Disciples of Christ

One of my ancestors became a "Campbellite" preacher in the 1840s in Giles
Co, VA, so I looked into it a bit. It was basically a conservative movement
to return to primitive Christianity, and believed in the universality of
atonement. It got its name from the movement's leader, Alexander Campbell,
but is more properly known as the Disciples of Christ or the Church of
Christ. The following is a short background piece from the Center for
Restoration Studies at, citing
Lippy's Bibliography of Religion in the South.

THE FRENZIED EXCITEMENT of nineteenth-century frontier revivalism not only
helped to imprint the evangelical style on much of Southern religion, but
also led to the emergence of an interest in returning to the practices of
primitive Christianity. Both commonsense rationalists and emotional
revivalists sought to return to a presumably more pure Christian practice
untainted by the accretions of time that had corrupted authentic
Christianity. While this restorationist impulse attracted many campmeeting
advocates, including Barton W. Stone, in time it coalesced around Alexander
Campbell (1788-1866). Restorationists discarded denominational labels at
first as signs of division within the one church, preferring to call
themselves simply "Christians." In time, however, the followers of Alexander
Campbell grew into one of the first indigenous denominations in the United
States, the Disciples of Christ or the Christian Church.

As the movement grew, it enlarged its vision to include a conviction that
American society itself could be transformed into a culture replicating the
pure simplicity of New Testament Christian communities even as it extended
its following into both the North and the South. For many years Campbell
maintained an unofficial headquarters in Bethany, West Virginia. As with
other groups, the sectional divisions over slavery brought tension to the
movement, which combined with disagreement over religious practices (such as
the use of musical instruments in worship, the support of ecumenical
missionary societies, and the like) to split the developing denomination in
two by 1906, though for all practical purposes the emerging schism was
obvious at least two decades earlier. The more "conservative" group adopted
the name Churches of Christ and still maintains its base of strength in the
South. By the time of the formal division, it was also clear that the
Disciples of Christ had come to place more emphasis on ecumenical and
cooperative ventures than on restorationist principles. Hence the
restorationist impulse has been more closely associated with the Churches of
Christ as the twentieth century progressed. Differences regarding methods of
biblical interpretation also entered into the controversy. Later internal
disputes over requiring baptism by immersion for admission into fellowship
led the more adamant proimmersion party of the Disciples in 1927 to become
popularly known as the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, though
allied congregations have eschewed denominational structures and still
regard themselves more as a federation of independent congregations.

Submitted by: David

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