Saturday, June 07, 2008

Church History

June 7, 1908 was a Sunday and the Brethren gathered in Des Moines, Iowa for the Bicentennial Celebration devoted the entire day to reflect on the church's history from Germany to Colonial America and on to the Mississippi and the Pacific. Six addresses were given - two in the morning, two in the afternoon, and two in the evening. M.G. Brumbaugh led off the addresses on Sunday morning speaking about "The Conditions in Germany about 1708."

After speaking to some of the conditions, Brumbaugh introduces us to the earliest Brethren:
The little gathering at Schwarzenau, living perhaps in huts on the hillside, spent years discussing the right thing to do. In this discussion they were guided not only by a careful study of the Bible, but also by the great history of the church written by Gottfried Arnold, and by the wise counsels of such men as Hochmann and Jeremias Felbinger, so that when they were ready to take the initial step for the formal organization of the church they were profoundly schooled not only in the Book of Truth, but in the history of the church and in the doctrines of protest....

They formulated a plan which divorced them from all other Pietistic friends and determined upon an organized church. ...those who counted the cost determined that they should know only the Bible as their guide, and turning to this, they evolved doctrines now so well known and so well cherished.... They were not Pietists. They left the Pietistic movement just as the Pietists before them had withdrawn from the state religions ... Mack and his followers could not endorse the excesses of the radical Anabaptists ... They are, therefore, a church founded upon no tradition, and caring not at all so much for the apostolic succession in the priesthood as they did care for the apostolic succession in doctrine.

...The church is thus a church of protest, and such a church is always a minority church. ... A church of protest cannot long exist nor can it successfully grow without resting upon thoroughly educational training. Hence the need of schools and the broadening activities in foreign and home missionary work; in the Sunday-school and Bible study, and all other activities that build the individual and the church strong on the religious side.

...Alexander Mack was a great scholar, and his profound knowledge of the Bible and the knowledge his Brethren shared with him are of such commanding influence that they joined with others in producing the memorable Bible with far-reaching commentary data known as the Berleberg Bible published from 1726 to 1742; and his youngest son, Alexander Mack, Bishop of the mother church at Germantown, wrote more important religious guidance than any other leader of American colonial thought.

We began an educated and powerful church. Let us try with all our energies to restore the church to its early and its splendid history. We shall thus best serve our day - best serve our church - best serve the great head of the church, the Son of God.

Source: Two Centuries of the Church of the Brethren, Chapter 1