was 1767, and an inter-denominational renewal movement was sweeping
through the colonies. Back then, Christians gathered in what they called
“Great Meetings.” These were lively affairs. Several hundred people from
all over might spend several days hearing a string of stirring speakers.
Isaac Long hosted a Great Meeting at his big barn in Lancaster, Pa.
Martin Boehm, a Mennonite preacher, told his inspiring story of becoming
a Christian and a minister. It deeply moved William Otterbein, a German
Reformed pastor. Otterbein left his seat, embraced Boehm, and said loud
enough for everyone to hear, “Wir sind bruder.”
Which, being translated, means, "We are brethren." And that's where our
name originated--United Brethren in Christ. Otterbein and Boehm
realized that, despite their many differences--in theology, background,
education, personality, and even stature--they agreed on the basics of
movement spread to include a bunch of German speaking churches in
Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and Ohio. In time, the loose movement
saw the need for organization. In 1800, they began holding a yearly
conference for business and inspiration--the forerunner of today’s
“General Conference,” our highest decision-making body.
United Brethren church has the distinction of being the first
denomination to actually begin in the United States. Other denominations
existed at the time (Lutheran, Reformed, Mennonite, and others), but
they were transplants from Europe. The United Brethren church was truly
Made in America.
the 1700s, German immigrants accounted for one-third of Pennsylvania’s
population, and nearly everyone spoke German in the state’s
south-central counties where the church started.
immigrants moved west, so did the church. But around 1815, English began
The Beginnings of the Evangelical Association in Minnesota
were still a reality in the Minnesota territory when the first
settlers who were members of the Evangelical Church arrived. The
Methodist Episcopal Church had arrived much earlier to minister to
the native population. The Evangelical Church arrived in 1856 at
the request of German immigrants who hungered for spiritual
Association originated in the United States and was still a young
church when it made its way to the prairies of Minnesota. It
originated in Pennsylvania by Jacob Albright, son of German
immigrants. He was a religious man who was not happy with his
experience as a young person in the Lutheran church. In 1791, he
“came into a new religious experience” at the home of Adam Riegel, a
United Brethren layman.
Association was born in 1809 when George Miller wrote the society’s
Articles of Religion and first Discipline. Since the new church
believed, as John Wesley did, that their primary source and for
Christian teaching was Scripture, they adopted the German
translation of the Methodist Articles of Religion.
Members of the
Evangelical Church brought their loyalty with them as they moved
into the Minnesota Territory. Two of those families were the
Gackstetter and Laschinger families who had come to Minnesota by way
of Canada. They left their native Germany and settled in Ontario.
After several years the families moved to Minnesota. The families
settled five miles south of St. Paul.
had been members of the Evangelical Association in Canada, and they
again wanted to be a part of that church. Michael Gackstetter wrote
to his pastor and requested they send a minister to Minnesota. The
Wisconsin Conference set up a Minnesota Mission and Andrew
Tarnutzer crossed the Mississippi River at Winona in November of
1856 as the first Evangelical minister in Minnesota.
Evangelical Association merged with the United Brethren to form the
Evangelical United Brethren Church.
A Brief History of Methodism
In 1729, brothers John and Charles
Wesley organized what detractors called the “Holy Club” at Oxford
University in England and were ridiculed as “Methodists” by the way
they studiously followed the Scriptures in their habits and
discipline. It was their way of being faithful to the God who called
them. Later, as priests in the Church of England, they became
restless with a church that seemed indifferent to the needs of the
poor. In an effort to reform the church, they began societies that
held members accountable to a life of “holiness” and service. They
visited prisons, preached in coalfields, and established health care
facilities and a factory for the poor.
In America, Methodism grew with the
nation, primarily as a lay movement. The American Revolution caused
Wesley to recognize the need for greater autonomy in American
Methodism. Ordained clergy were also in short supply, so he took the
bold step of ordaining three lay preachers, Richard Whatcoat, Thomas
Vasey, and Thomas Coke, and sent them to the former British
colonies. His actions effectively set in motion the beginning of an
During the historic Christmas
Conference of December 24, 1784, held at Lovely Lane Chapel in
Baltimore, Francis Asbury was ordained by Coke and consecrated the
first bishop of the brand new Methodist Episcopal Church in America.
The next year, the church published its first Discipline, calling
for the church’s first quadrennial General Conference, held in 1792.
A constitution and publishing house followed in short order, and the
new denomination was quickly on its way spreading “scriptural
holiness throughout the land” with itinerating preachers, camp
meetings, and revivals. Asbury, the “prophet of the long road,”
traveled more than 275,000 miles on foot and by horseback during his
45 years of ministry. When he began his work there was only one
Methodist for every 2,050 Americans; when he died in 1816 there was
one for every 39.
The persistent presence of
Methodist circuit riders became so legendary that a common response
to stormy weather was, “There’s nothing out today but crows and
But the early years were not
without their problems. Richard Allen, an emancipated slave and
Methodist preacher, left the denomination because of mistreatment
and began the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1816. For
similar reasons the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Zion Church
was founded in 1821. Nine years later the Methodist Protestant
Church broke away over issues of lay representation and election of
presiding elders (district superintendents). In 1844, the issue of
slavery finally tore the Methodist Episcopal (M.E.) Church in half,
creating a separate Methodist Episcopal Church, South. It would be
69 years before the Methodist Protestant, M.E., and M.E., South,
churches would reunite to form the Methodist Church in 1939.
helped to establish the World Council of Churches, the YMCA,
Goodwill Industries, and the Salvation Army. The World’s Woman’s
Christian Temperance Union that worked to abolish child labor and
promote women’s suffrage was started by a Methodist. Northwestern,
Auburn, Vanderbilt, and the University of California; Duke,
American, and Southern Methodist Universities; all were founded by
Methodists. More important than who goes to our church is where our
church goes. From saddlebags to cyberspace, the people called
United Methodist are on the move to “spread scriptural holiness
throughout the land”.
Methodist Church now has over 10 million members worldwide.