How The Brethren Were Influencing the Development of Other Denominations Between 1785 and 1860 -- By: Roger E. Sappington

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 08:0 (NA 1975)
Article: How The Brethren Were Influencing the Development of Other Denominations Between 1785 and 1860
Author: Roger E. Sappington

How The Brethren Were Influencing the
Development of Other Denominations
Between 1785 and 1860

Roger E. Sappington

As I stated in the Introduction to my previous paper, I am particularly impressed at this time by five significant activities of the Brethren in the years from 1785 to 1860. Four of these I have already examined, and the fifth has spilled over into a separate paper. I believe that the Brethren were influencing the development of a number of other churches, and I propose to examine in some detail the influence of the Brethren on the (1) Brethren in Christ, (2) Universalists, and (3) Disciples of Christ. In my original outline of this paper, I included a fourth group, the Separate Baptists, but when I wrote the paper I dropped that group from my consideration both because I was running out of time and because I was having some difficulty in discovering evidence that was as precise as I wanted to have. From the evidence I have seen, I am still convinced that the Brethren were having an influence on the Separate Baptists in some ways.

The way in which the Brethren were influencing the development of the Brethren in Christ Church is a good place to begin this paper, because the events were taking place about 1785 and because the influence is quite clear-cut. In fact, it has sometimes been thought that the Brethren in Christ were some kind of a split from the Brethren or Dunkers, but that interpretation is not accepted by present-day historians, including Professor Carlton Wittlinger, who is now preparing a new history of the Brethren in Christ; a portion of that study dealing with the beginning of the church has been published as an article in the Mennonite Quarterly Review.1 To that article, I am deeply indebted, for his research in the primary and secondary records has been much more intensive than mine.

To go back to the eighteenth century, what seems to have happened was that a small group of six to twelve Germans in

eastern Pennsylvania had a Pietistic conversion experience as the result of the ideas and preaching of Martin Boehm, a Mennonite preacher who later became one of the founders of the United Brethren in Christ. One of the most prominent leaders of this small group of Germans was Jacob Engel; others in the group included members of the Bentzner, Beyer, Funk, Geider, Hollinger, Meyer, Sider Stern, and Winger families. Some of these individuals had been Mennonites, but there is no positive evidence that any of them had been Brethren.

Even though some of the members of the group had been Mennonites, they evidently were not satisfied to become a part of the Mennonite church and consequently they l...

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