Originating in Schwarzenau, Germany, in 1708, under religious persecution in the wake of the Thirty Years War, there are Five Groups that have emanated from the founding Schwarzenau Brethren: Church of the Brethren, Brethren Church, Grace Brethren, Dunkard Brethren, and the Old German Baptist Brethren.

      Brethren represent a cross-section of viewpoints, from old fashioned to modern. They are best known for their hospitality, especially their propensity for fellowship meals at the church. Brethren frequently remark that when a new church is proposed, "they design the kitchen first."  They love to meet new people and mutually share their faith. They are also known for their ability to love one another across cultural and political lines.

 -Authentic Pietists: The emphasis is on inner spiritual life, piety, cultivated in prayer, bible study and  fellowship. With personal
   conversion experience (born again)
 -Local church is central
 -They live a simple unadorned life.
 -Strictly conservative
 -Denomination officially organized in Germany in 1708 as Brethren.
 -Women cover their head in church
 -Dress plainly
 -Anoint sick with oil.
 -No war, worldly pleasures or lawsuits.
 -Service is unstructured and non-liturgical.
 -Elimination of Clergy-Laity distinction, all free to express giftedness as priests.


 -Not a strong emphasis on tight doctrinal standards but a spirit of love which binds people and churches together.
 -Take scripture literally.
 -Evangelical, some are fundamentalists..

    The Brethren Card

1. This body of Christians (referring to The Church of the Brethren) originated early in the eighteenth century, the church being
    a natural outgrowth of the Anabaptist and Pietistic movements following the Reformation.

NOTE: Anabaptist: Radical wing of the Protestant reformation movement. Form it has developed the Free Church  in Germany. Luther left the RC church  to get back to Biblical truth in the church. He began the Reformation. Calvin differed from Luther because he felt Luther didn't go far enough with his reformation of the church. Zwingli separated from Calvin because he felt Calvin didn't take the reformation far enough. Then Conrad Grebel left Zwingli because he felt Luther, Calvin and Zwingli left some things unfinished. The Anabaptist had two lines, the Pacifist led by Menno Simons: Founder of the Mennonites, and the militant led by Melchior Hofmann who used radical force to make his point (or defend his position).

2.  Firmly accepts and teaches the fundamental evangelical doctrines of...

 •The inspiration of the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16); •The personality of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:7-13);
 •The virgin birth of Christ (Matt. 1:18); •The deity of Christ (Col. 2:8-9);
 •The sin-pardoning value of His atonement (Eph. 1:7);
 •His resurrection, ascension, and personal and visible return (1 Cor. 15:1-25; Acts 1:9-11);
 •And the resurrection both of the just and the unjust (Jn. 5:28-29; Matt. 25:46).

3.  Observes the following New Testament rites:

 •Baptism of penitent believers by trine immersion for the remission of sins (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38);
 •Feet washing (Jn. 13:1-20; 1 Tim. 5:10); •Love feast (Lk. 22:20; John 13:4; 1 Cor. 11:17-34)
 •Communion (Matt 26:26-30); •The Christian salutation (Romans 16:16; Acts 20:37);
 •The Scriptural headveiling (1 Cor. 11:2-16); •Laying on of hands (Acts 8:17; 13:3; 19:6; 1 Tim. 4:14).
 •The anointing for healing in the name of the Lord (James 5:14-18; Mk 6:13);

     These rites are representative of spiritual graces which are evident in the lives of true believers, and as such are essential factors in the development of the Christian life.

4.  Emphasizes...

 •daily devotion for the individual, and family worship for the home (Eph. 6:18-20; Phil. 4:8-9);
 •stewardship of time, talents, and money (Matt. 25:14-30);
 •taking care of the fatherless, widows, poor, sick, and aged (Acts 6:1-7).

5.  Opposes on Scriptural grounds:

 •War and the taking of human life (Matt. 5:21-26; 43-44; Rom. 12:19-21);
 •Violence in personal controversy (Matt. 7:12; Rom. 13:8-10);
 •Intemperance in all things (Titus 2:2; Gal. 5:19-26; Eph. 5:18);
 •Going to law, especially against our Christian brethren (1 Cor. 6:1-10);
 •Divorce and remarriage (Matt. 5:32; Mk. 10:11-12; 1 Cor. 7:10-15);
 •Every form of oath (Matt. 5:33-37; James 5:12);
 •Membership in secret oath-bound societies (1 Thess. 5:22);
 •Games of chance and sinful amusements (2 Cor. 6:14-18; 1 Peter 2:11; Rom. 12:17);
 •Extravagant and immodest dress (1 Tim. 2:8-10; 1 Pet. 3:1-6).

6.  Labors earnestly, in harmony with the Great Commission, for the evangelization of the world, for the   conversion of men to
     Jesus Christ, and for the realization of the life of Jesus Christ in every believer (Matt 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16; 2 Cor. 3:18)

7.    Maintains the New Testament as its only creed.

'Harold S. Martin, New Testament Beliefs and Practices: A Brethren Understanding, co-published by Brethren Press and the Brethren Revival Fellowship, 1989, pp. 123.'

    Biblical Inspiration and Inerrancy

       Some Brethren do believe in the inerrancy of scripture while others do not. Most Brethren tend to see the Bible as a book that is inspired by God and yet written down by fallible human beings. But the Bible, or more specifically the New Testament, is the most authoritative written source of guidance for Brethren.

         John David Bowman wrote "that Brethren are more apt to appeal to the mind of Christ than to the Bible. Still, scripture is the central means for us to discover the mind of Christ."

QUESTION: Why should anyone accept the authority of a book that may contain errors?

       Just as God has placed children under the authority and instruction of fallible human beings (parents), the church has been given the New Testament, God's truth written down by fallible human beings, to be her textbook in discipleship.

     What is most important about the Bible is not whether it may contain errors, but that it does contain truth. Human error is an element of any search for understanding. Humility requires that we acknowledge the possibility of error at least in our fallible human reading of the scriptures if not in their writing and translation.  But by grace God is able to bring out His truth in imperfect situations and to work His will in an imperfect people--the church. Just as God through the Holy Spirit was active in inspiring the writing of the scriptures, the same Holy Spirit must be active in inspiring our reading of the scriptures in order for the truth that is in the Bible to be made manifest in our lives.

      If we read the scriptures with honesty and humility, that is with a heart willing to be taught by them, and if we test our private understandings against those of other Christians, we can trust that God will make His truth plain to us.

QUESTION: What does seeking 'the mind of Christ' mean to you?

       Brethren traditionally seek the "mind of Christ" as explained by Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:16, to provide biblical answers to modern, and often complex questions. They strive to allow the Holy Spirit to guide them individually and corporately through prayer and discernment along contemporary pathways which often require decisions that are not specifically referenced in the Bible, in order to more effectively share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

 -2 Sacraments observed
  Communion is associated with an Agape feast, preceeded by foot washing. Mostly Baptistic

  Often called 'dunkers' because they baptize by immersion and 'dunk' people three times
    (once for  each member of the trinity). Matthew 28:19

         The Brethren custom is to baptize by "trine immersion". Following the administration of the baptismal vows, the candidate kneels in front of the minister, facing toward the minister's left or right, and is then "dunked" or immersed three times forward in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This style of baptism is what earned the Brethren the nickname "Dunkers".

        Immediately following the baptism, while the candidate is still kneeling in the water, the minister lays hands upon the head of the new member and prays for the in filling of the Holy Spirit.
 Baptism marks the beginning of discipleship. It is a public declaration of ones intent to amend one's life and to obediently follow after the example of Jesus. It is also the beginning of a relationship of mutual accountability with the other members of the church.

     John David Bowman identifies six things that Brethren find symbolized in baptism: "repentance, obedience, cleansing, empowerment by the Holy Spirit, covenant to community, and relationship to the Risen Christ."  Baptism also symbolizes the ordination of the believer into the priesthood of all believers. Remember that Jesus' public ministry began following his baptism by John.

  -Opening prayer, Use of bulletin for order of worship, Use of Organ and piano music for hymns,  hymns, offering, sermon, scripture, response time to sermon, closing prayer and hymn. Kneeling is done for many prayers.


Moravian Brethren ~ 1457
Association Names: Moravians, Moravian Brethren, Unitas Fratrum or Unity of Brethren
National Offices:
   Provincial Elders' Conference, North
        1021 Center Street, PO Box 1245, Bethlehem, PA  18016-1245


        Influenced by John Hus (died 1415), a group of Hussites organized themselves among Czech/Bohemians in 1457, and later adopted the name Unitas Fratrum (United Brethren). Migrated into neighboring  Silesia and Moravia to escape the Thirty Years War, and nearly  extinguished during the 1600's by repeated forced conversions to   Roman Catholicism. In 1722, many settled in Herrnhut in Saxony, on property owned by the reformer Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf, who later transported many to America with the desire to unite all.

Hutterian Brethren ~ 1528
Association Names:  Hutterites, Bruderhof, Society of Brothers
National Offices:  Geographically separate communitarian groups


         This is one of the first Anabaptist groups to organize following  Ulrich Zwingli, Felix Mantz, and Conrad Grebel initialing the core  movement in Switerland in 1522. Pacifism was a central belief of Anabaptism, except for some leaders who advocated the use of force in order to stop violence, what some have termed combative pacifism.  One such person was Jakob Hutter who became the leader of a Moravian group from 1533 until 1536 when he was burned at the stake. Nearly exterminated when forced to accept Catholicism, Hutterites found  refuge in Ukraine in 1595, later emigrated to the United States in  1874-79, and then north into Canada in 1918. Each group of about one hundred persons lives in a colony or Bruderhof (brothers place), with ownership of property held in common to all, following the example of early Christians (Acts 2:44). Their lifestyle is mostly  conservative and simplistic, with a determination to resist political  participation. These agriculturally based communities of nondescript houses, barns, and sheds, are self-sufficient, growing most of their own food in gardens, fields, and orchards.

Schwarzenau Brethren ~ 1708

Association Names: Schwarzenau Brethren, German Baptist Brethren, Church of the Brethren, Progressive Brethren, The Brethren Church, Dunkard Brethren, Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, Old German Baptist Brethren, Old 'Order' German Baptist Brethren

       The name  dunkers  have been applied to many Brethren groups because of their common practice of   immersing or 'dunking' baptismal candidates. First known as the Schwarzenau Täufer (Baptists) or Neu-Täufer (new baptists) to distinguish them from older Anabaptists bodies, such as the Mennonites and Amish, they later migrated through the
New World using the label German Baptist Brethren, which was later adopted officially in 1871 at Annual Meeting.

National Offices:
 Church of the Brethren, 1451 Dundee Avenue, Elgin, IL 60120
        The Brethren Church, 524 College, Avenue, Ashland, Ohio 44805


        Established 1708 near Schwarzenau, Germany, by Alexander Mack who  founded a community of eight believers through adult baptism. They were heavily influenced by Pietism, and Anabaptist conventions from an earlier century. Schwarzenau Brethren often experienced religious  persecution, and found refuge among Mennonites, an older persecuted  Anabaptist group who had establish havens over many years, such as   Krefeld (Germany) and Germantown (Pennsylvania). Brethren were also  influenced by them, and many beliefs and practices remain similar  into the modern era. Following a resurgence of persecution, splinter groups evolved and the Mack party emigrated in 1729 to Pennsylvania  in the wake of co-worker Peter Becker's earlier group of 1719. The  first American congregation was founded near Germantown with adult  baptisms on Christmas Day, 1723. Enjoying their new world freedom  from religious persecution, many congregations were established.

Three-way division in 1881-1882

        *  Old German Baptist Brethren (OGBB), representing the more conservative wing as in dress, custom, and  worship could not tolerate modern innovations of the Nineteenth century in thechurch, and left in 1881.   Minor schisms followed, one of which is the Old "Order" German Baptist Brethren.

        *  Progressive Brethren representing the more liberal wing desired modern innovations, and left in 1882 to   form the Brethren Church (BC), which experienced it's own schism with the departure of  the Fellowship   of Grace Brethren Churches (GB) in 1939.

        *  Central and largest group of moderates, realizing after two  full centuries that few members are still   German, later adopted the denominational title Church of the Brethren (COB) in 1908, also eschewing   the word baptist.

Church of the Brethern

Church of the Brethren, an Anabaptist denomination of 142,000 members
 -Same as above
 -Peace church, like Mennonites and Quakers.
 -Ecumenical in nature.
 -Combine congregational and Presbyterian governmental forms.
 -Three part communion service
  -foot washing
  -agape meal
  -Lord's Supper

Grace Brethern
 -otherwise similar to other brethern

United Brethren ~ 1767
Association Names: United Brethren, Church of the United Brethren, United Christian Church,
            Evangelical United Brethren, UB, UCC, EUB
National Offices:
        United Brethren in Christ
        302 Lake Street, Huntington, IN 46750


        From the Pietist movement in the mid to late 1700's among German  speaking folk in Pennsylvania. There was a fervor of spiritual  awakening sweeping through Lancaster County in the 1760's. Many of these individuals professed the necessity of holiness and especially the assurance of "new birth" conversion as a real experience to be remembered.

       In 1767, German Reformed pastor Philip Otterbein attended  an interdenominational "Great Meeting" near Lancaster, PA. Hearing the powerful conversion story of Mennonite speaker Martin Boehm, he embraced him, exclaiming: "Wir sind Bruder" (we are Brethren). This  meeting later produced a group called the United Brethren, who trace  their beginning to the Otterbein/Boehm meeting.  In order  to distinguish themselves from the Moravians who were also called  United Brethren from their Latin title Unitas Fratrum, they appended  the words "in Christ."



        A Pennsylvania group of United Brethren ministers and laymen under Rev. George Hoffman, broke away in the late 1860's over doctrinal   issues. First known as "Hoffmanites," they later organized in 1878 as the United Christian Church.
Great split of 1889

        Majority group known as New Constitution or Liberals merged with  the Evangelical Church (another Pietist German group) in 1946 and  adopted the name Evangelical United Brethren Chruch. In 1968, the EUB merged with the Methodists to form the United Methodist.

Brethren In Christ ~ (1780s)
Association Names:  River Brethren, River Mennonites, United Zion Holiness, Old Order River Brethren, Yorker Brethren, Tunkers, Brethren in Christ, BIC
National Offices:
        Brethren In Christ
        431 Grantham Road, PO Box 290, Grantham, PA 17027


        Began when a fervor of spiritual awakening or revival was sweeping through Lancaster County in the 1760's. A revival movement having its origin in the German Methodist movement, when Otterbein and Boehm formed the United Brethren. Most groups came to be known by their locality, and the group north of the town of Marietta on the east side of the Susquehanna River were called the River Brethren.

         They were known simply as River Brethren until the Civil War, when  a military draft was instituted by the Union Government, requiring them to register in Washington as a non-resistant organization. It is believed that on this occasion the label "Brethren in Christ" was first used in 1861, although older members continued to use the term River Brethren well into the next century.

 Unrelated Brethren Groups

    There are many other denominations which incorporate the word Brethren in their title, but have no direct or schismatic relationship to any of the above main groups which principally originated from central Europe through German Pietism or Anabaptist influence.  There is at least one common element that does form a bridge with the former groups; in that a small group of Christians desiring to intensify their spiritual lives through direct application of biblical principles without being hindered by an insensitive, hierarchal organizational structures.

Plymouth Brethren ~ 1825
Association Names: Plymouth Brethren, Open Group, Exclusive Group, Newton Group,  Raven Group,
           Taylor Group


         John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) was born in London to Irish parent when England struggled against Higher Criticism, a persuasion which questioned the truthfulness and inspiration of the Bible. Several   fundamentalist movements arose to combat its effects, and the  Plymouth Brethren was one of them.  Darby became a priest under the  Church of England and served in Ireland where he labored tirelessly  to educate the peasantry in the Word of God. He grew dissatisfied  with the established church and looked for affirmation from the  outside. In 1827, he began meeting with similarly minded believers  in Dublin, Ireland.
       Darby [believed] that the sin against the Holy Spirit is the substitution of "the notion of a clergyman" for the power and presence of the Spirit which characterizes this dispensation. Every clergyman, Darby affirms, is contributing in this dispensation to the sin against the Holy Ghost. The only recognized priesthood in this age is the priesthood of all believers. Christians firmly rooted in orthodoxy were appalled to see unregenerate clergy not only paid out of state coffers, but openly attacking the inspiration and authority of the Word of God. A general disenchantment and despair over the state of the organized church caused many to withdraw and seek fellowship elsewhere
       No modern dispensationalist would agree with either of these interpretations of Scripture. As to the first, even in Darby's day, none of his major disciples left his denomination to be an independent "believer/priest." The late Scottish New Testament scholar, F. F. Bruce (1910-1990), himself a lifelong member of the Plymouth Brethren, criticized Darby's position regarding clergymen by remarking somewhere that if everyone is qualified to preach, then, practically speaking, no one is qualified to preach. As to the second, all that needs to be said is that Darby misunderstood the Bible at this point, reading an assumption into the Scriptures that simply is not there.
      Eventually, Darby made the acquaintance of a group of like-minded believers, members of the Church of England in Dublin, and met with them for prayer and Bible study during the winter of 1827-28. It was this group which would later become known as the Plymouth Brethren. The two guiding principles of the movement were to be the breaking of bread every Lord's Day, and ministry based upon the call of Christ rather than the ordination of man. While Darby was not the founder of this group, he quickly emerged as its spiritual leader and dominant force.
      Although Cronin started this particular  group, it would be Darby who would gave them visibility. Believers   in England heard of the excitement in Ireland, and Darby went to  London in 1830, and then to Plymouth in 1832. It was here that the town name was associated with the group.  By 1840, the Plymouth movement had grown to 800 strong and would reach more than 1200 within the next five years. Even though Darby disliked denominational labels, preferring rather the simple biblical designation "brethren," it was perhaps inevitable that these "brethren" who met at Plymouth, should become known as the "Plymouth Brethren."


     OPEN Plymouth Brethren (moderate)
 -More Calvinistic than Arminian.
 -There is no difference between clergy and lay people. Some are singled out to teach but that gives    them no special status.
 -Somewhat ecumenical with other evangelical organizations.
 -Open Brethren churches are "completely" independent without any form of higher governing body. Each   church observes
   the  ecclesiastical offices of Elder and Deacon, but not salaried ministry. "Gifted    Brothers" officiate worship and communion
   services, and "Gifted Sisters" lead private Bible studies.

     EXCLUSIVE Plymouth Brethren (conservative)

           Exclusive or Closed Brethren shun the idea of independence and maintain circles of fellowship without a higher governing body. They do not have Elders, but instead utilize the talents   of "leading brothers."

 The Taylor Exclusives deny the eternal nature of Jesus's sonship. Say it began at the incarnation. He existed in the trinity but not as the son.

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