Church of the United Brethren
earliest roots of this evangelical church go back to a revival meeting in 1767
when Phillip Otterbein, a Reformed preacher, embraced a Mennonite preacher,
Martin Boehm, and cried, “We are brethren!.” This was a time in American history
referred to as the “Great Awakening,” an extended period of religious interest,
foment, and experimentation. The Church of the United Brethren in Christ
formally organized in 1800, and adopted a Confession of Faith in 1815. It was
the first truly American religious sect not transplanted from Europe, although
it incorporated many ideas from John Calvin, Charles Wesley, and other European
Protestant theologians. It began among the German communities in Pennsylvania
and Maryland, but its egalitarian principles quickly made it popular with the
peoples who were settling the Midwest.
Early in its history, the church took a strong stand against what it judged to be the two most pernicious evils of the time, slavery and secret societies such as the Freemasons and Know Nothings. These organizations gave their members unfair advantages in business and politics, and were sometimes responsible for prejudice and violence against immigrants and minorities in the early years of the United States. Because many Midwestern pioneers were themselves immigrants, this stand against elitist organizations garnered much attention and support.
Church of the United Brethren in Christ