History of the Church of the Brethren
THE CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN—1708-2008 The Church of the Brethren originated in 1708 when eight persons were baptized in the Eder River near Schwarzenau, Germany. In an effort to put biblical teachings into practice, the early Brethren found themselves at odds with the religious and political leaders of eighteenth century Germany. Persecution brought them to the New World where they embraced religious freedom.
After settling in the eastern part of Pennsylvania, the church gradually moved across the United States. The Brethren initiated mission partnerships in various parts of the world. The Brethren passion for social justice led to the formation of Brethren Volunteer Service, CROP (Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty), and Heifer Project International.
For guidance, Brethren look to the scriptures rather than to doctrine. A strong faith emphasizes compassion, peacemaking, and simplicity. Basic practices include believer’s baptism for those who seek to follow Jesus; anointing for healing; and observing the Love Feast which is based on the John 13 account of Jesus’ last meal with the disciples where he broke bread with them and washed their feet as a symbol of love, hospitality, service, and humility.
There are approximately 1,000 Church of the Brethren congregations throughout the U.S. and the church is affiliated with six colleges and one theological seminary. The denominational staff is housed at the Church of the Brethren Office in Elgin, IL and the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, MD. Other agencies affiliated with the Church of the Brethren include: Association of Brethren Caregivers, Brethren Benefit Trust, Church of the Brethren Credit Union, and On Earth Peace. For more information visit:www.brethren.org.
While times have changed, the Church of the Brethren continues to maintain the basic beliefs of the early Brethren and seeks to find new ways to continue the work of Jesus in the world. There is a concerted effort to illuminate the rich past, examine the crucial present, and project the challenging future.