The following terms reflect the culture of the Church of the Brethren, a denomination grounded on the principles of Anabaptism and founded through the Pietist efforts of Alexander Mack, in the summer of 1708 near the small German village of Schwarzenau. This resource is not an exhaustive compilation of all denominational terminology, which might also be garnered from other Brethren works, such as the Brethren Encyclopedia, Brethren Bibliography, European Origins, Brethren in America, Ephrata Cloister, 19th Century Acculturation, Brethren Timeline, Brethren Groups, and Brethren Genealogy. You are encouraged to share your comments, suggestions, or corrections with the Web Administrator.
A former administrative division of the Church of the Brethren that merged with the former Association Of Brethren Caregivers to become the Mission & Ministry Board at Annual Conference 2008. This office was directly responsible to the delegate body of Annual Conference. It was established in 1946 as the General Brotherhood Board to administer, institute, and coordinate the many program functions and ancillary duties of the denomination. The Board was composed of 20 individuals who were elected by Annual Conference delegates to serve designated terms, 6 ex-officio members, plus eight departments whose directors, coordinators, employees, and field staff were supervised by an Executive Director. In 1968 the title of this body was shortened to The General Board.
In March of 1995 the General Board was given the disheartening news that significant budget shortfalls were expected for the foreseeable future. In wrestling with the implications of this news, the board discerned that the problem involved something deeper than finances. While the financial realities had brought the situation to their attention most forcefully, this deeper problem had more to do with vision and identity. The Board appointed a Vision Discernment Team to further appreciate the situation. After receiving their report, a Redesign Steering Committee was established to gather information from all corners of the denomination and develop the initial elements of a new design. The process continued as a Transition Team worked to bring the new organizations into existence. (Submitted by Christopher Bowman, General Board Chairperson during the Redesign process)
One of the first major agenda items was a change of location from Mount Morris, Illinois. Location committees were appointed even before the stock transfer, or official recognition, or approval from Annual Meeting. Northern Indiana and the Chicago area were prime considerations, but the name Elgin surfaced in 1899. Property was acquired at 22 South State Street, and a three story building erected that also housed offices as well as the presses. New energy launched Brethren Publishing House (BPH) into the center of denominational activities. It almost became synonymous with the core movement of the denomination. Elgin was a term that was used more frequently now to describe the hierarchy of the denomination in general. Numerous non-Brethren commercial ventures outside of the denomination proved to be very profitable, and offered financial stability that permitted BPH to produce small denominational projects that would never have turned a profit on their own. But two factors heavily affected the publishing house in the next fifty years: more highly educated Brethren were searching for literary needs outside of the denomination, and World War II forced all publishing companies to reduce their paper consumption. Following the war, the creation of the General Brotherhood Board (GBB) absorbed all other boards and placed staff under one supervisory office. Down sizing found the Brethren Publishing House becoming more scattered throughout the growing operations and structure of the General Brotherhood Board, and in the process of time, full absorption meant the loss of a separate identity for publishing operations. In 1956, the term Brethren Press was introduced to help reclaim this loss of identity.
New larger facilities were dedicated at 1451 Dundee Avenue on April 9, 1959 and the term General Offices became more prevalent in denominational conversation. The new building offered a larger publishing area with more extensive operations. With a changing mood of the denomination towards ecumenicism, Brethren Press started looking to include outside markets as well. In 1970, several regularly produced materials were discontinued, but new, more interpretive productions appeared, plus greater collaborative efforts with other publishers. During the 1980's, a changing financial and technological scenario forced Brethren Press to sell it's printing presses and outsource the work. They were now printers without presses. Despite restructuring and denominational struggles, Brethren Press continues to meet the printing needs of the Church of the Brethren, especially in the area of Mission & Ministry Board materials and curriculum for the congregations.
The inspiration for the Gospel Messenger started with Henry Kurtz who was born in Germany in 1796. After emigrating to America with aspirations for the ministry, he entered the Luther Synod and received his first pastorate in Pennsylvania. While studying the Bible he became convinced that faith was an essential part of baptism. A novel opinion for a Lutheran, and this position soon led to his excommunication. He moved to Ohio where he later met and joined the Brethren. Gradually he became deeply involved in roles of leadership. In a few years, Kurtz served as pastor, ordained elder, and writing clerk of Annual Meeting (now Annual Conference), a position which he held for almost twenty years. One reason being that he could intimately converse in both German and English, and the Brethren were in the midst of changing from exclusive use of German to English. The concern for denominational literature found its champion in Kurtz who had briefly attempted to publish a church paper while a Lutheran minister. A question presented to Annual Meeting in 1850 concerning denominational literature reawakened his enthusiasm for publishing, and he began to set in motion the publication of the first Brethren periodical.
The Gospel Visitor was first issued in 1851 from a hand-press located on the second floor of a spring house on a small farm in Ohio. Its appearance was professional and noteworthy considering the humbleness of its origin. Although not recognized as an official voice of the denomination because of its personal emanation, delegates to the Annual Meeting of the same year decided that its worthiness should be judged by all Brethren congregations until next year. James Quinter became assistant editor in 1856 with Henry Holsinger soon joining the team. Holsinger wanted to produce a weekly paper, and started the Christian Family Companion. It contained free expression of ideas from individual members which could then be read by the larger community, a new concept for the Brethren and a primal form of an Internet list server. Holsinger was more progressive than most Brethren and continued along several avenues to suggest innovations such as Sunday School, foreign missions, and revival meetings. Correlative voices soon took advantage of the opportunity to advocate disuse of the distinctive plain dress and the supremacy of the Elder dominated Annual Meeting. The larger segment of Brethren were now torn between the Progressive agenda and those Primitives (traditionals) who wanted to maintain status quo or restrict innovation.
The Gospel Visitor and Christian Family Companion were eventually merged, adopting the title The Primitive Christian. Quinter became the chief editor and Kurtz devoted his time to working on a Brethren Encyclopedia which first appeared in 1867. The Primitive Christian later absorbed the Pilgrim in 1876, another weekly paper issued by H.B. & J.B. Brumbaugh from James Creek, Pennsylvania. In the same year, J.T. Myers and L.A. Plate started the Brethrens Messenger from Germantown, Pennsylvania, and then moved it to Lanark, Illinois, along with a new title, Brethren at Work. In 1883 these two papers were merged to form the Gospel Messenger, which was later owned by the Church of the Brethren when they purchased the Brethren Publishing House in 1897. The word Gospel was dropped from the title in January 1965, and its frequency of publication changed from weekly to biweekly. Later in 1973 it became a monthly publication.