Evangelical Church

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Originally known as the Evangelical Association and the So-Called Albright People. This denomination originated (180003) under the leadership of Jacob albright (Albrecht) among German-speaking people in Pennsylvania; it merged in 1946 with the Church of the united brethren to become the Church of the evangelical united brethren. In April 1968, the Evangelical United Brethren merged with the Methodist Church to become the united methodist church.

When Albright's itinerant preaching career as a Methodist among German-Americans received little encouragement from the Methodist Church, he organized several classes or groups of his followers in 1800. In 1803 a meeting of his supporters "certified" Albright as "a truly evangelical minister," but it was only in 1807 that an official conference named Albright's followers as the Newly Formed Methodist Conference. The new organization, however, was technically not a part of the Methodist Church of Francis asbury (17451816); so the 1809 annual conference changed the name to the So-Called Albright People, a title that became the Evangelical Association in the first general conference of 1816. As the new denomination spread, the English language gradually displaced German in preaching and in religious publications, and vigorous missionary activity was inaugurated. In 1839 a general missionary society was organized, and its efforts extended first to Germany and Switzerland and later to Japan, Russia, Poland-Latvia, and Africa. Between 1891 and 1894 disagreement over polity and administration led two-fifths of the membership to withdraw and form the United Evangelical Church. After nearly three decades of separation, the two groups were reunited in 1922 as the Evangelical Church. The resulting organization entered a new merger in 1946 when it joined a kindred, contemporary denomination, the United Brethren in Christ, to form the Evangelical United Brethren, which in turn merged with the Methodist Church in 1968 to become the United Methodist Church.

The Evangelical Church was Arminian in doctrine and its articles of faith corresponded closely to those of methodism (see arminianism). The Evangelicals held firmly to the divinity as well as the humanity of Christ, the sufficiency of Scripture for salvation, and emphasized Christian perfection and sanctification. Two sacraments were professed, Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Baptism was accepted as a sign of the new birth of the Christian; the Lord's Supper was declared to be a representation of man's redemption by the sufferings and death of Christ, while the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ was denied as unfaithful to Scripture. The organizational structure of the Evangelical Church corresponded generally to that of the Methodist Church. A general conference that met every four years elected bishops who were neither ordained nor consecrated as such, but who presided at the annual conferences and decided all questions of law between general conference sessions. At the time of its merger the Evangelical Church had approximately 250,000 members in 25 states, predominantly in Pennsylvania.

Bibliography: r. w. albright, A History of the Evangelical Church (Harrisburg, Pa. 1942). j. bernesdorfer, Pietism and Its Influence upon the Evangelical United Brethren Church (Philadelphia 1951). r. s. wilson, Jacob Albright: the Evangelical Pioneer (Myerstown, Pa. 1940). a. d. graeff et al., The Pennsylvania Germans, ed. r. wood (Princeton 1942). r. yeakel, History of the Evangelical Association, 2 v. (Harrisburg, Pa. 1924) v.1, 17501850.

[r. matzerath/eds.]