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The Church of the United Brethren in Christ (New Constitution) is that part (the majority) of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ which adopted a new constitution in 1889. A minority of the Church (led by Bishop Milton Wright) contended that the proposed changes were invalid since they were not adopted by all church members. Contending that those supporting the new constitution had effectively seceded from the denomination, they walked out of the General Conference and declared themselves to be the true Church of the United Brethren in Christ.

For the next 57 years, there were two denominations calling themselves the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. The denomination that opposed the 1889 change called itself the Church of the United Brethren in Christ (Old Constitution), while the denomination that supported the changes called itself the Church of the United Brethren in Christ (New Constitution). Both claimed 1800 as their formal founding date, with heritage dating to 1767. Both also claimed the same history up to 1889.

The majority branch of the U.B. Church (i.e., those adopting the new constitution) ultimately merged with the Evangelical Church in 1946 to form the Evangelical United Brethren Church or EUB. In 1968, the Evangelical United Brethren Church merged with the Methodists to form the United Methodist Church.

The merge ceded all property deeds of the Evangelical United Brethren to the United Methodist Church. In the Northwest United States, over fifty Evangelical United Brethren churches immediately negotiated to purchase their deeds back and depart. They formed the Evangelical Church of North America (ECNA). Many of the former Evangelical United Brethren churches in Pennsylvania joined the new ECNA, even though their deeds belonged to the Methodists, prompting a ten-year dispute. Eventually, the Methodists gave the dissenting Pennsylvania churches the opportunity to purchase their deeds for token amounts. The churches did so with haste and were much relieved to have their property back and be in an organization of former EUB churches.[1]

At about the same time, the ECNA and Canadian Evangelical Church began talks and proposals of merging. The ECNA composed and printed a compatible draft of new By-laws for the possible merger. When the Pennsylvania churches reviewed the draft they requested wording that would guarantee local churches own their property. The ECNA conveyed it was not necessary since there was no overt statement of property ownership currently in the By-Laws. But with sensitivities heightened by the recent regaining of their deeds, the churches asked for wording that would prevent future changes in the By-Laws claiming church property. When the ECNA refused, the Pennsylvania churches requested withdrawal without contest for property, which the ECNA reluctantly granted. Anticipating departure, the Pennsylvania churches formed the Association of Evangelical Churches in 1981, and stated in their first By-Law that each church shall hold full title to its property. As an added precaution, it further stated that the paragraph on owning church property could not be amended without a unanimous vote of its member churches.[2]

Footnotes

  1. ^ Rev. Allen Young, Chairman, Association of Evangelical Churches
  2. ^ Rev. Allen Young, Chairman, Association of Evangelical Churches