The Chico, Calif., Enterprise-Record has been running a series of stories on a Brethren group that is part of the Grace Brethren family tree — the Old Brethren Church. Part of the series was Sunday’s article on Pastor Paul Rhodes at the Chico Grace Brethren Church (see blog posting from Saturday, November 3).
The Old Brethren Church is part of the larger Brethren movement, which will celebrate its 300th anniversary next year. In the tradition of the Protestant Reformation, which originated in Germany nearly 500 years ago, the Brethren stressed individual judgment and personal faith.
Leslie Cover, an Old Brethren Church minister who lives in Tuolumne County, said while the original Protestant reformers of the 1500s were full of passion, by the 1700s, the established churches in Germany had become rather lifeless.
As a reaction, a group within Lutheranism started its own movement, which became known as Pietism.
The Pietists wanted a more personal, spiritual Christianity. They emphasized reading the Bible and holy living.
Cover said the Brethren were strongly influenced by the Pietists and also the Anabaptists, who believed Christians should be baptized only when they were old enough to have some say in the matter.
The Brethren movement sprang up in the early 1700s. At that time in Germany, Lutherans, Catholics and members of the Reformed Church enjoyed religious freedom, but other groups did not. It wasn’t long before members of this new Brethren church were being persecuted.
By 1730, a number of Brethren families had moved to America, seeking tolerance. They settled first in Pennsylvania, and their movement began to grow.
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