Henry Holsinger, 1833–1905 -- By: Charles R. Munson

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 15:0 (NA 1982)
Article: Henry Holsinger, 1833–1905
Author: Charles R. Munson


Henry Holsinger, 1833–1905

Charles R. Munson

“Independent in all things neutral in nothing.”1 With this strong personal statement Henry Holsinger began his newspaper career, though not his printing career, in Tyrone, Pennsylvania. He set before his readers at the top of his first page an attitude and a philosophy which were to guide him until his death. He was an independent spirit throughout but he was certainly never neutral. That spirit brought him to a position of leadership in the church; it brought him separation from a church he loved. It also thrust him to the forefront in leading a denomination whose history could not be written without his name figuring prominently.

Those who remembered him at his death in 1905 remembered him as a man who carried his early statement of principle to fulfillment. Balsbaugh said of him, “… It might have been said of him that the zeal he cherished had eaten him up… His one theme was more work for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ and more discretion in conducting it…. There were other men who believed as he did on the questions at issue. There were other men of ability who were his compeers in the ministry. There were other men of equal courage of convictions. But it fell to Brother Holsinger to bring the man and the opportunity together which marked an epoch in the history of the Brethren.”2

Who was this man who, perhaps more than any others, precipitated the division of the German Baptist Church in 1881 and following, a church which had existed since its founding in 1708 in Germany? What were the internal forces which motivated him and kept him in the forefront of turmoil?

Holsinger had a strong church background: his father and grandfather were preachers, and he was a grandson of a great-grandmother of Alexander Mack, Jr., one of the founders of the church. Despite that, he says that he was a “little wild in our time,”3 and he regrets that he “remained outside of the Church” for a period of his youth. He admits, “The only cause of regret that I have experienced is that I did not start out sooner and keep closer to the path.”4 He was baptized into the Tunker Church in 1855, at Clover Creek, Pennsylvania, elected to the ministry in 1866, ordained to the eldership in 1880,5 and then elevated to the office of bishop.6

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