in the world everyday.

Finally, this is not my father’s church.  It is certainly not my grandfather’s church.  It is the Mennonite church today.  Some will freely join it today because of the changes it is making and some will leave it today because of those same changes.  Right or wrong, the church will continue to change and someday we may not recognize it at all.  The fact is, none of us can blindly sit in any church or denomination for a lifetime and not constantly analyze whether we stand by the cornerstone beliefs.   What was once a cornerstone, might just be thrown out with a whole other belief.


Name Brand Recognition

One of the first lessons in business is to develop name recognition.  Design a good logo and plaster it everywhere to promote your business.  If things are going well this is a positive identity move.  If your name gets tarnished, you may want to pull it back for a season.

Churches and ministries can go through this as well.  Church denominations can become tarnished because of a fallen leader or misuse of funds.

Mennonites have had to deal with this in various ways over the last century.  In the early to mid 20th century, some churches dropped the name because of the conservative connotation.   In the later 20th century it happened again with Spirit Filled groups and contemporary fellowships.   Now in the early 21st century it is happening again because of social issues facing Mennonite Church USA.

There was a time when private schools wanted to be a “Mennonite School”.  The name carried a strong tradition of excellence, sound doctrine and similar DNA.  The same challenges facing church affiliation are and will challenge education centers as well.  Will schools want to drop the “Mennonite” name because it’s not who they are anymore?  The question will be, “who changed? the school or the Mennonites?”

This happens to any organization in time.  There were decades when GM was the car to buy.  There were decades when they weren’t.  Sometimes positives come by decisions of an organization and sometimes failures by the same group.  Sometimes an organization gets negative press for unfair reasons or biased opinion.

How will things fair for organizations with the word “Mennonite” in them?  Some will succeed and some will drop the name.  Some will grown and some will dwindle.  Mennonites will continue.  Mennonite institutions will continue.  There will be growth years and loss years.  One thing is for sure – the quality behind the name will always be challenged and the doctrines will always need to be discerned.











October 6, 1683

This day in history – The History Channel
Oct 6, 1683:

First Mennonites arrive in America

Encouraged by William Penn’s offer of 5,000 acres of land in the colony of Pennsylvaniaand the freedom to practice their religion, the first Mennonites arrive in America aboard the Concord. They were among the first Germans to settle in the American colonies.

The Mennonites, members of a Protestant sect founded by Menno Simons in the 16th century, were widely persecuted in Europe. Seeking religious freedom, Mennonite Francis Daniel Pastorious led a group from Krefeld, Germany, to Pennsylvania in 1683 and founded Germantown, the pioneer German settlement in America and now part of the city of Philadelphia. Numerous other German groups followed, and by the American Revolution there were 100,000 Germans in William Penn’s former colony, more than a third of Pennsylvania’s total population at the time.

White Picket Fences


Every so often a book comes along that just nails it.  I found one last week:

White Picket Fences, A Mennonite Boy’s Global Adventures by Doug Gehman, available on Amazon –

It will soon be out in paperback.

This book is hilarious!  If you are a Mennonite you will relate.  If you were raised in the 60’s you will relate.  If you did any missions work you will relate.  If you are none of these, you will still get a kick out of it.  The stories range from pet stories to delivering newspapers to college to Sri Lanka.

One of the refreshing attributes is the reflection on growing up Mennonite without bashing the faith.  Reflections are humorous and honest without bitterness.  There are hard stories to share – the death of his brother and father.   The mission stories are challenging but very encouraging.

Read this book – It is…

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Some Mennonite Thoughts for Today

I’m reading a book by Douglas Gehman, “White Picket Fences” (  I will give a full review later but so far it is GREAT!.  Doug talks about his dad attending LMH and fighting against the dress code.  At the time, they all wore black and he put colored shoe strings in his shoes to rebel.  The school promptly added shoe strings to the dress code.   Somethings never change at the core. It could be girls wanting to wear jeans, earrings, make-up, long hair, or colored shoe strings.

I had a conversation with some Mennonite friends today.  We discussed how Mennonites (me included) hate confrontation.  The eldest in the crowd said “I’m also part Irish so don’t get me started!”.  I didn’t and we moved on to another discussion.

In reviewing my blog stats, I noticed that my post about Mennonite Drug Runners is the 2nd highest read on my blog.  Almost daily, someone pulls this article up.  It fascinates me why this is such an interesting topic but apparently it is.  It just goes to show that we never know what will draw interest when we are writing.

Mennonites have battled many subjects over the years.  The current battle of homosexuality is causing large waves and may end up splitting many churches off.  Lets continue to pray for God’s wisdom, grace, mercy and love.

Homosexuality is


I feel bombarded with the issues of homosexuality.  It is constant.  Daily.  Everywhere I go and everything I do.  It is commented during the Olympics, football, TV, movies, church, news, everywhere.  I can’t get away from it.  In light of that, I will make a prediction:  In 10 or 20 years from now, the homosexual issue will be settled in the church and the church will wonder what the “big deal” was back in 2014.

Since we are all struggling to know God’s direction with this, let’s look at the subject from a slightly different angle.  This is certainly not exhaustive and I have not put any great research into it.

There are a variety of sexual related sins listed in the Bible: Fornication (sex before marriage), Adultery (sex outside of marriage), Remarriage after divorce, lust (basically the same as fornication and adultery in God’s eyes), and homosexuality.

In the…

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A step forward or a step backwards?

Lancaster County native will be first gay pastor to be licensed in the Mennonite Church USA

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Theda Good


Theda Good




Posted: Friday, January 31, 2014 4:09 pm |Updated: 10:58 am, Sat Feb 1, 2014.


Lancaster native Theda Good is at the center of a historic, and tense, moment for the Mennonite Church USA.

On Sunday, the Mountain States Conference will license Good, who is gay, for congregational ministry, making it the denomination’s first judicatory to take such action.  

As they ponder the implications of this move for the nation’s largest Mennonite body — the result of a 2002 merger of the (General Assembly) Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church — judicatory leaders and church pastors find themselves in uncharted territory, as a tradition known for peacemaking  faces conflict in its midst.

Although Good — who did not want to be interviewed for this story — is being licensed for ministry thousands of miles away, the event is reverberating through Lancaster County, a historically traditional area that is home to a large minority of denomination members, and the conference where Good grew up.

The Colorado-based Mountain States Conference’s decision to commission Good, who is in a committed same-sex relationship, as pastor of nurture and fellowship at First Mennonite Church of Denver (Colo.) has been met with applause by some and deep unease by others.   

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