Thursday, July 7

Historic Church Documents: The Brethren Card

July is Historic Church Document Month here.

When I was a child and my father was a student at Wheaton College, almost every Sunday we drove to the southside of Chicago (Yes, Leroy Brown territory) to attend and help out in the Sunday service at a little Brethren in Christ mission that my grandma's cousin and his wife* had in an old storefront building there. They lived in the dark and narrow apartment up above the storefront sanctuary along with a couple of spinster ladies** who also worked in the mission.

The dining room was the biggest room in the apartment, and the oval table filled the whole room. We always stayed for Sunday dinner, along with several others of the people who attended the service. That's where I learned to love cauliflower with cream sauce.

Never heard of Brethren in Christ? This is a group that formed in Pennsylvania back in the 1800's when a group of Mennonites met some German Pietists. Later the group was also influenced by the Wesleyan Holiness movement.

My family wasn't Mennonite or Pietist or Holiness--not even close--but my dad later told me that he never had a problem preaching and teaching at the mission as long as he preached straight from scripture. This group (and I'm guessing this goes for all Brethren/Mennonite related groups) was not a creedal group, but rather stressed the importance of remaining open to revelation from scripture, and holding the New Testament as their only creed.

Various Brethren groups have had doctrinal statements, however. They are careful not to call them creeds or confessions, although I'm not sure exactly how they consider these statements different from creeds or confessions. Here's an older version (circa 1900) of what was called The Brethren Card (A newer version can be found at this link, as well.):
That there are a people who, as little children (Luke 18: 17), accept the Word of the New Testament as a message from heaven (Heb. 1: 1, 2), and teach it in full (2 Tim. 4: 1, 2, Matthew 28: 20). They baptize believers by trine*** immersion (Matt. 28: 19), with a forward action (Romans 6: 5), and for the remission of sins (Acts 2: 38), and lay hands on those baptized, asking upon them the gift of God's Spirit (Acts 19: 5, 6). They follow the command and example of washing one another's feet (John 13: 4, 17). They take the Lord's Supper at night (John 13: 30), at one and the same time, tarrying one for another (I Cor, 11:33, 34). They greet one another with a holy kiss (Acts 20: 37; Rom. 16: 16). They take the communion at night, after supper, as did the Lord (Mark 14: 17, 23). They teach all the doctrines of Christ, peace (Heb. 12: 14), love (1 Cor. 13) unity (Ephesians 4), both faith and works (James 2: 17, 20). They labor for nonconformity to the world in its vain and wicked customs (Romans 12: 2). They advocate nonswearing (Matthew 5:34), anti-secretism (2 Cor. 6: 14,17), opposition to war (John 18: 36), doing good unto all men. (Matt 5: 44, 46). They anoint and lay hands on the sick (James 5: 14, 15). They give the Bread of life, the message of the common salvation unto all men without money or price (Matt. 10: 8).

*Or it could have been my grandma's cousin and her husband. I'm unsure of the exact relationship.
**That's what they called themselves.
***I'm guessing this is supposed to be triune. [Update: Brandon points out that trine simply means "three times". Yep, you learn something every day.]
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