Reflections on My Stone-Campbell Heritage, Part First

The photo to your right is of John William McGarvey, renowned Biblical exegete and scholar of a past generation. His ministry of writing (esecially his Commentary on Acts, 1863 and later reissued in 2 volumes in 1892 and hundreds of articles in papers and journals) and teaching (in the College of the Bible at Transylvania College, University of Kentucky) established him as the preeminent scholar-preacher of the Disciples in the latter half of the 19th century.

A student of Alexander Campbell and graduate of Bethany College, he trained most of the ministers and preachers and missionaries of the Christian Churches from the 1870’s-1900’s. He was widely read and engaged the larger world of Biblical scholarship. In many ways he typified the Restoration ideal of the latter 19th century: steeped in the English Bible, competent with the original languages, rationalistic, devoted and zealous, and committed to the Restoration principle.

Being an admirer of him, my great-gradfather named his firstborn, a son, after “Brother McGarvey.” McGarvey Charles Ice (d. January 28, 1999), my grandfather, was born October 5, 1909, on the campus of Bethany College. My great-grandfather was the town doctor in Bethany for a few years, living just a stones throw from, and in the shadow (both literally and figuratively) of, Bethany’s Old Main. I’m really rather surpised that Grandad was named McGarvey Charles instead of McGarvey Campbell!

My dad named me after my grandfather, so I can claim to be a namesake of old Brother McGarvey only indirectly. But I have inherited, and with grateful hope continue, a heritage of scholarship (great-grandad held degrees from Hiram College, Bethany College and an MD), Grandad (PhD) and churchmanship.

I have my heritage. It is mine to do with what I will. I embrace my past. I can neither choose my history nor can I change it. But I sincerely believe there is a nobility to the best of my heritage. So I embrace it, I choose to appreciate the previous generations (yes, I know they were flawed, but I will love them and appreciate them nonetheless), and I choose to participate in the ongoing story. My past has a future and I want to be a part of it.

End part first. More to come.

Grace and peace.


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