(Dunkers; Ger. Bap. Brethren). 1. The Ger. Brethren movement had its origin in the Pietistic revival inaugurated by P. J. Spener* during the 2d half of the 17th c. While most Pietists hoped to reform the ch. by retaining their membership in the various state churches, Alexander Mack (1679 to 1735), a Calvinist, and E. C. Hochmann (1670 to 1721), a Halle Pietist, believed that a mere protest against the cold formalism of the churches and the laxity of morals was insufficient. They withdrew from the state ch. 1708 and organized a separate cong. at Schwarzenau, Westphalia. In line with his Calvinistic and legalistic background, Mack believed that a Christian must enter a covenant relation with Christ est. by triple immersion; hence the names Täufer, Tunker, Dunker, Dompelaars, Ger. Bap. Brethren. While the Brethren are opposed to written creeds, they have worked out a system of doctrine. practice, and ch. govt. in line with their enthusiastic. pietistic, mystic, and ascetic views. Like the Friends* and Mennonites,* with whom they have often been erroneously identified, they place greater emphasis on rites and regulations which they find prescribed in the NT than on doctrine, believing that they have reestablished the simplicity of life which marked the apostolic ch. The following rites and practices have been observed by various groups: Baptism by triple forward immersion followed immediately by confirmation while kneeling in the water; the Eucharist, celebrated only in the evening and preceded by foot washing and the love feast; veiling of women in the public service; anointing of sick with oil; excommunication according to Mt 18; total abstinence; nonparticipation in war; opposition to use of oath and civil litigation; simplicity in attire; some forbid cutting the beard.The movement spread rapidly to various parts of Ger., Holland, and Switz. Because of pol. persecution some Brethren emigrated to Pennsylvania 1719; by 1729 practically all had come to Am. Because they retained many Eur. customs and dialects, they were considered illiterate by their Eng. neighbors, though the many publications issuing from the presses of C. Sauer (see Publicity, Church) at Germantown prove the opposite. A serious defection occurred 1728 when J. C. Beissel* est. a group long classified as Brethren but listed with Baps. (see Baptist Churches, 17). In the 19th c. the Brethren were disturbed by several controversies on matters of ch. govt. and practice, which led to the formation of several groups.
2. Church of the Brethren (Conservative Dunkers). The largest group. Its ch. polity is quasipresbyterian. Formerly the clergy was largely untrained and was expected to be self-supporting; in recent yrs. an aggressive program in educ. and miss. was launched.
3. Old German Baptist Brethren. Organized 1881 in protest against the introduction of specially organized missions, Sunday schools, training of ministers, which they consider as opposed to essential Christianity.
4. The original Brethren body in the US split 188183. The Brethren Ch. resulted. A 1939 split of the Brethren Ch. resulted in the Ashland group (see 6) and the Nat. Fellowship of Brethren Chs. (also known as the Grace group), which favors modern methods in ch. work and autonomy of local congs.
5. Church of God (New Dunkers). Small group founded 1848; accepted no denominational name other than Church of God. Disbanded August 1962.
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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