Of more than 220 Protestant religious bodies in the United States, one of the largest to have originated in America is the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The denomination traces its roots to the union in 1832 of the Christians, a movement that emerged in Kentucky in 1804 under the guidance of Barton Warren Stone, and the Disciples of Christ. The tenets of the Disciples were based on Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address of the Christian Association of Washington, published in Washington, Pennsylvania, in 1809. The dominant unifying force was Thomas Campbell’s son, Alexander Campbell of Bethany, (West) Virginia, a college founder, scholar, and author, and the editor and publisher of a powerful religious press. Adherents were sometimes called Campbellites, and Bethany became the unofficial headquarters of the movement.
The denomination adopted the name Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in 1968. Their historic mission has been the unification of all Christians based on a belief in Christ and in the teachings of the New Testament as the central source of authority. Disciples are ecumenical in spirit and affirm diversity of individual understandings of faith. Baptism is usually by immersion, and discipleship is affirmed through the invitation of all believers to join in communion. Disciples membership increased from 22,000 to almost 200,000 members between 1832 and 1860. The need to cooperate beyond the local congregation resulted in the first national convention in 1849. In 1968, they set in place a structure that provides for operation under a representative government on local, regional, and national levels. There are currently more than one million Disciples in the United States and Canada, approximately 11,000 being West Virginians.
This Article was written by Rosemary Jeanne Cobb
Last Revised on June 21, 2012
Garrison, Winfred E. & Alfred T. DeGroot. The Disciples of Christ. St. Louis: Bethany Press, 1948.
McAllister, Lester G. & William E. Tucker. Journey in Faith: A History of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). St. Louis: Bethany Press, 1975.