Remember when: The Brethren Service Committee finds its charter

Church of the Brethren Newsline
February 4, 2017

This image called the Brethren Service Cup has been used by several different Church of the Brethren programs over the decades, symbolizing the church’s commitment to Christian service offering the “cup of cold water” in Jesus’ name to all those in need. Currently it is part of the logo of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Newsline is starting a new feature called “Remember When,” moments in Brethren history that are worth remembering and may help serve to guide us into the future. Readers are invited to contribute their own favorite “remember when” stories from Brethren history. Please e-mail submissions to .

This week’s moment from Brethren history is the decision that created the Brethren Service Committee, the forerunner of the Brethren Service Commission. The BSC went on to become the main implement for the Church of the Brethren’s extensive service activities and witness for peace in Europe and elsewhere following World War II.

From the minutes of the 1941 Annual Conference:

“The Brethren Service Committee finds its charter in the words of the Master: ‘I was hungry and ye gave me to eat; …I was a stranger and ye took me in; I was naked and ye clothed me; I was sick and ye visited me; I was in prison and ye came unto me…inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even those least, ye did it unto me.’

“This committee represents the Church of the Brethren in the area of social action. Its primary function is that of personal rehabilitation and social reconstruction in the name of and spirit of Christ. Its fields of service are as follows:

“1. To arrest and eliminate, in so far as possible, those forces in human society which contribute to the disintegration of personality and character, and to social instability. The Brethren recognize war, intemperance, political corruption, and the breakdown of the family as important among these forces (1 Thessalonians 5:14, 15).

“2. To relieve human distress and suffering around the world without regard to barriers of race, creed or nationality. These include the service of the church among refugees, exiles, prisoners, orphans, widows, the aged and other conditions of human life in which there is need for physical and spiritual relief compatible with the ideals, traditions, and financial resources of the church (Galatians 6:10).

“3. To represent the church in the area of creative citizenship and Christian testimony on issues of national and international significance. This includes the program of Civilian Public Service and the relation of the church and its members to the government in regard to peace and war and situations where the principle of religious freedom is involved (1 Peter 2:12).

“4. To develop, organize and apply the spiritual and financial resources of the church to the above areas of service as a concrete and practical expression of the spirit and teaching of Christ as the Brethren understand and interpret them. This shall include the expressional side of our peace program in an effort of world reconciliation and the preservation of goodwill and human understanding among all peoples and races. The work of the committee shall be carried on so far as possible on a voluntary basis (Romans 12:20, 21).”

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