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United Brethren

fratrum, church, missionary, society and unitas

UNITED BRETHREN, called also MO RAVIANS, a religious sect or society, the Unitas Fratrum, the membership of which was made up at first of Moravians or Bohemians, descendants of the first followers of John Huss (q.v.). A party of Moravians or Hussites, flee ing from persecution in their native countries, were, 1722, permitted by the Count von Zinzen dorf (q.v.) to settle on his estate, Berthelsdorf in Saxony. Berthelsdorf, new-named Herrn hut, has ever since been the principal seat of the society; hence the name Herrnhuters by which they are known in Germany. Their pa tron devoted his whole estate to the propagation of Christianity through the ministrations of the Brethren and was the society's chief director and most zealous missioner and evangelist till his death. In Germany they are recognized by the several governments as Protestants attached to the Confession of Augsburg; but they claim for their bishops apostolic succession through the Waldensian Church; their bishops, how ever, exercise no jurisdiction, their principal function being that of conferring ministerial order. Every congregation is governed by a board of trustees and a board of elders; the whole society or church is governed by synods composed of bishops and deputies of clergy and laity; in the intervals between synods the af fairs of the Unitas Fratrum are managed by a conference of elders. There are communities and settlements of the United Brethren in various Christian countries, as Germany, Hol land, Britain, North America and in heathen lands. The Brethren early entered the field of

foreign missionary labor, and though numeri cally the society is not to be compared with the other religious bodies which are represented in that work, it has perhaps the most complete missionary organization in the world. The island of Saint Thomas in the West Indies was the first field of their missionary zeal 1732; the following year they planted a mission in Green land, the fruits of which have been most abun dant; their missionary stations are found also in South Africa, Tibet, Labrador, Alaska and other heathen countries. In 1740 the first com munities of the United Brethren were estab lished in Pennsylvania, and in that colony they founded the three towns, Bethlehem, Nazareth and Lititz. From these centres went forth a large number of devoted Christian men and women who labored with great success among the colonists and the various Indian tribes. At present the American province of the Moravian Church or Unitas Fratrum is divided into two districts, the northern district with its seat at Bethlehem, Pa., the southern with its seat at Salem, N. C. Each of these districts has its own synod. In 1917 the Unitas Fratrum or Moravian Church had in the United States 144 ministers, 126 churches and 20,859 communi cants. The Union Bohemians and Moravians had in addition for ministers, 21 churches and 1,000 communicants.