Churches of Christ

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The Churches of Christ discussed in this article are not related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or any other denomination within the Latter-day Saint movement; the United Church of Christ; Church of Christ, Scientist; or the Philippines-based Iglesia ni Cristo.

The Churches of Christ are non-denominational autonomous Christian congregations.

Those who self-identify as members of Churches of Christ generally emphasize their belief that the modern Churches of Christ represent the intent of the original, primitive Christian church established by Jesus Christ and the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost as described in the New Testament in Acts 2.

In the United States, for the most part, the churches' roots can be traced back to the Restoration Movement championed by American preachers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, most notably Thomas Campbell and his son Alexander Campbell, with a confluence of contributions from Walter Scott, Barton W. Stone, and others.

Members of the Church of Christ point out that there have been those who have sought to return to a first century Christianity pattern throughout Christian history. They do not believe that it is necessary to be able to trace an unbroken lineage back to the church of the first century in order to be the church that was established by Christ. These assertions are based on the view that the church is a spiritual body and therefore differs from secular notions of lineage.

Following Alexander Campbell's death in 1866, conservatives within the movement, led by Tolbert Fanning, David Lipscomb, and others, advocated an increased unity in doctrine which produced a division with the more liberal Disciples of Christ that was formalized in 1906. Further internal disagreements since that time have produced a number of sub-groupings according to differences over various beliefs and practices.

Today, Churches of Christ have the following distinctive traits: the refusal to hold to any creeds other than the Bible itself; the practice of youth and adult baptism (but not infant baptism) as a requirement for the remission of sins; autonomous non-denominational congregational church organization, with congregations overseen by a plurality of male-only elders; the weekly observance of The Lord's Supper; and the belief in a cappella congregational singing during worship.


[edit] Prevalence and Growth

The United States Census Bureau listed the Churches of Christ as the self-described religious identification of 1,769,000 adults in 1990, and 2,593,000 adults in 2001 (rounded to nearest thousand), ranking 11th in the list of Christian religious affiliations, which fixes it above the Jehovah's Witnesses but below The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). The same data reports over 15,000 individual congregations in 1999.<ref>U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2004-2005 No. 67. Self-Described Religious Identification of Adult Population 1990 and 2001 and No. 68. Religious Bodies — Selected Data </ref>

These figures correspond to a compound annual growth rate of 3.54% for the years 1990 to 2001. The church was first enumerated separately in 1906 when there were 159,658 members. This makes the average annual growth rate 2.98% from 1906 to 2001, so that from 1990 to 2001 the church grew at a rate 18.9% higher than its historical average growth rate. (This may be a less-than-meaningful result due to differences in statistics gathering methods over the long period involved, and must also be considered in light of concurrent trends in the statistics of the general population.)

[edit] Self-identification

Despite the churches' historical origin as part of a movement started by Baptist and Presbyterian preachers, members of this group do not consider themselves Protestants, believing that Christ's church was not founded as a protest against anything. Members also tend not to consider themselves members of a denomination. One of the tenets of the movement holds that its member churches are not a denomination and that denominationalism is a departure from the original plan laid down in the Bible for the church.

Often the recent history of Churches of Christ as an outgrowth of the Restoration Movement is deemphasized. Their teaching tends to point only to the founding of the first-century church as their origin. One scholar, Russell Paden, has called this tendency "historylessness" while comparing the Churches of Christ to the derivative Boston movement:

Both groups have an attitude of "historylessness," meaning that they believe their religious beliefs and practices are above being influenced by anything extra-biblical, including the culture around them, contemporary social dynamics, or nearly 2,000 years of church history. In essence, each group believes that it has recreated the apostolic first-century church with all the perfection of the first ecclesiastical age.<ref>Paden 1994 (Abstract)</ref>

However, scholarly journals produced at Church-affiliated institutions do exhibit awareness of the history of American Churches of Christ, examining subjects such as the changing makeup of church hymnals, and the various historical baptism controversies: an example is Abilene Christian University's Restoration Quarterly.

Historically, individuals in the Churches of Christ have aspired to be members of the one body of Christ described in the New Testament, without denominational affiliation. Traditionally, they have viewed congregational identity not as denominational identity, but rather as a reconstruction of church identity described in the New Testament (for example, the churches in Corinth and Galatia as described in the Pauline epistles.)

There has been substantial debate of the identity of Churches of Christ as a denomination in recent years with a few now embracing the view that the Church of Christ is a denomination, or that it has at least embraced denominational attitudes. The debate hinges, to a large extent, upon the issue of whether to embrace a historical or transhistorical or anti-historical ecclesiology.

One contribution to this debate has been Mack Lyon's two-part "Churches of Christ, Who Are We?" from the weekly Search for the Lord's Way television program presented by some Churches of Christ. In it he says "When (Jesus) said in Matthew 16:18: "I will build my church" was he saying, "I will build My denomination"? ... No, no, friend, you don't get that idea from the Scripture." Lyon also says:

"I can't speak for all the Churches of Christ, but ... the churches with whom I have been associated ... believe the following: ... We believe that any human creed, if it contains more than the Bible, contains too much. If it contains less than the Bible, it contains too little, and if it contains the same as the Bible, it is superfluous, useless and it is dispensable. Not only that, but human creeds are divisive, by whatever form they take, or by whatever name they are called or who wrote them, or whatever good intent that was behind their writing."

[edit] Origins

[edit] Restoration Movement

The American Restoration Movement of the 19th century promoted a return to the purposes of the first century Christian churches as described in the New Testament.

Part of the Second Great Awakening, the founders of the movement were influenced by the works of Enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke. The original, somewhat utopian, vision that denominational distinctions could be cast off or ignored mirrored similar visions of other Christian groups such as those of the Quakers. In the case of the Restoration Movement, the emphasis was simply on the denying of denomination labels, and the acceptance of a diversity of opinions. "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity" was one oft-quoted slogan of the period.<ref>Rollmann, Hans. "In Essentials Unity: The Pre-history of a Restoration Movement Slogan", Restoration Movement Quarterly, 39:3. Abilene, Texas: Abilene Christian University.</ref>

The restorationist "Church of Christ" movement solidified in 1832 with the merger of the separate movements championed by Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell (thus, it is sometimes also called the "Stone-Campbell Movement"); following Stone's death in 1844 Alexander Campbell served as the most influential surviving voice of the movement's founders.

The period of the American Civil War (18611865) saw a pause in the publication of many widely read journals associated with Churches of Christ as the nation's mail service was interrupted, particularly in the South.

[edit] Antebellum Period, Civil War, and Reconstruction Period

The tumultuous early Reconstruction period would see the death of one of the last of the movement's founders, Alexander Campbell, in 1866, but by the time of his death the torch of Restoration Movement faith had already begun to pass from the movement's now elderly progenitors to younger, and hence more vital, successors such as William Lipscomb and Tolbert Fanning, who in 1855 had begun to publish the still-influential Gospel Advocate. In the North, conservatives such as Benjamin Franklin and Daniel Sommer served as rough contemporaries respectively of Fanning and David Lipscomb.

By the 1850s, the liberty granted individual congregations had produced variances within the movement which Fanning and others found disturbing: an example was the Spiritualist leanings of Jesse Babcock Ferguson of the Nashville Church of Christ, which resulted in his forced resignation in 1857. The church building caught fire and burned under suspicious circumstances shortly thereafter.

The principle of unity in essential matters of doctrine led many to question what constituted an "essential" matter. The answer seemed simple in the highly analytical, post-Enlightenment period of the middle and latter 19th century: if all that were necessary for salvation was contained in the pages of the Bible, a systematic analysis of those scriptures should provide illumination for any doctrinal dispute, no matter how minor.

This post-Enlightenment fervor for the limitless prospects for human progress was nowhere more evident than in the writings of Alexander Campbell, who wrote, in his March 1846 essay "Is Capital Punishment Sanctioned by Divine Authority?":

Stimulated by former conquests over error, and the new discoveries since made, the human mind seems intent on carrying on war against false assumptions and unwarranted conclusions—as if determined to advance from victory to victory over every species of error and delusion: so that we may not unreasonably anticipate a day when the last error shall be exploded, and the last baseless assumption shall be entombed in the same unfathomable abyss with the vortices of Descartes, or in the nethermost hollow sphere of the speculative and hypothetical, though ingenious, Captain Symmes.

Soon, among many congregations the "in non-essentials, liberty" clause became subjugated to the "in essentials, unity" clause as the scope of essential doctrine was expanded time and again by those who sought to recreate the Christian church.

Although the insistence on congregational autonomy meant that these developments happened on the scale of individual congregations, public and published debates between preachers on opposing sides of any particular issue meant that the congregations did not each evolve in a vacuum. The strict emphasis on doctrinal orthodoxy by church leaders, combined with the belief in the Bible as all-sufficient made it vital that a side be taken on any issue raised. As in any dispute, only one side represented the one true path to avoid eternal damnation.

Other churches that were originally part of the American Restoration Movement (including the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)) were associated with the loyalist, northern United States, and have, consequently, been more open to desegregation of churches within their branches of the movement. (See the section on "Racial integration within worship" below.)

A complete history of this movement is beyond the scope of this article: see the Restoration Movement article for details of the motivations and forces which shaped this important chapter in the story of American religious practice. See also the section of the present article titled Other Stone-Campbell bodies.

[edit] Post Civil War disagreements

Austin McGary advanced the proposition that a believer's knowledge, at the time of baptism, of baptism's purpose in the remission of sin was required for that baptism to be valid. McGary began publishing his periodical Firm Foundation in 1884 in support of his position.

David Lipscomb debated McGary, responding in the negative in the pages of his Gospel Advocate. The issue was never completely settled, and is now apparently less of a contentious issue than in the days of the Lipscomb-McGary debates. Jesse L. Sewell weighed in on the side of Lipscomb and W. H. Bagby referred to McGary's position as "the baptism hobby" in the pages of the Christian Standard. The debate raged for 15 years, by a 1971 account.<ref>[1]</ref>

[edit] The Sand Creek Address and Declaration

Daniel Sommer was a Disciple who had come under the influence of preacher and publisher Benjamin Franklin when the latter led a protracted meeting near Bethany College, where Sommer was a student. Sommer's participation in the drafting of the Sand Creek Address and Declaration, read in Shelby County, Illinois on August 18, 1889, stated clearly the divisive nature of human innovations and digressions from the biblical pattern which were affecting the church at that time and for years to come. Sommer's platform called for a severing of ties with the "digressive" congregations:

"It is, therefore, with this view, if possible, of counteracting the usage's [sic] and practices that have crept into the churches that this effort on the part of the congregations from now on named is made. And now, in closing up this address and declaration, we state that we are impelled from a sense of duty to say that all such as are guilty of teaching or allowing and practicing the many innovations and corruptions to which we have referred, after having had sufficient time for meditation and reflection, if they will not turn away from such abominations, THAT WE CANNOT AND WILL NOT REGARD THEM AS BRETHREN." (emphasis original.)<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

The Sand Creek church property had been acquired in a deed dated July 18, 1874 to the trustees of the "Christian Church of Sand Creek," though the congregation traced its history to 1834.

The formal division in the Sand Creek congregation erupted in the autumn of 1903 over a dispute over holding a singing school in the church building. A minority of some 30 digressives began meeting in a local schoolhouse while the majority of approximately 100 conservatives continued use of the brick church building. The two factions ultimately went to court, each claiming property rights over the building. The conservatives referred to themselves as "The Sand Creek Church of Christ," while the digressives used the name "Sand Creek Christian Church." Though the name "Christian Church" did appear on the title to the land, the conservatives successfully argued that they, and not the digressives, represented faithfulness to the original tenets of the faith. The decision, in favor of the conservatives, was rendered first by the Circuit Court of Shelby County, Illinois, likely in 1904, and upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court in a decision handed down in October 1905.

The state supreme court noted that the roots of the division lay decades earlier than the Declaration and Address:

"In 1849 there sprang up among the members of said religious sect different views upon subjects of practice to be adopted by the congregations with reference to matters upon which the Bible is silent, one view being, that in the matters upon which the Bible is silent, such silence should be construed as a positive prohibition; the other view being, that if the Bible is silent upon a given subject pertaining to church government, then the congregation may formulate a rule in that particular for the government of the congregation.".<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

The opinion cites an earlier case, "Church of Christ v. Christian Church of Hammond, 193 Ill. 144." a clue that this was not the first time Illinois congregations had divided in this way.

In the years that followed until his death, Sommer would reverse his endorsement of the Sand Creek Declaration and Address, as did others. But the form and content of the Declaration and Address is representative of the fervor over "usages and practices" and "innovations and corruptions" within the late 19th-century Churches of Christ. Such strong statements, and the positions they articulate, are still maintained more than a century later.

[edit] Reaction among Northern churches

The Northern congregations in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio constituted "ground zero" for the Sand Creek Declaration and Address. The Christian Standard soon carried editorials excoriating the Sand Creek faction:<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

"Sand Creek is the name of a congregation of Disciples of Christ not far from Windsor, in the county of Shelby, and State of Illinois, and the United States of America. Sand Creek has recently taken long steps toward immortality. It is wonderful how places you never heard of before and brethren whose names have never been in print, can suddenly develop into marvelous proportions! Sand Creek! How suggestive of obscurity and fleetness and shallowness! And yet Sand Creek is not obscure, nor fleeting, nor shallow! Sand Creek has come to the front, and stands out like Pike's Peak—the great tower and bay window of the Rockies! Sand Creek has become profound! Sand Creek proposes to lead in a valiant warfare against vile corruptions which have crept into the ranks of the brotherhood; and in this courageous struggle, she is to be seconded by Ash Grove and Green Creek and Liberty and Mode and Union—country churches which, at the call of one Sommer, are coming up to the help of the Lord against the mighty! The world has had its Luther leading in the fight against the ecclesiastical corruptions and moral deformities and iniquities of Rome; its Wesley leading in the fight against coldness and godless formalities in religion; its Williams, leading in the struggle for civil and religious liberty; its Campbell, leading in the struggle against sectarianism and in favor of Christian Unity. And these great leaders have made history of which every true man is proud. But it is left for Sand Creek Church, under the lead of humble but determined elders, to excel all others in the work of reformation! They have four great evils—the like of which none cursed the church before—compared with which Romish indulgences, wickedness in high places, ecclesiastical tyranny and unholy sectarianism—against which war was urged by Luther, Wesley and Campbell—sink into utter insignificance. Sand Creek has lifted up her voice against missionary societies, church festivals, church organs and the pastor! Was there ever a greater reform than this? Their remedy is admonition, meditation and reflection. They administer the admonition themselves and the people meditate and reflect! "If, after having had sufficient time to meditate and reflect"--how considerate!--they continue to contribute to the treasury of a missionary society for home or foreign missions, or if they attend a church festival, and especially if they pay an admission fee at the door, or if they sanction the use of an organ in the house of worship, or if they want to employ a pastor to look after the flock of God, then what? Why simply this "We can not and will not regard them as brethren"--and so the church will be purified and God will be glorified. Sand Creek is immortal. Sand Creek has taken lessons of the Pope who issued his bull against the comet. Sand Creek will live forever! See Octographic Review of Sept 12.
"Rumor has it that nearly all the churches at Sand Creek have signed the four articles of the new faith. They have had serious trouble in formulating them. There is, however, substantial agreement that they shall read as follows:
"ART. I.--that missionary societies are man-made and therefore to be avoided as sinful and unholy.
"ART. II.--That church festivals, especially if there be an admittance fee at the door, are wrong and therefore can not be tolerated.
"ART. III.--That the organ in public worship is a corruption of the worship, is a very wholesome doctrine and full of comfort.
"ART. IV.--That one man should be employed to give all his time to taking heed to the flock, is a practice dangerous to liberty, and specially subversive of the privileges of the elders. Better that the flock be not cared for, than one man should do it.
"There was considerable discussion over the first Article. There was no dispute about the societies being "man-made," as nearly everything is more or less "man-made." The chief objection was a phraseology which indicated that they would cease to support them. Sand Creek was never guilty of giving a penny for missions, and therefore could not stop giving to these man-made institutions. So they wrote "to be avoided as sinful and holy." [Sic] They also had a good deal of discussion over the last clause in the new creed, "Better that the flock be not cared for, than one man should do it." But, after long discussion, they left it on record, chiefly as a testimony to their loyalty to the Word of God.
"Rumor also says that they expect trouble from two sources, viz.: There is a brother there who insists that the adoption and signing of these articles of faith is a grave departure from the ground of the Campbells, Scotts, etc., and he threatens for this reason to withdraw from them, and induce others to do the same, and start a new church. To overcome this, they depend on the vindication of Sommer and Rowe, which, they are assured, will be able and sufficient. There is another brother who is anxious to add to the creed as follows:
"ART. V.--That Sunday-schools are man-made institutions, and to be avoided as sinful and unholy.
"ART. VI.--That religious papers are man-made institutions, and therefore not to be subscribed for or circulated.
"The church would have little trouble as to these additional articles, if it were not for Sommer and Rowe, who insist that Article VI. would ruin their business, to which this brother retorts that it is none of their business what the Sand Creek Church wants, and had the audacity to insinuate than an imported editor was no better than an imported pastor.
"And yet Sand Creek hopes to get on with this great reformation and survive the attacks of these extremists.
"Some one has tried to block the wheels of this great movement by ridicule, as witness the following:
"Think of Haynes, and Allen, and Radford, and Briney, and Howe, and Gilliland, and scores of others, going down to Sand Creek, and not being regarded as brethren! Think of these men standing up to be admonished by the elders of Sand Creek Church for the grave sin of supporting missionary societies, or sanctioning the use of an organ in public worship, or attending a church social where they had something to eat, or being pastors of their respective churches! Think of these men after "meditating and reflecting" after such admonition—and because they can not subscribe to these four articles of the new faith, the elders gravely inform them that they can not "regard them as brethren"; or, think of these men, after "meditating and reflecting," yielding to the admonition, signing the articles and joining a sect which outsectarianizes all sectarianism!
"Think further of these Sand Creek brethren moving on to the "pale realms of shade"; and reaching the pearly gates, they see inside Campbell, and Scott, and Johnson, and Hayden, and Stone, and Franklin, and Milligan, and Errett, and scores of others who worked in the missionary societies; and they hear the sound of the harps and golden reeds accompanying the song of redeeming love; and all joining in the chorus of praise, because they have been redeemed out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation—a grand reunion missionary song—think of these Sand Creek brethren refusing to go in because of the instrumental music, and the presence of persons they could not regard as brethren on this mundane sphere; and the grand results of organized missionary work, as seen in the host that no man can number! Think of Sand Creek refusing to go in!
"Well, Sand Creek will be consistent and stay out—Sand Creek has sand.

[edit] Reaction among Southern churches

Perhaps surprisingly, David Lipscomb, by now the de facto leader among the Southern churches, responded in an equally passionate, though, it could be argued, more politic response, in the pages of the Gospel Advocate. An editorial by Lipscomb dated more than three years after the Address and Declaration alludes to an earlier exchange on the subject before the document reached Nashville in published form:<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

"Bro. Sommer publishes for our benefit the Sand Creek "Address and Declaration, by the congregations represented by their respective church officers in a mass meeting at Sand Creek, Shelby County, Illinois, August 17th, A. D. 1889."
"We never saw it before. The evils opposed, we oppose. But there is no more authority for officers of different congregations to assemble in a meeting or convention to oppose and provide a remedy for these sins of individuals and churches, than there is for individuals and church representatives to assemble to oppose and provide a remedy for the failure of Christians and churches to evangelize the world. This was a convention of the elders to oppose and remedy one class of evils. The society is a convention to oppose and remedy another.
"Then they say: "We state we are impelled, from a sense of duty, to say that all such as are guilty of teaching or allowing and practicing the many innovations and corruptions to which we have referred, that, after being admonished and having had sufficient length of time for reflection, if they do not turn away from such abominations, that we can not and will not regard them as brethren."
"This was signed by the elders and members of six churches. This looks very much like a convention unknown to the New Testament exercising judicial and executive functions to oppose error and maintain truth, and it looks very much like doing the thing they condemn. It has been the besetting sin of Christians, when they start out to oppose a wrong, to commit another wrong to oppose this. There is no more authority for that convention of elders to rectify these wrongs, than of the convention to rectify the wrongs of Christians and churches in failing to preach the gospel.
"Bro. Sommer delivers a long lecture to the Advocate on its failure to be settled in the truth and be satisfied therewith, which we duly appreciate. But, Bro. Sommer fails to quote a single scripture we violate or fail to teach. Bro. Sommer's opinions as to mass meetings and such things are not law and gospel. We shall dissent from them when we deem their influence dangerous.
"He makes three complaints against the Advocate:
  1. "We published the card directing those wishing to attend the late Convention how to write to get entertainment. Bro. Sommer knows no one was led by this to think we approved the Convention. It may not have been according to Bro. Sommer's taste. But we must remind him that his taste and his opinions are no part of the law of God. And he must allow others to exercise their own taste and judgment. Bro. Sommer published at one time that he intended to attend. Was not this advertising the Convention? If he could attend, we do not see why it was a crime for us to tell him and others how they could find entertainment, as requested by the managers.
  2. "The next complaint is the statement that the Advocate has steadily spoken against it (the Sand Creek Address) and all other unauthorized conventions.
"The brother who wrote this was mistaken as to what the Advocate had done. Bro. Srygley had criticised [sic] some things about it. Bros. Sewell or McQuiddy, so far as I know, had never referred to it. All my allusions to it were hypothetical, for none of us had seen it. I have now seen it, and do oppose all such unauthorized conventions, to exercise judicial or executive powers to suppress or maintain truth. The order of the scriptures must no more be violated to maintain truth than to oppose error.
"We prefer, for the present, to let the matters involving the use of public questions for personal ends rest, though ready at any time to give reasons for the charge.
"D. L."

Lipscomb, a veteran of the anti-society debates in the Southern churches, chose to center his moderate opposition to Sommer's programme with an appeal to anti-institutionalism, asserting that the Sand Creek policy amounted to a denominationalist manifesto. Lipscomb could rely on convincing his readership of two hallmarks of denominationalism in Sommer's programme. First, by convening a meeting of local church leadership, Sommer and his associates were participating in the sort of inter-congregational church polity which had raised hackles from the very earliest days of the explosive growth of the Stone-O'Kelley'-Scott-Campbell movement. Secondly, the very existence of the Sand Creek Declaration and Address as a written text, for Lipscomb, raised the spectre of the "written creed." It is perhaps the singular mystery of the movement that at this pivotal time, a conservative and conservatising school of argument was brought to counter the greatest single expression of exclusivity to date within the Restoration Movement.

Thus, a stance defensible on entirely conservative, i.e., anti-society, grounds, was brought to bear, rhetorically, against a reactionary offshoot of the same conservative movement. To the sorrow of both Lipscomb, and later, Sommer, Lipscomb's argument would not prevail, for a substantial portion of the brotherhood.

[edit] Formal division from the Disciples of Christ (1906)

The present article describes the Churches of Christ which emerged as the minority faction in the schism over instrumental music and missionary societies which emerged after the Civil War. Although disagreements over doctrine had been noted by Campbell and others as early as the 1830s, following the death of Alexander Campbell in 1866 the process of division accelerated due to the conservative theological influence of Tolbert Fanning and others. This process led David Lipscomb to identify the Churches of Christ as a separate body to the United States Census Bureau in 1906. At the time of the 1906 split with the Disciples of Christ, the Churches of Christ numbered 159,658 members, with the Disciples of Christ numbering over six times as many.<ref>United States Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of the Census, Religious Bodies, 1906 (United States Printing Office, 1910), 236.</ref>

[edit] Post 1906 schisms

The placing of such strict emphasis on "correct" Biblical doctrine meant that other schisms in the Church of Christ were to follow: one researcher counts over 21 schisms by the 1960s. Some of these divisions were delayed responses which had their roots in 19th century disputes within the Restoration Movement. As a result, the majority Disciples of Christ faction of the 1906 split would also go on to experience schism in the 20th century, in parallel to the Churches of Christ.

The remainder of this section treats only those schisms in the Church of Christ itself following its emergence as a separately enumerated body in 1906. For a broader treatment, see Restoration Movement: Church of Christ Schisms.

[edit] One-Cup / non-Sunday School Movement

By the early 1920s, a division had developed over the use of multiple cups versus a single cup in the serving of communion. One source cites the first actual division in fellowship over the issue occurring in 1918.<ref>A Brief History of the One-Cup and Non-Sunday School Movement</ref> The dispute invovled the number of cups used and the contents of the cup. Since the Bible refered to Jesus using one cup 1Corinthians 11:25-26 conservatives said there was no precedent to use multiple cups. On the issue of using alcohol, verses cited by the internal literature for the wine Jesus used being unfermented grape juice included Deuteronomy 32:14 and Isaiah 27:2, with an added argument that since Christ instituted "the fruit of the vine" as a metaphorical reference to his own blood, he must have implicitly referenced the Old Testament scriptures which deal with this metaphor.<ref>FRUIT OF THE VINE by Lonnie Kent York.</ref>

At roughly the same time, the issue of whether to have Sunday Schools emerged among many of the same congregations, so that parallel arguments drove the split with congregations emerging on all sides of the various issues. In some cases, congregations split from the "mainstream churches of Christ" over the issue of Sunday School and later split amongst themselves over the issue of using "one cup" or "multiple containers" in the communion. Nearly all "one cup" congregations do not have Sunday Schools, but only about half of the "non-Sunday school" churches use "one cup".

Further issues within this group arose over the way in which portions of bread were divided from the loaf (whether broken into pieces beforehand or "pinched" from a partially whole loaf at the time of consumption) during communion, whether wine or grape juice only were acceptable as the "fruit of the vine" in communion, and whether divorced people could partake in communion. In addition to these, many congregations have taken the view that divorce is not permitted under any circumstances, arguing that the "adultery clause" in Matthew 19 applies only to Old Testament teachings. Others have rejected this teaching by arguing that under the Old Law those guilty of adultery were to be put to death, not put away in divorce.

[edit] Premillennialism

(See also the section on Eschatology.)

A separate division took place in the 1930s over premillennialism. A controversy focused on the teachings of Robert Henry Boll and was fomented by opponents of the doctrine. Boll was removed from the editorship of the Gospel Advocate over a series of articles on biblical prophecy which he published during his tenure as front-page editor from 1909 to his dismissal in 1915.<ref>Kevin James Gilbert 1999</ref>

The premillenialists pointed out, with some justification, that Stone, Campbell, and others among the earliest pioneers of the Restoration Movement, including Tolbert Fanning, James A. Harding, and David Lipscomb, held premillenialist or postmillennialist views. From the point of view of the 20th century millennialists, those who insisted on an amillennialist perspective were divergent from the traditional attitude that the lack of certainty among Churches of Christ over eschatology meant that latitude of belief should be permitted.

The majority amillenialist faction referred to the premillenialist interpretation of prophetic scripture as "speculation" and pointed out that though other leaders within the Restoration Movement had so speculated, these earlier leaders had never sought to spread their eschatological views, as they now accused Boll and other contemporary premillenialists of doing.

Boll was widely recounted as a gentle man: transcripts of debates between Boll and his critics indicate that he was publicly respected by them, not least for his lack of insistence that others agree with his views. As a consequence, Boll's legacy within the "pre-mill" churches would go on to include a reverence for his emphasis on the "in non-essentials, liberty" clause of the Restoration Movement's hemeneutic basis.

[edit] Non-Institutional churches of Christ

Although the view of rejecting institutional cooperation is shared by the "one-Cup, no Sunday school" groups, a separate dispute over the issue took place from 1945 to 1960, producing the group of Churches of Christ known as non-institutional (see the section on disputes within the church.) The non-institutional churches were pejoratively known as "anti" churches in "mainline" Church of Christ circles: this was a revival of the term "anti" as a pejorative, as earlier in their history, the conservative branch of the Restoration Movement had been referred to in this way as an antonym for "progressive," their position being addressed as "anti-instrument" and "anti-Missionary Society".

[edit] Other sources of conflict

Further topics which have induced schisms include use of church buildings for purposes other than worship, with a related dispute over the placing of facilities such as kitchens in church buildings; whether to practice closed or open fellowship with other "Christians"; and whether the Bible prohibits the paying of ministers.

Many of these related disputes were ramified across schism boundaries in polyphyletic fashion so that seemingly almost any combination of permissability and prohibition for any of the disputed patterns of worship could be found, albeit among some tiny fraction of the whole number of congregations. The internal literature of the period is rife with consternation over the rate of schism and the apparent inability of the various churches to do anything constructive about the various divisions.

[edit] International Churches of Christ

An offshoot of the mainline churches emerged in the late 1970s, when the movement now known as International Churches of Christ were formed. Originally referred to as the "Crossroads Movement," they were led by Chuck Lucas of the Crossroads Church of Christ in Gainesville, Florida. By the late 1980s, leadership had shifted to the Boston Church of Christ, led by Kip McKean. For a number of years it was referred to as the "Boston Movement" before links with other churches of Christ were broken and the name International Church of Christ was assumed. This organization taught much in common with the Church of Christ, while exhibiting patterns of evangelism similar to the Shepherding Movement which arose in charismatic circles around the same time and geographic locale (though evidence of a direct causal link remains elusive.)

Most all members of the churches of Christ today renounce what they see as excessive and overbearing doctrines within the International Church of Christ. Inasmuch as the Church of Christ congregations are autonomous, there was never an endorsement or acceptance of the International Church of Christ nor could there be a corporate denunciation of the group. However, virtually all members of the so-called mainline Churches of Christ would renounce the group and would refuse to support them.

The ICOC also developed an internal hierarchy, which was dissolved in 2003 after the release of a letter to the ICOC elders and Kip McKean entitled "Honest to God". This caused the resignation of Kip McKean from a leadership role in the ICOC. Following recent events, particularly the separation of many ICOC congregations from Kip McKean, meaningful dialogue has taken place between informal though prominent representatives of both groups.

Kip McKean has since started a new movement in Portland, OR, and is planting new congregations in cities throughout the United States.

[edit] Church of Christ Emergent

It appears that the response of some congregations to postmodern thought has produced another group within the main group, though this has yet to be formalized as yet another split. See the article on Church of Christ Emergent.

[edit] Church organization

[edit] Congregational autonomy

There are no headquarters for the Church of Christ. Typically, individual congregations participate in a loose, informal network of other local Church of Christ congregations. These congregations often work with each other and cooperate among each other for disaster relief, evangelism, and other shared efforts. From the beginning of the Restoration Movement, newspapers and magazines edited by church leaders have been important forces in unifying like-minded churches. Many congregations value the influence of affiliated universities and colleges, while others resist such affiliations.

[edit] Congregational Leadership

Each congregation has its own leadership hierarchy. Preeminent among the leadership are Elders, who are seen as the spiritual leaders of the congregation. Assisting in the administration of specific practical functions of the church are Deacons, and usually one or more leaders variously referred to as preachers, ministers, or evangelists.

Due to passages such as 1 Timothy 2:8-12 regarding the role of women, these leadership positions are reserved to men in churches (See Teachings regarding gender roles.)

[edit] Elders

Elders are spiritually mature Christian men whose religious work may be some specialized capacity of a spiritual nature. They provide moral guidance, and they or their designees approve and establish Bible study curriculum, select Sunday school teachers, and select the Preacher/Evangelist when the position becomes vacant. In some congregations, elders also select the deacons.

Elders are also called pastors, shepherds, and bishops (all Biblical terms interpreted as referring to the same office), but the use of "elder" is the most common by far. Elders are selected by the members of a congregation (or sometimes by existing elders within the congregation); the method of doing this varies considerably between congregations, but involves confirming that a potential elder does indeed embody all of the characteristics of elders which are listed in the Bible in 1 Timothy 5:17-20, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, and Titus 1:5-9.

[edit] Deacons

Deacons are men that are recognized special servants of the church and most often take care of specialized needs of the congregation as directed by the Elders. Typically, things such as the building in which services are held is overseen by a Deacon, but Deacons also contribute to the spiritual welfare of the congregation. They are more than just the "buildings and grounds caretakers and administrators" as they are normally thought to be. Like Elders, Deacons are generally selected by the congregations in a manner very similar to that of elders. Qualifications of Deacons are listed in the Bible in 1 Timothy 3:8-12.

[edit] Preacher, Evangelist, or Minister

The Preacher, Evangelist, or Minister prepares and delivers sermons, teaches Bible classes, performs weddings, preaches or evangelizes the gospel, and performs baptisms (however, it is not believed that baptizing is restricted to ministers). This position is typically paid to allow the evangelist to disentangle himself from secular employment and focus on studies.

Most members of Churches of Christ do not use the title "pastor" to refer to their pulpit minister, as this term is held to refer to the same position as "elder" or "bishop" in the Bible, which they feel requires a certain set of qualifications outlined above.

Typically these ministers are not 'ordained' as is the tradition of many denominational organizations, and do not use the salutation 'Reverend' or 'Rev.' before their name, professing that only God should be recognized as such. (Psalms 111:9)

Not all churches of Christ have a single preacher but instead use all able men in the position. This derives from II Corinthians 3:6, which defines all Christians as "ministers of the new testament."

[edit] Other Leaders

Many congregations also employ other paid ministers besides the pulpit minister, such as associate minister, youth ministers (teacher for teens and coordinators for teen events), and other more specific ministries.

[edit] Hermeneutics

Understanding the positions of the Churches of Christ requires an understanding of their historically accepted hermeneutic. This hermeneutic is often summarized in three parts: Command, Example, and Necessary Inference. An additional hermenutic is the principle of silence.

[edit] Command

"Command" refers to a direct command found in the Scriptures (this being further complicated by what some mainstream evangelicals would refer to as the dispensation principle; for example, the command to build an ark was directed to Noah specifically, as opposed to being directed to Christians in general. Additionally, commands are classified as 'Specific' or 'Generic' in nature.)

[edit] Example

"Example" is sometimes phrased as "an approved Apostolic example." The intent here is that the apostles or 1st century Christians performed some action or engaged in some practice that was approved of (or not condemned).

[edit] Necessary Inference

"Necessary inference" refers to some interpretational conclusion that would be necessary in order to obey a command or example. In other words, all things necessary in order to carry out a clear command would also be authorized. The New Testament is necessarily silent about many other issues, such as orphanages/children's homes, Sunday school, and instrumental music. In each case, the "mainstream" group has reasoned that "necessary inference" allows their use as a way of providing for otherwise-homeless children and facilitating study of the Scriptures. In applying the "principle of silence", or distinguishing between congregational and individual responsibilities, some consider these practices to be unauthorized; the most prominent of these are the non-institutional churches and the non-class or non-Sunday-School churches.

Two main thoughts have guided the discussion over what defines necessary inference. The first is the view of the mainstream churches of Christ, that when general commandments are given, any practice that would be an aid to such a command can be "necessarily inferred". For example, the biblical commandment to "teach" can be interpreted to extend to practices that would assist in teaching, such as Sunday Schools or Missionary Societies, thus making them scripturally authorized. On the other hand, others say that necessary inference means only the things that are necessary to possibly fulfill a command. For example, when Paul instructs the church in 1 Corinthians 11 not to treat the communion as a common meal, saying, "...have ye not houses to eat and drink in...", it must be necessarily inferred that the church in Corinth must have had places of worship other than the member's houses, thus authorizing the use of centralized buildings for places of worship.<ref>Christian Courrier: Questions from February 4, 2003</ref>

[edit] Principle of Silence

The principle of silence is observed to varying degrees by the Churches of Christ. When the Bible does not specifically or indirectly authorize a practice, it is considered unauthorized. The belief is that the Bible is the authority on all things, and one should not presume to authorize what God has not.

The disagreements within the Churches of Christ over silence often derive from differences in perception of the meaning of the word "necessary" within the phrase "necessary inference" and the conclusions which can be drawn from scripture's "silence". For example, the non-instrumental Churches of Christ agree that the absence of references to instrumental music in New Testament worship means that their use is unauthorized. They use the Bible verse of Ephesians 5:19, which says "speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the lord." This is used as necessary inference, because this chapter is speaking about being an imitator of God and doesn't mention the use of instruments but rather the uses of song and voice. Conversely, progressive Churches of Christ agree that the absence of references to musically accompanied worship in the New Testament means that it has not been specifically forbidden by a commandment.

What constitutes indirect authorization is also another point of contention. For example, there are numerous commands in the New Testament for churches to meet. Meeting necessitates a place, and there are many ways to obtain a place to assemble. From this line of reasoning, most churches believe that they have authority to buy a building to use to fulfill this command. There are also commands to spread the word of God, though there are no microphones; ergo, most churches use microphones rather than interpreting this scriptural silence as a prohibition.

Some more liberal churches have begun to abandon a prohibitive principle of silence. The principle of silence has historically sometimes been defined as permissive within the Restoration Movement, beginning with Thomas Campbell's Declaration and Address in 1809.

[edit] New Testament versus Old Testament

The Churches of Christ historically do not use the Old Testament to authorize practices, relying solely on the New Testament (new covenant) for matters of practice. They believe that the commands of the Old Testament (old covenant) were to Jews (under Mosaic Law) only and were done away with when Christ died, pointing to verses such as Galatians 3:16-29, Ephesians 2:13-16, Colossians 2:13-14, Hebrews 7:12 and Hebrews 7:18-22, and Hebrews 8:6-13. Thus, things used under the Old Testament by Israel in worship (instruments, incense, animal sacrifice, etc.) which are not repeated in the New Testament are not considered authorized for Christians today.

However, since the New Testament has reiterated many of the moral commandments against what God said was wrong in the Old Testament (such as murder, lying, stealing, incest, homosexual behavior, etc.), they are considered to still be wrong today.

Some among the Churches of Christ have begun to draw distinctions between Law (torah in Hebrew meaning instruction) and covenant (berit in Hebrew, diatheke in Greek, testamentum in Latin) and the Christian's continued responsibility to the Law (as it is fulfilled by Jesus) within the covenantal relationship to God experienced in the New Covenant. The Law/Gospel relationship is a controversy that spans many evangelical circles.

[edit] Divine inspiration of Biblical texts

The Churches of Christ teach that the Bible was written by men who were inspired and guided by God the Father through the Holy Spirit. Some believe in "plenary" inspiration, whereby the inspired author is able to use his language to express divine truth, but the ultimate truthfulness is from God; this contrasts with "mechanical" inspiration, where the Biblical author is just a mortal "typewriter" for an immortal God, or a Divine "secretary" merely taking dictation.

[edit] Bible translations

There is no uniform belief or practice among Churches of Christ regarding Bible translation preferences. This has generally been left to the choice of individual members, although in some congregations elders have established policies restricting which translations may be used in public reading and teaching.

  • Some conservative churches generally prefer the King James Version or the American Standard Version (1901). KJV advocates usually base their preference on either tradition and familiarity or their preference for the Majority Text Greek base which was used for the 1611 translation. Few advocate the idea that the translators of the KJV were inspired in their work.
  • The New International Version is widely used due to its low cost and widespread availability. However, some scholars and conservatives reject it as a paraphrase translation. Opponents of paraphrasing believe that these translations are faulty because the translated text resists a reconstruction of the word-by-word meaning of the passage in the original language. Paraphrases attempt to capture the essence of thought or meaning in the original text and translate that into English. Opponents believe that this opens the door for error. The NIV uses the Dynamic Equivalence approach to translation.

[edit] Specific teachings

Churches of Christ mostly agree with the theology of conservative Evangelical Christian groups, believing in Jesus as the Son of God, the death of Jesus by crucifixion as atonement for sin, and most other basic Christian teachings. However, there are many specific practices that distinguish them from these other bodies.

The Church of Christ believes that the organization and structure of the church was laid down by Jesus Christ himself through his apostles in the form of the New Testament. Since this church has no headquarters and each congregation is independent, the teachings may vary somewhat, but overall there is a considerable degree of uniformity among Churches of Christ in each region. The common variances are over the institution of Bible classes, the method that the Lord's supper is served (whether the fruit of the vine is served in one cup or many), the role of women in public worship, and whether ministers should be paid professionals or serve on a volunteer basis.

When a "faithful" member dies, they are not "sentenced" by Christ to heaven or hell until "Judgement Day". There is no means of earthly or spiritual intercession for the soul of one who has died. There will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous (Acts 24:15).

Political endorsements are highly discouraged, if not condemned, as members are expected to make their own choices for suitable political leaders.

[edit] Theology

The theology of Churches of Christ is basically Arminian, although not often referred to as such. Original Sin and the idea of Total Depravity from which it ensues are rejected, although the human predilection to sin due to temptations and the limitations of human nature is affirmed. Election and predestination are functions of the exercise of free will – those who freely choose God's way through Christ are elect and hence saved, others are lost. This decision can be changed based on the believer's behavior – he or she can consciously elect to cease following Christ and hence be lost ("fallen from grace"), but can be restored upon repentance. God's sacrifice of Christ provided sufficient grace to save all persons from their sins, but it is incumbent upon them to accept Christ's will and follow Him for this grace to save them personally.

[edit] Doctrine of Creation

A substantial number of members of the Church of Christ believe in Young Earth creationism, based on a literal interpretation of the Genesis. Many of these believe that the earth was created with the appearance of age, while others believe in a "creation science" where the idea of a young Earth can be scientifically substantiated. Others such as John N. Clayton advance the concept of intelligent design, although like many such advocates Clayton takes the Old Earth creationist view that only minor evolutionary changes within biological "kinds" are evident after the initial creation of the base "kinds."<ref>God's Revelation in His Rocks and in His Word, John N. Clayton</ref>

[edit] Theory of Salvation (Soteriology)

The requirements for salvation are commonly presented in the following steps:

  • Hearing (the Word of God)
  • Believing (said Word)
  • Repenting (of one's sins)
  • Confessing (that Jesus Christ is the Son of God)
  • Being baptized (by full immersion).
  • Continued faithfulness is enjoined because the Church of Christ denies the doctrine of eternal security.

Because of the high value attached to the necessity of a believer's baptism by immersion, Churches of Christ are sometimes erroneously said to believe in "baptismal regeneration." The shift to emphasis on immersive baptism as an absolute prerequisite to salvation occurred after the death of Alexander Campbell, who opposed the concept, and was advanced by Austin McGary in the pages of his periodical, Firm Foundation; the strictness of McGary's view was opposed by David Lipscomb in his periodical, the Gospel Advocate, but would win out among the conservatives who split from the Disciples of Christ to form the Church of Christ in 1906.

Members deny that baptism without faith can bring salvation, but point out that the Bible does command believers to be baptized, for example, in Acts 2:38, Mark 16:15-16. In most, if not all respects, their teaching on a believer's baptism mirrors that of the Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.

While baptism for the remission of sins is by far the majority opinion, the Churches of Christ are not monolithic even in this "core" belief. <ref>Are Unbaptized Believers Lost? article at Grace Centered Magazine</ref>

[edit] Eternal condemnation of the "lost"

People who do not obey the Gospel, according to the Church of Christ's view on Biblical salvation, are termed "lost," as are those who they believe choose to turn from ongoing obedience through repetitive and willful sin.

Many members of the Churches of Christ believe that the "lost" will be condemned to an eternity without God. A vast majority believe in a literal hell, while others believe it is a metaphorical eternity outside of the light of God. A few believe in some version of annihilationism, which holds that the fires of hell consume sinners, who then cease to exist.

[edit] Age (or knowledge) of accountability

The Church of Christ teaches that there is one reprieve from eternal condemnation apart from voluntary submission. Certain classes of people are seen as not lost, due to the fact that they are unable to make proper moral choices due to youth or deficiency in mental capacity.

Children below the age of accountability are considered in a "safe" position in the eyes of God, and would not be condemned to hell if they died before the age of accountability. However, members do not claim that this age is fixed; it can vary by maturity and knowledge, and so sometimes the phrase knowledge of accountability is used, referencing James 4:17.

Since the Churches of Christ do not practice infant baptism, the baptism for remission of sins of those who have reached the age of accountability and who have chosen baptism has "coming of age" significance similar to that held by the rite of Confirmation in other Christian traditions, the B'nai Mitzvah within Judaism, or rites within other cultures.

Under the same principle of "knowledge of accountability", persons lacking the mental capacity to consciously choose between right or wrong are also not lost, as they are incapable of truly choosing wrong.

[edit] Views on Satan

Satan is considered to be a literal being, not just a symbolic or allegorical representation of evil. He is seen as literally tempting Christ's followers away from their chosen path, usually by the use of human agents. Satan's power is seen to be considerable, although vastly inferior to that of God, who allows Satan to exist so that God's followers worship and follow Him as a true act of free will, not predestination. There is no standard position over the accuracy of the Lucifer story or Satan as a fallen angel; most churches take no position under the doctrine of silence.

[edit] Miracles

Miraculous Gifts – Many members of Churches of Christ do not believe supernatural miraculous events occur in the current times. They believe that these gifts died with those that were given supernatural Spiritual gifts during the time of Jesus and the apostles, being that miracles were only needed to establish authority of teaching. Miracles ceased when "that which is perfect" or the completed inspired teachings of the apostles were complete: see 1 Corinthians 13:8-10. (Acts 8:18). A corollary position is that the "direct gifts of the Spirit" were given only to the Apostles and those upon whom they laid their hands with the intent of passing on these gifts. As there is no New Testament example given of these gifts being further transmitted by those upon whom the Apostles had laid their hands, it is contended that this "measure of the Spirit" passed from an earthly existence once the last of these disciples who had received it from the Apostles died, so this power ceased at or about the close of the 1st century.

[edit] Eschatology

In terms of eschatology, Churches of Christ are generally amillennial, although there are several (fewer than 100) congregations which are premillennial and follow the teachings of the late Robert Henry Boll (1875-1956).<ref>Robert Henry Boll page from the Restoration Movement pages at the Memorial University of Newfoundland</ref> This group sponsors several schools in Louisville, Kentucky, under the name Portland Christian School system, including Portland Christian School. It also holds two annual seminar series: the Kentucky/Indiana Christian Fellowship Week and the Central Louisiana Christian Fellowship Week.

[edit] Worship-related practices and beliefs

[edit] Suitable place of worship

Worship can take place at any gathering of church members. Baptism can take place in any suitable body of water allowing total immersion, and may be administered by anyone at any time of the day or day of the week. There is disagreement as to whether the person who administers the baptism must also be a church member.

[edit] A cappella congregational music

Music is an important part of the experience of most members of the Church of Christ, as the tradition emphasizes the full participation of every member in making music through singing together whenever worship services take place. The movement can lay claim to a number of prominent writers of well-known Christian hymns. Though "the instrument" is not used in worship, it is not frowned upon for secular purposes, and several famous composers, including Meat Loaf, Pat Boone, Laurie Anderson, and Weird Al Yankovic likely read sheet music first from Church of Christ pew hymnals.

Most Churches of Christ practice a prohibition against instrumental music in services (a cappella). There is no evidence indicating that the first century church used instruments. Therefore, most Churches of Christ today refrain from doing so. Ephesians 5:19 is used to show that singing is a matter of the heart.

The view of no instrumental music is not unique to the Churches of Christ: see also Huldrych Zwingli: Music in the Church for an account of the development of the view in Reformation thought and the process of its inheritance by Restoration Movement theology.

There are three different historical positions among churches of Christ against instrumental music. The "principle of silence" argument states that since singing and making music with the heart is specified when the New Testament speaks of music in worship, instrumental music is thus unauthorized and excluded; passages such as Hebrews 7:14 (cf. Hebrews 8:4) are cited to demonstrate the exclusive nature of such specificity.

A second argument against instruments in worship is that such would be entertainment and thus worldly and inappropriate, but not necessarily false doctrine.

Other arguments against the use of instruments are that those who were created for the glory of God are commanded to worship to give glory to God, and someone playing an instrument apart from the congregation will inevitably be glorified. Also, not all members have the ability to play instruments, therefore they cannot possibly be commanded to do so in worship.

While some Churches of Christ have historically opposed instrumental music in worship as unauthorized and sinful, more liberal congregations today take the position that it is permitted, though they may not choose to engage in it themselves. Many of these "liberal" groups will not use instruments in music in the corporate worship, but will allow it in other church-related ceremonies not specifically considered direct worship to God.

There are no choruses or choirs in most Church of Christ congregations. Most churches practice only congregational singing with a single song leader. However, many large, progressive congregations have adopted "praise teams," small singing groups that sing special songs in worship, help teach new songs, and provide "sing along" assistance to the congregations.

[edit] Notable affiliated composers, publishers, and performers

[edit] "The Lord's Supper" (Communion)

The Church of Christ does not believe in the theology of transubstantiation or consubstantiation. Many Churches of Christ believe that the Lord's Supper is simply a Memorialism of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. However, some believe that this view robs the communion of its very communal aspect in that it is not a spiritual communion at all. The former follow Zwingli, while the latter follow something like Transignification. This debate over the Real Presence vs. the signification of Christ's body in the eucharist is transdenominational. A compromise position is that the Holy Ghost is volitionally present in the taking of the Lord's Supper in a way that the Holy Ghost is not normally present. This is the "gift of the Holy Spirit" that is mentioned in Acts 2:38, a non-predestining, ministering spiritual guide who attends the communion of Christ and Christians.

The Lord's Supper can be served anywhere members are gathered on Sunday; no particularly "sanctified" location nor specifically "authorized" individual is needed to administer communion (except that those administering communion are almost invariably male as a matter of belief that the Bible teaches that only men are authorized to lead in the worship service).

The practice is to partake in the Lord's Supper each Sunday (Acts 20:7). Theologically, members believe in practicing closed communion, but most participate in a form of open communion where it is up to each person to know whether or not they should partake accordingly. This ensures that members who normally attend at another church building are not precluded from taking part. Communion is generally served to participants in their seats (unlike many denominations in which participants come to the front to receive it). Members assert this practice based on 1 Corinthians 11:28, concluding that it is up to each participant to "examine himself," not the church.

Grape juice is used almost exclusively for "The Lord's Supper" in the United States. However, the original practice within Churches of Christ in the Restoration Movement was using wine exclusively. This practice of the majority changed during the Prohibition Era with much controversy that is now mostly forgotten. A significant number of modern members of the Churches of Christ think that alcohol should be forbidden.

Nevertheless, a small remnant of pre-Prohibition influenced conservatives and some progressives advocate literal wine as the "fruit of the vine." Wine is still used in some countries, such as Italy, where the drinking of wine is an historically accepted part of the culture.

[edit] Racial integration within worship

The Church of Christ's development against the post-Civil War racial backdrop of the American south produced debates on whether African Americans should be "permitted" to worship in "white" congregations. Following the war, some households among the Church of Christ were racially integrated, with white parents raising black children and bringing them to services in predominantly white congregations. This practice alarmed and infuriated critics who railed against it using the racist rhetoric of the period. A common charge was that racial inclusiveness in the context of a single congregation invited division by offended whites and was therefore Biblically forbidden as a divisive practice. The most extreme argued that black people were "beasts" and "without souls," and that black people had a greater tendency to commit rape than people of other races.<ref>Lipscomb, D. (1901) Editorial: The Negro His Crime and Treatment (Gospel Advocate, 19 September 1901, 600)</ref>

David Lipscomb, while maintaining his generation's attitudes on the social inequality of blacks and whites, militated against the racist position in the pages of the Gospel Advocate in a heated exchange published in 1907. Lipscomb pointed out that racially integrated congregations had been a fact of life for many congregations in the Church of Christ for years, that he himself had grown up with black children, and pointed to both New Testament example and the "principle of silence" in denying that any basis for racial segregation existed:

There can be no doubt as to religious duties and rights. "There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female, for ye are all one man in Christ Jesus. And if ye are Christ's, then ye are Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise." (Gal. 3:28.) This means the Christians of every different nation, tribe, country, of every social or political position, have equal privileges and rights in the service of God. No one as a Christian or in the service of God has the right to say to another, "Thou shalt not," because he is of a different family, race, social, or political station. While these distinctions exist here, God favors or condemns none on account of them. Jesus Christ personates himself in the least and most despised of his disciples; and as we treat them, we treat him. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matt. 25:40.) To object to any child of God participating in the service on account of his race, social or civil state, his color or race, is to object to Jesus Christ and to cast him from our association. It is a fearful thing to do. I have never attended a church that negroes did not attend.....<ref>Lipscomb, David, et. al (1907) THE NEGRO IN THE WORSHIP--A CORRESPONDENCE</ref>

The exchange did not write the final chapter on race attitudes in the Churches of Christ. Mirroring much of the surrounding culture of the American south, while some leaders in the Church of Christ supported the concepts of civil rights and attempted to operate schools for black members of the church, others either continued in an overtly racist attitude or, while acknowledging the validity of civil-rights-movement ideals of racial equality, either advocated an approach of gradualism or insisted that the church not involve itself with secular "organized agitation for reform.".<ref>ACU Today - Spring 2000 "An Angry Peace: Race and Christian Education"</ref>

According to Richard T. Hughes' Reviving the Ancient Faith: The Story of Churches of Christ in America, white Church of Christ leaders connected civil rights "riots" to Communism. James Bales, a former Harding College (now University) professor, argued that Martin Luther King supported Communism:

[King's] contribution to anarchy within the United States, his cooperation with Communists within the United States, and his efforts to render us defenseless in the face of external Communist aggression all add up to defeat for freedom and victory for communism if he and others like him prevail<ref> (297-8 qtd. in Hughes).</ref>

On the desegregationist side there is the singular case of African-American slave-descended preacher Marshall Keeble, whose fame as a preacher grew among both white and black congregations in the period preceding the American Civil Rights Movement.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref><ref>[2]</ref>

The legacy of segregation today is mainly seen in the existence of historically black churches (usually differentiated as "Black Churches of Christ") and historically white churches (which constitute the majority of Churches of Christ). The vast majority of churches today are open to integration.

[edit] Common beliefs, practices, and prohibitions

[edit] Variations in practice

Because of the autonomous nature of Churches of Christ, practices vary greatly across the diverse body of congregations of the Churches of Christ. As a whole the following sections reflect practices considered to be standard, with a focus on those beliefs that distinguish the Churches of Christ from Protestant groups.

[edit] Specialized vocabulary

The Churches of Christ commonly use specialized vocabulary to circumvent common English usage which is in conflict with accepted doctrine. Words and phrases common to most protestant and/or evangelical churches are often absent or modified in the Churches of Christ.

The following examples may be helpful in interpreting the list of beliefs, teachings and prohibitions which follows infra. Many of these have the character of euphemism to outside ears, but among many church members the use of these terms is non-negotiable.

  • "church" - The word is often left uncapitalized in the name "Church of Christ" to emphasize that the churches are not a denomination.
  • "the building/church building" - The purpose-built physical place of meeting of most congregations. The phrase reminds adherents that the unadorned term "church" always refers to the Church as the body of adherents to new testament doctrine, never the physical building in which members of the church meet (see "church," above.)
  • "member of the church" - The majority believe that only members of the Church of Christ are Christians, although not all members believe this. However, the common-usage English designation of "Christian" means anyone who calls himself a Christian, and so the use of the euphemism "member of the church." Others maintain that, though Salvation requires baptism followed by continued obedience to God's word to the best of one's ability according to one's conscience, judgment is subsequently reserved for God alone.
  • "religious" - Used instead of the word "Christian." For example, a conservative member of the Church of Christ might say "Religious Book Store," instead of "Christian Book Store," on the premise that only "real Christians", those found within the fellowship of the Church of Christ, would write truly "Christian" books that reflect the doctrine practiced by the Church of Christ. This is not representative of all members of the Churches of Christ.
  • "denomination" - Churches other than the Church of Christ, specifically because of the belief that other churches follow creeds outside the Bible and use names not authorized by example within the New Testament.
  • "Mid-Week Bible Study" - an additional church worship service, generally held on Wednesday evenings by tradition, that includes an invitation to "obey the gospel of Christ". Generally referred to in Protestant denominations as a "prayer meeting."
  • "invitation" - used where other groups would use the term "Altar call": 1. a designated time during worship, usually after the sermon, when the hearers of the sermon are invited to respond to the message of the sermon. 2. The message of the invitation itself.
  • "Sanctuary" becomes "auditorium" because of the belief that there is nothing particularly holy about the building, and that it is merely a meeting place to conduct worship.
  • "Pastor" is never used to mean "minister." The term "preacher," "evangelist," or "minister" is used instead. The term "pastor" (literally "shepherd") connotes a position of spiritual leadership, which in the Church of Christ is exclusively the purview of elders. However, the denotation of the term "pastor" to indicate the pulpit minister in other churches means that the word "pastor" is rarely used within the Church of Christ to refer to elders.
  • "Minister of Music" is "song leader", or in more progressive congregations, "worship leader," or "worship minister."
  • "Revival" becomes "gospel meeting" or "lectureship series."

[edit] Resistance to denominationalism

Even though the Churches of Christ have a traceable historical tradition, there is now a general (basically ahistorical) belief that the Churches of Christ are not a denomination or that they are non-denominational. It would be more accurate to say that they are anti-denominational and transhistorical in that they believe that the Church of Christ is a continuation of the original first century church. Most believe denominationalism itself is sinful, and hold that Christ established only one church; that is found in the New Testament.

[edit] Closed fellowship

Many members of the Churches of Christ practice "closed fellowship" (fellowshipping only fellow members of the Churches of Christ), however some congregations today are moving towards extending the ties of fellowship to members of various Christian denominations.

The issue of "fellowship" is hotly debated. For examples of advocacy of the closed fellowship position, see the Archives for Banner of Truth (Walter W. Pigg, editor.) For an instance of and published exchange specific to this debate see Jubilee 2000 Revival.

[edit] Teachings regarding gender roles

In most Church of Christ congregations, women are not allowed to hold positions of spiritual authority over grown men (e.g., serve as elders, deacons, or preachers) based on 1 Timothy 2:12. Most churches forbid women from leading public worship or teaching a bible study when grown men are present. They are generally permitted, however, to teach young men and male children, speak and ask questions in a bible class setting. This may be viewed as chauvinistic, but women are not viewed as lesser than men outside of the church. Both men and women have specific roles and responsibilities that are outlined according to the New Testament pattern.

The practice of excluding women from leadership roles however, is being reexamined in more and more Church of Christ congregations. Women sometimes serve as coordinators of various ministries, including youth and education. Women also serve the communion in larger, more liberal urban and suburban churches. These congregations point out that 1 Timothy 2:12 is not a blanket rule for all women of all churches.

In contrast to some other conservative Christian traditions, the details of the command for women to dress modestly in the text surrounding 1 Timothy 2:12, such as the braiding of hair, and the wearing of gold, pearls or expensive clothes is understood to be a de-emphasis on these things and not prohibition. (Historical research suggests that such adornments either were associated with the arrogance and pride (read: lack of modesty) of the upper classes or that such flashy attire and adornment was characteristic of prostitutes of the time and thus to be avoided.)

[edit] No ordained clergy

There are no clergy and laity; all members are considered to be priests (1 Peter 2:9). Certain male members specialize in the field of teaching. These men are often called "Preachers," "Ministers," or "Evangelists". A preacher's title is not to be confused or equated with "Pastor", which denotes someone who shepherds a flock, a responsibility given to the congregation's elders. If not self supported as Paul was, preachers are generally supported by the congregation in which they work.

[edit] Mid-Week Bible Study

Most Church of Christ congregations have an additional "Mid-Week Bible Study," which is most commonly held on Wednesday evenings. Many congregations view this as an expedient to the commands to study the scriptures and evangelize the Christian religion. (Hebrews 10:25)

[edit] Vacation Bible School

In the United States, many congregations have "Vacation Bible School," a week-long series of daytime or evening church services geared toward teaching children, which take place during the summer and which include social and recreational activities. Like the Mid-Week Bible Studies, "VBS" (as it is commonly known) is viewed as an expedient to the commands to study the scriptures and evangelize the Christian religion. In some congregations there is an adult Bible study while the children are in their classes.

[edit] Disfellowship (Withdrawal)

Disfellowship of a member, a form of church discipline which is similar to excommunication, is announced to the congregation by the elders, along with the basis of the decision to disfellowship the member.

Disfellowship is rare because typically those at variance become alienated from the congregation and either remove themselves voluntarily, or submit to other forms of discipline and return to compliance with Church of Christ doctrine. Disfellowship is performed at the congregational level, as there is no hierarchy above that level to enforce discipline.

The scriptures the Church of Christ uses as justification for this pattern of disfellowship are Matthew 18:15-17 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6.

[edit] Religious versus secular observance of holidays

Celebration of religious holidays (such as Christmas and Easter) as such is often discouraged, although secular observance of such days is usually tolerated. In recent years, this belief is in decline in many liberal or institutional churches, and it is not unheard of for a church to have special events for such holidays or even to celebrate them with traditional religious significance. A number of conservative or non-institutional churches, though, continue to practice a complete rejection of religious holidays. The practice stems from the belief that remembrance of significant events should be continuous instead of only at a certain time. As an example, while the general celebration of Easter observes Jesus' resurrection from the dead and its significance with respect to salvation, some Christian groups believe that the observance of Jesus' resurrection should occur every day and more specifically on the first day of the week when the communion is taken. Some churches use holidays for gospel meetings but it is not in observance of the holiday, but as an opportunity to call the unsaved and preach to them on a day that they do not work and have a chance to listen to the Gospel.

[edit] Prohibition against social dance

Much social dancing is condemned as lewd and lascivious behavior. Dancing with sexual overtones is especially frowned upon. The acceptability of social dance varies from congregation to congregation and is dependent on region of country and type of dance.

[edit] Divorce

The autonomous nature of churches of Christ is evident when varying positions on marriage, divorce, and remarriage are considered. Some congregations do not approve of divorce for any reason; others are considerably more lenient in their views than the norm stated above. For some Divorce is generally seen as an unfortunate end to the God-ordained plan that marriages last until death. Based on Jesus' statement in Matthew 19:3-9, divorce is usually permitted by some churches following marital infidelity. Remarriage after divorce is considered adultery by some churches without exception. Other allow exception when the divorce has occurred because one partner has been guilty of infidelity. In that case, the "faithful" spouse is free to remarry. Eight common points of view on this subject among members of the Church of Christ are described by Baird.<ref>Baird, James O, (1981), And I Say Unto You . . . A Study of Eight Positons On Divorce And Remarriage In View Of Matthew 19:3-12, B & B Bookhouse.</ref>

[edit] Abortion

Abortion in most circumstances is considered to be the sin of murder. Some institutional congregations participate in organizations that promote adoption as an alternative to the practice. But nearly all congregations strongly condemn abortion because of the belief that the unborn child has a soul. Some, however, make exceptions for cases of rape and incest, because these scenarios constitute situations under which moral obligations are placed upon an individual against that individual's volition; people are not normally condemned to bear the burden of another person's sin; therefore, the morning after pill may be appropriate in matters of rape and incest, especially because this prevents rather than terminates pregnancy. However, the vast majority of the members of the Churches of Christ are against abortion in any form for any reason, and many equate the fertilized, non-implanted egg with human life.

[edit] Homosexuality

Homosexual activity is seen as sin. Churches generally differentiate homosexual activity from homosexuality itself or homosexual people, sometimes espousing the idea that while mere sexual orientation is not sinful per se, all homosexual acts are a choice. Many see homosexual proclivity as not inherent in a person's nature but rather a result of personal choices or life events that have pushed the person toward such feelings.

[edit] Conscientious objection

Several members of the Churches of Christ have claimed conscientious objector status during wartime. This opinion was mainstream, at least in some circles, in the late 19th century and was the viewpoint frequently published in mainstream Church of Christ publications such as David Lipscomb's Gospel Advocate. This movement lost most of its currency in the Churches of Christ during World War II when 199<ref>Gingerich, Melvin (1949), Service for Peace, A History of Mennonite Civilian Public Service, p. 452, Mennonite Central Committee.</ref> members registered as conscientious objectors and served in Civilian Public Service camps, and has been fairly uncommon since World War II.

The contemporary Church of Christ is not a historical peace church, but it is still listed as such by the US military for consideration of conscientious objector status. Most churches in the UK consisted overwhelmingly of objectors. One notable post-WWII American conscientious objector is author William Kay Moser, who served two years in prison rather than serve in the Korean War.

[edit] Other Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement bodies

[edit] United States

The Churches of Christ were advanced during the American Restoration Movement of the 19th century. As in the New Testament, this movement recognized the body as "The Churches of Christ" or "Christian Churches."

After the Civil War, there began to be divisions in this body over the issues of missionary societies and instrumental music in worship which reached a head in 1906 when the two groups formally split, agreeing to be listed separately in the religious census then conducted by the Bureau of the Census. Those holding to the prohibition of instrumental music are the Churches of Christ of today. The first Church to use the name was Knob Creek Church of Christ in Dukedom, Kentucky, which was founded in 1834 and still exists today.

After the schism between the Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ in 1906, and hence separately from (although in some ways in parallel with) the subsequent development of the Churches of Christ, the Disciples of Christ experienced further schism. Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ (instrumental) congregations began to divide from the Disciples of Christ in the 20th century during the fundamentalist response to modernism. This division had solidified by the time of the 1960s.

Other groups related to the Restoration Movement were the Christian Connexion and The Christian Church, both of which merged into the Congregational Church during the 1930s: these denominations were comprised primarily of congregations in the northeastern United States. Separately in the 1930s, the Evangelical and Reformed Church formed from a merger of German Protestant denominations. These two merged groups eventually merged in the 1950s to become the United Church of Christ, a group now part of the Protestant Mainline and unrelated to the Churches of Christ.

Some churches have associated themselves with an "emergent conversation/movement". It is unclear at present how significant this ideology is or what its impact will be in the future.

[edit] Elsewhere

The Churches of Christ in Australia are the Australian Stone-Campbell group, and are named after the movement's name at the time of its founding. Of the three current US groups, they are closest in belief and practice to the Disciples of Christ. A similar New Zealand group is the Associated Churches of Christ in New Zealand.

Most of the Churches of Christ in the UK became part of the United Reformed Church in 1981. Most of the remaining became the Fellowship of Churches of Christ.

The Australian and New Zealand groups planted churches throughout the Pacific Islands, the United Kingdom group planted churches throughout the British Empire, and the American groups planted churches throughout the Americas and the rest of the world. These groups often used the name "Church of Christ" and were affiliated with the other churches of that name. While a few such churches still exist, many have merged with other groups.

[edit] Disputes within the Church

See also: Post 1906 schisms

[edit] Institutions

A major disagreement over the establishment of "institutions" at a level over that of the local congregations in order to serve works such as children's homes came to a head in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, those who disagree with this idea are referred to as the non-institutional or often by the pejoratives "anti-cooperation" or "anti." They represent approximately 15% of United States membership and are also represented by missionaries in other countries as well.

[edit] Rebaptism controversy

The validity of believer baptisms performed by other religious groups such as Baptists is sometimes questioned. The debate is centered on whether or not a person must believe that baptism is in order to be saved rather than the response of one already saved. Many within the Churches of Christ consider such an understanding to be essential, although whether this position currently is or historically was held by the majority of members is hard to determine. Acts 19:1-5 is often cited as the scriptural authority for the practice, as well as Acts 2:38 in which the apostle Peter's command to be baptized is qualified; he tells the crowd they must "be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins" (emphasis added).

The Gospel Advocate publishing house based in Tennessee, as well as its long-time editor David Lipscomb and many Church of Christ and Restoration Movement leaders before him considered it not essential, and that a voluntary baptism done to obey the command to be baptized was valid whether further beliefs about the point of salvation were correct or incorrect.

The Firm Foundation, an influential publishing house based in Texas, was founded by Austin McGary in part to promote the opposite position, that a baptism without prior belief that baptism was the point of salvation was not valid at all.

Many congregations have and continue to fully support rebaptism as argued by McGary, though very few make such a belief a test of fellowship. The issue was not resolved per se, as both opinions still exist within the mainstream churches.

The issue generally opens when a Baptist or related Evangelical converts to the Church of Christ, and their particular congregation reflects more than one opinion on whether rebaptism is needed.

[edit] Liberalism and conservatism

Use of the terms "liberal" to describe those churches and members that are more progressive and more willing to accept doctrines of the mainline Protestant denominations, and the term "conservative" to describe those churches who hold to the more traditional teachings of the Church of Christ, is common but sometimes controversial. In some circles one or both of these labels may be offensive.

In other religious contexts, "liberal" carries the connotation of a rejection of traditional Christian doctrines, such as the Incarnation. When used within the Church of Christ it generally does not carry that meaning, but it can be offensive because of that association.

Some members reject all of these labels, either because in their opinion it confuses issues of right and wrong with matters of preference or because of the perception that it contributes to division within the church. Others within the church may be proud of their conservative or liberal labels. Some may use alternate terms to show their point of view of the factions: "progressive," "faithful," "unfaithful," "old fashioned," "anti".

Within the non-institutional churches, the term "conservative" is generally taken to refer only to those churches that hold the non-institutional conviction, while the term "liberal" is often applied to all mainline churches of Christ that do not, even those that otherwise consider themselves to be "conservative."

[edit] International Churches of Christ

The group called the International Churches of Christ (ICOC) (sometimes called "The Boston Movement"), which was grounded in the Church of Christ "Crossroads Movement", is often labeled a cult by mainstream congregations. This movement had its origins in certain congregations of the Church of Christ. Since the late 1980s, however, some Church of Christ leaders have repudiated the ICOC as an apostatized, schismatic cult; the ICOC in turn has declared itself to be a faithful remnant being called out of a dead or dying church, namely the mainstream Churches of Christ.

The ICOC saw tremendous percentage growth in comparison to the congregations led by the mainstream Churches of Christ, reaching approximately 134,000 members (compared to the over one million members of mainstream churches of Christ). ICOC subsequently suffered a series of internal debates on matters ranging from the central authority claimed by founder Kip McKean to financial impropriety. ICOC is in a period of change that may not end for several years.

Representatives of the ICOC and some members of the mainstream Churches of Christ attended reconciliation meetings at the 2004 Abilene Christian University lectureships.

See the Russell Paden thesis for a fairly impartial examination of this subject. --

[edit] Notable Members of the Church of Christ

See also List of famous people with ties in the Church of Christ

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes


[edit] External links

Please refer to this page's link policy prior to posting links.

[edit] General Websites

[edit] Online Print Media

  • Christian Courier - Investigating biblical apologetics, religious doctrine, and ethical issues.
  • Apologetics Press - Publishes materials defending a literal interpretation of creation in the Bible.
  • Focus Press - Publisher of Think magazine. Discusses modern day issues.
  • Seek the Old Paths - An online/printed magazine used to defend the Truth and teach others.
  • House to House/Heart to Heart - An online/printed magazine used to teach both Christians and non-Christians.
  • New Wineskins - The Believers' Magazine (from what would be regarded within the CofC as a 'liberal' viewpoint)
  • The Christian Chronicle - A newspaper of the Churches of Christ.
  • Restoration Quarterly - Magazine devoted to study of the Restoration Movement and Churches of Christ.
  • The Light - A monthly publication representing the "one cup, no-exception" brotherhood.
  • Truth Magazine - A bimonthly publication from what would be regarded as a "conservative" or "non-institutional" viewpoint.

[edit] Online TV/Radio Stations

[edit] Directories

[edit] History and Sources

[edit] Former members and internal critical views

[edit] Miscellaneous

Churches of Christ

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