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May 4, 2000         GC-012

Delegates honor 200-year heritage of predecessor churches

CLEVELAND (UMNS) — The heritage of 200 years of ministry by two predecessor bodies of today’s United Methodist Church was celebrated May 4 during the denomination’s General Conference.

Text and pictures were used to highlight milestones of that heritage: the “great meeting” in Isaac Long’s barn on the outskirts of Lancaster, Pa., in 1767, where Phillip William Otterbein and Martin Boehm met; the formation of the United Brethren in Christ in September 1800 on a farm near Frederick, Md.; the organization at about the same time of the Evangelical Association; the uniting of those two bodies in 1946 to create the Evangelical United Brethren Church (EUB); and the formation in 1968 of the United Methodist Church.

Both the United Brethren and Evangelical Association specialized in ministry with refugee Germans fleeing oppression in Europe. Their work paralleled that of Francis Asbury among English-speaking citizens of the new nation.

Boehm, a Mennonite, and Otterbein, a German Reformed pastor, were elected bishops of the United Brethren in Christ at the meeting in Maryland. 

At about the same time, Lutheran farmer and tile-maker Jacob Albright started a second church, the Evangelical Association. Albright, who lived a few miles west of Lancaster, Pa., had been converted under Methodist teaching.

The 200th observance, held at the Cleveland Convention Center, was directed by Jim Nelson, a professor at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and director of the Center for the Evangelical United   Brethren Heritage.

As part of the commemoration, the United Methodist Publishing House produced a hardbound historical sampler of the EUB church. The volume was presented to all delegates, along with a commemorative issue of the Telescope-Messenger, the semiannual publication of the center.

It is hard for United Methodists today to grasp the desperation of the German refugees, according to the multimedia presentation. “We can make use of the heritage left us by ministry two centuries ago,” the presenters declared.

 The ceremony was concluded with the singing, partly in German, of the familiar hymn “Jesus Loves Me” under the leadership of Bishop George W. Bashore, a member of the Evangelical United Brethren Church at the l968 union with the Methodist Church.

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-- Robert Lear

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