RIVER BRETHREN, the name of a group of three Christian communities in the United States of America, descended from Swiss settlers near the Susquehanna river in Pennsylvania in 1750. The first pastor was Jacob Engle, who became head of the community in 1770. Their system is based on literal obedience to the commands of the New Testament, and they have points of similarity both with the Mennonites and with the Dunkards. They practise foot-washing and baptism by trine immersion; are strict sabbatarians and simple in their manner of life. The three branches are: (1) The Brethren in Christ, who are the most elaborately organized and are numerous in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kansas; they have also formed churches in New York and in Canada, and missions in South Africa, India and Texas. In 1909 they had 174 ministers, and 65 churches with 3675 communicants. (2) The Old Order, or Yorker Brethren, consists of a small body which separated from the main body in 1843 and maintained more strictly the original practice. They are found specially in York (disambiguation)|York county, Pennsylvania (whence the name "Yorkers"). In 1909 they had 24 ministers, 9 churches, and 423 communicants. (3) The United Zion's Children date from 1853, when a small body left the parent communion on minor questions of administration. They had in 1909 22 ministers and 28 churches with 749 communicants, all in Pennsylvania.
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