CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN NETWORK
Continuing the work of Jesus : Peacefully ~ Simply ~ Together
UNOFFICIAL WEBSITE OF THE CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN
The following terms reflect the culture of the Church of the Brethren, a denomination grounded on the principles of Anabaptism and founded through the Pietist efforts of Alexander Mack, in the summer of 1708 near the small German village of Schwarzenau. This resource is not an exhaustive compilation of all denominational terminology, which might also be garnered from other Brethren works, such as the Brethren Encyclopedia, Brethren Bibliography, European Origins, Brethren in America, Ephrata Cloister, 19th Century Acculturation, Brethren Timeline, Brethren Groups, and Brethren Genealogy. You are encouraged to share your comments, suggestions, or corrections with the Web Administrator.
“May Peace Prevail On Earth” is the conspicuous polyglot message of the Peace Pole, having a different major language inscribed on each side. Although it is not a Brethren innovation, more and more congregations and church camps are erecting their own Peace Pole to raise awareness and prolong remembrance of the need for world peace. The project was started in Japan by the World Peace Prayer Society, a non-profit, non-denominational, member-supported organization founded in 1955 by Masahisa Goi. It borrows on the concept that ?we move in the direction of our most dominate thoughts.? Peace Poles function as reminders of the need for peace, with the hope that peaceful thoughts will be manifested in peaceful actions. It has been estimated that over 100,000 poles have been erected in 160 countries.
A movement that emphasized the need for a “religion of the heart” instead of the head, and characterized by ethical purity, inward devotion, charity, and even mysticism. Leadership was empathetic instead of strident loyalists to sacramentalism. Pietism was birthed in Germany through spiritual pioneers who wanted a deeper emotional experience rather than a preset adherence to form (no matter how genuine). They stressed a personal experience of salvation and a continuous openness to new spiritual illumination. They also taught that personal holiness (piety), spiritual maturity, Bible study & prayer were essential towards "feeling the effects" of grace. Many early Pietists were content to remain in established churches, but in the late 1600's awakened souls risked the danger of separating from all state churches, and these Separatists were branded as radicals and fanatics, if not outright heretics. Many were severely persecuted, imprisoned or executed for simply going too far. Separatists went beyond the Anabaptist focus on mere conduct reflecting saving grace, because they stressed the need to "feel" the effects of grace. These Separatists, Awakened Souls, or new Reformers became intent on awaking everyone else from the complacency of mechanical religiosity with it's pageantry. It would not be a stretch of the imagination to compare their fervency and dedication with the Jesus Movement of the 1970's because their noticeable differences from mainstream Christianity resulted in a mix of theological confusion, intellectual aloofness, cultural misunderstanding, and prolonged suspicion.
The most famous Pietists emerged from the Lutheran Church with Philip Jacob Spener being the father of Lutheran Pietism. His publication of Pia Desideria (Pious Desires) in 1675 called for church reform by identifying both the laxity of the clergy and the shortcomings of the established church system. His six point prescription for reform would be rather tame if not ho-hum by today's standards, but in the Seventeenth Century it was radical. Perhaps influenced by early Pietist works from Johann Arndt Six Books of True Christianity, Spener called for a re-introduction of primitive Christianity that would challenge the institutional stability of Lutheranism. As the logical implications of Pia Desideria became more clear, predictably church leadership felt threatened as the laity would have a greater role of participation in church life, and perhaps even the opportunity for new interpretations of church symbolism. Naturally the leadership would resent the intrusion of outsiders into their comfortable academic domain, knowing that once this door is opened, it shall not easily be closed.
Befriended by Arnold in 1697, Ernest Christopher Hochmann von Hochenau also experienced his ?awakening? at the University of Halle through August Hermann Francke. In the previous year, he had been arrested and expelled for openly preaching Christ and forcefully excoriating the three state churches. These incidents prompted him to abandon a promising career in law for that of an itinerant preacher. He was a persuasive speaker who roamed the countryside preaching to both nobleman and commoner with the power of the gospel. Also following the path of his mentor (Arnold), he proclaimed that the only true church was a spiritual one that was ?separated? from denominationalism and especially from governmental interference. He later settled in the little district of Wittgenstein under the protection of Count Henrich Albrecht's (var. Henry Albert) promise of refuge to all persons experiencing harm for religious beliefs or activities. Responsible only to a weak imperial government distressed with bureaucratic ineptitude, Albrecht extended freedom to anyone suffering religious oppression, much to the consternation and unending protests of neighboring districts.
Alexander Mack, the son of a German miller, was born in the town of Schriesheim in 1679, in the very heart of the Palatinate. His father was an elder in the Reformed Church and briefly served as mayor of Schriesheim in 1690 and 1696; and when he died in 1706, the mill was bequeathed to Alexander and his brother John Philip. Greatly influenced by Pietism, Alexander extended an invitation to Hochmann to come and minister in Schriesheim, who then used Mack's property for Pietist meetings. Although inconclusive, there is convincing evidence from some historians that Alexander even accompanied Hochmann on several preaching tours. When Pietist activity in Schriesheim became intolerable for local authorities, Hochmann was sentenced to hard labor, Alexander & Anna Mack sought refuge at Schwarzenau in the district of Wittgenstein, and many other Palatinates with Pietist leanings were expelled. Feeling secure under the protection of County Henrich Albrecht, Mack sold the remainder of his property in the spring of the following year (1707), and ministered to the needs of other refugees, as well as pay the legal fines of close friends.
In the summer of 1708, he contemplated organizing a small community of believers, who would attempt to implement Pietist experiential faith by communal practice, involving believer's baptism, sharing all goods as common, confession of sins, and diligently spending vast amounts of time in prayer in order to advance personal holiness. One mentionable difference existed between Mack and Hochmann. The latter being one of the more extreme Separatists in Pietism, for he did not believe that an organized church was necessary. Hochmann considered the pure Church to be spiritual, without formal clergy, ritual, the need of sacraments or buildings, whereas Mack held to the former. Living in the company of a seven other similarly minded believers, Mack directed them to evaluate their mutual circumstance, particularly their unbaptized state (having repudiated infant baptism). If spiritual progress was to be made, it would be necessary to resolve these two hindrances through organizing and baptizing themselves. As Mack continued to dream of his own Pietist-communal experiment, he penned a letter seeking advice, guidance, and prayer from Hochmann, who was then imprisoned at Nurnberg. In Hochmann's reply dated July 24, 1708, he instructed the young visionary to ponder carefully the words of Jesus in Luke 14:28 - “count the cost!”