Evangelical United Brethren Church

Evangelical United Brethren Church

Evangelical United Brethren Church, Protestant denomination created (1946) by the union of the Evangelical Church and the United Brethren in Christ. Both denominations originated early in the 19th cent. and had similarities in organization and polity. The Evangelical Church was begun by the evangelical, pietistic efforts of Jacob Albright, a Lutheran convert to Methodism, who preached among his fellow Pennsylvania Germans. The United Brethren in Christ came into being as a result of the evangelistic preaching of Philip William Otterbein of the German Reformed Church and Martin Boehm, a Mennonite bishop. These two ministers conducted revivals among the German-speaking people of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. The methods of Albright, Otterbein, and Boehm were similar: after evangelistic meetings, converts were encouraged to form classes or societies for strengthening their spiritual life. The groups formed under Albright held a general conference in 1807 at which he was elected bishop; in 1816 the name Evangelical Association was adopted. In 1891 a group that became the United Evangelical Church seceded from the Evangelical Association, but in 1922 the two bodies reunited as the Evangelical Church. The societies formed under Otterbein and Boehm took shape as a distinct ecclesiastical body, to be known as the United Brethren in Christ, at a conference in 1800, at which the two ministers were elected bishops. The United Brethren in Christ (Old Constitution) parted from the main body in 1889; from that time they have maintained a separate church. Members of the Moravian Church are also sometimes called the United Brethren. In earlier years the membership of the Evangelical Church and of the United Brethren in Christ included few who were not German in speech, but later the German-speaking element formed only a small proportion. Extension W of the Alleghenies was rapid. The newly combined church supported publishing houses in the United States and abroad, four theological seminaries, a number of colleges, and foreign missions. It had an episcopal form of government. In doctrine it was Arminian. Particular emphasis was laid on prayer, a life of devotion to Christ, and the responsibility of the individual. Having long maintained a close relationship with the Methodist Church, it merged with it to found (1968) the United Methodist Church, U.S.A.

See R. W. Albright, History of the Evangelical Church (1942, repr. 1956); J. W. Owen, A Short History of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ (1944).

The Evangelical United Brethren Church (EUB) was an American Protestant church which was formed in 1946 by the merger of the Evangelical Church with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ (not to be confused with the current Church of the United Brethren in Christ (Old Constitution)). The United Brethren and the Evangelical Association had considered merging since the early nineteenth century because of their common emphasis on holiness and evangelism and German heritage.

The Evangelical United Brethren subsequently merged with The Methodist Church on the 23rd of April 1968 to form the United Methodist Church. The EUB congregations in Canada joined into the United Church of Canada, a previous (1925) merger of Methodists, Congregationalists, and some Presbyterians. In the Philippines, the EUB congregations joined the Philippine Methodist Church, Christian Church (Disciples), Presbyterian Church, Congregational Church, Iglesia Evangelica Unida de Cristo, Iglesia Evangelica Nacional and some segments of the Iglesia Evangelica Metodista En Las Islas Filipinas (IEMELIF) to formed the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

United Brethren History

Though not organized until 1800, the roots of the church reach back to 1767. In May of that year, a Great Meeting (part of an interdenominational revival movement) was held at a barn belonging to Isaac Long in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Martin Boehm (1725-1812), a Mennonite preacher, spoke of his becoming a Christian through crying out to God while plowing in the field. Philip William Otterbein (1726-1813), a Reformed pastor at York, Pennsylvania, left his seat, embraced Boehm and said to him, "Wir sind bruder (we are brethren)". The followers of Boehm and Otterbein formed a loose movement for many years. It spread to include German-speaking churches in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and Ohio. In 1800, they began a yearly conference. Thirteen ministers attended the first conference at the home of Peter Kemp in Frederick, Maryland. At that conference in 1800, they adopted a name, the United Brethren in Christ, and elected Boehm and Otterbein as bishops of the conference. The United Brethren Church claims this organization in 1800 as the first denomination to actually begin in the United States. A Confession of Faith was adopted in 1815 (similar to one written by Otterbein in 1789), and it has remained the statement of church doctrine to the present. In 1841, they adopted a Constitution. It has remained mostly intact, being changed only a few times.

The United Brethren took a strong stand against slavery, beginning around 1820. After 1837, slave owners were no longer allowed to remain as members of the United Brethren Church. In 1853, the Home, Frontier, and Foreign Missionary Society was organized.

Expansion occurred into the western United States, but the church's stance against slavery limited expansion to the south. By 1889, the United Brethren had grown to over 200,000 members with six bishops. In that same year they experienced a division. Denominational leaders desired to make three changes: to give local conferences proportional representation at the General Conference; to allow laymen to serve as delegates to General Conference; and to allow United Brethren members to hold membership in secret societies. The denominational leadership made these changes, but the minority felt the changes violated the Constitution because they were not made by the majority vote of all United Brethren members. One of the bishops, Milton Wright (the father of aviation pioneers Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright), disagreed with the actions of the majority. Bishop Wright and other conference delegates left the meeting and resumed the session elsewhere. They believed that the other delegates had violated the Constitution (and, in effect, withdrawn from the denomination), and deemed themselves to be the true United Brethren Church.

Until 1946 two groups operated under the name Church of the United Brethren in Christ, though the minority was known as the Church of the United Brethren in Christ (Old Constitution). In 1946, the larger United Brethren branch merged with the Evangelical Church to form the Evangelical United Brethren Church. In the same year, with cooperation of three other denominations, it formed the United Andean Indian Mission, an agency that sent missionaries to Ecuador. The Evangelical United Brethren Church in turn merged with the Methodist Church in 1968 to form The United Methodist Church. The present United Brethren Church is descended from the minority who organized under the leadership of Bishop Milton Wright.

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