Monday, November 28, 2022

A Brethren group I didn't know about

 I was baptized on Palm Sunday, 1950, in the Mt. Morris, Illinois Church of the Brethren and have been a Lutheran (in 3 synods but same congregation and building) since 1976 when we were confirmed. I've watched from the sidelines what has been happening in the different Brethren groups from the original small group in 1708.  Today I came across a new split--the Old German Baptist Brethren New Conference. There seems to be a disagreement about foreign missions.

"On the heels of the Protestant Reformation, in 1708 a handful of believers under Anabaptist and Pietistic influence, embarked upon a journey of faith seeking a deeper reformation of doctrine and practice. Seeking a life that followed the Scriptures more literally, eight souls were baptized by immersion in the Eder River in Schwarzenau, Germany. This was a radical departure from the state churches’ practice of infant baptism. With a genuine desire to live the New Testament, these brethren were led to practices such as the Love Feast including feet-washing, the agape meal, and the emblematic bread and cup, non-resistance, the refusal to take an oath, and the practice of the holy kiss.

The group grew in Germany and Holland and migrated to America in the 1700’s establishing congregations beginning near Germantown, Pennsylvania. From there the Brethren migrated to Virginia and the West growing to a fellowship of approximately 70,000 members. In 1881, a small portion of these members, calling themselves Old German Baptists, separated from the larger group in a quest for a more godly and simple life. From this body of believers, the New Conference emerged in 2009."

My relatives, the Shumans, who live near or in Pendelton, Indiana are members of the Old German Baptist Brethren, and this article is about them, presented by cousin Lois at the Pendleton Museum.  I see nothing about New Conference.  So I don't know how the churches decided which group to go with.  

"Addressing about 30 attendees, Shuman said the Christian religion was first organized in Germany in 1708.

The ruler of Germany at the time was tolerant to new religions, but when a later, less tolerant ruler took over, the German Baptists moved on to the Netherlands.

In 1719, the first members brought their religion to the United States. Like the followers of many other religions at the time, they settled in Pennsylvania, where William Penn had promised religious freedom, she said.

Old German Baptists are neither Catholic nor Protestant. They are recognized as Anabaptist.

Anabaptists establish rules that are to be strictly followed by the members of their sect, she said. Old German Baptists believe the newer sects are too progressive in their thinking.

The first group reached Pendleton in 1791.

“There are still descendants of the first families in our congregation today,” Shuman said.

Because the religious groups were so spread out in the state, one minister may have an area of 30 square miles to cover.

“It doesn’t sound like much now, said Shuman, but imagine how bad the roads were in the 1800s.”

About half of the Old German Baptists still live in Indiana and Ohio.

After Shuman’s talk there were many questions from the attendees.

She said her religion does not prohibit use of new technologies like some faiths. She has electricity, a microwave and many other modern comforts.

Shuman used a laptop during her presentation.

“We accept modern technology as long as it doesn’t get in the way of Christian living.”

She did point out that they do not have TVs, radios or the internet. She said “a computer without the internet is just a fancy typewriter.”

She uses her “fancy typewriter for her job with IU. While Shuman does have a phone, it is not a smart phone.

“I am able to text on my phone, but it’s a lot of work,” Shuman said with a laugh.

Church members do not vote or participate in government.

They are conscientious objectors and do not file or defend themselves in a lawsuit.

Children are encouraged to finish high school but for the most part are steered away from college, she said. They feel that college will cause children to question their beliefs.

Church services are different from what others might accustomed to seeing.

Meetings start with singing. There are no musical instruments.

“The minister reads the verse and the congregation sings it,” Shuman said.

There could be as many as five ministers for each service.

Ministers are appointed for life.

Normally, men and women sit on different sides of the church, but this is not a strict rule.

Old German Baptists have been called Dunkards and Tunkers. These names were used because they believe in full immersion baptism.

A person can become a member as soon as they reach the age of accountability, usually late teens or early 20s.

Children are encouraged to marry within the congregation.

Shuman said they have a 50% to 70% retention rate in their church.

Most women make their own clothes. Shuman said the cape is for modesty.

“When I became a member, I thought the dress was going to be very hot, but I got used to it, Shuman said.

Men wear plain coats and button-up shirts. Members of the ministry have a beard without a mustache. It is encouraged but not required among the membership.

Shuman finished her presentation by stating, “Everyone is welcome to visit our church.”"

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