Kirche unterm Kreuz (Periodical)

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Kirche unterm Kreuz (The Church under the Cross) was a religious periodical published in the German language by John G. Stauffer of Quakertown, Pennsylvania, from April 1885 to September 1891. The subtitle reads as follows: Botschafter des Heils in Christo (Den Wehrlosen Christen in America gewidmet). The masthead carried the motto, "Christum vermag niemand recht zu erkennen es sei denn dass er ihm nachfolge im Leben, Hans Denk," apparently as so-to-speak the editor's program or intention with this paper. In December 1885, the term Kirche in the title was changed to Gemeinde (congregation, brotherhood) which seemed to Stauffer nearer to his ideal than the former term. In 1885 the paper came out monthly; from January 1886 on it was published only bimonthly, until November 1888 (altogether 27 issues, 432 pages). Then in January 1889, Stauffer "dropped the denominational" and again changed the title, now the former subtitle as the main title as follows: Botschafter des Heils, adding as something new: Und Zeichen der Zeit, indicating the search for the signs of the second coming of Christ. In this new dress 17 issues of the magazine appeared (272 pages), after which it was discontinued quite abruptly.

The journal was in many regards similar in tone to the contemporary European German and Swiss Mennonite papers (Mennonitische Blätter, Gemeindeblatt der Mennoniten, and Zionspilger) but never had any official connection with the Mennonite church. In fact, Stauffer was rather conscious of his independence from any organized church life. "Wherever I meet men who love the Lord Jesus Christ I keep brotherhood with them" (letter to John Horsch). In many regards this journal was also similar to the Herald der Wahrheit after John Horsch had taken over its editing in 1888, with the difference that the latter paper was strictly "denominational" in its intention, serving the Mennonite church as a real church paper. But otherwise both Stauffer and Horsch (as well as Ulrich Hege in Germany) had at that time one great idea in mind: to revive the church (or brotherhood) in the spirit of the forefathers of the 16th century, or should we better say in the spirit of the "old evangelical brotherhoods," as Ludwig Keller saw and propagated them in his many books ever since the publication of his Hans Denk in 1882. Keller's influence in the 1880s was very strong. Everywhere among Mennonites Stauffer wanted to assist in the "great awakening" on his own initiative by publishing a magazine in which all these publications and sources should be made known to a wide public, first of Mennonite background and later of a general Christian interest. Stauffer never had any official backing, although he addressed himself many times to his Mennonite readership (both of the old church and the new General Conference congregations). His paper had a good circulation, and was also welcomed outside his church.

Stauffer's first program was to reprint the entire book by Antje Brons of 1884 (Ursprung . . . der Taufgesinnten oder Mennoniten), which he actually concluded in the fall of 1888. Besides this he reprinted material from the recently published Geschichts-Bücher der Wiedertaufer, by J. Beck, 1883, which was certainly a service for the American readers who then did not know anything about the Hutterites; next he planned to reprint from Keller's books, from W. Mannhardt's Die Wehrfreiheit der . . . Mennoniten, 1863, and from M. Klaassen, Geschichte der wehrlosen Taufgesinnten Gemeinden, 1873. He also published a radical Christian essay by Heinrich Balzer, the well-known minister of the Kleine Gemeinde (Verstand und Vernunft, 1833), and a fine article by Leonhard Sudermann, Von der Wehrlosigkeit und dem Leiden. Stauffer's own editorials were usually of a high standard and well able to awaken sensitive souls. He was also interested in a strong revival of the Deknatel sermons, as e.g., a comparison between the Mennonite church and the church at Laodicea (IV, 129 f.). But then—almost suddenly— he discontinued this kind of work. He reports his disappointment in his endeavor, which was so incongruous to the prevailing American mind. In any case, from 1889 on, he shifted the tenor to the "Signs of the time," i.e., to eschatological ideas concerning Christ's second coming. Once more, in September 1891, he published a fine tract (or sermon) of his own, "Philadelphia and Laodicea," in which he admonished his readers: turn away from Laodicea and enter Philadelphia, the city of the open door. It was his last message. We do not know what went on behind the scenes, but it was (as far as it is known) the last issue. Stauffer, who had lost his inner ties with the Mennonite church (of any branch), had become a solitary man, and both his name and his work have been almost forgotten.


Bender, Harold S. Two Centuries of American Mennonite Literature, A Bibliography of Mennonitica Americana 1727-1928. Goshen, IN: Mennonite Historical Society, 1929: 99 f.

Friedmann, Robert. Mennonite piety through the centuries: its genius and its literature. Goshen, IN: Mennonite Historical Society, 1949: 258-260.

Author(s) Robert Friedmann
Date Published 1957

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Friedmann, Robert. "Kirche unterm Kreuz (Periodical)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 24 Jun 2024.

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Friedmann, Robert. (1957). Kirche unterm Kreuz (Periodical). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 June 2024, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 179. All rights reserved.

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