Monday, September 22, 2008

Trying to explain the Brethren

At Bible study last week I was trying to explain the relationship between Grace Brethren and the Brethren Church (Ashland). A friend of mine has attended classes at Ashland University and insisted that the two were not related and that EUB was in that mix somewhere. EUB was created in 1946 from a merger of the Evangelical Church and the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, both home grown American denominations made up of German immigrants (now part of United Methodist Church). The German Baptist Brethren originated in Germany, came to the U.S. and split into three main factions in the 1880s. The members of the progressive group, The Brethren Church (headquarters in Ashland, Ohio), were in disagreement about some theological things in the 1930s, and in 1939 they split into two groups, The Grace Brethren and the Brethren Church (Ashland). Grace Brethren has a huge presence here in Columbus. Other than trine immersion baptism and the Love Feast/Lord's Supper, I'm not sure the two groups have much in common today--maybe a member of either group could explain. Trying to sort through the various "Brethren" names in church denominations is really tricky. It's like the Millers or Yoders if you're doing genealogy.

However, this blog is about another reunion, not a split. After all these years, the Brethren Church and the Church of the Brethren have finally worshipped together! Today I came across an account of the 300th anniversary celebration of the Brethren (formed in 1708). The German Baptist Brethren split three ways in the 1880s. The Progressives became the Brethren Church (Ashland), the moderates changed their name to Church of the Brethren in 1908, and the conservatives are/were called Old German Baptist Brethren. From this outsider's point of view (I'm now a Lutheran but was baptized CoB), I can see no difference in what they believe--they just have a different history since the 1880s. This was reported in the Church of the Brethren Newsline
    Brethren meet in Virginia for historic 300th Anniversary Conference.
    It has been 125 years since the Brethren worshiped together like this at Annual Meeting. The last time this took place was at a field in Indiana in the late 1800s, after which the Church of the Brethren and the Brethren Church experienced a split.

    On July 13, these two Brethren denominations held Sunday morning worship together at the 300th Anniversary Conference in Richmond, Va. The Conference sang on this historic morning, "Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord, our God!"

    The Church of the Brethren and the Brethren Church both stem from the Brethren movement that began in 1708 in the village of Schwarzenau, Germany, where the eight founders of the movement were baptized in the Eder River. At the Anniversary Conference, water was poured into a fountain worship center from the Eder River, from Wissahickon Creek in Philadelphia where the first Brethren baptisms in America took place, and from the districts of the Church of the Brethren and the Brethren Church.

    The whole of Sunday was given to anniversary events. After worship, the John Kline Riders greeted worshipers on the plaza outside the coliseum--the group remembers the life of Civil War-era Brethren leader and peacemaker John Kline.

    That afternoon, participants had their choice of workshops under the theme "An Experience of Brethren Faith Journeys." An evening celebration of mission featured music and stories from the international mission work of the Church of the Brethren and the Brethren Church.

    In addition, a Service Blitz and a food drive marked 300 years of Brethren faithfulness by sharing a witness of service and caring with the Richmond community.

    Anniversary committees from the two denominations worked jointly on the celebration. The Church of the Brethren's 300th Anniversary Committee has been planning for this Conference for eight years.

    The 300th Anniversary Committee included Jeff Bach (chair), Dean Garrett, Rhonda Pittman Gingrich, Leslie Lake, Lorele Yager, and Annual Conference executive director Lerry Fogle. The late Donald Durnbaugh also was a member of the committee.

    Source: 7/16/2008, Church of the Brethren Newsline

Here's a longer account at a Grace Brethren blog.

1 comment:

Gloria said...

I would like more information on the split between the Old German Baptist Brether and the Church of the Brethern. I was raised in the Old German Baptist Church in western Ohio.
Thank you.