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United Brethren of Christ

church, churches, ministers and boehm

UNITED BRETHREN OF CHRIST, a denomination of Evangelical Christians which, though not organized and named till 1800, had its origin in 1766 during a revival of religion i among the immigrant German population of Pennsylvania and northern Maryland under the ministrations of Philip William Otterbein, a missionary of the German Reformed Church, and Martin Boehm, a minister of the Mennon ite sect. By these leaders preachers were licensed and conferences assembled, but not until 1800 did the movement take the form of a church or assume a distinctive title; in that year at a conference held in Frederick County, Md., the title of United Brethren in Christ was assumed and Otterbein and Boehm were chosen bishops. The sect is in no wise related either to the Unitas Fratrum, though that society is also officially styled United Brethren ; nor to Methodism. Otterbein and Boehm were preach ing the distinctive doctrines of the United Brethren in Christ before there were any Meth odists in this country. The theology of the church is Armenian; its form of worship is simple, marked by congregational singing and participation of all members, male and female, in the devotional exercises. The ministers are appointed to their charges by the bishop and presiding elders at an annual conference; the time limit of the pastoral relation is three years, but may be extended indefinitely by consent of the conference. Since 1889 women are admitted

to the ministry on the same terms as men. Orig inally the religious services were conducted in the German language: at present only in a small number of the churches is that language em ployed. The church has a theological seminary and a publishing house at Dayton, Ohio, and in other places nine colleges and several academies. Its missionary society conducts home missions, also missions in Germany and in South Africa. In 1917 the number of ministers of this church in the United States was 1,937, of churches 3,577, of communicants 345,705. Through a schism in 1889 the church lost a portion of its membership, and the seceders formed a separate organization called United Brethren (Old Con stitution). This body had in 1917 310 ministers, 515 churches and 21,172 communicants, this be ing a falling off of over 28,000 communicants in seven years. Presumably many of them re turned to the parent body, which gained over 60,000 in the same period. '