The Be in Christ Church of Canada began sometime between 1775 and 1788 near the town of Marietta, Pennsylvania. Those early founders had an Anabaptist background but were also deeply affected by the revivals of the great awakening of the eighteenth century and the Pietistic movements. These revivals emphasized a personal, heart-felt conversion experience which had a dramatic effect on the early group.
The earliest members of the Be in Christ Church simply called themselves “the Brethren.” By 1788 a group of “the Brethren” immigrated to Canada and became known as the “Tunkers,” a reference to their practice of baptism by immersion (from the German word meaning “to dip”). By the mid 1930’s “The Brethren” were referring to themselves as the Brethren in Christ Church. In 2017 we changed our name to Be In Christ to better reflect our inclusive and egalitarian values.
Discipleship in the movement was expressed in practical ways. It involved the avoidance of “worldly” activities such as politics and certain amusements such as card playing. Dress was simple and unadorned by jewellery, bright colours, or frills. Their plain uniform dress made them stand out in their communities which suited their belief of being a separate people called out by God. The fact that they were farmers and spoke German likely affected both their simple theological positions and their desire to be separated from the world and its influence.
The early Brethren took their name seriously – they believed and practiced community as a sisterhood and brotherhood in Christ. Their manner of meeting was symbolic of the concept of community. For most of the first 100 years of the church, worship services were held in the homes of members. And even when the Brethren began to construct buildings, referred to as meeting houses, they kept those buildings simple with basic wooden pews and an un-elevated pulpit. Thus, the Brethren met in common around the Word of God. The movement began to grow as members began to relocate to new communities and take their beliefs with them.
In 1879 the North American Church (US and Canada) were formed into a single General Conference, which gave overall guidance to regional conferences and local churches located across the two countries.
The Be In Christ church continues to grow. Today, BIC churches can be found across Canada and in more than thirty countries around the world. Although often translated into national languages, most countries still use the name Brethren In Christ.
To learn more about our history visit the Brethren In Christ Historical Society. The Historical Society is an organization committed to the study of our shared history. As a family of churches who is 230 years old, we have a long and rich heritage and embrace the values and lessons that have been left to us by our early leaders.