Church of the Brethren Beliefs and Practices

Peace, justice, service to others, and holy, simple living

Foot washing
Members of a local church wash the feet of Appalachian Trail hikers.

Joel Carillet / Getty Images

The Brethren use the New Testament as their only creed, pledging obedience to Jesus Christ. Rather than stressing a set of rules, the Church of the Brethren promotes the principles of "peace and reconciliation, simple living, integrity of speech, family values, and service to neighbors near and far." Although Brethren resist creedal statements, they accept basic Protestant doctrines.

Church of the Brethren

  • Background: Church of the Brethren is a Christian denomination with origins in the Pietist and Anabaptist movements. Adherents stress peace and reconciliation, serving others, living a simple life, and following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.
  • Founding: The Brethren were founded in 1708 by Alexander Mack in Schwarzenau Germany.
  • The Brethren's Vision Statement: “Through Scripture, Jesus calls us to live as courageous disciples by word and action: To surrender ourselves to God, To embrace one another, To express God’s love for all creation.”

Church of the Brethren Beliefs

Baptism: Baptism by triple immersion is an ordinance performed on adults, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Brethren see baptism as a commitment to live Jesus' teachings responsibly and joyfully.

Bible: The Brethren use the New Testament as their guidebook for living. They believe the Bible is divinely inspired and hold that the Old Testament lays out God's purpose and desires for humanity.

Communion: Communion is an expression of love, modeled after Christ's last supper with his disciples. The Brethren partake in bread and wine, celebrating agape, the selfless love Jesus showed to the world.

Creed: The Brethren do not follow a Christian creed. Rather, they use the entire New Testament to affirm their beliefs and to glean instruction on how to live.

God: God the Father is viewed by Brethren as "Creator and loving Sustainer."

Healing: The practice of anointing is an ordinance within the Church of the Brethren, and includes the minister laying on hands for physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. The laying on of hands symbolizes the prayers and support of the entire congregation.

Holy Spirit: Brethren hold that the Holy Spirit is an integral part of the believer's life: "We seek to be guided by the Holy Spirit in every aspect of life, thought, and mission."

Jesus Christ: All Brethren "affirm their belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior." Living a life patterned after the life of Christ is of paramount importance to the Brethren as they seek to emulate his humble service and unconditional love.

Peace: All war is a sin, according to the Church of the Brethren. Brethren are conscientious objectors and seek to promote nonviolent solutions to conflict, ranging from personal disagreements to international threats.

Salvation: God's plan of salvation is that people are pardoned from their sins through believing in the atoning death of Jesus Christ. God provided his only Son as the perfect sacrifice in our place. Jesus promises believers in him a place in heaven.

Trinity: Brethren believe in the Trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three distinct persons in one God.

Worship Practices

Sacraments: The Brethren recognize the ordinances of adult believer's baptism, communion (which includes a love feast, bread and cup, and feet washing), and anointing.

Baptism is by immersion, three times forward, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. This triple immersion method of baptism earned the Brethren the nickname “Dunkers.”

Following baptism, the most significant ordinance is the love feast, which brings the Brethren together for a time of communion and concentrated fellowship.

Anointing is a healing rite for a believer who is emotionally or spiritually upset or physically ill. The minister anoints the person's forehead with oil three times to symbolize forgiveness of sin, strengthening their faith, and healing of their body, mind, and spirit.

Worship Service: Local Church of the Brethren worship services tend to be informal, with prayer, singing, a sermon, sharing or testimonies, and communion, love feast, feet washing, and anointing. Some congregations use guitars and wind instruments while others feature traditional worship music.

Simple Living

Brethren practice a simple, non-conforming way of life. Until the early 1900s, the church required its members to dress plainly. Today's Brethren still seek simplicity in all areas of life.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Zavada, Jack. "Church of the Brethren Beliefs and Practices." Learn Religions, Aug. 29, 2020, Zavada, Jack. (2020, August 29). Church of the Brethren Beliefs and Practices. Retrieved from Zavada, Jack. "Church of the Brethren Beliefs and Practices." Learn Religions. (accessed April 1, 2023).