Page 21 - History of UB Church by A. Funkhouser Ver 1
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evening session for the men, a day-time session for the women. No person was to be admitted to
such meeting unless resolved to seek his salvation and obey the disciplinary rules. The meetings
were to begin and end with singing and prayer. Persistent absence without cause was to work
expulsion. No preacher was to be retained who upheld predestination or the perseverance of the
saints, or who was out of harmony with the disciplinary rules and the modes of worship, and on an
accusation of immorality he might at once be suspended. One of the highest duties was to watch

over the rising youth. There was to be one day of fasting in the spring and one in the fall. A

parochial school with instruction in the German tongue was to be established. The pastor, the three
elders, and the three trustees were to constitute the vestry, which was the custodian of all deeds
and other papers of importance. A highly significant rule was that the pastor was to care for the
various churches in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia that were supervised by Otterbein and "in
unity with us," and to give all possible encouragement to lay preachers and exhorters. Thus
Otterbein's church in Baltimore was a mother church to various congregations scattered over
several counties of the three states, and may be regarded as the primary organization of the sect
with which it was to unite.

The men who founded the Church of the United Brethren in Christ did not wish to come out
from the churches with which they had been associated. Their aim was to promote spirituality
within the parent body. Spiritual inertia and a rising tide of opposition extinguished Otterbein's
hope of working wholly within the Reformed Church. Nevertheless, he never actually withdrew from
it, and until the very last his name was carried on its ministerial roll. And this was in face of the
fact that he was criticized and persecuted by some of the Reformed ministers. Boehm, as we have
seen, was cast out from the Mennonite sect. His followers were also excluded "until in true sorrow
and penitence they should return and acknowledge their errors, both to God and the Church."

Both Otterbein and Boehm felt impelled to extend their usefulness by going beyond their own
immediate boundaries. Each of these men preached with greatly enlarged power, because endowed
with a special baptism of the Holy Spirit. But each labored chiefly among the people of his own
denomination and such other persons as came within his sphere of influence.

For some years the adherents of the new movement came most largely from the Reformed
Church. After the fathers of the United Brethren died, a revival spirit within the Reformed Church

curtailed the number of accessions from that quarter. But for forty years semi-independent

Mennonite circles continued to push their way into the newly founded church. Otterbein and Boehm
and their co-laborers had no choice. The duty was upon them to provide an ecclesiastical home for
their followers. These followers were ostracized and even persecuted in the churches from which
they had come, and they were derided by worldly people. They must have some place to go. It was
the logic of circumstances that founded the United Brethren.

In the gradual development of the work by Otterbein and Boehm, congregations were formed,
and these were presided over by local preachers, who were at the same time lay preachers, since
they had to derive their livelihood from secular pursuits. Some of these men were class-leaders at
first. Others felt more distinctly the call to an active ministry. As a rule they were men of little
education yet of warm spirituality. For a long while these local preachers worked under the general
direction of Otterbein and Boehm, who were therefore self-constituted bishops. The great meetings
afforded much opportunity for counsel. But it was increasingly felt that a more definite and
systematic procedure should be adopted.

The first actual conference in the history of the United Brethren Church met in Baltimore in
1789, and in the parsonage of William Otterbein. Besides the two leaders, there were present
George A. Guething, Christian Newcomer, Henry Weidner, Adam Lehman, and John Ernst. Seven
others were absent. Of the fourteen preachers recognized as belonging to the conference, nine had
come from the Reformed Church, four from the Mennonites, and one from the Moravians. It had
been twenty-two years since the first meeting between Otterbein and Boehm at Long's barn, and
more than ten years since Boehm had been cast out of the Mennonite Church. Both men were past
their prime and were more than sixty years of age. This marshaling of figures shows in an

impressive manner how gradual and informal had been the rise of the United Brethren movement.

And even this first conference did not go so far as to effect a complete and well-rounded
organization. It is not certain that it adopted the actual name by which the church is officially

Chapter V 21 Evangelical Movement Among German
Immigrants
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