Tunkers (Germ. tunken, "to dip"), a sect of German-American Baptists, called by themselves Brethren. Their name is sometimes erroneously spelled Dunkers. The sect is said to have been founded by Alexander Mack at Schwarzenau, Westphalia, in 1708. Driven from Germany, some of them emigrated to America in 1719, and settled in Pennsylvania. They formed a settlement at Ephrata, Lancaster Co., under the directorship of Conrad Peysel. Here they built a town in the form of a triangle, the houses being three stories in height; and each of them a kind of monastery. They dressed much in the style of monks and nulls, men and women lived in different houses, and they used a vegetable diet, practicing considerable mortification. Although marriage was not forbidden, when couples married they were required to remove from Ephrata. They subsequently settled in Ohio, Indiana, Maryland, Virginia, and several other states. Their doctrines are similar to those of the Mennonites (q.v.), and in dress and manners they resemble the Friends. They use the kiss of charity, feet-washing, laying-on of hands, anointing the sick with oil; are opposed to war, and will not engage in lawsuits. They hold love-feasts, and an annual meeting about Whitsuntide, which is attended by their bishops, teachers, and representatives chosen by the congregations. Universal redemption, though not an article of faith, is commonly held by them. Some of the more strict sabbatarians, observing Saturday as their day of rest. They oppose statistics, which they believe to savor of pride, and, therefore, trustworthy statements as to their numbers cannot be given; they are supposed to number about 100,000. By reason of their quiet and peaceable lives they have retained a name which was given to them at first, that of "The Harmless People." For the denomination there are now published four weekly papers — the Primitive Christian, the Gospel Preacher, the Brethren at Work, and the Progressive Christian. This last is published at Berlin, Pa., by the liberals among the Brethren or Tunkers; and its position is defined (in the Independent of May 8, 1879) as follows:
"We are in full accord with the Church on all Gospel doctrines and practices; but do not believe in any tradition as being worthy of comparison with a divine injunction. In fact, we do not regard a custom one hundred or five hundred years old, whether it originated in the Church or in the world, as possessing any claims upon the attention of Bible Christians. We believe in "nonconformity to the world" from all its sinful practices; but we hold that the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, and that the inventions and discoveries of man are simply the products of the wisdom of God, and should be applied by the Christian to the glorifying of his name. We believe that the time now is when we shall neither in the garb of a hundred years ago nor ill the style of the present age worship the Father; but when the true worshippers shall worship him in spirit and in truth. We believe in self-denial, but not in stoicism; we advocate close communion, but not exclusiveness. In short, we hold that the Word of God is our perfect law, which if we obey we do well." SEE BAPTISTS, GERMAN.