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Article on Churches of Christ vs. Disciples of Christ

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Article on Churches of Christ vs. Disciples of Christ

Posted: 30 Mar 2008 3:25PM GMT
Classification: Query
Surnames: Stone, Campbell
An article kept by my great grandmother on the Campbellites. Date unknown.

"Christian Churches Founded in America. (Editor's note: This is the ninth in a series of 20 articles describing the principal religions in the United States). By Louis Cassels, UPI Religion Writer.

In addition to the churches that were transplanted from Europe, AMerica has thriving religious movements that are native to its own soil. Oldest and largest of the relgious movements indigious to the United States is a fellowship whose members reject all denomination labels and call themselves simply "Christians".

There are two main branches of this movement. One has about 8,000 local congregations, with 1.8 million members. Each congregation enjoys complete autonomy in managing its affairs, but there is a national convention which meets once a year, and a national secretariat with offices at Indianapolis, Ind., to provide some degree of organizaitonal cohesion.

This body is known as the International Convention of Christian Churches (Discples of Christ) and its members are known infomrally as disciples.

The otehr branch comprises about 10,000 local congregations, with an estimated two million members. Each local congegation is termed a Church of Christ, and the movement as a whole bears the name Churches of Christ. But it is even more loosely knit than the disciples of Christ, having no national convention and no central offices or agencies of any kind.

The nearest thing to a natioanl meeting is a lectureship held each year by Abilene Christian College, Abilene, Tex., which draws thousands of Churches of Christ leaders from various sections of the country for five days of informal consulatation and fellowship.

Both of the disciples and the Churches of Christ are represented in all 50 states. Disciples are most numerous in the South and the Midwest. Chruches of Christ are concentrated in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.

Patriarch of the movement was a frontier preacher named Barton W. Stone, who was born in Maryland in 1772. He was an ordained Presbyterian clergyman when he went to the frontier to begin his career as a conductor of revival meetings.

But he soon became convinced that denominationalism was the curse of Christianity. In 1804, he issued a manifesto, repudiating all the denominational labels and "man-made creeds" that divide Christians.

The (sic) called upon believers of the Bible to united in a new fellowship, based solely upon the teachings of scripture. He suggested that they call themselves "Christians" to make it clear that they were not any particuar brand or denomination of Christians.

In his impatience with denominationalism and disunity, Barton Stone was 150 years ahead of the ecumenical spirit that pervades today's churches. But even in the early 19th century, he found plenty of people who shared his sentiments. The Christian movement gained adherents rapidly, especially in the frontier communities of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri.

It got a termendous impetus after 1809 from leadership of a remarkable father-and-son team, Thomas and Alexander Campbell.

The Campbells were Irish Presbyterians, who immigrated to America and became frontier evangelists. Like Barton Stone, they were passionately convinced that all Christians should unite-- not in a hierarchical church but in a voluntary fellowship based on teh sole authority of the Bible and the absolute indpendence of each local congregation.

ALexander Campbell was a formidable presacher who won the admiration of intellectuals like James Madison as well as the enthusiastic response of frontier tent-meeting crowdds. In an era when Protestant and Roman Catholic contacts were virtually nil, he cultivated a close friendship with the Catholic archbiship of Cincinnati, the Most Rev. John PUrcell, and once engaged in a public debate with him.

The Christian movement carried to its logical conclusion the Protestant principle that each amn is free to read and interpret the Scriptures for himself.

"No creed but Christ" is a slogan dear to the heart of every Christian. IN practice, it means that any person who accepts Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Saviou is welcome as a member of the fellowship, without any further doctrinal tests or standards.

This "creedlessness" does not lead to as much doctrinal anarchy as an outsider might suspect. For belief in the Bible is an equally cardinal tenet of the movement....

...Both the Disciples and the Churches of Christ resembel the Baptists in practicing baptism by immersion and in restricting the rite to those mature enough to make a personal decision of faith in Christ. Both also have the distinctive custom of celebrating the Lord's Supper every Sunday. Christians feel that these two practices are warranted by the Scripture.

Churches of Christ still forbid all instrumental music. And they do not have missionary societies. Each missionary is supported by an individual congregation. A minister is referred to as Elder Jones or Mr. Jones, but never the Rev. John Jones. Use of the title reveerend is considered very unscriptural.

Disciples of Christ have organs in their churches, and have evolved not only missionary societies, but most of the other organizational trappings of a typical Americna Protestant denomination.

Unlike the Churches of Christ, whose fear of eccelesiastical organizaiton causes them to keep aloof from ecumenical bodies, the Disciples have played a major role in the National Council of Churches. They also were charter members of the consultation on Church Union, which was formed in 1961 to explore the possibility of a six-way merger of leading Americna Protestant bodies.

Thus the Disciples are continuing to display - in a modern context- the devotion to the cuase of Christian unity that brought the movement into being. Next Week: The Congregationalists."

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