Baer, Mervin Joseph (1915-2009)

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Mervin Joseph Baer: conservative writer and bishop, was born 15 January 1915 near Maugansville, Washington County, Maryland, USA to Adam M. Baer (2 February 1890-16 March 1975) and Ella Susan Martin Baer (20 December 1889-23 May 1983). Mervin was the third child and oldest son in a family of three daughters and three sons. On 9 June 1934 Mervin married Fannie Elizabeth Rife (15 September 1915-16 January 2008); they had 12 children, including two sets of twins. Mervin Baer died 30 August 2009; he and Fannie are buried in the McBride Mennonite Church cemetery.

By 1920 Adam Baer had left his family, leaving Ella Baer with six children under the age of nine. Ella moved her family to Pinola, Pennsylvania to be closer to her family. The loss of a father figure likely deeply affected Mervin Baer’s later theological outlook. After completing grade eight, Mervin spent some time as a teenager in Alberta with relatives and was working on a farm near home at the time of his marriage at age 19. In the 1940 census Mervin was described as a carpenter involved with building construction. Since Fannie Baer came from a Brethren in Christ family, they initially attended both Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches. Eventually the Baers chose the Mennonite church and joined the Churchtown Mennonite Church near Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

At Churchtown, Mervin Baer was chosen by lot as minister on 13 May 1951. In 1956 he was assigned to the Nonconformity Committee of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference. He subscribed to the conservatively-based Herald of Truth and became an active contributor. In 1958 he became a charter board member of Pilgrim Press, later called Rod and Staff Publishers. He served on that board until 1988.

With like-minded ordained leaders in the Lancaster Conference, and after several meetings with the conference’s bishops, Mervin Baer chaired a small group of ordained leaders who withdrew from the Lancaster Conference to form a Mennonite Christian Brotherhood, a group that later became part of the Nationwide Fellowship Churches.

In January 1962 Mervin and Fannie moved to McBride, British Columbia, Canada to assist some of their daughters and sons-in-law who had moved there in 1959 as part of a colonization evangelism outreach effort often used by Fellowship churches. On 9 July 1962 Mervin Baer was ordained by lot to serve as bishop for the McBride Mennonite and Loos Mennonite congregations. Within several years congregations also began in Dome Creek, British Columbia, and Duchess, Alberta. A congregation in Stirling, Alberta with an earlier history also became part of Baer's bishopric. He later also gave bishop oversight to mission outreach in the Philippines. He served as a bishop until 1988.

Mervin Baer exerted much of his influence on the conservative Mennonite movement through writing in Rod and Staff periodicals. He also authored several books.

A sympathetic biographer said “[Mervin] was a strong voice in the pulpit in defense of the Gospel…. He led with a firmness not appreciated by some…. Mervin gave a much-needed voice in a time of serious crisis and helped to bring revival in God’s timing. He knew his strong opinions needed the balance of the brotherhood at times and publicly confessed that.”


Ehst, John C. “Mervin J. Baer (1915-2009).” The History Journal 24, no. 2 (October 2018): 4.

Geigley, Roy M. “The following ordained brethren….” Gospel Herald 53, no. 34 (30 August 1960): 765.

“Mervin Baer….” Gospel Herald 55, no. 29 (24 July 1962): 659.

“Mervin Joseph Baer.” SAGA (Swiss Anabaptist Genealogical Association) Genealogical Website. Web. 25 February 2019.

Ruth, John L. The Earth is the Lord's: a narrative history of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2001: 1074.

U.S. Census for 1940; Census Place: Silver Spring, Cumberland, Pennsylvania; Roll: m-t0627-03479; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 21-53.

Books by Mervin Baer

Baer, Mervin J. The Christian home: condensed and rewritten by Mervin J. Baer from an earlier work by William Weaver. Crockett, Kentucky: Rod and Staff Publishers, 1975.

Baer, Mervin J. The doctrine of salvation. Crockett, Kentucky: Rod and Staff Publishers, 1980.

Baer, Mervin J. Marching on: a doctrinal history of the Fellowship Churches from the writings of Mervin J. Baer. Crockett, Kentucky: Rod and Staff Publishers, 2001.

Baer, Mervin J. & Marvin Eicher, eds. A time of peace. Crockett, Kentucky: Rod and Staff Publishers, 1993. [School reader]

Baer, Mervin J. & Marvin Eicher, eds. A time to build. Crockett, Kentucky: Rod and Staff Publishers, 1986. [School reader]

Baer, Mervin J. & Marvin Eicher, eds. A time to gather. Crockett, Kentucky: Rod and Staff Publishers, 1989. [School reader]

Baer, Mervin J. Dana Ressler, and Marvin Eicher, eds. A time to heal. Crockett, Kentucky: Rod and Staff Publishers, 2002. [School reader]

Baer, Mervin J. & R.S. LeBlanc. A time to plant. Crockett, kentucky: Rod and Staff Publishers, 1991. [School reader]

Author(s) Samuel J Steiner
Date Published March 2019

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MLA style

Steiner, Samuel J. "Baer, Mervin Joseph (1915-2009)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. March 2019. Web. 7 Dec 2023.,_Mervin_Joseph_(1915-2009)&oldid=176710.

APA style

Steiner, Samuel J. (March 2019). Baer, Mervin Joseph (1915-2009). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 7 December 2023, from,_Mervin_Joseph_(1915-2009)&oldid=176710.

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