Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches

Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches

The Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches is a theologically conservative fellowship of Brethren churches descended from the Schwarzenau Brethren movement of Alexander Mack of Germany.


The Brethren (at the time called "German Baptist Brethren") suffered a three way division early in the 1880s, and the more progressive group organized the Brethren Church. Led by charismatic leader Henry Holsinger, they maintained the standard Brethren doctrines, but wanted to adopt new methods, and desired more congregational autonomy and less centralization. These more progressive Brethren moved into the mainstream of Christian evangelicalism in America. Several events in the late 19th century and early 20th century, including the Bible Conference movement, emphasis on foreign missions, and the rise of fundamentalism, had an impact on the church. The "Foreign Missionary Society of the Brethren Church" was formed on September 4, 1900 in Winona Lake, Indiana.

But, also in the early 1900s, two different viewpoints began to emerge. As Robert Clouse writes about this event “the Progressives showed considerable agreement in what they apposed, but were less united in what they wished to create.” [ Clouse, 208] One issue was that the "fundamentalists" wanted to convert Ashland College into a Bible college, while the "traditionalists" wanted it to remain an accredited liberal arts college. A leader of the fundamental faction, Alva J. McClain, formulated the creedal statement “Message of the Brethren Ministry” in 1921 and organized Ashland Theological Seminary, a theology graduate school, at Ashland College in 1930.

Disagreements arose between McClain and college administration, and in 1937 McClain and seminary professor Herman Hoyt were dismissed. The dissident group formed the "Grace Theological Seminary" in 1937. This brought to surface the differences, and the denomination divided into two almost evenly numbered bodies. In 1939, "National Fellowship of Brethren Churches" was formed. The Fellowship incorporated in 1987 as the "Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches".


Twelve articles, adopted in 1969, are presented by the fellowship as their statement of faith on the following issues - the Bible, God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, Man, Salvation, the Church, the Christian life, Ordinances, Satan, Second Coming, and Future Life. The Grace Brethren at one time were considered to be more Calvinistic than the Ashland Brethren, but there is a growing cooperation emerging in recent years between the Grace and Ashland groups. They are generally dispensational, and pretribulational in eschatology.

"Grace Brethren International Missions", "CE National", "Brethren Missionary Herald Co." and "Women of Grace USA" are ministries formed by the FGBC to help fulfill their mission of making Jesus known. They also operate "Grace College and Seminary" in Winona Lake, Indiana. Headquarters are maintained in Winona Lake, and the annual conference is held there. Today (2003) the "Fellowship of Grace Brethren" is made up of over 265 churches in the United States and Canada, with a membership of over 30,000. There are 23 districts cooperating with the Fellowship, and over 1100 churches have been formed outside North America. World-wide attendance in Grace Brethren Churches is estimated to be 600,000 people.

External links

* [http://www.fgbc.org/ Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches Web Site]
* [http://www.grace.edu/ Grace College and Seminary Web Site]
* [http://www.grace.edu/grace/library/index.htm Grace Brethren Archives]
* [http://www.peninsulagrace.org/content_sub.asp?SUB_ID=44&CAT_ID=19 Grace Brethren Information]
* [http://www.cenational.org CE National]
* [http://www.gbim.org Grace Brethren International Missions]
* [http://www.fgbcworld.com FGBC World Publication]
* [http://www.bmhbooks.com BMH Books]
* [http://www.agbm.org Association of Grace Brethren Ministers]



*"Handbook of Denominations", by Frank S. Mead, Samuel S. Hill, & Craig D. Atwood
*"Finding our Focus: A History of the Grace Brethren Church," by David R. Plaster (2003) BMH Books
*"Brethren and Modernity: Change and Development in the Progressive/Grace Church," by Robert G. Clouse, Brethren Life and Thought, 33 Sum. 1988, p 205-217.
*"A Saint in Glory Stands: The Story of Alva J. McClain, Founder of Grace Theological Seminary," by Norman B. Rohrer (1986) BHM Books

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