Evangelical United Brethren Church

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Official emblem of The Evangelical United Brethren Church

The Evangelical United Brethren Church (EUB) was an American Protestant church formed in 1946, by the merger of the Evangelical Church (formerly the Evangelical Association) and the Church of the United Brethren in Christ (not to be confused with the still current Church of the United Brethren in Christ (Old Constitution)). The United Brethren and the Evangelical Association had considered merging off and on since the early 19th century because of their common emphasis on holiness and evangelism and their common German heritage.

The Evangelical United Brethren subsequently merged with the The Methodist Church, (which itself had been formed in 1939, from the re-unification from a mid-19th-century split of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Protestant Church, and the Methodist Episcopal Church South) in 1968, to form the new larger United Methodist Church, which finally gathered together under one roof most of the American descendent disciples of the famous Methodist missionaries John, (1703-1791), and Charles Wesley, (1707-1788), formerly of the Church of England.

History[edit]

United Brethren In Christ was an American religious sect which originated in the last part of the 18th century. Though not formally 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 German Reformed pastor at York, Pennsylvania, (and later of Baltimore), left his seat, embraced Boehm and said to him, "Wir sind Brüder!" (we are brethren!). The followers of Boehm and Otterbein formed a loose movement for many years. It spread to include German-speaking churches supplemented later by English-speaking followers in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and later spread west into Ohio.

Pastor Otterbein, returned to Baltimore to the newly organized German Reformed congregation and built a brick Georgian-styled church with a bell tower southwest of Baltimore Town at South Sharp and West Conway Streets, later named Old Otterbein United Methodist Church, which had continued for two centuries in the Brethren denomination before their 1968 merger with the Methodists and is now the oldest active church and building in the city, whose name was also given to the surrounding restored historic neighborhood.

In 1784, they held a famous formal "Christmas Conference" at Baltimore's Lovely Lane Chapel (or "meeting house") to organize a church body and to conduct their first ordination, the laying on of hands on Francis Asbury, (1745-1816), as the first bishop. With the constant travels of these men along with the equally well known in his time, Robert Strawbridge, (died 1771), near New Windsor of eastern Frederick County, Maryland, (now modern Carroll County - since 1837), the spirited evangelical-minded Christians grew rapidly.

By 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 ecclesiastical polity of the church is Wesleyan and its theology is Arminian: there is no hard-and-fast rule about baptism. Bishops are elected for four years. The first delegated general conference met at Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, in 1815, and adopted a confession of faith, rules of order and a book of discipline, which were revised in 1885–1889, when women were first admitted to ordination.

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 such as the Freemasons. 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. Therefore the body initially known as the United Brethren in Christ of the Old Constitution, now called the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.

The majority branch had 3,732 organizations in 1906 with a total membership of 274,649. The denomination merged with the Evangelical Church in 1946 to form a new denomination known as the Evangelical United Brethren Church (EUB). This in turn merged in 1968 with The Methodist Church to form the United Methodist Church (UMC).

Missionary and Educational establishments[edit]

This body carried on missions in West Africa (since 1855), Japan, China, the Philippines and Puerto Rico. It had a publishing house (1834) and Bonebrake Theological Seminary (1871) at Dayton, Ohio; and supported Otterbein University (1847) at Westerville, Ohio; Westfield College (1865) at Westfield, Illinois; Leander Clark College (1857) at Toledo, Iowa; York College (1890) at York, Nebraska; Philomath College (1867) at Philomath, Oregon; Lebanon Valley College (1867) at Annville, Pennsylvania; Campbell College (1864) at Holton, Kansas, and Indiana Central College (later Indiana Central University and now the University of Indianapolis) (1907) at Indianapolis, Indiana. In 1946, with cooperation of three other denominations, it formed the United Andean Indian Mission, an agency that sent missionaries to Ecuador.

Outside of the United States[edit]

The EUB congregations in Canada joined into the United Church of Canada in 1968, the largest Protestant denomination in Canada formed in 1925 by Presbyterians (70% came in), Methodists, and Congregationalists. 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 form the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • D. Berger: History of the Church of the United Brethren (1897), and his sketch (1894) in vol xii. of the American Church History Series; E. L. Shuey, Handbook of the United Brethren in Christ (1893); W. J. Shuey, Year-Book of the United Brethren in Christ (from 1867); and A. W. Drury, Life of Philip William Otterbein (1884).