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History

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Where we come from

In the early 1700»s, a dynamic revival swept across Europe. In Germany there were many of these revived believers who became dissatisfied with the cold formalism and error in the three state religions (Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed). They longed for a church in which they could worship God according to the Bible, the Spirit, and their conscience.

As a result, a number of these believers settled at Schwarzenau on the Eider River because its prince offered them freedom to worship and study the Bible. Among those were eight people who saw the need for a new fellowship of churches built solely upon the teachings of the New Testament. From that day to this, the only "creed" the Fellowship has ever had is:

"The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible."

In their study of the Scripture, these first "brethren" became convinced of all the great doctrines of the Christian faith, some of which had been seriously neglected in that day. They observed teachings such as triune immersion, foot-washing, anointing the sick, and non-hierarchical church government. Alexander Mack, often called the founder of the movement, was the first of the group to receive baptism and he in turn baptized the others.

The "brethren" grew and prospered in Schwarzenau from their humble beginnings in 1708. It was not long however, until persecution again reared its ugly head. The group began to be called derogatory names like Tunkers, Dunkards, AnaBaptists, Dippers, and New Baptists. By 1719 the persecution scattered the brethren from their homes, much like the case of the early disciples in Acts. They spread throughout Europe, and several groups came to America. In 1729 Alexander Mack himself come to Germantown (Philadelphia), Pennsylvania.

In America, these brethren proved to be zealous missionaries, rugged pioneers, and good soldiers of Jesus Christ declaring the whole counsel of God. The movement grew and spread across the nation.

Unfortunately, there have been two major divisions in the brethren movement in America. In 1881 there was a division resulting in "The Church of the Brethren" and "The Brethren Church". Our heritage is "The Brethren Church" which advocated education and pay for pastors, less conformity in dress, and less centralized authority in the Fellowship. The second major division, in 1939, resulted in "The Brethren Church" (Ashland Brethren), and "The Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches" (Grace Brethren). Grace Brethren stood for sound biblical teaching, moral and doctrinal purity, Christian liberty, and the eternal security of the believer.

Today there are over 1,000 Grace Brethren churches, with over 200,000 believers, in at least 12 countries around the world. God has honored this humble fellowship which was born out of Bible study, and continues its commitment to Jesus Christ and the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:16-20).