The Gist of the Church of the Brethren

The following document is from 22 February 1936. It is included for historical reference to show that some of the concerns of the BRF were in evidence over twenty years before the organization of the BRF in 1959. Not all the concerns listed in this paper are the concerns of the BRF today or even in 1959. This largely mirrors the concerns of the Dunkard Brethren, who withdrew from the Church of the Brethren in 1926. Many sympathized with the concerns of the Dunkard Brethren, but thought the Church could be revived, and so did not withdraw in 1926. This is a slightly edited version (the Bible books are spelled out in full.)



For many years there has been a feeling on the part of a great Many brethren and sisters that the Church of the Brethren is departing more and more from the Word and Spirit of the Master and the faith of our fathers.

Some of these faithful brethren and sisters of both Eastern and Southern Pennsylvania simultaneously petitioned Annual Meeting of 1926, held at Lincoln, Nebraska, through the District Meetings of both State Districts, to make a strong effort to regain the unanimity of faith and practice in the church. The Annual Meeting considered their petition and gave the following answer. See pages 11 and 12 of 1926 A. M. Minutes.

Realizing that in many ways the members of our beloved church are prone to drift into worldly thought and conduct, and desiring to do all possible to keep our church true to the teachings of our Lord and his Word, therefore the Annual Meeting of 1926 reaffirms some of her fundamental teachings and urges renewed faithfulness to them.

1. That all our ministers and missionaries be true to the declaration of principles and purposes as required of all delegates to Annual Meeting.

2. That we continue our opposition to our members belonging to secret societies and oath-bound organizations, and insist that pastors and elders do not receive into, or hold in church membership, those who are members of such organizations.

3. That elders and pastors be faithful in teaching the simple life; that our members refrain from wearing immodest dress and jewelry and from worldly amusements. We decide that the worldly custom of women bobbing their hair is contrary to Scripture and Christian modesty, and urge all sisters to adorn themselves as women professing godliness.

4. That. all members make a united effort to have the family altar erected in every home; that worship in our churches be made as spiritual as possible; and that the Lord’s Prayer and the kneeling posture in prayer be not neglected.

5. That we renew our vows of love for the Church of the Brethren and for one another, and urge that the Christian salutation of the holy kiss, that great symbol of Christian love, be properly observed.

We then thought our hopes and prayers realized, but now, after waiting patiently for ten years, we find even still greater departures and still greater disregard of our aim to uphold the teachings of Jesus and his Apostles as set forth in the New Testament.

Therefore, in harmony with said answer of Annual Meeting, we unite our efforts to contend earnestly for “that faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

We wish to preserve the church which we love so dearly, and which has meant so much to us and to our forefathers, and which, we pray and hope, shall mean the same to our children. For these reasons. we unite in this effort to maintain our faith in the New Testament, which is the only creed of the Church of the Brethren.

We humbly invoke the blessings of Almighty God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit on this effort to adhere to the teachings of Jesus and his holy apostles.

We pray for grace and favor in the sight of God and man, to preserve inviolate our true Brethren heritage in doctrine and in practice, and thus to pass it on to others as it came to us. AMEN.


It is important to understand what we mean by the word “church.” It is derived from the Greek word “Ecclesia”; and means “called out”, a people called out from worldlyism and converted unto God by the hearing of the Gospel of Jesus, which was proclaimed by himself and founded upon his teachings; that body of believers that cannot be moved, and of which Jesus said. “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18), and which was founded by him during his personal ministry on earth, with himself as the head; that band of faithful people who, in early times, suffered the severest persecutions, in which many of the most faithful sealed their faith in God by shedding their blood; that body of people whose Shepherd preserved faithful representatives of her doctrines through the Middle Ages and strengthened her in the years of the great Reformation, and until she resumed her ancient form, in the year 1708, at Schwarzenau, Germany, and of which Alexander Mack, Sr., wrote saying: “We have, indeed, no new church, nor any new laws; but in simplicity and truth we desire to remain with the old church which Christ instituted through his blood, and to follow the commandment which was from the beginning” (Mack’s Writings, p. 138); that body which we know at the present time as the Church of the Brethren.


We are glad to acknowledge Jehovah God in all our ways (Proverbs 3:6). Civil government is a divine institution, and carries with it restraint on the one hand, direction and protection on the other (Romans 13:1-7). The church of Jesus Christ is the highest Divine Institution on earth. Matthew 11:13-19; 1 Timothy 3:15. She is a body of Christians of which Jesus is the head. Romans 12:4, 5; Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 2:20-22. She is the successor of Jesus Christ, the divine mediation between earth and heaven. (Matthew 18:18). the perpetual re-incarnation of the Word of God. John 1:4; Colossians 3:16.

The church is the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16); the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13); the branches of the true vine (John 15:5); the habitation of God (Ephesians 2:19, 20); the bride of Christ (Revelation 21:2-9).

The Church is a “called out” people, as Israel was called out of Egypt. Thus all of God’s children are called out of the Egypt of sin and darkness and bondage, through the Red Sea of baptism, by the leadership of Jehovah. 1 Corinthians 10:1, 2; Hebrews 11:29.

The Church is a sacrificing people and not conformed to this world, but a transformed people from within outward, to “prove that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1,2.

The Church is a “separate” people. 2 Corinthians 6:14-16.

The Church is clothed with authority and power (Matthew 10:14; 28:17-20; John 20:19-23: Acts 1:8), to give instruction on any specific issue and to enforce discipline (Matthew 18:15; 28:20; Acts 15:13-31).

Discipline has often failed because of the scolding, stinging, “get even” spirit, instead of a loving, parental brotherly spirit (Galatians 6:1, 2). The object of discipline is restoration rather than excommunication (Matthew 18:17).

The Church has the power to restore the penitent ones and to excommunicate the insubordinate, erring ones. This is a vital matter, and should be handled with diligence and forebearance (Galatians 6:1, 2; 5:22-26). On chastening see Proverbs 13:24; 23:13; Daniel 10:12). Disobedience to the Church, therefore, is the only gospel reason for excommunication from fellowship. Thus it was that Adam and Eve were turned out of the garden., Thus saith the Lord, “If he neglect to hear the Church” (Matthew 18:17).

(What We Believe)

We firmly believe, accept and teach the fundamental evangelical doctrines of the inspired Word of God; the personality of the Holy Ghost; the virgin birth of Jesus; the Deity of Christ; the sin pardoning value of his atonement; his resurrection from the tomb; his ascension and personal return; and the resurrection of the just and the unjust. John 5:28, 29; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

We observe the following New Testament rites: baptism of penitent believers by trine immersion for the remission of sins (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38); feet-washing (John 13: 1-20; 1 Timothy 5:10); love feast (Luke 22:20: John 13:4; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34; Jude 12) communion (Matthew 26:26-30); the Christian salutation (Romans 16:16; Acts 20:37); the proper appearance in worship (1 Corinthians 11:2-16; also call careful attention to verse 5 of the eleventh chapter of First Corinthians,which says: “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered, dishonoreth her head”; the anointing for healing in the name of the Lord (James 5:13-18; Mark 6:13); the laying on of hands (Acts 8:17; 19:6; 1 Timothy 4:14). These rites are representative of spiritual facts which pertain to the lives of true believers, and as such are essential factor in the development of the Christian life.

We emphasize daily devotion for the individual and family worship for the home (Ephesians 6:18-20; Philippians 4:8, 9); the stewardship of time, talents. and money (Matthew 25:14-30); taking care of the fatherless, widows, poor, sick, and aged (Acts 6:1-7).

We stress, teach and practice simplicity in dress, customs, manners and ways of life that are consistent with the non-conforming teachings of the Gospel. (Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:15).

We oppose, on scriptural grounds: War and the taking of human life (Matthew 5:21-26, 43, 44; Romans 12:19-21; Isaiah 53:7-12); violence in personal and industrial controversy (Matthew 7:12; Romans 13:8-10); intemperance in all things (Titus 2:12; Galatians 5:19-26; Ephesians 5:18) going to law, especially against our Christian brethren (1 Corinthians 6:1-9); divorce and remarriage of divorced persons (Matthew 5:32; however, separation is allowed for one reason, as found in Matthew 5:32); every form of oath (Matthew 5:33-37; James 5:12); membership in secret, oath-bound societies (2 Corinthians 6:14-18:); games of chance and sinful amusements (1 Thessalonians 5:22; 1 Peter 2:11; Romans 12:17); extravagant and immodest dress (1 Timothy 2:8-10; 1 Peter 3:1-6).

We labor earnestly, in harmony with the Great Commission, for the evangelization of the world, for the conversion of men to Jesus Christ, and for the realization of the life of Jesus Christ in every believer (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15, 16; 2 Corinthians 3:18).

We maintain that the ministry of the church is not a professional office, but a Divine call by the Holy Spirit, through the church (Acts 1:23-26); that the free ministry or supported ministry is conducive to the preaching of the unadulterated Word of God; and that a plurality of ministers is desirable, as is evidenced by the church at Antioch, which had at least five ministers.

We hold that the New Testament is our only creed, in harmony with which the above brief statement is made.


We believe .that the present tendencies to worldlyism in the church are due to the unfaithfulness and laxity of the church in carrying out these Annual Meeting Minutes, as listed below:

1. That the brethren wear plain clothing. That the coat with the standing collar be world, especially by the ministers and deacons.

2. That the brethren wear their hair and beard in a plain and sanitary manner. That the mustache alone be forbidden.

3. That the sisters attire themselves In plainly-made garments, free from ornaments and unnecessary appendages. That plain bonnets and hoods be the headdress, and that the hair be worn in a becoming Christian manner.

4. That the veil be worn in time of praying and prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:1-16, R. V.). The plain cap is regarded as meeting the requirements of scriptural teaching on :he subject. (It is wise to stand directly on verse 5, also 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

5. That gold for ornament and jewelry of all kinds shall not be worn (1 Timothy 1:9; 1 Peter 3:3),

6. That no brother be installed into the office of minister or deacon who will not pledge himself to observe and teach the order of dress.

7. That no brother or sister serve as delegate to District or Annual Meeting, nor be appointed on committees to enforce discipline, who does not observe the order of dress.

8. That it is the duty of the official body of the church to teach faithfully and intelligently the simple, Christian life in dress; and bishops, who are the shepherds of the churches, are required to teach and to see to it that the simple life in general is taught and observed in their respective charges.

In view of paragraphs 2 and 7, our hearts are burdened to behold what was once a plain sister, now with her hair cut and fashioned, short-sleeved, jewel-bedecked, a fashionable woman. Brethren, in a number of cases, have the “put on” and “put off” feeling to suit the hour. The fashionable necktie is common. Let us prayerfully consider. Because we have come short in prayerful consideration, we have the “falling away.”


We believe that there are many present-day inhibitions and teachings that are undermining our very faith, and that these teachings are not in accord with the New Testament teachings of Jesus and his apostles. We list some of these below:

1. We oppose the general omission of the Lord’s Prayer. Luke 11:1, 2 says, “When ye pray, say,” This is a specific command.

2. We oppose the general standing posture during prayer. The preponderance of Bible testimony is in favor of the kneeling posture. Jesus in the garden. Matthew 20:39; Isaiah 45:23; Romans 12:11; Philippians 2:10; Acts 21:5: Ezra 9:5; Daniel 6:10; Luke 22:41. Two exceptions are Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11.

3. We oppose the use of the word Reverend, as a title for ministers. The word occurs but once in the Bible (Psalm 111:9) and then it refers to God. It is contrary to the decision of our general Conference Further, it smack;s of “Romanism” and smells of professionalism for the ministry. Even the titles “Mr.”, “Mrs.”, and “Dr.” are without precedent in the Bible, and should be omitted in Brethren literature and religious services.

4. We are opposed to the growing disuse of the Christian salutation of love, as taught five time sin the New Testament (Romans 16: 16; 1 Peter 5:14; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26) and practiced by our church for more than two hundred years.

5. We oppose the increasing disuse of the sisters’ prayer coverings. See Paul in First Corinthians, eleventh chapter.

6. We denounce church suppers, festivals. fellowship suppers, lawn parties, measuring parties, dramas, theatricals and plays in churches. We do favor liberal, cheerful. systematic, sacrificial giving as taught in the Scriptures.

7. We oppose the open communion and the use of the individual communion cup.

8. We oppose the preaching of world and human brotherhood other than by evangelism through Christ and the Holy Spirit in Christian Brotherhood.

9. We oppose the use of musical instruments in worship.

10. We denounce and teach against such statements that there is no merit in any precise form of baptism; that some Scripture may not be true, as, for instance, the Jonah story (yet Jesus makes reference to this incident, Matthew 12:40); that the miracles of Jesus may not be genuine; that feetwashing, being merely symbolical of service, might be omitted; that the revelations of God in the Old Testament were merely emotional experiences; that we should teach civic righteousness and social reform rather than salvation through Christ; that the Bible does not meet the needs of the twentieth century.

11. We oppose associate membership.

12. We urge prayerful consideration on the subject of “Fraternal Relations”, since there is great danger of compromising and sacrificing our gospel principles.


1. We earnestly and sincerely pray in these last times for the conservation of the Church of the Brethren as she existed for two hundred years.

2. We fervently pray for each congregation and all to return to the plain and simple life, non-conformed to the world. and that we may all take our stand for Christ and the Church.

3. We pray that every lawful opportunity in harmony with the Word of God may be extended to our young people for personal work in soul-winning, the preparation necessary for Christian service.

4. We pray for the official brethren of the ministry and the deaconship to be the guiding wisdom of the local church, the counselors of the Truth in love and harmony with the Word of God; that this simple, co-operative effort for the preservation of our true Brethren Heritage and the teachings of our Blessed Lord Jesus and His chosen Apostles may bring honor and glory to His Name.

5. We deplore the worldward trend in our church, and pray that it may cease ere it pass the “danger point” on the stream of time or it will be doomed for a fall. We pray that at least a remnant may be preserved, that they often confer with each other, and will think much upon His Holy Name as they contend for the faith (Jude 3) and preach the Word in season and out of season. We pray that they may remain steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, that they may be willing to deny themselves of ungodly and worldly lusts and live soberly, righteously and godly in-this present world, looking for the realization of their blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ and thus be ready for the crown that is for ail those who love his appearing.

6. We pray in the Name of our Blessed Lord Jesus that all presiding Elders with their officials may prayerfully and thoughtfully consider the contents of this booklet. and we urge the approval and adoption and teaching of these holy and necessary things which are so highly essential in leading the souls of men into a higher spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ, their Savior.

And now unto him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with .exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.