George R. Brunk II in Ontario

Brunk_Tent_Revival_Waterloo

Brunk Brothers revival in Waterloo, Ontario, 1952. Garfield Schmidt photo; provided by Mennonite Archives of Ontario

George R. Brunk II, a conservative Mennonite leader from Virginia, visited Ontario with his tent revival crusades on numerous occasions, beginning in 1952. Many Mennonite seniors from the Region of Waterloo may have memories of some of these meetings.

In 1959 Brunk assisted in creating a division in the Mennonite Conference of Ontario when he encouraged a minority group of pastors and bishops in forming the Conservative Mennonite Church of Ontario. There is more detail in my book, In Search of Promised Lands.

On a happier note, George R. Brunk’s youngest son, Conrad, established the Peace Studies program at Conrad Grebel College in the late 1970s.

See the article on George Rowland Brunk, with bibliography, at http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Brunk,_George_Rowland_(1911-2002)


George-R_Brunk

George R. Brunk II family outside their trailer at the Brunk Brothers Revival Campaign in Waterloo, Ontario, July 1952. Back (L-R): George R. Brunk II, Margaret Brunk; Middle: George R. III, Paul, Gerald; Front: Conrad, Barbara. David Hunsberger photo, Mennonite Archives of Ontario

George Rowland Brunk (George R. Brunk II): evangelist, seminary teacher, pastor and administrator, was born 18 November 1911 in Denbigh, Virginia, USA to George Reuben Brunk (31 December 1871-30 April 1938) and Catherine “Katie” E. Wenger Brunk (25 March 1875-7 October 1957). He was the sixth child, and third son, in a family of nine children. On 30 September 1933 he married Margaret Grace Suter (12 March 1911-5 January 1999); they had four sons and one daughter—Gerald, George R. III, Paul, Conrad and Barbara. After Margaret’s death, on 12 May 2001 George married Rhoda Weber Neer (20 January 1929- ). George R. Brunk II died 21 April 2002 in Harrisonburg, Virginia. George and Margaret are buried at the Weavers Mennonite Church Cemetery near Harrisonburg.

 

George R. Brunk II graduated from the Denbigh High School, and worked on the family fruit farm. On 22 July 1934 George R. Brunk II was ordained by lot to the ministry of the Warwick River Mennonite Church. As Mennonite ministers were not paid, he supported himself with a peach and apple farm. Brunk found preaching to be difficult until he had an experience of the filling of the Holy Spirit in 1939. In 1942 he founded the Warwick River Christian School.

After becoming a minister, George R. Brunk began to pursue higher education. He earned a ThB from Eastern Mennonite College, a BA from the College of William and Mary, and a BD, ThM and ThD (1967) from the Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. His ThD dissertation was on “Some changing concepts in twentieth century evangelism and missiology.”

Brunk taught at Eastern Mennonite College from 1949-1978, as well as Eastern Mennonite Seminary, where he served as Dean from 1967-1976.

Beginning in 1951, George R. Brunk II became involved in tent revival crusades, initially in conjunction with his brother, Lawrence. Known as the Brunk Brothers Revival Campaign, he led evangelistic crusades in many of the major Mennonite centers in North America for 30 years. He is said to have participated in over 100 crusades, 25 of them in Canada. The first crusade in 1951 was held in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and lasted seven weeks. The crusades were a dramatic change from traditional Mennonite experience, and George’s oratorical skills, showmanship and plain-speaking preaching style influenced many to make life-changing decisions.

The role of Margaret Brunk was crucial, especially during the tent-revival years, as she managed the home life and raising of children as George was gone for extended trips, or while the whole family was part of tent crusade trips during the summers. She was a humble, self-effacing woman who was steadfast in support of her family.

George R. Brunk II’s theological perspective was reflected in the Sword and Trumpet, a periodical founded by his father. He was associate editor of the periodical from 1943-1989; he then became editor, serving until 2001.

In 1984 as George became increasingly concerned about doctrinal issues within the Mennonite Church (MC), including theological liberalism he believed to be taught in Mennonite post-secondary schools, as well as evolving understandings of biblical nonresistance, and women in leadership, George R. Brunk II, together with J. Otis Yoder and Sanford Shetler founded the Fellowship of Concerned Mennonites.

Brunk withdrew from the Mennonite Church (MC) and the Virginia Mennonite Conference in 1988 when that conference allowed the ordination of women. In 1990 he formed the independent Calvary Mennonite Fellowship in Harrisonburg, which he pastored until 1998. In his last years he was recognized as a minister in the Biblical Mennonite Alliance.

George R. Brunk II has an enormous impact on the Mennonite Church, especially during the most active years of his tent revival ministry. His later years were more controversial when he publicly charged specific Mennonite colleges and seminaries and specific individuals with faulty theological teaching. Although he was blunt in his criticism, he was loyal to his family, including his sister, Ruth Brunk Stoltzfus, who became an ordained minister.

Joe Lapp, a president of Eastern Mennonite University said of Brunk on his 90th birthday, “There have been occasions when his sense of clarity on some things challenged me. Yet, Brother George’s sincere desire for the church to be faithful to the living Word and the word written, caused me to listen and to take note of his concerns.”

— Sam Steiner, August 2016

One thought on “George R. Brunk II in Ontario

  1. I agree with Joe Lapp’s sentiment here. As I shared on my own blog, although many of us did not agree with Brother Brunk in the later years, he cast a huge shadow across the Mennonite church in service to the God and Christ he loved and honored. I walked the sawdust trail under the influence of his preaching the night I made my own personal Christian commitment …

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