God has made available to us in Christ and the Spirit, in Scripture and the church, all the resources needed to live the life of faith. By His life Christ exemplified the walk to which we are called; by His death He made possible renewed fellowship with the Father; by His resurrection He revealed the power that is available to us. The Holy Spirit now enables us as God’s children to live in obedience to Scripture and grow in spiritual maturity. Scripture provides the teaching and example of Jesus and the apostles which we are to follow as a loving response to God and as a means of glorifying Him. The church is the gathered community which nurtures believers in the life of faith. Using these resources, we can demonstrate the new birth through new behavior. What we are by faith in Christ we are to become by faithfulness to our Lord.
Matt. 7:21-27; 1 John 2:6; Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18-19; 1 John 1:3; Eph. 1:18-21; Rom. 8:12-17; Gal. 5:16-25; John 14:15; John 14:21-24; 1 Cor. 11:1; Phil. 3:17; Phil. 4:9; Col. 1:9-10; Heb. 10:23-25; Col. 1:21-23; Col. 2:6-7
The Brethren movement originated in the Rhine River valley of western Germany in the early eighteenth century. The Thirty Years' War in Europe concluded with the Treaty of Westphalia (1648). This treaty allowed for a limited religious liberty, recognizing the Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed branches of Christendom only. Under the arrangements of the treaty, the religious preference of the local government became the recognized religion of those under that jurisdiction.
Thus, if a local prince was Lutheran in orientation, his constituency became Lutheran as long as he was in power. However, one local provincial ruler, Prince Henry of Wittgenstein, refused to adopt such strict ruling and allowed, instead, full religious freedom within his province. Of course, that would serve to attract refugees and dissidents from other parts of Germany. So, the province of Wittgenstein became a haven for Anabaptists (Mennonites) and Pietists, as well as many others who promoted 'radical' views regarding religion. Open discussion and traveling preachers characterized the area in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
Alexander Mack (1679 - 1735) was born at Schriesheim,Germany, of devout parents who were identified with the Reformed Church. He was a miller by trade but was also a student of Scripture and church history. His studies led him to an increasing dissatisfaction with the Reformed Church and with state religion in general. He organized a small group of fellow-inquirers for Bible study, discussion and prayer. Sometimes their meetings included the presence of Ernst Christoph Hochmann, a Pietist preacher.
Pietists emphasized the inward aspects of the Christian life, personal communion with God and obedience to Scripture. Hochmann and Mack agreed on most matters of doctrine and Christian living, but began to have differences of opinion regarding church organization. Hochmann, like many Pietists, believed that one could follow the Christian way while remaining within the formally recognized church. Mack disagreeded. Mack believed that one could only follow the New Testament closely apart from the state church. His emphasis on baptism by triune immersion, the threefold communion service and other New Testament ordinances and practices could only be followed in a separate setting, he insisted. Hochmann disagreed and parted with the small group.
Mack, at that point, set about to organize a movement in which the New Testament as they understood it together could be followed. The Brethren movement had definite pietistic influences and origins. But at this point, it broke from Pietism and became more Anabaptistic in practice, emphasizing the actual practices of New Testament teachings.
After much study and prayer, a group of eight persons, five men and three women, with Alexander Mack as their leader, went to the Eder River in Schwarzenau, Wittgenstein, Germany, and there, in the early morning, were baptized as believers by triune immersion. The date was 1708. For the occasion, Mack composed a hymn, "County Well the Cost" which was sung as part of that service.
It was not long before others of the town and area joined with them and the little congregation began to grow. The members of the congregation traveled to other areas carrying the message of believers' baptism and of following the New Testament. Congregations sprung up in Marienborn, Epstein and Creyfeldt.
As the movement spread to other parts of Germany, persecution began to break out. While no Brethren in Europe lost their lives for their faith, many were driven from their homes, some were imprisoned, others were forced into labor as galley slaves. Sometimes whole congregations were expelled.
Because of the persecution, the Brethren, having heard from agents of the state of Pennsylvania encouraging refugees to migrate, began to leave their homeland for other shores and a new opportunity to follow their faith. The first migration took place in 1719 under the leadership of Peter Becker. The group, about twenty families, came to Philadelphia.
Ten years later, another group, including Alexander Mack and fifty-seven families, arrived in Philadelphia. The few remaining Brethren in Europe were absorbed into other groups or fled to other countries. By 1730, there was no official Brethren movement in Europe.
Contrary to what one might expect, the Brethren did not remain together in the new land. They began to push back into the interior, clearing land, building houses, getting established. It was not until 1722, after some canvassing by Peter Becker and others, that the Brethren began to meet together for public worship. On Christmas Day, 1723, the first baptism and love feast in America were observed by the Brethren. The Brethren remained loosely organized, however, until 1742 when they held their first 'Great Meeting', later to become known as 'Annual Meeting'.
The year 1851 was another milestone in the Brethren movement. That year the magazine, Gospel Visitor, was published by Henry Kurtz, and signaled the beginning of the progressive movement in the church. In the mid-1850's James Quinter and Henry Holsinger became associated with Kurtz and the magazine. Through these men and subsequent publishing endeavors, certain ideas were being promoted which challenged the church to become more contemporary. They championed such ideas as higher education, Sunday School, 'protracted meetings' (i.e., revival or evangelistic meetings), salaried pastors, and freedom of dress and hair style. These 'progressive' ideas caused considerable ferment in the Brethren from which three major groups finally resulted.
The Old Order German Baptist Brethren, consisted of a number of arch-conservative members who, seeing the trends in the church, decided to withdraw from the Fraternity of German Baptist Brethren, as the church was then called. They exist to this day and are known as the Old Order Brethren. This separation took place in 1881.
The 1881 Annual Meeting at Ashland College became a major turning point in the formation of the Brethren Church. The Annual Meeting presented grievances against Henry Holsinger and his magazine, The Progressive Christian. A committee was appointed to deal with Holsinger 'according to his transgressions.'
Holsinger was to come to trial in his home congregation of Berlin, Pennsylvania. This trial never truly came to pass because the two sides could not agree on allowing a clerk to record the proceedings.
In 1882, the Annual Meeting was held at Arnold's Grove near Milford, Indiana. The Berlin committee report was read which asked to put Holsinger and his sympathizers under the ban. Holsinger agreed to some concessions if the Berlin report would not be passed. But the Berlin report was adopted by the church and Holsinger was expelled. That evening the disfellowshipped Brethren met at 'School House No. 7', one mile west of Arnold's Grove. They drafted a memorial appealing for a plan of reconciliation and reinstitution. The Standing Committee of Annual Meeting rejected this proposal and the separation seemed complete.
The disfellowshipped Brethren then called for a convention of progressives to plan their course of action. That convention met on June 29-30, 1882, at Ashland, Ohio. They outlined their grievances against the conservative group and made initial efforts at organization, but all with the outside possibility that they could still be reunited with the main body.
After the May, 1883, Annual Meeting of the German Baptist Brethren it became clear that there would be no possibility of reconciliation. So, the progressive group proceeded with formal organization, taking the name of The Brethren Church at Dayton, Ohio, on June 6-7, 1883. The conservative group eventually adopted the name, Church of the Brethren.
The years that followed majored, of course, on organization, development and growth. In 1887, what eventually became the Women's Missionary Society, was formed. In 1887, the General Conference urged the formation of districts. In 1890, the youth work began, which years later became known as Brethren Youth Crusaders. In 1892, the National Ministerial Association was formed. And in 1919, the National Laymen's Organization was formed.
In the early part of the twentieth century, American Christianity was going through a struggle of fundamentalism versus modernism. Fundamentalists, at that time, were people who held to the 'fundamentals' of the faith, such as, the Virgin Birth of Christ, the diety of Christ, the inerrancy and integrity of the Scriptures. Modernism accepted the theory of evolution and its step-child, the social gospel, with its emphasis on cultural salvation more than personal salvation. Since the Brethren held many of the doctrines which fundamentalism espoused, it sided generally with the fundamentalists, although initially the Brethren did not share the spirit of fundamentalism, i.e., its aggressive, if not, militant attitudes towards others and their views.
Some Brethren, however, refused to identify with the fundamentalist movement primarily because of its intolerant spirit. They, of course, would be branded by some as 'liberals' or 'modernists'. There were some who did not desire to be identified with either side of the controversy. One of those was a son of the St. James congregation, Dr. William D. Furry, who was for a time president of Ashland College and a professor of theology there. The controversy theoretically came to an end with the publication of The Message of the Brethren Ministry in 1921.
However, the spirit of fundamentalism lived on among the Brethren. In the mid-to-late 1920's that spirit found an able spokesman, Dr. Alva J. McClain. His education outside of the Brethren ranks introduced him to dispensational Calvinism which he, in turn, introduced to the Brethren in his position as professor of seminary courses at Ashland College.
In time, controversy developed between McClain and other leaders at the college. The power struggle continued through the 1930's until the division of 1939. The denominational organization remained with The Brethren Church but the entire foreign mission work went with the fundamentalist group, known to us today as the Grace Brethren.
For the next twenty years, the Brethren Church was a church in search of itself. Its morale was low and its spirit was weary. There was reconstruction to be done in the areas of youth work, congregational identification and foreign missions.
By the 1960's a generation was in leadership that did not remember the controversies and tended to be more forward looking and creative. The seminary began to grow dramatically under the leadership of Dr. Joseph Shultz until now it is the largest evangelical seminary in the midwest east of the Mississippi.
Fellowship Time 8:45-915am
Sunday School 9:15-10am
We have a full Nursery
We believe and teach that the Bible is the Word of God. This determines everything else we teach since it is our only source for authority. Church government, tradition, experiences, etc. may be fine, even necessary for their place but they are not authorities in the Christian life. That is found only in the Bible.
The basic core of our teachings we hold in common with all evangelical churches:
1. God created the heavens and the earth and each human being.
2. Because of our sinful nature, passed down from Adam and Eve, we are cut off from God. We need a Savior.
3. God sent his Son to die on the cross as a substitute sacrifice for our sins.
4. The Son of God, who existed before time and creation, took on human flesh and became a man. He was fully human and fully divine, one person with two natures.
5. Jesus died on the cross, was buried and raised to life again on the third day.
6. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are separate persons but one God. This concept is commonly called the Trinity.
7. Every person on earth has sinned, going against the will of God. Therefore, we cannot save ourselves or put ourselves in a right relationship with God. But by the grace of God, the love he gives us freely, we can have our sins forgiven. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins on the cross.
8. We are saved by putting our faith in God. This means more than believing that he exists; it means we put our total trust in him and his grace.
9. If we totally trust God, we will follow him always. Those who trust God will strive to live holy lives, following the teachings of God in his word, the Bible.
A better and indepth description of the teachings of the church can be found in the Centennial Statement, a booklet written after the one hundred-year anniversary of the beginning of the Brethren Church. It is found on the website Centennial Statement.