Brethren, German Baptist religious group. They were popularly known as Dunkards, Dunkers, or Tunkers, from the German for “to dip,” referring to their method of baptizing. The Brethren evolved from the Pietist movement in Germany. The first congregation was organized there in 1708 by Alexander Mack. Persecution drove them to America where, under Peter Becker, they settled (1719) in Germantown, Pa. From that and other settlements in Pennsylvania they spread westward and into Canada. The Brethren oppose war and advocate temperance, the simple life, plain dress, and “obedience to Christ rather than obedience to creeds and cults.” The original group, at present the largest in the United States, is the Church of the Brethren (Conservative Dunkers); the local churches are united by an annual conference that elects a general board to supervise the national church program. From the Church of the Brethren there have been separations into the Seventh-Day Baptists, German Baptists (1728; see Beissel, Johann Conrad); Church of God (New Dunkards, 1848); Old German Baptist Brethren (1881); and the Brethren Church (Progressive Dunkers, 1882). The Brethren baptize by trine immersion, the candidate being immersed once for each member of the Trinity. They practice foot washing and the love feast.

See also River Brethren (for Brethren in Christ, River Brethren, and Yorker Brethren); Christadelphians (for Brethren of Christ); Hutterian Brethren; Moravian Church.

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