The History of The Christadelphian Tidings Magazine

Bro. Carl Wolfe

His origins

Bro. Carl Wolfe’s parents, W.H. and Maggie Wolfe.

The story of The Christadelphian Tidings magazine origins is really a tale of the work of a tireless brother who as a teenager emigrated from Texas to California in the early 1900’s. Even though that brother, Carl Wolfe, was born in the nineteenth century, his family roots were already deep in the rich Texas Christadelphian soil. Carl’s parents were baptized as Christadelphians in Texas in the 1870’s, just a few years after the name Christadelphian was chosen. His father, Bro. William Henry (W.H.) Wolfe, was born in 1858 and baptized in 1875 at the age of 18. Carl’s mother, sister Margaret (Maggie) Wolfe, was baptized at about the same age in 1877. W.H. and Maggie were married that same year. Sis. Wolfe, whose maiden name was Banta, had been born in Texas in 1859.1Findagrave.com

Maggie Banta had been introduced to the Truth by her uncle, Bro. John Banta. Bro. Banta had himself been converted by Bro. Clement Oatman in 1868. The Oatman family had come to Texas from Illinois, where they had been introduced to Christadelphian beliefs through the efforts of John Thomas himself.2Personal letter from Bro. Joe Banta, February 9,2017. Interestingly, John Banta was the one who baptized Bro. Sam Ealy Johnson, the grandfather of President Lyndon Johnson.3Gregcantrell.com/pdf/samjohnsonarticle.pdf

A very early photo of Carl.

The Wolfe family is first mentioned in The Christadelphian magazine in 1881 when Carl’s mother sent in information about recent baptisms in their six-member ecclesia in Thrifty, Texas. Carl’s father reported on additional baptisms there the following year. By 1891 the family lived in San Saba, Texas, as reported in The Advocate magazine.4The Advocate Magazine, September, 1891 Bro. Wolfe gave talks on the Promises to Abraham and the Kingdom that same year at the Texas Fraternal Gathering in Lampasas. He was voted committee chairman for the gathering in 1896.5The Advocate Magazine, June 1896 Two years later, on October 26, 1898, Carl was born in Texas, the youngest of the Wolfe’s nine children, all of whom became Christadelphians. Carl was raised on a Texas farm.

Like many of us, Bro. Carl’s spirituality was deeply affected at a young age by his father’s love for God. The influence that William had on Carl’s outlook is highlighted in the first few paragraphs of an exhortation entitled “The Storm” that Carl wrote for The Christadelphian magazine in 1954:

“Late in the afternoon of a sultry summer day the dark clouds of an approaching storm hung heavily overhead. The men had come in from their work in the field, and the teams had been put safely away. The family had gathered in the storm cellar, which was frequently used when the danger of storm seemed imminent. Even the animals seemed to feel the heavy tension in the air. Birds scurried to shelter, and domestic fowls huddled close together.

“The cellar door was ajar, for it would not be closed until the wind and rain had actually come. Suddenly, terrifyingly, lightning struck a tree close to the house, tossing limbs and debris in every direction. The flash was blinding, the blast of the thunder was deafening, and causing even the most mature to tremble with fear. A gust of wind whipped leaves and dust, a few heavy drops of rain and the full fury of the storm was upon us. Great hailstones fell that rattled off the cellar doors like bombs, stones almost the size of an egg, large enough to kill man or beast if they were not under shelter. Flash came after flash of lightning, thunder that shook our shelter, wind that blew down trees and small buildings. Only a child’s heart could tremble as did ours as we crouched in that small room.

“In our childish inquisitiveness we asked why must these things be? Why in the wisdom and love of God did He bring these terrifying things upon the earth? My father’s answer is well remembered. ‘My son’, he said, ‘I could have answered that question more easily if you could have only waited until the storm was over to ask it. We must not question the wisdom of God in these things, but you perhaps do not realize the many blessings that a storm will bring. The lightning, which is so terrifying to you, burns out the impurities of the air and the rain washes and purifies not only the atmosphere, but the trees and the ground as well. Notice how brightly the sun will shine when the rain is gone and how pure and sweet the air will smell. Then, too, we come to recognize the great power of God that He has manifested in this storm, and we remember that in Him we live and move and have our being. And, even though He is of such great power and might, He lovingly protects and cares for His children. Do not be afraid, the storm will pass, and the sun will shine even brighter than it did. God will take care of His children; He will bring us safely through the storm.’ Such were the memories that filled my mind as I thought of our coming together here this morning and the words that I should speak to encourage you and to build us up in our most holy faith.” 6Christadelphian Magazine, June 1954

carl wolfe ponoma
Carl in front of the Pomona ecclesial hall about the time he began The Christadelphian Tidings magazine.

Many Texas brothers and sisters made the move from there to California in the first half of the twentieth century, including my own father in 1937. The Wolfe family’s migration to California began with Carl’s brother Hugh, who moved to Pomona in 1910.7The Junior Christadelphian, December 1940 Hugh Wolfe must have had good things to say about California to his relatives as the rest of the W.H. Wolfe family immigrated to Pomona in 1912. It was in Pomona, on May 15, 1913, that Carl Wolfe was baptized.8The Christadelphian Magazine, July, 1913 It was also there that he married Sis. Frankie White, in 1919. Sister Frankie’s grandfather, Bro. J.J. White, was one of the founders of the Pomona Ecclesia back in 1883. Sadly, just two years after Frankie and Carl were married, and while Carl was still in his early twenties, his father, Bro. W.H. Wolfe, died. Carl’s mother would live another 25 years.

An idea turns to reality

Eighteen years after the death of his father, in 1939, when he was about 41 years old and Sunday School Superintendent at Pomona, Bro. Carl began publishing a newsletter for the ecclesia’s Sunday school. The following year Bro. Wolfe stepped down as Sunday School Superintendent so he could devote more time to publishing the magazine. It can be appreciated how busy he was when we realize that he was working a regular job as well as editing the magazine.9The Junior Christadelphian, June, 1940 Carl was a car dealer in Pomona, selling International Harvester trucks and farm equipment, and Hudson Motor Cars.10Findagrave.com

Very early on, Bro. Wolfe began printing the magazine on his own property, involving his family in his labor of love. His daughter, Sis. Barbara Hilliard, fondly remembered those days when she wrote the following letter to The Christadelphian Tidings magazine, in June 2003:

“My father, Bro. Carl Wolfe, Pomona, CA, started The Christadelphian Tidings, nee Jr. Christadelphian, when I was about 14 or 15 years old. I’m now about 77. We had a shed on the back of our property and it became the ‘Print Shop’. We all set type by hand and inked the presses. They were manually operated. I addressed envelopes by hand and stuffed, sealed and stamped them. My father was a real believer and thought we should all ‘work out our salvation.’ I look back on it with fond memories.”

Carl received a lot of help from those outside his family as well. He leaned heavily on a British-born brother who had immigrated to California 10 years after Carl’s family. This dedicated and highly talented brother was named B.A. Warrender. Thirty years Carl’s elder, Bro. Warrender was a mentor, friend and assistant editor for most of the magazine’s first decade. His story is a fascinating one, and will be covered in more detail in the next article in this series, God willing.

Bro. Carl as a member of the first Idyllwild Bible School committee.

Other contributions

As important as the magazine was to the North American brotherhood, it was certainly not the only groundbreaking work that Bro. Carl accomplished. If you have attended the Pacific Coast Christadelphian Bible School at Idyllwild or have been involved in some way in the Correspondence Course preaching effort, you have enjoyed some of Bro. Carl’s legacy to the brotherhood.

Carl worked very hard to help establish the Idyllwild Bible School, which began in 1955. He was a member of the first Executive Committee and the original Publicity Director for the School. He helped choose the site in Idyllwild, California and, 62 years later, the school is still held in the same location. Twenty two years after helping initiate the Bible School, Carl inaugurated the Bible Correspondence Course preaching method, which resulted in a number of baptisms over the years.

As valuable as the Idyllwild Bible School and the Correspondence preaching efforts have been, one of Bro. Wolfe’s best gifts was his work to help reconcile many in the Berean Fellowship with those in the Central Fellowship. This work helped lead to reunion and paved the way for the expanded opportunities that the Central Fellowship has brought to California brothers and sisters as well as those throughout North America.

As part of his work for the Berean and Central reunion effort in North America, Carl wrote a number of editorials on the subject. He lamented in his magazine in 1947, “It is admitted that the great majority of ecclesias in the U.S., Canada and Britain are of one mind on the essential doctrines of the Truth. In Southern California there are five ecclesias [Pomona, Los Angeles (Berean & Central), Glendale, Santa Barbara] who are admittedly sound in doctrine and willing to make those doctrines a test of fellowship, yet each effort to unite them meets with failure.” He went on to say, “Let us settle the matter in the spirit of Christ and the love of the Truth, that we may turn our attention to preparing to meet the Master, who will soon appear. Let old bitterness be forgotten, let love and an earnest desire to serve the best interests of the Truth be the means of bringing us together again.”11The Junior Christadelphian, February, 1947

Many of our doctrinal errors come from extreme positions that are taken to combat error, and in some cases it is just possible that in our eagerness to defend the Truth, we may go to the other extreme.Bro. Wolfe began serving on the Southern California Reunion Committee in 1939 (the same year he got The Christadelphian Tidings off the ground) and included calls for reunion in the magazine from its beginning. “At the cost of much criticism we have worked for unity on the Southern California Committee for more than eight years. We have advocated an effort along these lines for about that same time in the pages of this paper. Many letters have been written, and much has been said on the subject. We feel that the time has come to speak plainly in order that all may know where each one stands. If we cannot agree, let us be frank about it. If we can, let us join forces in making a better effort in the service of the Master whose coming is imminent.”12The Junior Christadelphian, July, 1947

Bro. Carl also later wrote the following:

“Many of our doctrinal errors come from extreme positions that are taken to combat error, and in some cases it is just possible that in our eagerness to defend the Truth, we may go to the other extreme. We sometimes wonder that if all Christadelphians could get together in one big assembly, and pray earnestly for light and guidance, if some common ground could not be found on which we could unite. In many cases it has been found that actually there was no fundamental difference in doctrine, but rather a matter of definitions or terms in which to express ourselves. In many cases division has come as a result of personalities, rather than a real difference in belief. Even if a brother or sister be wrong, it does not necessarily follow that they could not be changed, if we approach the matter in the love that we should have for each other, and the spirit that Christ enjoined upon His brethren. We will spend any amount of time necessary to convert one whose entire system of belief is in error, but will in many cases almost avoid a brother or sister who is off but on a single point. If only we could build a real desire for unity, if only we really wanted to be with each other, it is quite possible that many of our differences could be dissolved. Until that desire is in our hearts, there will be no real progress in the matter of reunion.”13The Junior Christadelphian, November, 1947

Editor

While Carl was involved in a number of ecclesial activities, the magazine seemed to be his first love. He summed up his feelings about being editor in the June-July, 1950 edition:

“During the almost thirteen years we have published the Junior Christadelphian we have received many criticisms, and many of these have been very helpful in forming a rational course in the publication of a Christadelphian paper. Yet it is amusing to think of the different viewpoints that have been given. We recall at one time we were told in a letter that we were like Absalom, going about to deceive the brethren, putting poison in every cup. We have been told that we are ultra-liberal, that we sponsor loose fellowship, and that we do not adhere strictly to the first principles of the Truth. We have been accused of trying to start a new fellowship, which would be neither Central nor Berean. These and many others we recall, and we can truthfully say, without bitterness or offense from those who wrote them.
“We have made many mistakes during those thirteen years, some of which have perhaps been hurtful to the cause of the Truth. In the main, however, we have few regrets, for if this work has helped no one but ourselves, it has kept our mind busy several hours each month, thinking of the Truth, and planning for its betterment. Our greatest mistake of recent years has been to neglect the work, to allow business and other things to crowd out the work that this paper naturally entails.
“What we need most of all is the co-operation of brethren and sisters everywhere, with news and articles, so that our paper may be both scriptural and interesting. Please continue to criticize; we need it, but please spend just as much time in constructive work, with something that will make this paper better, something that will uplift and edify the large number of brethren and sisters who read it.”

Leaving The Christadelphian Tidings magazine

In 1962, after 23 years of dedicated service, Bro. Wolfe stepped down as Chairman of The Christadelphian Tidings magazine. He was older now and decided to leave the work of the magazine to younger brethren. Bro. Bob Lloyd, who had earlier assumed the job of editor, announced the change by saying, “It is with regret that we announce the resignation of our Chairman, Brother Carl C. Wolfe, who was the originator of the Junior Christadelphian, the forerunner of The Christadelphian Tidings. Bro Wolfe thus ends some 25 years of faithful service in connection with the publication of this magazine. Although he will no longer be active in the publication of The Christadelphian Tidings, he will continue to be active in other phases of the Truth’s service.”14The Christadelphian Tidings Magazine, February 1962

Brother Lloyd’s prediction that Carl Wolfe would remain very busy working for the Lord was an accurate one. By 1966, Bro. Carl had moved to Sacramento, California where he toiled for the small ecclesia there. In 1979, when he was over 80 years old, he began the Bible Correspondence Course which resulted in at least 10 baptisms. Prior to this work, he had written many “Letters to the Editor” of local newspapers in which he offered free recorded Bible lectures and literature.15The Christadelphian Tidings Magazine, July-August, 1981 But his work with The Christadelphian Tidings had not come to a complete end when he “retired” in 1962. Six years later in 1968 Bro. Wolfe returned to the staff of The Christadelphian Tidings to help with a series on the BASF.16The Christadelphian Tidings Magazine, March 1968

Bro. Carl Wolfe died on June 17, 1981, nearly 83 years old. An obituary in the July-August 1981 Christadelphian Tidings magazine stated:

“Carl was a tireless worker in the Truth… The memory of our Brother Carl should inspire each of us to do what we can with what we have right where we are. Bro. Carl did not just preach this, he did it… Bro. Carl Wolfe is now at rest and his personal work is over, but we do well to remember and emulate the love and devotion this ‘old warrior’ had for his Lord.”

Five years later, on October 29, 1986, Sis. Frankie would join him at rest, waiting for the Lord’s return.17Findagrave.com

The History of The Christadelphian Tidings Magazine

NEXT: Bro. B.A. Warrender >>

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