The Brethren (at the time called German Baptist Brethren) suffered a three way division early in the 1880s, and the more progressive group organized the Brethren Church. They maintained the standard Brethren doctrines, but wanted to adopt new methods, and desired more congregational autonomy and less centralization. These more progressive Brethren moved into the mainstream of Christian evangelicalism in America. Several events in the late 19th century and early 20th century, including the Bible Conference movement, emphasis on foreign missions, and the rise of fundamentalism, had an impact on the church. The Foreign Missionary Society of the Brethren Church was formed on September 4, 1900 in Winona Lake, Indiana. But, also in the early 1900s, two different viewpoints began to emerge. One issue was that the "fundamentalists" wanted to convert Ashland College into a Bible college, while the "traditionalists" wanted it to remain an accredited liberal arts college. With the dismissal of Alva J. McClain and Herman Hoyt from the new seminary at Ashland College, the tensions began to erupt. The dissident group formed the Grace Theological Seminary in 1937. This brought to surface the differences, and the denomination divided into two almost evenly numbered bodies. In 1939, National Fellowship of Brethren Churches was formed. The Fellowship incorporated in 1987 as the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches.
Twelve articles, adopted in 1969, are presented by the fellowship as their statement of faith on the following issues - the Bible, God, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, Man, Salvation, the Church, the Christian life, Ordinances, Satan, Second Coming and Future Life. The Grace Brethren are considered to be more Calvinistic than the Ashland Brethren, and are pretributional premillennialists in eschatology.
Grace Brethren International Missions, Grace Brethren North American Missions, Internationals USA and Women of Grace USA are ministries formed by the Grace Brethren to help fulfill their mission of making Jesus known. They also operate Grace College and Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. Headquarters are maintained in Winona Lake, and the annual conference is held there. Today (2003) the Fellowship of Grace Brethren is made up of over 265 churches in the United States and Canada, with a membership of over 30,000. There are 23 districts cooperating with the Fellowship, and over 1000 churches have been formed outside North America.