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Brethren Timeline

Written by Ronald J. Gordon ~ Published June, 1998 ~ Last Updated, September, 2020 ©
This document may be reproduced for non-profit or educational purposes only, with the
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Discover notable events that have significantly influenced the Church of the Brethren, whether they be denominational happenings or external non-Brethren events. This instrument does not attempt to be an exhaustive compilation of all historical occurrences regarding our denomination, for space limitations preclude the incorporation of vast amounts of information which could also be garnered from other works online or in printed hardcopy form. A sample of both can be found in our Bibliography. Hopefully this listing will give you a very quick chronological perspective of our history in relation to the greater time frame of world history, and a better appreciation of how each circumstance may have influenced the Church of the Brethren. In many cases, these events will have also affected other Brethren Groups.

One of the most difficult tasks was deciding at what year to begin this chronology, for how can one faithfully determine or interpret which events that preceded our founding moment in 1708 would later influence our denomination and which events would not. We begin this timeline with Czech religious leader and university professor John Hus for this reason: faced with a growing displeasure over the ecclesiastical practices and theological interpretations of the medieval Church, Hus was willing to “count the cost” (Luke 14:28) of challenging the authority of the Church, and bear the obvious consequence of refusing to recant his beliefs. This closely models the determination of the early Brethren to follow Anabaptist and Pietist convictions that would also challenge the authority of the Big Three European Churches (Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed), and be in direct violation of the expressed will of church-state authorities. This verse from the Gospel of Luke was given to our early Brethren just prior to their birth moment, to remind them that choices, good and bad, have consequences. Follow our timeline and observe the many results from their choice.

1415 John Hus forcefully questions Papal authority, calls for reform, tricked into capture, refused to recant, not allowed to defend himself, burned at the stake on July 6
1492 Christopher Columbus expedition arrives in the New World from Spain on October 12
1517 Martin Luther nails 95 Arguments citing abuses of Papal authority to the Wittenberg church door on October 31
1525 Anabaptism begins on January 21 in Zurich, Switzerland, when Conrad Grebel, Felix Mantz and Georg Blaurock baptize themselves after breaking with former colleague Ulrich Zwingli
1555 Peace of Augsburg permits German nobility to determine the religion of their own district
1563 Heidelberg Catechism, the most ecumenical of the Reformed Faith, basically a teaching instrument of 129 questions and answers, later divided into 52 sections, one for each Sunday (many early Brethren were of the Reformed Faith)
1605 True Christianity by Lutheran pastor Johann Arndt forcefully calls for believers to model Christ in their daily life, the first German Pietist literary work to challenge the spiritual shortcomings of Lutheran orthodoxy ... Arndt is regarded as the "theological father of German Lutheran Pietism"
1607 Jamestown Colony in Virginia founded on May 13 when expeditions of James I arrived from Great Britain and established the first permanent settlement in America
1611 King James Bible published after being authorized by James I in 1604.
Thirty Year’s War between Catholic (Holy League) and Protestant (Evangelical Union) forces, starting in Czechoslovakia with the Defenestration of Prague (Latin for throwing someone out a window) because the Archbishop of Prague ordered the destruction of a Protestant church. Matthias II, Holy Roman Emperor and ruler of the Habsburg House of Austria, ignored the protests and appeals from the Protestant masses. So, in a typical Bohemian custom of throwing renegade officials out of a window, the people seized two of the kings royal governors, their clerk, and threw them out of a Prague Castle window.
1648 Peace of Westphalia ends the Thirty Years’ War, and grants toleration to Reformed Faith.
1669 Johannes Naas born at Nordheim, Germany, early Brethren leader, alleged to have been tortured by solders for not accepting position in royal guards of the Prussian army because of his conviction that Christ was his only King
1670+ Pietism begins flourishing in Germany, Lutheran theologian Philip Jacob Spener circulates Pious Desires in 1675
1679 Alexander Mack born at Schriesheim in the Palatinate district of Germany, son of a miller, influenced heavily by Pietism through Ernst Christoph Hochmann, sells property seeking refuge from religious persecution, organizes a Gemeinde or congregation of believers, the Schwarzenau Brethren (Neu-T㴦er) on principles of Anabaptism and Pietism, emigrates to America from Rotterdam in 1729 on the ship Allen
1683 Mennonite families traveling from Krefeld, Germany, to Philadelphia found Germantown, accepting William Penn’s offer of freedom to refugees fleeing religious persecution
1690? Conrad Beissel born at Eberbach, Germany, emigrated to America, joined and split with Brethren, established his own experiment in communal mysticism with Cloistered Dwellings, at Ephrata, Pennsylvania
1695 Christopher Sauer I born at Ladenburg, Germany, emigrates to America, establishes German publishing company in Philadelphia, which rivals competition printing in English
1701 Yale University founded: “To plant and under ye Divine blessing to propagate in this Wilderness, the blessed Reformed, Protestant Religion, in ye purity of its Order and Worship..” It was named after Elihu Yale, a wealthy merchant who made a signification donation.
1702 Ernst Christoph Hochmann, leader of Separatist wing of Pietism, writes Confession Of Faith in Detmold castle as part of discharge agreement ... this document almost became a creed for the non-creedal Brethren
1706 Watershed year as Ernst Hochmann preached in the Palatinate district, the Elector (ruler) imprisoned or expelled most radical Pietists from his district, Alexander Mack family sold property and moved to small village of Schwarzenau (black meadow) in Wittgenstein district, a safe haven of for refugees of religious persecution
1708 Schwarzenau Brethren organized when eight believers under the leadership of Alexander Mack following principles of Anabaptism and Pietism, baptize themselves publicly and defiantly in the nearby Eder River, after "Counting the Cost" (Luke 14:28) of the ecclesiastical consequences of their politically illegal action ... labeled the Schwarzenau Neu-Täufer (new Baptists), to be distinguished from older Anabaptists groups, such as the Mennonites
1711 The Brethren community at Schwarzenau began a new mission with public and illegal baptisms in the Marienborn district, with leaders Peter Becker and Johannes Naas. Many from this community later moved to the Mennonite haven of Krefeld on the Rhine in 1715 to escape persecution for their beliefs
1719 Schwarzenau Brethren first arrive in colonial America at Philadelphia from Krefeld congregation under the leadership of Elder Peter Becker, following a disheartening experience of a member “marrying outside the faith” and the objections that it caused between members of the Krefeld congregation
1720 Brethren publish first hymnal near Schwarzenau at Berleberg, later seek refuge from religious persecution by migrating to Holland where Anna Margaretha Mack (wife of Alexander) dies
1723 The first Brethren congregation in America established at Germantown (near Philadelphia) with public baptisms in the nearby Wissahickon Creek on Christmas day, December 25 ... although Schwarzenau Brethren had arrived a few years earlier, no permanent congregation had been formed
1728 Conrad Beissel renounces affiliation with the Brethren, "gives back their baptism" with his own rebaptism while serving as leader of the Conestoga congregation, refused any further attempts at reconciliation
1729 Alexander Mack with other Brethren emigrate to America from Rotterdam on the ship Allen to Germantown, Martin Urner of Coventry congregation becomes first Brethren elder in America
1732 Conrad Beissel moves to Ephrata along the Cocalico Creek, where he establishes an experiment in communal living in Cloistered Dwellings emphasizing celibacy, mysticism, and separation from the world’s evil influences ... the Ephrata community gradually began to fall apart following his death in 1768, the few remaining dwellers incorporated the Seventh Day German Baptist Church in 1814 which survived until 1934 ... the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission assumed ownership of the grounds and buildings in 1941 with a program of careful restoration of the buildings
1735 Alexander Mack died February 19 at the age of fifty-five, body was later moved to Germantown in 1894 ... legacy remains as spiritual visionary, organizer of the Schwarzenau Brethren, and compassionate leader who unsuccessfully attempted to reconcile differences with Conrad Beissel
1735 Jonathan Edwards revival preaching initiated the Great Awakening from 1735-1745
1738 Christopher Sauer I and son establish German publishing company in Germantown, which rivaled English competition (especially Benjamin Franklin) in nearby Philadelphia, first published book was a hymnal set in German type and printed the next year (1739) for Conrad Beissel’s members at the Ephrata community
1742 First Annual Meeting convened by Martin Urner and George Adman Martin (possibly at Coventry) over the question of Brethren distinctiveness, following similar meetings of Moravian leader Count Zinzendorf who called for the universal coalition of all German sects in America
1742 George Frideric Handel premiered The Messiah on April 13, as a charity event to raise money that freed 142 men from debtor’s prison.
1755 Brethren expand their congregations and several families migrate south through Virginia, later into North Carolina, and west into Morrison’s Cove in western Pennsylvania where Brethren with the name Mack still reside
American Revolution or War of Independence begins April 19 in Lexington and Concord, following a British policy of mercantilism toward their own interests, and economically punishing Americans for non-support, boycotts, and rebellious acts with coercive regulatory legislation, designed to control and mute opposition:
    Militia Act (October, 1775) -- PA legislature forced young men to drill or face imprisonment
    Stamp Act (March, 1765) -- first direct tax on colonies to support the British military
    Towsend Acts (June, 1769) -- tax for support of British administration over the colonies
    Intolerable Acts (March, 1774) -- vengeful response to the Boston Tea Party
1778 Christopher Sauer II arrested, family property confiscated and sold at public auction because his biblical views enjoined him from taking oaths (renouncing King George III and swearing allegiance to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania).
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Brethren hold the first “recorded” Annual Meeting.
1782 Annual Meeting enjoined slaveholder Johann van Laschet to set free a slave woman and provide for the education of her children. See 1797
1795 Stonelick becomes the first Brethren congregation in Ohio
1797 Increased discussion about slavery results in Annual Meeting reaffirming the denominations opposition to slavery and further developed requirements for slaveholders who wished to become members. See 1782. Also see Brethren Encyclopedia : Minorities.
Industrial Revolution spreads to America from Great Britain following James Watts’ improvements to the Newcomen steam engine, allowing innovations and greater production in manufactured goods to heavily influence the Brethren’s mostly rural sub-culture, that enjoyed isolation as a means of ensuring adherence to beliefs
1804 First “dress” question presented to Annual Meeting
1834 Primitive Christianity published by Peter Nead
1836 Fraternity of German Baptists becomes the first officially adopted denominational name for purposes of creating deeds and finalizing property transfers - See 1871
1838 O Worship the King composed by Sir Robert Grant, and considered by many to be one of the greatest Christian hymns of all time. The words are robust and lofty, yet simple for the commoner to understand: “O Worship the King all glorious above! - O gratefully sing his power and his love - Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of days - Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.”
1848 Baptismal procedure formalized into written form (giving lasting influence into the next century) that also included church discipline. Candidates were asked to declare their acceptance of non-resistance, non-swearing, non-conformity, accept Matthew 18 as the basis for resolving grievances, and promise to "hear the church" in similar matters which also implied subordinating their personal will to the congregation (because it was guided by the Holy Spirit)
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Annual Meeting becomes a delegated body with no more than two representatives from each congregation
1850 Brethren migrated from Indiana to the Northwest Territories and settled in Oregon
1851 The monthly Gospel Visitor first published by Henry Kurtz from a spring house on a farm in Ohio
1854 First Brethren minister on the western coast when Daniel Leedy settles in the Oregon territory.
1854 Immaculate Conception of Mary established by Pope Pius IX in his pronouncement Ineffabilis Deus, which declared that Mary the mother of Jesus was given special grace to be sinless at the instant of her conception within the womb of her mother, at the moment of the infusion of her soul, and thus “preserved exempt from all stain of original sin.” Holy scripture is notably quiet regarding this article of faith, although some try to defend such by appealing to the special recognition of Mary by Gabriel the angel as being “highly favoured” by God in Luke 1:28.
1856 Annual Meeting delegates granted approval for establishing Districts that would be able to better minister to the specific congregations of their own geographical region
Civil War or War Between the States begins when Confederate armies launch cannon fire on Union troops in Fort Sumter at Charleston, S.C., on April 12, following the secession of South Carolina in December, 1860
1866 Annual Meeting institutes many new procedures for dealing with business, especially the channeling of questions from congregations through their respective district before forwarding to the yearly meeting
1867 Brethren Encyclopedia first printed by Henry Kurtz
1869 East-West Railroads Meet as the eastward building Central Pacific joins their tracks with the westward building Union Pacific, on May 10 at Promontory Point, Utah
1869 Miami Valley Petition containing Old Order grievances submitted to Annual Meeting, a compromise response with several modifications was unsatisfactory, and this started the Old Order movement
1869 Vatican Council I establishes papal infallibility when speaking Ex Cathedra (Latin: from the chair), or when speaking only on official matters of faith and church doctrine.
1870 The Pilgrim first published by Henry and John Brumbaugh at James Creek, Pennsylvania
1871 Denominational label German Baptist Brethren is officially accepted by Annual Meeting. Some congregations began using the GBB label following the decision of 1836. Adoption of 1871 seems to be more one of aligning to common usage than the result of any ground-swell petition for a new label.
1872 The Brethren’s Tune and Hymn Book is the first Brethren hymnal to incorporate musical notes along with the verse text
1873 First organ installed in a Brethren church in the Philadelphia congregation, a radical move since most congregations did not even approve of a piano inside a church
1875 Ordinary grape juice is permitted for the communion service by Annual Meeting, instead of the regular fermented wine
1876 Juniata College founded on April 17, the oldest of the six Brethren affiliated colleges. First classes met in a second-story room over a local printing shop. Unlike many other colleges at the time, Juniata was co-educational from the beginning. In 1879, classes were moved to Founders Hall on the present campus known as College Hill.
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First Brethren overseas missionary, Christian Hope, sent to Denmark, by the Northern Illinois District Conference. He and Daniel Fry traveled to Denmark in 1877-78 to organize the first overseas Brethren Church. This is significant because overseas church planting became the major focus of the Church of the Brethren from 1880 (with the creation of the Foreign and Domestic Mission Board) until after World War II (when the mission focus of the Brethren changed to socio-political action)
1876 Telephone invented when Alexander Graham Bell hears the voice of Watson his assistant on March 10
1877 Brethren’s Church Extension Union organized at Meyersdale, Pennsylvania, the first but unofficial Brethren mission agency, later renamed to Brethren’s Work of Evangelism
1879 Mount Morris College in Illinois and Ashland College in Ohio, open for their first semester of classes
1880 Miami Valley Petition is resubmitted by Old Order group to Annual Meeting and is rejected by delegates who also decide to use majority rule at each yearly meeting instead of a consensus vote
    This petition requested strict adherence to diminishing values that had formerly been a watermark of Brethren culture: simplicity, distinctive clothing, non-conformity with outside worldliness. Miami Valley Ohio elders further declared their unwillingness to accept additional progressive innovations. Petition was accepted by local district conference, however, Standing Committee entered a moderated “substitute” petition to Annual Meeting that contained statements such as "while we are conservative we are also progressive" that were entirely unacceptable to the Miami Valley elders.
1881 Miami Valley Petition resubmitted by disappointed Old Order group "directly" to Annual Meeting, was rejected because it did not first receive approval from the local district conference ... Old Order group met in November and decided to break from the authority of Annual Meeting, calling themselves the "Old" German Baptist Brethren
1882 "Old German Baptist Brethren" held their first Annual Meeting near Brookville, Ohio, established The Vindicator as official voice of publication
1882 Progressive leader Henry Holsinger, publisher of The Progressive Christian having been reprimanded by the 1882 Annual Meeting to refrain from “slanderous and schismatic articles” is disfellowshiped from Annual Meeting
1883 The Brethren Church founded June 6-7, in Dayton, Ohio, by Henry Holsinger and other Progressive sympathizers, official voice of publication The Progressive Christian is renamed Brethren Evangelist
1883 Brethren’s Publishing Company formed through the merger of Primitive Christian and Brethren at Work, and then began issuing Gospel Messenger which was adopted by Annual Meeting, this same year, as the official denominational voice, even though it continued as a privately owned company
1883 First congregation of the German Baptist Brethren organized in southern California at Covina
1884 The first practical Fountain Pen was patented by Lewis Waterman, an insurance salesman who greatly improved early fountain pen designs that were flawed in various ways. After damaging a valuable sales contract with a pen that leaked, he designed a nib with an air hole and grooves inside the feed mechanism which regulated the flow of ink.
1885 Mutual Aid Association is organized in April by the Northeast district of Kansas
1887 McPherson College founded in August and opened for classes the following year on September 5, 1888. It was the first of the Brethren affiliated colleges to include a biblical studies program as apart of its origination, and the first to request a direct relationship with the Church of the Brethren.
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Thirteen queries come to Annual Meeting regarding a change from the name German Baptist Brethren
1889 Johnstown Flood kills 2,209 people on May 31, including Brethren families and a few congregations
1889 Bridgewater College evolves from the Spring Creek Normal School in Virginia which was founded in 1880. The school was originally located at Spring Creek, Virginia, but moved a few miles east to Bridgewater in 1882, just in time for the fall semester. It was incorporated by the State of Virginia in 1884 and the label changed to Bridgewater College in 1889.
1889 Pilot was the first weekly Brethren youth magazine, renamed to The Inglenook in 1900, many recipe submissions were later compiled and distributed as The Inglenook Cook Book in 1901.
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Tobacco users may not be seated as Annual Meeting delegates
1890 First "women pastor" in any Brethren denomination, Mary Sterling (BC) is ordained at Masontown, Pennsylvania, on August 10, graduated from Monongahela College, later taught at Ashland College, and president of Sisters’ Society of Christian Endeavor (SSCE), who were also instrumental in her call to the ministry
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First fully supported pastors hired by a few congregations during the early 1890s
1891 La Verne College traces its founding to westward moving members of the Church of the Brethren under the original name of Lordsburg College, and renamed La Verne College when the surronding agricultural community of Lordsburg was changed to La Verne in 1917. Following gradual changes in size and mission that included specialized degree programs, the college was reorganized as the University of La Verne in 1977.
1892 Unfermented grape juice permitted for the communion service
1893 General Missionary and Tract Committee (GM&TC) created from the merger of General Church Erection and Missionary Committee and the Book and Tract Committee. GM&TC became the first “denominational” owners of the Brethren’s Publishing Company which later became known as Brethren Publishing House and then Brethren Press
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Sunday School Song Book and Missionary Hymn Book approved to supplement Brethren Hymnal
1894 Out-of-door pools and tanks approved for baptism.
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Members permitted to have photographs taken.
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Missionary Visitor begins publication
1895 Manchester College was incorporated from the former Roanoke Classical Seminary (United Brethren Church) founded in 1860 and moved to North Manchester, Indiana, in 1889 where it was acquired by representatives of the Church of the Brethren.
1895 First Brethren missionaries to India, Wilbur & Mary Emmert Stover and Bertha Ryan, established a mission center at Bulsar in January, within fifty years there were more than twenty congregations and over 8,000 members
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Lifting offerings during worship service is accepted
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Individual saucers tolerated at communion instead of eating from a common bowl
1896 Restrictions against Sunday School relaxed
1897 Brethren Publishing House formed (April 1) after General Missionary and Tract Committee members developed a plan to raise money to purchase their own stock from the former Brethren’s Publishing Company, and transfer ownership to the denomination. After more than forty years of unofficial private Brethren publications, the German Baptist Brethren finally have their own publishing company
1897 College congregations permitted to baptize students without the consent of the home congregation
1898 Annual Meeting minutes revised to eliminate obsolete or redundant rulings
1899 A History of the German Baptist Brethren in Europe and America published by Martin Grove Brumbaugh who would later be elected governor of Pennsylvania. This was revolutionary for the Brethren whose Anabaptist heritage and theology eschewed participation in government
1899 Brethren who raise tobacco may not be seated as delegates to Annual Meeting
1900 Elizabethtown College opens for classes after several years of organizing
1901 The Inglenook Cook Book publishes numerous recipes that were originally submitted to the first weekly Brethren youth magazine. It was called Pilot when first issued in 1889.
1901 Non-Brethren may attend Brethren council meetings
1902 Indoor baptistries permitted when absolutely necessary
1905 Bethany Bible School opens for classes October 3, later renamed Bethany Theological Seminary
1906 Missionary work started in mainland China by the General Missionary and Tract Committee, two years later Franklin & Anna Crumpacker and George & Blanche Hilton and Emma Horning would leave for service
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Annual Meeting delegates vote to change the denominational name to Dunker Brethren but fail to reach the necessary two-thirds majority
1906 Instant coffee was invented by George C. Washington, a British chemist living in Guatemala.
1908 Church of the Brethren officially adopted as the new denominational label of the former German Baptism Brethren at its bicentennial celebration on June 9 at the Des Moines, Iowa, Annual Conference. In the wake of the 1880 schisms of The Brethren Church and the Old German Baptist Brethren, this change now reflected the desire of the large central group to establish their own identity.
1908 Annual Conference acknowledges "material changes" in the Brethren system of ministry but refuses to adopt a plan for salarying ministers
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The General Missionary and Tract Committee also became known as the General Mission Board
1910 Annual Meeting approves a sweeping reaffirmation of the existing minutes on dress but appoints a new committee to draft a concise summary of the church’s position
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Blue Ridge College is created from the former Maryland Collegiate Institute and then moves to New Windsor, Maryland, where it is later purchased in 1944 by the Brethren Service Commission
1911 Traditional "garb" of the Brethren is no longer enforced as a test of membership. Wording of committee report to Annual Meeting, specifically section 9 ("until they see the beauty of making a larger sacrifice for Christ") implies that disciplinary action will be muted and the traditional plain attire becomes optional. This change allowed congregations to establish their own standards of permissiveness and contributed to a denominational lack of uniformity
1911 Pennsylvania Eastern District splits into separate progressive and conservative districts
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Congregations may pay a minister a full-time salary while still retaining non-salaried ministers
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Peace advocates succeed in lobbying Annual Conference to establish a Peace Committee
1912 Political office holding and voting tolerated, even though it violates the appropriate role of the Christian
1913 Committee on Dress reform appointed by Annual Conference
World War I begins when Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Habsburg (Holy Roman Empire) throne is shot by a Serbian Nationalist, this also meant an end to a Royal Family that had ruled Europe from 1493, including Charles V of Reformation fame
1915 Martin G. Brumbaugh inaugurated as governor of Pennsylvania, championed passage of child labor laws, first Brethren with a Ph.D, superintendent of Philadelphia schools, appointed first commissioner of education for Puerto Rico by President Mckinley, author of A history of the German Baptist Brethren in Europe and America
1915 Applicants already baptized by trine immersion do not require Brethren rebaptism
1916 Outdoor ministry gathers enthusiasm in various Church of the Brethren districts as “summer assemblies” become the earliest form of the modern Church Camp
1917 Pentecost abandoned as a time for holding Annual Conference. Brethren previously desired holding their annual event to coincide with the observance of Pentecost, that the Holy Spirit might also "come down" upon delegates and spiritually fill them with Divine wisdom for making important decisions
1917 Congregations may secure full-time salaried pastors with majority support of the Church Council
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Individuals may openly express an interest in becoming a minister
1918 Specially convened Annual Conference in Goshen, Indiana, passes assertive statement against military service. It was later withdrawn under pressure from the US government
1920 Women granted the right to vote when the Nineteenth Amendment passes three-quarters of the states on August 26
1920 Musical instruments authorized for worship services on the provision that their usage does not disturb the peace of the congregation
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Restrictions against church bells, benedictions, and pulpits also repealed
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Members may hold political office. They may also belong to lodges, so long as "no gospel principles" are violated
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Wearing a necktie should not be a test of membership
1921 Old Order German Baptist Brethren created from Old German Baptist Brethren principally over the ownership and usage of automobiles
1921 General Ministerial Board (COB) created to administer the distribution of ministers
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Restrictions against life insurance, lightning rods, temperance petitions, patents on inventions, rewards for recovering property, and a single minister doing all the public praying repealed
1922 Annual Conference grants women the right to be licensed into the ministry, but not to be ordained with the same status as men. See 1958.
1923 First Brethren worship service in Nigeria when Stover Kulp, Albert Helser, and thirty-three Nigerians conduct an open air service under a spreading tamarind tree on March 17 near the village of Garkida
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Camp Harmony becomes the first church camp to be owned by a Church of the Brethren agency when Pennsylvania Western District purchases Harmony Conference grounds near Johnstown
1923 Revised version of the Brethren Card accepted by Annual Conference for use by churches with the proviso that it not be considered an official creed
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First publication of the Brethren Pastor’s Manual
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Educational Blue Book published, a survey of Brethren educational accomplishment
1924 Dress Reform Committee, Peace Committee, and Temperance and Purity Committee merged into General Welfare Board
1925 First public demonstration of a television system developed by Charles Francis Jenkins transmitted an image of a revolving windmill from Anacostia, Maryland, to Washington, D.C. on June 13
1925 Management of the Bethany Bible School goes directly under Annual Conference
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Hymnal - Church of the Brethren published; affectionately called the "Blue" hymnal (because of it’s cover), 499 songs plus invocations, offertories, litanies, benedictions, and responsive readings
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Annual Conference advises more able congregations to hire full-time pastors, and make a practice of collecting weekly offerings
1926 Dunkard Brethren Church organized, separated from the Church of the Brethren when some members desiring to petition the 1925 Annual Conference are rebuffed by Standing Committee. Issues of protest concerned the professional ministry, lack of church discipline, and conformity to the world
1926 Distinctive doctrines reaffirmed in principle but enforcing them by discipline is rejected
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Brethren Young People’s Department (BYPD) is created
1927 District Ministerial Boards given jurisdiction over a variety of matters formerly overseen by the District Elders’ Bodies
1928 Pastoral installation service adopted
1929 Great Depression symbolically begins with the Stock Market crash on October 29
1931 Congregational plan of membership adopted wherein congregations may accept or reject any Brethren who move within their geographical boundaries, regardless of whether they were certified as members in good standing by their previous congregations
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Bethany Bible School is renamed Bethany Biblical Seminary
1932 Different classes of membership recognized: active, inactive, resident, and non-resident
1934 Ephrata Cloister purchased by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
1937 Last statement on church discipline adopted by Annual Conference
1939 Heifers For Relief Committee formed as a volunteer group to pursue a vision of Dan West to feed the world’s hungering people, gained national acceptance in 1942, with the first shipment of heifers leaving for Puerto Rico on June 14, 1944
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Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches organized, separated from The Brethren Church over the future of Ashland College
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"Old Brethren German Baptists" organized near Bradford, Ohio
1939 Brethren Service Committee created to: assist “”relief and rehabilitation” of war affected people, direct “conscientious objectors” to perform civilian service, manage volunteers in world service projects, supply food and humanitarian aid
1940 Conscientious Objectors first given recognition for beliefs and exemption from military service
World War II begins for the United States when Japan bombs Pearl Harbor on December 6, European conflict begins on December 11, when Hitler declares war on United States (England and France declared war on Germany two full years earlier on September 3, 1939)
1941 Church of the Brethren joins the Federal Council of Churches (later known as World Council of Churches)
1942 Heifer Project becomes an official program of the Brethren Service Committee
1944 Brethren Service Commission acquires campus of former Blue Ridge College at New Windsor, Maryland, establishes a center of operations for world service projects, including a Conference Center (now defunct) and depot for processing clothing for overseas shipment ... also home to On Earth Peace Assembly
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Membership certificate revised to drop the words "member in good standing"
1945 First nuclear bomb dropped in wartime over Hiroshima, Japan, August 6 at 8:15 a.m. (Japanese time)
1946 Church World Service created through several denominations to: "Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, comfort the aged, shelter the homeless," they provided over 11 million pounds of food and medical supplies to war torn Europe. Later operations in peace time focused on disaster relief
1947 General Mission Board, Board of Christian Education, General Education Board, and General Ministerial Board are consolidated in the new General Brotherhood Board
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Church World Service, Lutheran World Relief, and the National Catholic Welfare Program establish a joint community hunger appeal through C.R.O.P. (Christian Rural Overseas Program)
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Congregation Official Board’s requested to cede control over its program and financing to a new Church Board consisting of that congregation’s lay leadership
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New Plan of Brotherhood Organization adopted wherein Elders lose exclusive right to serve on Standing Committee and as conference moderator, laypersons given right to serve on Standing Committee and on General Brotherhood Board
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Annual deacon visit no longer an official duty
1948 Church of the Brethren joins the World Council of Churches as a charter member.
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Church of the Brethren Youth Fellowship (CBYF) evolves from the former Brethren Young People’s Department (BYPD).
1948 Brethren Volunteer Service created as a service agency to train and channel enthusiasm into “...advocating justice ...working for peace ...serving basic human needs ...maintaining the integrity of creation.”
1948 Israel declares itself a nation on May 14, 1948. Britain governed the land and was charged with creating a Jewish State under the Palestine Mandate, but after years of bloodshed with Israeli guerrilla bands (Haganah, Irgun) and weary from World War II, handed the issue to the United Nations in 1947. As soon as the British left, the new State was immediately attacked by Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. The dedicated Arabs were poorly organized, uncoordinated, lacked sufficient military training, and no match for the Haganah (later, Israeli Defence Force). This territorial issue would command world attention for decades.
1950 Church of the Brethren participates as a founding member of the National Council of Churches
1951 The Brethren Hymnal published; affectionately called the "Red" hymnal (because of its cover), 693 songs plus litanies, invocations, offertories, benedictions, and unison/responsive readings
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Office of Elder in Charge purged from the Brethren plan of organization and replaced by Moderator
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Closed communions officially renounced so that members of other evangelical denominations may participate in the Brethren Love Feast
1952 Selective Service Act provides for the deferment of Conscientious Objectors through a program of Alternative Service, to perform necessary work in a civilian setting
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Women permitted to receive full ordination (1949 Query). See 1922, 1958
1957 Brethren Publishing House is renamed Brethren Press
1958 250th anniversary of Schwarzenau Brethren, with celebration ceremonies at Germantown, Pennsylvania, Schwarzenau, Germany, and Annual Conference in Des Moines, Iowa
1958 Mandatory rebaptism of new members transferring from another Christian denomination rescinded in favor of acceptance of a “Letter of Transfer” only, stating the individuals current good standing membership status. Prior to this landmark decision, members desiring to join the Church of the Brethren from another Christian denomination were required to be rebaptized by trine immersion, even though they retained good standing membership status in another denomination
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Women ministers given full ordination with the same status as men. See 1952, 1922
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Love Feast and Communion opened to members of any Christian denomination. This was a sweeping departure from the traditional service wherein only Brethren could participate. Additionally, several congregations still practiced “Examination” of its own members to determine if they were worthy to receive communion, for which a member needed to affirm harmony with God and fellow Brethren in the presence of a deacon or Elder.
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Sunday morning Bread and Cup communion approved as an alternative to the traditional three part Love Feast which includes the meal, feetwashing, and the sacraments of bread and cup.
1959 Brethren Revival Fellowship organized at Ocean Grove, New Jersey, following Annual Conference, as a loyal concern movement within the Church of the Brethren. About fifty men and women gathered to discuss their mutual feelings over the large shift in direction that the denomination had taken at the previous Conference in 1958. These more conservative brothers and sisters perceived the notable changes of the previous year would undermine the traditional heritage of the denomination. Over the next few years, they held informational meetings in various locations around the nation and began publishing the newsletter BRF Witness in 1966.
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Dedication of new buildings for Church of the Brethren National Offices at Elgin, Illinois, on April 9
1961 Peace Corp established by John F. Kennedy, heavily resembles Brethren Volunteer Service
1962 Brethren Colleges Abroad is created to “encourage students to become inter-culturally competent in order to be more responsible citizens of their local and worldwide communities”
1963 Bethany Biblical Seminary relocates from Chicago to Oakbrook, Illinois, and renamed Bethany Theological Seminary
1964 Annual Conference grants official permission to remarry divorced persons
1965 The word “gospel” is removed from the January issue of the denominational publication Gospel Messenger
1967 Office of Elder is discontinued by Annual Conference with grandfather clause for present office holders
1968 General Brotherhood Board reorganizes and drops the culturally sensitive word Brotherhood
1968 Tet Offensive - January 18 through May 20 - is the high point of the Viet Nam war. It was the longest period of continuous fighting with the greatest loss of human lives in the entire conflict. This became a turning point in the war, that later resulted in the United States developing a plan of gradual withdrawal from Southeast Asia
1969 Apollo 11 landed on the Moon: 20 July 1969 UT 20:17:40 (04:17:40 p.m. EDT)
1970 Church of North India created through several denominations including the Church of the Brethren
1971 Brethren peace advocate Ted Studebaker killed by Viet Cong on April 26, while serving as a conscientious objector in Viet Nam through the Vietnam Christian Service (VNCS)
1974 On Earth Peace Assembly created at Brethren Service Center in New Windsor through Michael R. Zeigler
1976 Annual Conference removes the word discipline from the Manual of Organization and Polity
1979 “Unity in Diversity” endorsed as a basic Brethren principle following Annual Conference paper on Biblical Inspiration and Authority, viewing diversity as God’s pattern in creation
1983 The Brethren Encyclopedia published by a consortium of Schwarzenau Brethren denominations
1983 Human Sexuality paper issued by Annual Conference
1984 Abortion paper issued by Annual Conference
1986 EcuNet was developed by the VXR Corporation, the first dial-up online service to exchange information between member denominations which includes the Church of the Brethren (did not begin as a part of the Internet)
1990+ Public awareness of Internet accessibility mushrooms with businesses scrambling to get their unique domain names and corporate images online. Internet Service Providers (ISP) such as CompuServe (1979), Prodigy (1984), and AOL (1985) make access to cyberspace possible for families and businesses. Although some providers had been online for several years, it was in the mid-1990’s that businesses and the general public became aware of the Internet’s potential. By the year 2000, the Internet would become an accepted means of business communication from hotels, airports, libraries, and coffee shops
1991 War against Iraq to liberate Kuwait (called Desert Storm) began with an aerial bombardment of Bagdad on January 17. This was followed by a ground assault one month later that resulted in a cease-fire, which permitted the Iraqi government to remain intact. A second military invasion to remove Iraqi leadership began on March 20, 2003, resulting in the total occupation of Iraq by coalition forces led by the United States
1992 Brethren World Assembly first held (Elizabethtown College) with theme “Christ is Lord: Affirming Our Faith Heritage.” It also commemorated the 250th anniversary of the first Brethren Annual Meeting in 1742
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Hymnal: A Worship Book published having a greater emphasis on more popular and contemporary folk tunes while still incorporating many older favorites
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Conservative Grace Brethren Churches International separates from Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches over doctrinal issues
1994 Bethany Theological Seminary relocates from Oakbrook, Illinois, sharing facilities with the Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Indiana
1995 General Board investigates a process of structural, mission, and program redesign, Redesign & Steering Committee develops proposal for streamlining the functionality of the General Board and its employees
1995 Internet Discussion becomes available with a UseNet newsgroup in October, list servers COB-L / COB-YYA in November, and History & Genealogy the next year in May, 1996
1996 Church of the Brethren Network or COB-NET, the first national COB web site goes online February 2, originally created as an independent mission project to offer Brethren flexible Internet access to Brethren specific information regarding districts, churches, agencies, colleges, and church camps. Also gives Brethren an opportunity to technologically reach the global arena for Jesus Christ
1996 First exposure of Annual Conference (Cincinnati, Ohio) to the World Wide Web with daily online specific posting of news, bulletins, journals, sermons, and general information through COB-NET
1997 Official General Board web site goes online in December after working for months in amicable cooperation with COB-NET which had been hosting numerous General Board homepages
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Brethren volunteers assist the rebuilding of Butler Chapel A.M.E. Church in Orangesburg, South Carolina, following a rash of church burnings
1998 General Board Redesign becomes effective in January after requesting approval from Annual Conference the previous year. Congregational Life Teams formed to enhance communication and resourcing between the General Board, Districts and Congregations
1999 Ministerial Leadership (2014) paper accepted by Annual Conference (Milwaukee) which completes nearly ten years of study, to work towards uniform implementation and consistency in each district, and address various minor questions such as ministers entering the Church of the Brethren from other denominations
2000 Annual Conference goers adjusted to a new schedule (Kansas City) with the opening worship beginning on Saturday evening instead of Tuesday
2001 Annual Conference Council established (Baltimore) to mitigate administrative and procedural conflicts arising from the General Board Redesign of 1997, and further serve to relieve delegate overburden by interpreting polity and resolving misunderstandings between reporting agencies. Includes current Officers, the past Moderator, another former Moderator, and one District Executive
2008 300th Anniversary Celebration of the Schwarzenau Brethren with ceremonies in congregations and districts plus a final celebration event held in Schwarzenau, Germany
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Denominational structure change merged the former General Board, the Association of Brethren Caregivers, and the Annual Conference Council into a new body called the Mission & Ministry Board
2009 Congregational Life Teams eliminated and Washington Office closed as the Mission & Ministry Board responds to growing financial challenges that necessitate the reduction of operating expenses to core ministries
2012 New Windsor Conference Center closed due to financial issues because revenue failed to achieve sustainability due to limited facilities and too remote from other major attractions. See 1944
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Delegates of the 2012 Annual Conference were seated at round tables for business and discussion instead of long rows of connected chairs. Several polity changes by delegates resulted in: discontinuing the Committee on Interchurch Relations (a body founded in 1968 to foster conversation and cooperation with other denominations); and accepting recommendations of the Revitalization Task Force which released Program & Arrangements Committee from a strict geographical rotation for Annual Conference locations in favor of a “sound fiscal stewardship” from a handful of States.
2015 Puerto Rico became the denomination’s 24th district.
2019 Annual Conference suspends all new business for this year in preference for the Compelling Vision process.
2020 Annual Conference was cancelled because of the pandemic COVID-19 (coronavirus). This year was the first time in 233 years of recorded meetings that Conference was suspended. No other issue prevented this yearly assembling of the Brethren, not World Wars I and II, or the Great Depression, nor even during the Civil War years. Online virtual events provided Brethren with the opportunity to continue seeking God’s will during this troubled period.
2020 Covenant Brethren Church disaffiliates from the Church of the Brethren and formally creates an entirely new denomination. After years of protracted discontent mainly over Annual Conference failure to uphold Biblical Authority and Scriptural discipline, numerous congregations totaling over four thousand members secede from the Church of the Brethren. This is the largest departure of Brethren since the schisms of the Nineteenth Century.

Grateful acknowledgement is extended to the following works:
  BRETHREN SOCIETY - Carl F. Bowman, John Hopkins University Press, 1995. Expressed permission granted to utilize “Chronology of Change,” pp. 419-423.
  BRETHREN ENCYCLOPEDIA - Volumes I II III, Lakeside Press, 1983
  BRETHREN GROUPS to more clearly differentiate between the various Brethren denominations
  HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION - Volume II, Prentice-Hall, 1967.
  WIKIPEDIA is a free online Encyclopedia

“For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.”
Psalms 90:4

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