Disciples of Christ

From Academic Kids

The Disciples of Christ, also known as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) or simply as the Christian Church, is a denomination of Christian Protestantism based on the teachings of Thomas Campbell and Alexander Campbell of Pennsylvania and Barton W. Stone and Virginia Stone of Kentucky. Both families were originally Presbyterians.

The roots of the Disciples of Christ lie in the Restoration Movement of the early 1800s, with a focus on Christian unity and lack of strict denominationalism. This focus came from a study of the New Testament by the movement's founders. Tolerance of other viewpoints that differed on non-essentials was key, as was inclusion based on the Lord's Table (Communion). It has been estimated that the indigenous movement that gave rise to the modern Disciples of Christ (and its associated offshoots) has only been surpassed in size by only one other body of North American origin, that of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ("LDS Church"; see also Mormon).

The unity of this group was shaken by the formation of a missionary society in the late 1840s, a development looked upon with disfavor by many, especially among the smaller, more rural, and Southern congregations, and by the adoption shortly after this by some congregations of instrumental music, predominantly (at first) pianos and organs. After the American Civil War the dispute became more strident, as many leftover regional animosities became a subtext. By the 1870s and 1880s there were essentially two groups within the Restoration Movement, although the break was not truly formalized until the Religious Census of 1906 in which the congregations that disagreed with instrumental music and the missionary society asked to be listed separately as the Church of Christ.

Another group, perhaps nearly as conservative as the Church of Christ except on the issue of instrumental music, was disturbed by the liberalism that it perceived to be predominant at a church conference in Memphis, Tennessee in 1926, forming the North American Christian Convention the next year. Slowly over the next forty-five years, the split between these "Independents" and the Disciples became more or less complete; this group is now known as Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.

At the time of the 1906 division, the Disciples were by far the larger of the two bodies; now it would seem possible that they might be the smallest of the three current major divisions of the Restoration Movement. To this point, despite serious concerns over the direction of the denomination being expressed by some of the more conservative members, further open division has not occurred. Like most mainline denominations, the Disciples have a relatively-conservative group, Disciples Renewal, working to call the church back to what they feel to be its historic Restoration and Christ-centered heritage. This group is similar to the Confessing Movement present in other mainline groups.

The Disciples are part of Churches Uniting in Christ, an ecumenical movement that many hope will result in one large mainline Protestant body in the U.S. similar to the role of the United Church in Canada and the Uniting Church in Australia; more conservative members tend to oppose this due to the liberalism of some of the other churches involved in the project. The Disciples have already developed a close relationship with one of the other denominations, the United Church of Christ.

Prominent members of the Disciples of Christ include U.S. Presidents James Garfield, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and Ronald Reagan, U.S. Senator from Arkansas J. William Fulbright, and author and Civil War general Lew Wallace[1] (http://politicalgraveyard.com/group/disciples-of-christ.html).


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