Baptists, German

Baptists, German, a denomination of American Baptists who are commonly called Dunkers, while they call themselves Brethren. They originated at Schwarzenau, in Germany, in 1708, but were driven by persecution to America between 1719 and 1729. They purposely neglect any record of their proceedings, and are opposed to statistics, which they believe to savor of pride. They originally settled in Pennsylvania, but are now most numerous in Ohio. In 1790, a party of Universalists, led by one John Ham, separated from the Dunkers, since which time there has been no connection between them. The seceders are to be found in Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa. The whole denomination has been believed to hold Universalist views, but they have always protested against the charge. With the Mennonites, they appeal to the Confessions of Faith published in Holland two centuries ago. They practice trine immersion, with laying on of hands while the person is in the water. They lay their candidate forward in the water instead of backward, as the regular Baptists do. Their officers are bishops (or ministers), elders, teachers, and deacons (or visiting brethren). They also have deaconesses — aged women, who are allowed to exercise their gifts statedly. Bishops are chosen from the teachers, after they have been fully tried and found faithful It is their duty to travel from one congregation to another, to preach, to officiate at marriages and funerals, to set in order whatever may be wanting, to be present at love-feasts and communions, when a bishop is to be ordained, when teachers or deacons are chosen or elected, and when any officer is to be excommunicated. An elder is the first or eldest chosen teacher in a congregation where there is no bishop. It is his duty to appoint meetings, to assist in excommunication, to exhort and preach, to baptize, to travel occasionally, and, where no bishop is present, to perform all the duties of the latter. Teachers are chosen by vote. It is their duty to exhort and preach at any of their stated meetings, and, when so requested by a bishop or elder, to perform the ceremonies of matrimony and of baptism. It is the duty of deacons to keep a constant oversight of poor widows and their children, and give them such aid from time to time as may: be necessary; to visit all the families in the congregation at least once a year, and exhort, comfort, and edify them, as well as to reconcile all offenses and misunderstandings that. may occur from time to time; and, when necessary, to read the Scriptures, pray, and exhort at the regular meetings. An annual meeting is held about Whitsuntide, and attended by bishops and teachers, as well as by such other members as may be delegated by the congregations. A committee of five of the oldest bishops hears those cases which may be referred to them by the teachers and representatives from the congregations. Their decisions are published in English and German. In plainness of speech and dress they resemble the Society of Friends. They will not go to law, nor engage in war, and seldom take interest for the money which they lend to their poorer brethren. The Baptist Yearbook for 1890 estimates the number of their preachers at 1490, of congregations at 4390, of members at 204,517. The census of 1850 gave them only 52 church edifices. which indicates that a large number of their congregations worship in school-houses. See Belcher, Religious Denominations. SEE TUNKERS.(DUNKERS ? — ed.)

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