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The Brethren in Christ Church

The Brethren in Christ Church is the founding denomination of Messiah College. While the denomination is no longer the College's legal owner, the College maintains a covenant relationship with its founding denomination. In other words, the Brethren in Christ Church continues to support Messiah College in unique ways, and the College maintains, nurtures, and cherishes a special relationship with its founding denomination (see Brethren in Christ Church and Messiah College).

The Brethren in Christ denomination was founded more than 200 years ago, less than 30 miles from Messiah College's present location. The denomination began around 1775 when a group of Mennonites in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, came into contact with ministers preaching the "new birth." Before long, these men and women started meeting together, and they eventually formed their own church body. Originally called the "River Brethren" (because of their proximity to the Susquehanna River), these early Brethren in Christ represented a marriage of Anabaptism and Pietism. Later, a large segment of the denomination embraced John Wesley's teachings on holiness. Thus, Wesleyanism joined Anabaptism and Pietism to weave the unique theological fabric of the Brethren in Christ Church.

The early Brethren in Christ lived a rather sectarian lifestyle, emphasizing the importance of living separate from "the world." Even into the twentieth century, many Brethren in Christ persons dressed in plain clothes, the kind of clothing that is now associated with the Old Order Amish and Mennonites.

Moreover, like many North American Christians of the time, the early twentieth-century Brethren in Christ were rather suspicious of higher education, fearing that "worldly" learning would be detrimental to people's faith.

When the denomination founded Messiah Bible College and Missionary Training School in 1909, its curriculum focused largely on Bible and other courses directly connected to missionary work.

Even as Messiah College has changed over time (from a small Bible college to a modestly-sized college of the arts and sciences), so has the Brethren in Christ Church. Plain dress is largely a thing of the past, and there is much less emphasis today on living a separatist lifestyle. To the contrary, the church's members now engage the broader culture in numerous ways, and its churches actively seek to share Christ's love with their surrounding communities. Brethren in Christ mission workers have planted churches in over twenty countries, the result being that less than half of the denomination's membership now resides in North America.

Despite these changes, the Brethren in Christ Church continues to reflect its Anabaptist, Pietist and Wesleyan heritage, placing strong emphases on disciplined living, heartfelt worship, and peacemaking (see Core Values of the Brethren in Christ Church). Like Messiah College, the Brethren in Christ Church seeks to be broadly evangelical while valuing its theological roots.

For more information on the Brethren in Christ Church, visit their Web site.

Brethren in Christ Church and Messiah College


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