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Evangelical United Brethren

From Academic Kids

The Evangelical United Brethren was an American Protestant church which was formed in 1946 by the merger of the Evangelical Association with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ (not to be confused with the current Church of the United Brethren in Christ, a denomination that split from the United Brethren in the late nineteenth century and was originally known as the Church of the United Brethren in Christ (Old Constitution).) The United Brethren and the Evangelical Association had considered merging since the early nineteenth century because of their common emphases on holiness and evangelism and German heritage.

The Evangelical United Brethren subsequently merged with The Methodist Church in 1968 to form the United Methodist Church. The EUB congregations in Canada joined into the United Church of Canada, a previous (1925) merger of Methodists, Congregationalists, and some Presbyterians.

United Brethren History


Though not 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 Reformed pastor at York, Pennsylvania, left his seat, embraced Boehm and said to him, "Wir sind bruder (we are brethren)". The followers of Boehm and Otterbein formed a loose movement for many years. It spread to include German-speaking churches in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and Ohio. In 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 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. 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.

Until 1946 two groups operated under the name Church of the United Brethren in Christ, though the minority was known as the Church of the United Brethren in Christ (Old Constitution). In 1946, the larger United Brethren branch merged with the Evangelical Association to form the Evangelical United Brethren Church. That body in turn merged with the Methodist Church in 1968 to form The United Methodist Church. The present United Brethren Church is descended from the minority who organized under the leadership of Bishop Milton Wright.

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