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The Evangelical Church or Evangelical Association, also known as the Albright Brethren, was a "body of American Christians chiefly of German descent", Arminian in doctrine and theology; in its form of church government, Methodist Episcopal.
In the early 20th century the association numbered 148,506 members, not including children, with 1,864 ministers and 2,043 churches, in the United States, Canada and Germany. It was founded in 1800, by the Rev. Jacob Albright, a German-speaking Christian native of Pennsylvania (1759–1808), influenced by John Wesley and the Methodist movement. In about 1790 he had begun an itinerant mission among his fellow-countrymen, chiefly in Pennsylvania. Meeting with considerable success, he was, at an assembly composed of adherents from the different places he had visited, elected presiding elder or chief pastor. The first meetings were held in 1803, and in 1807 Albright was appointed bishop of the community. A Book of Discipline was introduced six years later.
In 1816, the church took on the name "The Evangelical Association" at its first annual conference. It was not until 1839 that a bishop was elected to replace Jacob Albright. John Seybert was elected as part of the young denomination's move towards centralized leadership, and in 1843 there was instituted a general conference, composed of delegates chosen by the annual conferences and constituting the highest legislative and judicial authority in the church. In 1891, some members of the Evangelical Association left to form the "United Evangelical Church". Thirty-one years later the two groups reunited and renamed themselves "The Evangelical Church".
Those congregations who chose not to re-unite formed a body called the Evangelical Congregational Church, which, despite its name, has no historical relation whatsoever with the Congregational churches derived from New England settlement. Rather, the name refers to its organizational structure, which is based on the local congregation.
In 1946, the Evangelical Church merged with the United Brethren in Christ at a meeting in Johnstown, Pennsylvania to form the Evangelical United Brethren Church. This body, in turn, united with The Methodist Church (US) in 1968 to form the United Methodist Church. A group of clergy and about fifty local churches withdrew at this time, probably in protest against theological and social liberalism in American Methodism, and formed the Evangelical Church of North America.
- See Evangelicalism for information on evangelicals and the evangelical movement.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Grey, Francis William (1907). "Albright Brethren". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company.