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Who are the Churches of Christ?

The Churches of Christ are an association of churches that trace their history back through the preaching of Barton W. Stone in the American mid-western frontier, an ex-Presbyterian preacher heavily influenced by Methodists and Shakers, and Alexander Campbell, an ex-Presbyterian, then Baptist preacher in the 1790s to 1860s.

The Stone-Campbell Movement began as a unity movement. Alexander Campbell came from the Old Light Anti-burgher Seceder Presbyterian Church of Ireland and Scotland. Campbell rebelled against the rigidly closed taking of the bread and cup in his congregation in Ireland. Only those who passed the catechism were permitted to partake. No other Presbyterians who disagreed with them were permitted to partake with them. (Some trace the Church of Christ penchant for debate and division to their Presbyterian/John Knox/John Calvin/Ulrich Zwingli heritage.) Campbell was a postmaster who spread his teaching through magazines he edited.

The Stone-Campbell Movement, or more familiarly called the Restoration Movement, gained momentum as it followed the frontier of the United States. In Kentucky at the Cane Ridge Camp Meeting in 1801 it became wildly Pentecostal (belief in the present-day miraculous movement of the Holy Spirit). By 1830 the movement was anti-pentecostal and anti-emotional, especially on the Campbell side of the movement. (The Stone side of the movement remained more emotional, believed in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, was more grace-oriented, and was more open to people outside the Churches of Christ.)

In the early 1800s the Churches of Christ/Christian Church/Disciples of Christ claimed to have been the fastest growing religious movement in the world. Alexander Campbell was invited to preach to the Congress of the United States of America.

Four preachers from the Churches of Christ, including Sydney Rigdon, joined the early Mormon Church around 1824 and influenced it to reflect several of the doctrines of the Churches of Christ (including the name of the church and baptism for the remission of sins).

The movement split just before the American Civil War–the richer north opposing slavery and becoming more organized with a missionary society (1843) and adopting organs and pianos, (the Disciples of Christ). The southern portion retained an otherworldly approach and claimed to be the one true church (the Church of Christ).

Restoration Movement groups go by the names of Church of Christ (using instrumental music, mostly in the west, associated with Midwest School of Evangelism in Ottumwa, Iowa), the Independent Christian Churches (the moderate middle of the spectrum, sometimes called the Christian Church, and sometimes called the Church of Christ, especially in Canada and Australia), and the liberal Disciples of Christ (currently discussing ordaining gay clergy, and active with the World Council of Churches) with headquarters in Indianapolis, IN. The O’Kelly movement of the Christian Church eventually joined the United Church of Christ (not identified with the Restoration Movement, but tracing history from the Mayflower Pilgrim Puritans). The southern portion of the Restoration Movement became the Churches of Christ, noninstrumental.

The most famous colleges associated with the Churches of Christ (who worship with a cappella singing) are: Abilene Christian University, Lubbuck Christian University, Harding University, Pepperdine University, Oklahoma Christian University, Freed-Hardeman University, David Lipscomb College, Faulkner University, York College and Rochester College. There are numerous two to four year colleges associated with the a cappella movement.

The noninstrumental or a cappella Churches of Christ split in the United States in the 1950s and ’60s over organization and money distribution. (Can a group of churches pool money to do a special ministry?) The smaller, noninstitutional churches use Florida College, Temple Terrace, Florida.

Until recently, the fastest growing wing of the Movement was the International Church of Christ, headquartered in Los Angeles.

Since the 1970s there has been a growing house church movement in the Churches of Christ, (see also here), many focusing on the doctrine of grace.

Currently the Churches of Christ are shrinking by 2% per year. The larger a cappella Churches of Christ are identifying with the wider evangelical movement (which often looked to Billy Graham for leadership), with a splinter group opting to remain hard-line sectarian (the one true church).

Click here to see what many believe are unbiblical doctrines in the stricter, hard-line Churches of Christ.

http://ex-churchofchrist.com/historyCoC.htm

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