Protestant denomination created (1946) by the union of the Evangelical Church and the United Brethren in Christ. Both denominations originated early in the 19th cent. and had similarities in organization and polity. The Evangelical Church was begun by the evangelical, pietistic efforts of Jacob Albright, a Lutheran convert to Methodism, who preached among his fellow Pennsylvania Germans. The United Brethren in Christ came into being as a result of the evangelistic preaching of Philip William Otterbein of the German Reformed Church and Martin Boehm, a Mennonite bishop. These two ministers conducted revivals among the German-speaking people of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. The methods of Albright, Otterbein, and Boehm were similar: after evangelistic meetings, converts were encouraged to form classes or societies for strengthening their spiritual life. The groups formed under Albright held a general conference in 1807 at which he was elected bishop; in 1816 the name Evangelical Association was adopted. In 1891 a group that became the United Evangelical Church seceded from the Evangelical Association, but in 1922 the two bodies reunited as the Evangelical Church. The societies formed under Otterbein and Boehm took shape as a distinct ecclesiastical body, to be known as the United Brethren in Christ, at a conference in 1800, at which the two ministers were elected bishops. The United Brethren in Christ (Old Constitution) parted from the main body in 1889; from that time they have maintained a separate church. Members of the Moravian Church are also sometimes called the United Brethren. In earlier years the membership of the Evangelical Church and of the United Brethren in Christ included few who were not German in speech, but later the German-speaking element formed only a small proportion. Extension W of the Alleghenies was rapid. The newly combined church supported publishing houses in the United States and abroad, four theological seminaries, a number of colleges, and foreign missions. It had an episcopal form of government. In doctrine it was Arminian. Particular emphasis was laid on prayer, a life of devotion to Christ, and the responsibility of the individual. Having long maintained a close relationship with the Methodist Church, it merged with it to found (1968) the United Methodist Church, U.S.A.
- See R. W. Albright, History of the Evangelical Church (1942, repr. 1956);.
- A Short History of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ (1944). ,