WHo are the Brethren?
Continuing THe work of Jesus. PEacefully. Simply. Together.
The Church of the Brethren is a nationwide Christian denomination of about 1000 churches and 125,000 members. Founded in 1708 in Germany upon the scriptures of the New Testament, members believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Holy Spirit is God’s presence in the world today, baptism must be a conscious choice made by adult believers, and that believers should practice social justice, simple living, and peaceful nonresistance to violence. The Church of the Brethren is of the anabaptist tradition, which is a different historical tradition than that shared by mainline protestant denominations. Anabaptist means “second baptism.” It was a derogatory term meant to criticize early believers for baptizing adults who had been baptized in the state church as infants.
Another way of living
In the New Testament, the word “brethren” describes a community of men and women who chose another way of living: the way of Jesus. The Church of the Brethren, begun three centuries ago in Germany, still draws people who want to continue Jesus’ work of faithfulness and loving service.
Continuing the work of Jesus
Though the Brethren as a group have existed for three hundred years, we subscribe to no formal “creed” or set of rules. We simply try to do what Jesus did.
Jesus brought a message of life, love, and hope. But he offered much more than inspiring words: He understood that people’s spiritual needs also include day-to-day human ones — food, health, rest, comfort, friendship, and unconditional acceptance. “I am the way,” he told his followers. He showed them how to trust, how to care, and how to help.
Steadily, lovingly, even radically, Jesus went about saving the world — by serving its people. Because we believe his message, we seek to do the same.
Whether the conflict involves warring nations, racial discord, theological disputes, personal disagreement, or mere misunderstanding, Brethren listen conscientiously, seek guidance in the scriptures, and work toward reconciliation. We practice peaceful living.
Our longstanding commitment to peace and justice includes a deep regard for human life and dignity. Brethren reach worldwide to help repair the ravages of poverty, ignorance, exploitation, and catastrophic events. Along with our faith, we bring food, books, classes, tools, and medicine.
Living peacefully, to the Brethren, means treating each person with the attentive, compassionate respect that all human beings deserve.
Years ago, all Brethren were immediately recognizable because of their plain dress and reserved ways. Today’s Brethren live very much in the world, work in a broad range of occupations, and make use of the latest technology.
Continually, though, we try to simplify our lives. Practicing a modest nonconformity, we think carefully about our daily choices. The ideal of simplicity guides our decisions: How will we conduct our business, raise our children, spend our leisure time, tend our natural resources? How will we use our money, and why? How can we live comfortably, but without excess or ostentation?
For the Brethren, such considerations are not a requirement, but a privilege. As we seek to live intentionally, responsibly, and simply, we find a deep sense of purpose. And we find joy.
Whether worshiping, serving, learning, or celebrating, Brethren act in community. Together, we study the Bible to discern God’s will; we make decisions as a group, and each person’s voice matters.
During our traditional love feast, we gather at the table of the Lord, and each summer at Annual Conference we convene as a denominational family. Because Jesus urged unity, Brethren work alongside other denominations, at home and abroad, in worldwide mission and outreach.
Our congregations welcome all who wish to share with us in another way of living: the way of Christian discipleship, life in community, fulfillment in service.
We live out our faith in community. That community begins in the congregation, but extends also to the district, and to the church as a whole. In other words, the life and work of the Church of the Brethren begins within hundreds of congregations but reaches around the world.
Other denominations found in the United States that have an anabaptist tradition include the various forms of Brethren, Mennonites, Brethren in Christ, Church of Christ (Disciples),Quakers and some Baptists. The Church of the Brethren was formerly known as German Baptist Brethren until 1908. Church of the Brethren congregations are spread throughout the United States, but the bulk of their population lies in the Mid-Atlantic states (PA, MD, WV, VA) and the Ohio River Valley states (OH, IN, IL).
You can discover more about the Church of the Brethren denomination by visiting the www.brethren.org