What is the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)?
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was born almost two centuries ago with a burning desire for Christian unity. The Disciples emerged in a log cabin in Kentucky at a place called Cane Ridge and in Pennsylvania at a little church at Brush Run.
Barton W. Stone ended his Presbyterian ties in 1804 to become a “Christian Only.” Thomas Campbell and his son Alexander, Scotch Presbyterians, founded the Brush Run Church in 1811, seeking union of all Christians based on simple New Testament basics. Their followers shook hands and merged in 1832 at Lexington, Kentucky.
Disciples were founded on the belief that God is revealed to all of humanity through the words of the Bible and through the ongoing revelation of the Holy Spirit. Disciples affirm that
- Jesus is the Christ, son of the Living God, and offers grace to all;
- All persons are God’s children.
With a strong emphasis on the Lord’s Supper, Disciples have chosen a chalice as their symbol. The chalice bears the X-shaped St. Andrew’s cross which represents the Scottish-Presbyterian roots of the church and evangelism. The Disciples emphasize Christian unity and try to avoid establishing rules that may divide people. Instead they stress freedom and diversity. Worship styles vary widely and life commitments of members range from energetic social activism to deep personal devotion. Creeds are seldom used in worship and never advanced as tests of correct belief.
Some of the sayings associated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are:
- “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.”
- “In essentials unity, in opinions liberty, in all things charity.”
- “No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible, no law but love, no name but the divine.”
The Lord’s Supper, or communion, is open to all Christians. It is celebrated weekly as the central part of worship. Laypersons regularly preside at communion.
Congregations accept members upon simple confession of belief in Jesus Christ. Baptism follows. Traditionally, children are baptized at around age 10, after a period of study led by a pastor. Youth and adults are baptized at any age. Immersion is the form, though congregations may receive members baptized by other methods.
Today approximately one million people are members of Disciples churches in North America.
General offices of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are located in Indianapolis. Congregations send voters to regional assemblies and biennial General Assemblies to participate in policy decisions of those bodies.
The church is related to 25 higher education institutions. The largest of these are Texas Christian, Drury, and Chapman Universities. The denomination sponsors seven seminaries and foundation houses.