The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Church of the Brethren

The Church of the Brethren was organized by Alexander Mack, a miller, in Schwarzenau , Germany, in 1708. The first church was established in America in 1723. These churches became commonly known as German Baptist Brethren. It is a Protestant, Anabaptist Church. The denomination holds the New Testament as its only creed. Historically the church has taken a strong stance for non-resistance or pacifism. Distinctive practices include believers baptism by trine immersion, a three-fold Love Feast consisting of feet washing, a fellowship meal, and communion, anointing for healing, and the holy kiss.

The Church of the Brethren represents the largest body descending from Mack's Schwarzenau Brethren church. The German Baptist Brethren suffered major division in the early 1880s, creating the Old German Baptist Brethren, the Brethren Church, and the majority adopting the name Church of the Brethren in 1908. It had 134,000 members in about 1100 churches in 2002. There are six liberal arts colleges and one seminary (Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana) affiliated with the Church of the Brethren. General offices and the Brethren Press are located in Elgin, Illinois.

In 1948 the Church of the Brethren joined the World Council of Churches as a charter member, and was a forming member of the National Council of Churches in 1950.

The Church of the Brethren is an organizational member of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, which advocates gun control. Many ministers and laymembers, however, are members of the National Rifle Association.

External links

Related groups that trace their beginnings to the Schwarzenau Brethren are:

Brethren-related websites:


  • Encyclopedia of American Religions, J. Gordon Melton, editor
  • Handbook of Denominations, by Frank S. Mead, Samuel S. Hill, and Craig D. Atwood
  • Profiles in Belief: the Religious Bodies of the United States and Canada, by Arthur Carl Piepkorn
  • Religious Congregations & Membership in the United States (2000), Glenmary Research Center
Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13