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Greatest Preachers

William Edward Biederwolf

William Edward Biederwolf

1867 - 1939

WILLIAM BIEDERWOLF was the seventh child of two German immigrants to America, Michael and Abolana Schnetzer Biederwolf. He was born in and grew up in Monticello, Indiana. After receiving his secondary education, he taught school briefly and, during an evangelistic meeting in Monticello, made a public confession of his faith in Christ. Shortly afterwards, in the fall of 1886, he enrolled as a student at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. In 1890 he enrolled at Princeton University in New Jersey, where he received his A.B. in 1892 and his M.A. in 1894. He was also on the football team and during the summer he worked in city rescue missions in New York and Pennsylvania. He next attended Princeton Seminary, from which he graduated in 1895. Upon graduation, he spent a year assisting evangelist B. Fay Mills. He received a fellowship from Princeton to study Greek. He left in April 1896 to study at the University of Berlin in Germany, following which he toured Palestine. After a stay in Paris, he returned to the U.S. in 1897. He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister the same year. His first pastorate was Broadway Presbyterian Church of Logansport, Indiana. The next year, 1898, he volunteered for service in the Spanish-American War and was made chaplain of the 161 Indiana Volunteer Infantry. His year of military service included six months in Cuba. He returned to Logansport for two more years as a pastor and in 1900 resigned to go into evangelistic work full time.

For a number of years, he spent much of his time assisting in the evangelistic campaigns of J. Wilbur Chapman. Then, as he became better known, he began to hold more of his own meetings. Between 1910 and 1920, he was often listed with Chapman and Billy Sunday as one of the leading evangelists in the country. Besides city-wide meetings, he also was involved in attempts to organize state-wide simultaneous meetings. In 1923-1924, he left the U.S. for a preaching tour of the Far East. He served for a time as president of the Interdenominational Association of Evangelists and then as chairman of the Commission on Evangelism of the Federal Council of Churches. In 1909, he began the Family Altar League which encouraged members of families to pray and have devotions together. Many of his activities centered on Winona Lake, Indiana. From 1922-1939, he served as director of the Winona Lake Bible Conference. He also served as director of the Winona School of Theology from 1922-1933 and was president from 1933-1939. These posts were in addition to the pastorate of the Royal Poinciana Chapel which he held from 1929 until his death on September 10, 1939. He had several books published, including several volumes of selected sermons. He received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1931 and an honorary Doctor of Laws from Bever College in 1934.

In April 1896, William married Ida Casad, who also grew up in Monticello.


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