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Martin Boehm.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Martin Boehm, with Philip William Otterbein (1726-1813), was the co-founder of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, and became one of the best-known clergymen of the Middle States in the late 18th century. Martin, the son of immigrant blacksmith Jacob Boehm, was born of Swiss-Palatine Mennonite parentage in Conestoga Township, in what is now Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on 30 November 1725. His mother's name is unknown. In 1753 he married Eve Steiner (1734-1822) with whom he had eight children. 

Boehm  was chosen by lot as preacher of the Pequea Mennonite congregation in 1756. His worries over his unworthiness as a minister were dispelled by a powerful conversion experience while plowing his fields in 1758. After this experience he began to preach "in power" the evangelical message of repentance and salvation by faith. Advanced to the office of bishop in 1759, he continued his preaching, making his famous visit to Virginia in 1761, where he came in contact with the "Great Awakening" evangelism of George Whitefield and others. On Pentecost 1767 he participated in the "great meeting" in Mennonite Isaac Long's barn in the Conestoga Valley north of Landis Valley, where he preached to over 1,000 listeners and met Otterbein, who gave Martin Boehm his famous embrace with the words "Wir sind Brüder!" (We are Brothers). This is considered the founding moment for the establishing of the  United Brethren movement movement.

At first Mennonites welcomed Boehm's emotionally driven preaching, but by about 1777 his style of preaching and evangelism created serious concerns among his fellow Mennonite pastors. A number of charges were brought against him, including participation with worldly Christians who practiced warfare and oath taking, acceptance of members who were under church discipline, insistence on "his own particular way," and failure to accept the community's instruction to confess in his faults. For these faults Martin Boehm was excommunicated by the Mennonite conference of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. In spite of being excommunicated, Boehm wore a Mennonite-style plain coat and low flowing moustache-free beard all his life.

Martin Boehm was in great demand as a preacher and continued to speak to great crowds in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. He met regularly with Otterbein in Baltimore, Maryland and in 1800 attended the first formal annual conference of the United Brethren in Christ Church. At this conference Boehm and Otterbein were chosen as the first bishops. Boehm brought many Mennonite converts into the United Brethren movement, while his colleague Otterbein attracted groups of "awakened" members of the Reformed Church in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Boehm also influenced a number of Mennonites to end their association with the "unawakened" Mennonites who did not wish to join the United Brethren, but led to the development of the River Brethren (Brethren in Christ church). 

He was a close friend of English-speaking Methodist preachers, read many of John Wesley’s sermons and often preached in Methodist churches. In 1791 the United Brethren built a large stone chapel Martin Boehm’s property. It was frequently used by Methodists, and he participated in this community without severing ties with the United Brethren in Christ church. He is credited with being was the greatest single force in spreading Methodism through Lancaster County. His son, Henry Boehm (1775-1875), became a prominent Methodist minister and left an invaluable volume of Reminiscences, which shed light on his father's career. Martin Boehm died 23 March 1812, and his funeral sermon was preached by his friend, Bishop Francis Asbury of the Methodist Episcopal Church, at "Boehm's Chapel" near Willow Street in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where he was buried.

Contents

Bibliography

Ruth, John L. The Earth Is the Lord's: A Narrative History of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference. Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 2001.

Additional Information

Original Article from Mennonite Encyclopedia

Copied by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 378. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.

Martin Boehm, with Philip William Otterbein (1726-1813) the co-founder of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, was born of Swiss-Palatine Mennonite parentage in what is now Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, 30 November 1725. After his marriage to Eve Steiner (1734-1822) in 1753, he was chosen by lot as preacher of the Pequea Mennonite congregation. His worries over his unworthiness as a minister were dispelled by a powerful conversion experience about 1758, when he began to preach "in power" the evangelical message of repentance and salvation by faith. Advanced to the office of bishop in 1759, he continued his preaching, making his famous visit to Virginia in 1761, where he came in contact with the "Great Awakening" evangelism of Whitefield and others. In 1767 he participated in the "great meeting" in Isaac Long's barn in the Conestoga Valley north of Landis Valley, where he met Otterbein, and the seed for the United Brethren movement took root. Ten years after this, due to his association with non-Mennonites in the work of his widening ministry, and his revivalistic practices and beliefs, Martin Boehm was excommunicated by the Mennonite conference of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Into the United Brethren movement Boehm brought a considerable group of Mennonite converts and circuit-riders, while his colleague Otterbein brought groups of "awakened" members of the Reformed Church in Pennsylvania and Maryland. In addition to his importance for United Brethren history, Martin Boehm's shadow falls across the early history of the Brethren in Christ (River Brethren). Also, he was the greatest single force in spreading Methodism through Lancaster County. His son Henry Boehm (1775-1875) became a prominent Methodist minister and left an invaluable volume of Reminiscences, which shed light on his father's career. Martin Boehm died 23 March 1812, and his funeral sermon was preached by his friend, Bishop Francis Asbury of the Methodist Episcopal Church, at "Boehm's Chapel" near Willow Street in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where he was buried. -- Don Yoder


Author(s) Victor G Wiebe
Date Published December 2012


Cite This Article

MLA style

Wiebe, Victor G. "Boehm, Martin (1725-1812)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. December 2012. Web. 23 Sep 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Boehm,_Martin_(1725-1812)&oldid=101410.

APA style

Wiebe, Victor G. (December 2012). Boehm, Martin (1725-1812). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 September 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Boehm,_Martin_(1725-1812)&oldid=101410.




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