Brethren is a name adopted by several Protestant Christian bodies which do not necessarily share historical roots. As classified in The Pilgrim Church by EH Broadbent, the earliest primitive churches and the Paulician Brethren, the Bogomil Brethren, the Anabaptist and the Moravian Brethren were part of the historical Brethren Movement.
These groups grew out of the Anabaptist movement at the time of the Protestant Reformation (16th century).
- The Hutterites or Hutterian Brethren are descendants of German, Swiss, and Tyrolean Anabaptists led by Jacob Hutter, who was burned at the stake in 1536 for refusing to renounce his faith.
- The Swiss Brethren were an early Anabaptist group that later divided into the Amish and Mennonite groups (particularly the Swiss Mennonite Conference)
- The Mennonite Brethren originated among Russian Mennonites in 1860.
The Schwarzenau Brethren originated in 1708 in Schwarzenau, Bad Berleburg, Germany, with Alexander Mack. Their roots are in the Radical Pietism movement but they were strongly influenced by Anabaptist theology. They have also been called "Dunkers" or "German Baptist Brethren". The group split into three wings in 1881–1883:
The various Plymouth Brethren bodies originated in the 1820s work of John Nelson Darby and others in Ireland and the United Kingdom as well as India:
Some groups named "Brethren" have contributed to United Methodism:
The River Brethren owe their origins to the combined labors of Reformed pastor Philip William Otterbein and Mennonite Martin Boehm, beginning in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in the latter half of the 18th century. They were also influenced by the Schwarzenau Brethren and include (amongst others):
Medieval Catholic reformist groups
Other religious groups
- Apostolic United Brethren, a Mormon fundamentalist group.
- The Brethren (Jim Roberts group), an apocalyptic Jesus people movement from the 1970s.
- Brethren of Purity, an esoteric Muslim sect.
- The Church of the Lutheran Brethren of America is neither Anabaptist nor Pietistic, but is the result of a late 19th century spiritual awakening among Lutheran congregations in the upper Midwestern United States. They formed a separate synod in 1900.
- Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, a Czech Lutheran–Reformed Protestant church
- The Moravian Brethren (also known as United Brethren or Unitas Fratrum and Bohemian Brethren) descend from the followers of Jan Hus, a Czech reformer burned at the stake in 1415 and mainly Bohemian 15th century nobleman and theologian Peter Chelcicky.
- The Polish Brethren—also known as Socinians—were an Antitrinitarian group, forerunners for the Unitarians.
- The Social Brethren originated in Saline County, Illinois in 1867, the result of an attempt to put the slavery issue away in favor of uniting on a common belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- Studite Brethren, a society in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
- The United Seventh-Day Brethren is an Adventist body.
- The Unity of the Brethren also traces its roots to the work of Hus.