EVANGELICAL ASSOCIATION: An ecclesiastical body which originated as a result of the evangelistic labors of Jacob Albright (q.v. ), who began preaching in 1796 among the Germans in Eastern Pennsylvania. The first organizations among his converts were formed in 1800. The first general meeting took place in 1803, which acknowledged Albright as a minister of the Gospel, and solemnly ordained him by the laying on of hands, in accordance with the precedent in Acts xiii. 1-3. Albright was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, with whose doctrine, polity, and spirit he was fully in accord. But he was compelled to organize, much against his own purpose and will, because the leaders of the Methodist Church did not wish to do work at that time among the Germans of this country. In 1807 the first regular conference was held, in Kleinfeltersville, Pa., composed of the ministers and officers of the Church, twenty-eight in number. Albright was elected bishop and authorized to compile a Scriptural creed and a plan of organization, but he died May 18, 1808, leaving this work unfinished. George Miller, an excellent writer, John Walter, an eloquent preacher, and John Dreisbach, a man of uncommon gifts of organization and leadership, carried the work forward. In 1809 a second conference was held, at which the book of discipline begun by Albright and completed by George Miller, was adopted and the name, "The So-called Albright People," was agreed upon. In 1816 the first delegated General Conference was held, at which the name, "The Evangelical Association," was adopted. A publishing house which had been founded by John Dreisbach in New Berlin, Penn., was made an institution of the Church. The work of the denomination was at first exclusively German. But it gradually turned into English, while now it labors in a number of languages and nationalities.
The Evangelical Association is Arminian in doctrine, connectional in organization, and episcopal in government. The governing bodies are: (1) The Quarterly Conference, composed of the ministers and lay officers of a charge and presided over by the presiding elder of the district. It meets four times a year, manages the affairs of the charge and recommends candidates for the ministry. (2) The Annual Conference, which has administrative jurisdiction over a prescribed territory. At its sessions a bishop presides and assigns the preachers to their charges. It licenses and ordains preachers and acts coordinately with the General Conference in the enactment of constitutional law. (3) The General Conference, meeting every four years, and consisting of the bishops, general offîcers, ministerial delegates chosen by the Annual Conferences upon a basis of one to every fourteen members, and lay delegates to constitute about one-third of the entire body. This is the supreme governing, legislating, and judicial body of the Church. It makes laws in concurrence with the members of the Annual Conferences, elects the bishops and general officers, and is the final court of appeal.
A controversy of several years' duration led to the secession of about 50,000 members and the organization of the United Evangelical Church (q.v.) in 1891. The Evangelical Association in 1907 consisted of twenty-seven Annual Conferences, twenty-two in the United States, one in Canada, two in Germany, one in Switzerland, and one in Japan. It has 131,437 members; 1,587 ministers, itinerant and local; 2,232 Sunday-schools with 23,977 officers and teachers and 165,192 scholars; 1,201 Young People's Alliances with 39,143 members; 2,219 organized congregations; 1,854 church edifices with an estimated value of $6,340,966; 722 parsonages valued at $1,264,618. Its total property is valued at $7,942,740.03. Its people contributed $250,000 for missions and $1,476,771 for all purposes in 1906. It has a publishing house in Cleveland, Ohio, and a branch in Stuttgart, Germany. Its educational institutions are North Western College, Naperville, Ill., with four buildings, an endowment of $250,000, twenty-five professors, and 450 students; Union Biblical Institute, at the same place, with an endowment of $50,000, and forty students; Schuylkill Seminary, Reading, Penn., with $50,000 endowment; the Preachers' Seminary in Reutlingen, Germany; and the Correspondence College with headquarters at Reading, Penn. It has an orphan home at Flat Rock, Ohio, taking care of 150 children, three old people's homes, one in Philadelphia, one near Buffalo, N. Y., and one in Chicago, and a deaconesses' home and hospital in Chicago. It has missions in Japan and China. Der christliche Botschafter, The Evangelical Messenger, Das evangelische Magazin, and The Living Epistle, all published in Cleveland, Ohio, are the church periodicals.
S. P. SPRENG.