On This Day in UB History: May 6 (Bishop Walter Musgrave)

musgrave-walter300Bishop Walter Musgrave passed away on May 6, 1950, in Huntington, Ind. He served 24 years as bishop, 1925-1949. Only three other bishops served longer than that. He was most know for his energetic, dynamic preaching.

Musgrave grew up on a farm near Stockport, Ohio, and at age 19 became a Christian in a Methodist church. He received a Methodist ministerial license, but three years later transferred to the United Brethren church. In 1903 he was assigned to a church near the West Virginia border. He promptly began starting a church in a nearby community–where, as it turned out, he met his future spouse. They were married February 6, 1904, and in November had their first child.

For nearly 20 years, Musgrave pastored various UB churches in southern Ohio, in what was then Scioto Conference. Then, in 1921, General Conference chose him to spearhead an ambitious renewal campaign called the Otterbein Forward Movement. He threw himself into it, but the campaign fell short of its goals. Regardless, the 1925 General Conference elected him as bishop.

Dr. M. I. Burkholder, who led the Huntington College seminary for 30 years, described Musgrave as “a dynamo in the pulpit.” Bishop Clarence Kopp, Jr., wrote, “He was probably one of the most animated and energetic of the old-fashion-style preachers. He would literally rush from one side of the pulpit to the other.”

He would pace back and forth, peering into the audience, talking rapidly while employing his signature gestures (like pointing his index finger while keeping one eye closed). His face would grow red, causing some people to fear he might be on the verge of having a stroke.

One time, Bishop A. M. Johnson, concerned for Musgrave’s health, suggested he scale back the energy and vigor he put into his preaching. Musgrave responded, “Well, I believe this!” He couldn’t do any less.

At Musgrave’s funeral, Dr. M. I. Burkholder quoted him as saying, “I don’t know what the Lord has for me on this earth, but whatever it is, He has all of me.”

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