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a.k.a. Bruderhof Communities International

I. Group Profile

Name: Bruderhof

Founder: Eberhard Arnold

Date of Birth: 1883

Birth Place: Germany

Year Founded: 1920

Sacred or Revered Texts: The New Testament

Cult or Sect: Negative sentiments are typically implied when the concepts "cult" and "sect" are employed in popular discourse. Since the Religious Movements Homepage seeks to promote religious tolerance and appreciation of the positive benefits of pluralism and religious diversity in human cultures, we encourage the use of alternative concepts that do not carry implicit negative stereotypes. For a more detailed discussion of both scholarly and popular usage of the concepts "cult" and "sect," please visit our Conceptualizing "Cult" and "Sect" page, where you will find additional links to related issues.

Size of Group: 2,500

II. History

The Bruderhof claim that their roots go back to the time of the Radical Reformation of early 16th century Europe, when thousands of Anabaptists left the institutional church to seek a life of simplicity, brotherhood, and nonviolence. A branch of this movement was known as the Hutterites named after the leader of the movement, Jacob Hutter. The Hutterites settled in communal villages or Bruderhofs ("place of brothers") in Moravia. [4]

Eberhard Arnold the founder of the Bruderhof became General Secretary of the Student Christian Movement in Germany soon after finishing graduate school. As a result of this he was exposed to a variety of social movements and embarked on a mission in search of religious expression that lasted several years. It eventually ended with him renting a farm at Sannerz in 1920 where he founded a religous community. The original membership consisted of only seven adults, but eventually grew to more than forty members by 1926 and outgrew the Sannerz farm. [1]

Arnold moved part of the group to the nearby Rhoen mountains. Here he discovered that the Hutterites, a group that he had studied intensely and knew a great deal about, were still practicing and living in North America. In 1930 he traveled to meet them and while there he was ordained as a Hutterite minister. Upon returning to Rhoen he set about the process of Hutterization in his own group. Since his first encounter with them in 1930, communication between the two groups has remained open. However, acceptance of the Bruderhof has been inconsistent among the various Hutterite groups. A separation due to irreconcilable differences occurred in 1950 between the Lehrerleut and Dariusleut Hutterites and the Bruderhof. This separation continues even today. [1]

Little conflict occurred within the community or with society until 1933 when Hitler came to power. Early the following year the community moved some of its members, mainly draft-age young men, to Liechtenstein and created the Alm Bruderhof. The next year Eberhard Arnold died at age 52. The fact that the group felt unsafe in Liechtenstein compounded with their unwillingness to follow Nazism. This caused them to leave Germany and go to England. There they founded the Cotswold Bruderhof in 1936. The Cotswold Bruderhof eventually came to house the members of the Rhoen and Alm Bruderhofs also. In 1937 the Rhoen Bruderhof was closed by the German govenrment and in 1938 the Alm Bruderhofs left Germany also. That same year the community founded a second hof (communal village) in Oaksey, England were its population grew to over 300 members. [1]

When England entered the war against Germany the government of England chose to intern any German persons within the country. The group which now consisted of both German and English persons decided that they did not want to be separated in this way and looked elsewhere to live. Eventually after being denied access to live in Canada and the United States, the group moved to Paraguay between the years of 1940-1941. By 1953 the group had grown to a size of 700 members and had established three separate colonies at a site they called Primavera. Sometime later, the most liberal of the North American Hutterites, the Schmiedeleut Forest River colony in North Dakota, invited them to join them against the general Hutterite sentiment. Approximately 36 members of the Paraguayan Bruderhof did indeed join them and subsequently were accused of trying to take over the entire Schmiedeleut branch of Hutterites. As a consequence of this action many Hutterites, including the preacher, left the community. In 1955 Schmiedeleut preachers gathered together and excommunicated the Bruderhof and placed the Forest River colony on probation. [1]

In 1954 the group was allowed permission to come to the United States. In the United States the group set up its first Bruderhof, called Woodcrest in Rifton, New York. In 1961 a number of internal problems arose with the result that all the Bruderhofs outside of the United States shut down. Due to the internal problems which arose as many as 300 persons left the community during this time for various reasons. Some left on their own voluntarily and others were expelled from the community. Since their departure from the group, a number of former members have formed a network of correspondence designed for mutual support and comparisons on what they feel are the shortcomings of the Bruderhof communities. [1]

A huge stepping stone for the ex-members came in 1989 when Ramon Sender, a former member himself, started a newsletter known as KIT (Keep in Touch). In the late 1950's Ramon and his wife joined the Bruderhof but soon discovered the community was not to his liking so he left. His wife did not agree with him and stayed at the community with their daughter, Xaverie Sender Rhodes. Ramon and his wife eventually divorced and communications between him and his daughter practically did not exist. Visits and letters to his daughter were disallowed by the Bruderhof leadership. However in 1988 he no longer tolerated the situation when he learned that his daughter had died of cancer a month earlier in the Woodcrest Bruderhof in New York. As a result of this unexpected event, Ramon started the KIT newsletter which focuses mainly on grievances of ex-members concerning the abuses they believe they experienced while in the Bruderhof community. [1]

In 1973 Heini Arnold formally apologized for the incident which occurred with the Forest River colony in the 1950's. The following year the Schmiedeleut ministers voted to re-admit the Bruderhof to their church. However, in 1990 the Dariusleut and Lehrerleut Hutterite leaders excommunicated the Bruderhof. They presented ten disagreements that the Hutterites had with the Bruderhof to Christoph Arnold which addressed unhutterian practices on part of the Bruderhof. [1] Among these unhutterian practices were presentations of babies to the church, putting on plays that imitate parts of scripture, and lovemeals. [5]

Over the years the Bruderhof has continued to grow even in the face of controversy and now consists of eight communities in the United States and two in England with over 2,500 members. The communities in the United States can be found in New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. [3]

III. Beliefs of the Group

The Bruderhof believe that society is a system of injustice that has incorporated into it violence, fear, and isolation. Due to the wrong in society they believe that they must witness to the fact that God's spirit is at work in the world today calling them from the old ways to the new ways of peace, love, and brotherhood. The Bruderhof also believe that the planet earth must be conquered in order to set up this new social order, unity, and joy. To do this God calls them to community. As a result of this calling, the 2,500 members of the Bruderhof have formed communities in the United States and England. [4]

The Bruderhof see themselves as a Christian Community Movement and their church is modeled after the early Christian church in Jerusalem. Their structural basis for the church comes from the book of Acts in the New Testament (Acts 2:44-47, 4:32-35) . [2] The Bruderhof do not hold assets or property privately but instead share everything in common. Every member of the group provides his or her time, effort, and talents as needed. All members donate their money and possessions to the community as a whole and in turn each member of the community is cared for. Two meals a day, lunch and dinner, are eaten together and several times each week in the evening the group comes together for fellowship, singing, prayer, or decision making. [4]

The basis of their beliefs within communal life comes from the teachings of Christ in the New Testament, especially from Matthew chapters five through seven which are commonly known as Jesus' sermon on the mount. The Bruderhof draw their beliefs about brotherly love, love of enemies, mutual service, nonviolence, refusal to bear arms, sexual purity, and faithfulness in marriage from the words spoken by Christ in these passages. [4]

Even though most of the members of the Bruderhof are single adults, they consider the family the primary unit of the community. At what they call the "Children's House" young children and babies are taken care of while their parents work. The Bruderhof choose not to send their children who would be in eighth grade or lower to public or private schools. Instead they have their own school system in which children in preschool, kindergarten, and elementary grades are educated within the community. When a child enters the 9th grade they attend the local public high school until graduation. After completing high school, the young adult then moves on for additional education or technical and vocational training. The young adults are encouraged to leave the community for a minimum of one year before deciding whether or not to become a member of the Bruderhof community. The purpose of this departure from the group is to allow the person the chance to live on their own and to see how the rest of the world lives. The Bruderhof people support themselves through two major community businesses the first being Community Playthings and the second Rifton Equipment . Community Playthings manufactures play equipment and furniture for children and Rifton Equipment manufactures products for people with disabilities. [4]

IV. Links to Bruderhof Web Sites

Bruderhof Communities: Plough Online

This site is created by the Bruderhof for the purpose of providing information on who they are, what their beliefs are, what they do, etc. At this site you can find links on the following: Plough books, Plough Magazine, Information about the Bruderhof, How to Contact the Bruderhof, and other sites of interest.

http://www.Plough.com The Bruderhof Home Page

This is the official homepage for the Bruderhof. At this site you can find a brief account of who the Bruderhof are, how they live their life, their background, where they get their inspiration, and the size of their group. http://www.bruderhof.org

The Bruderhof Communities, some personal experiences and observations

This is a web page created by Wayne and Betty Chesley who are both former members of the Bruderhof community. At this site they explain what brought them to the Bruderhof, what they believe the public image and reality of the Bruderhof is, who they consider to be the enemies of the Bruderhof, their experiences in leaving the Bruderhof, etc. http://w3.ime.net/~wchesley/bruderhof/our_experiences.html

Stress and Conflict in an International Religious Movement

At this site one can find detailed information on the Bruderhof that includes: A historical introduction, The KIT conflict, and The Schmiedeleut conflict. http://www.matisse.net/~peregrin/tm_arch.html

Addresses of US and UK Bruderhofs

This site contains the information necessary for contacting the Bruderhofs in the United States and United Kingdom. http://www.bruderhof.org/bruderhof/addresses.htm

Peregrine Foundation

This site contains information on the Peregrine Foundation. The Peregrine Foundation was created in 1992 to assist families and individuals living in or exiting from experimental social groups. Its newsletters and books inform the public-at-large about the structure and ideologies of various religious sects, communes and intentional communities. http://www.perefound.org/home.html

Community Playthings & Rifton Equipment Welcome Page

This page contains information on the two main businesses of the Bruderhof communities and how to contact them for product information. Community Playthings is an internationally known Bruderhof business designed to aid in the growth and development of children. Rifton Equipment is a business that makes equipment for people with disabilities. http://www.communityproducts.com/

Hutterite Genealogy Home Page

This site provides general information on the history of the Hutterites. In addition to general history of the Hutterites this site also contains links to more in depth information on the history of the Hutterites and also family records of Hutterites from 1700-1874. http://feefhs.org/hut/frg-hut.html

The Catholic Encyclopedia

Contains information relating to the doctrine principles, origin, and history of the Anabaptists. http://www.knight.org/advent/cathen/01445b.htm

V. Bibliography

Miller, Timothy. 1993. "Stress and Conflict in an International Religious Movement: The Case of the Bruderhof." Paper presented at the CENSURE/INFORM?ISAR conference. London. (March). Available on line at: Stress and Conflict in an International Religious Movement

Bruderhof. n.d. "The Bruderhof: A Christian Community Movement." http://www1.mhv.net/~Bruderhof/homepage.htm

Wall, James. 1997. "Cults and communities." Christian Century May 21-28.

Bruderhof. n.d. "The Story Behind Plough Online." http://www.bruderhof.org/bruferhof/index.htm

Peregrin. 1990. "Hutterian Church Excommunicates the Bruderhof, 1990." http://workshop.matisse.net/~peregrin/xcsob_90.html

Melton, J. Gordon. 1996. Encyclopedia of American Religions (5th edition). Detroit: Gale Research Inc. pp. 596-97.

Zablocki, Benjamin. 1973. The Joyful Community . Baltimore: Penguin Books.

Created by Matt Edwards // For Soc 257: New Religious Movements

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