c/o Bishop Ron Ramsey, 302 Lake St., Huntington, IN 46750
The Church of the United Brethren in Christ USA grew out of the German pietism and revivalism of such preachers as Philip Otterbein (1726–1813, of the German Reformed Church) and Martin Boehm (1725–1812, of the Mennonite Church), both of whom had been affected by Methodism and eighteenth-century Evangelicalism and who became the first bishops of the United Brethren. Their evangelistic efforts led to the formation of a church in 1800. Its earliest concentration of membership was in Maryland, Virginia, and eastern Pennsylvania.
In 1841 the United Brethren adopted its first constitution. During the next four decades the church was disrupted by the debate over the issues of freemasonry and membership in secret societies and pro rata representation and lay representation at General Conference. The crisis came to a head when the General Conference of 1889 was asked to ratify a new constitution that liberalized the rule against belonging to a secret society, allowed for pro rata and lay representation at General Conference, and altered the Church’s Confession of Faith.
The majority ratified the new constitution. They continued to exist as the United Brethren in Christ until 1946 when they merged with the Evangelical Church to form the Evangelical United Brethren, which in turn merged in 1968 with the Methodist Church (1939–1968) to form the United Methodist Church. The minority objected both to the changes and the method of ratification, which they felt were illegal. Bishop Milton L. Wright (1828–1917) led the minority in conserving the original United Brethren in Christ along the lines of an allegiance to the original constitution. The minority group tried to claim property, but was unsuccessful. They opened a new publishing house that moved to Huntington, Indiana, in 1897. The Christian Conservator, a paper that had supported their cause since its founding in 1885, was adopted as the official newspaper of the church. In 1954 The Christian Conservator was combined with several other periodicals to become the The United Brethren. In 1994 the magazine was replaced with a bimonthly newsletter called Connect.
The continuing minority adhered to the original constitution. They believe in the Trinity and the deity, humanity, and atonement of Christ. Observance of strict scriptural living is required of all members, who are forbidden the use of alcoholic beverages, and membership in secret societies. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are observed as ordinances of the church.
The U.S. National Conference meets biennially and is composed of ministers and lay persons chosen from all local churches in the United States. It is the highest governing body of the U.S. church. Both men and women are eligible for the ministry and are ordained only once as elders. Missionary societies support work in evangelism and church aid in the United States and in Sierra Leone, Jamaica, Honduras, Nicaragua, India, Hong Kong, Macau, Mexico, Thailand, Myanmar, Haiti, El Salvador, Costa Rica, the Philippines, and Guatemala. Elementary and secondary schools have been opened in Honduras and Sierra Leone. A Bible college, affiliated jointly with the Missionary Church, Wesleyan Church, and European Baptist Church, is supported in Sierra Leone.
The United Brethren have disbanded a close relationship with the Primitive Methodist Church and the Evangelical Congregational Church, and they worked together with them in a federation arrangement. They shared support of missionaries, published church school literature, and held seminars and consultations. The former Sandusky Conference of the United Brethren was a member of the Christian Holiness Association.
The church is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals.
In 2007 the church reported 24,000 members in the United States. Worldwide membership was about 48,000.
Huntington University, Huntington, Indiana.
Huntington University Graduate School of Christian Ministries, Huntington, Indiana.
Church of the United Brethren in Christ USA. www.ub.org.
Fetters, Paul R. Trials and Triumphs: A History of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. Huntington, IN: Church of the United Brethren in Christ/Dept. of Church Services, 1984.
Origin, Doctrine, Constitution, And Discipline Of The United Brethren In Christ. Huntington, IN: Davies Press, 2008.
100 W Park Ave., Myerstown, PA 17067
The history of this church goes back to the 1894 schism in the Evangelical Association, now a constituent part of the United Methodist Church. A group representing minority opinion took the name United Evangelical Church and reunited with the parent body in 1922, when the two formed the Evangelical Church. The many deep scars created by the 1894 schism, however, were not all healed before the 1922 reunion. Therefore, as efforts toward the reunion progressed, voices of dissent were raised in the United Evangelical Church, opposing merger. Some United Evangelical Church members were still bitter over the loss of their church buildings to the Evangelical Association in court battles. By the 1920s, congregations of the United Evangelical Church had built new churches, which they did not want to share with or give to those who had taken their buildings in the court cases. After merger was voted, those opposing it called a special session of the East Pennsylvania Conference, passed a motion to refrain from merger, and formed the Evangelical Congregational Church. An independent anti-merger periodical, The United Evangelical, was taken over as a church organ. Former Bp.W. F. Heil was elected bishop and editor of the church paper.
Doctrinally, the Evangelical Congregational Church is Arminian-Wesleyan, against the theory of predestination and for the theory of free will, the belief that grace is available to all and that all can exercise free will to accept grace. The church upholds the Twenty-five Articles of Religion adopted in 1894 by the United Evangelical Church. The polity is episcopal, but the churches are autonomous and the bishops’powers are strictly limited. There are two Annual Conferences divided into districts. Bishops and regional elders/superintendents are elected quadrennially. Ministers are appointed to their charges. Boards and divisions implement the program of the General Conference.
In the United States, there are missions to Native Americans, Latin Americans, and the mountain people in Kentucky. Two retirement villages are located near the headquarters complex at Myerstown, along with the denominationally supported Evangelical Theological Seminary. The church is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals, the Holiness Summit, and Mission America.
In 2003 the church reported 252 ministers and 20,743 members in the United States, with 154 churches as of 2008. There are 460 international churches, in Costa Rica, India, Japan, Liberia, Mexico, Myanmar, and Nepal.
Evangelical Theological Seminary, Myerstown, Pennsylvania.
The Connection. • Window on the World. • EC Leader. • EC National News. • EC Scene. • HeartCry. • Lighthouse Keeper. • Partners. • Wellness Connection.
Evangelical Congregational Church. www.eccenter.com.
Wilson, Robert Sherer. A Brief History of the Evangelical Congregational Church for the Enlightenment of Her Pastors and People. Myerstown, PA: Church Center Press, 1953.
523 W Walnut St., Cleona, PA 17042
The United Christian Church was the second schism of the United Brethren in Christ. Formed also during a war, this time the Civil War, some members felt that the voluntary bearing of firearms was wrong. They had interpreted certain resolutions of the East Pennsylvania Conference as justifying military service. The withdrawing group, led by George W. Hoffman, also opposed infant baptism and secret societies.
Organization of the United Christian Church was informal for more than a decade; then in January 1877, at a meeting in Campbelltown, Pennsylvania, a Confession of Faith was adopted. The name was chosen the following year and a Constitution and Discipline in 1894. The Discipline of the 1841 United Brethren in Christ was accepted until 1894. Foot washing is one of the ordinances recognized along with baptism and communion.
Activities of the church include an annual camp meeting, services in prisons and at homes for the elderly, direct support of a mission in Jamaica, support of missions in Mexico, and work with the Navigators and BCM International. An annual conference has the power to legislate for this small church body.
In 2004 the group had nine churches, 15 ministers, and 282 members.
Association of Religion Data Archives. www.thearda.com/Denoms/D_1337.asp.
History of the United Christian Church. United Christian Church, 1977.
Origin, Doctrine, Constitution and Discipline of the United Christian Church. Myerstown, PA: Church Center Press, 1950.
This We Believe. United Christian Church, 1978.