The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a community of witnesses to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. By nature, we are a diverse yet unified group. Echoing Augustine, we believe that “in essentials, unity. In non-essentials, diversity. In all things, love.” While each Disciple is their own, commonly our essentials are as follows:
- Jesus is the Christ, our Lord and Savior, the Son of the Living God.
- The Bible, when taken in context, is the sufficient witness to God.
- The Church is Christ’s Body on Earth, not divided by denomination or creed.
- Baptism is for believers, though we acknowledge other forms of baptism.
- Gathering around the table for communion is celebrated weekly in remembrance of Christ.
- All Christians are called to not only receive the gracious work of Christ but to share it from our doorsteps to the ends of the Earth.
The symbol of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a simple red chalice bearing the Cross of St. Andrew across the left side of the bowl. Long associated with the Disciples of Christ as a symbol, the chalice points to the centrality of the Lord’s Supper in the life and worship of the Disciples who celebrate Communion each Sunday.
You likely know of the Protestant reformation in the 1500’s, with names like Martin Luther and John Calvin. They sought to re-focus the church on the bible alone as their authority. This was the beginning of the Protestant churches. However, years after the reformation, various denominations emerged. Each denomination had their own interpretations of the bible and would all too often assert their interpretation was the only correct way. As the Protestants made their way to North America, this trend of division continued. Then, in the 1800’s, the founders of the Stone-Campbell (or restoration) movement independently broke ties with their former denomination in pursuit of a unified church.
1804– Presbyterian minister Barton W. Stone and several followers broke their denominational ties to enter into unity with “the body of Christ at large.” They called themselves, simply, “Christians.”
1811– A group led by Presbyterian minister Thomas Campbell and his son, Alexander, began meeting independently of Stone, saying the church of Jesus Christ was one, open to all. Thomas Campbell’s passion for Christian unity is summed up in his proclamation that : “The church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one.” They referred to themselves simply as “Disciples of Christ.”
1832– The “Christians” and the “Disciples of Christ” joined together with a formal handshake in Lexington, Kentucky, and created a new Christian movement on the American frontier.
1910– The Disciples established the Council on Christian Unity. Similarly, the Disciples would later help organize the National and World Councils of Churches. We continue to strive for visible Christian unity between all Christians. Though it may be a while before we are all one, we continue to strive for an ecumenical partnership which rests on five pillars of acceptance and cooperation: a common confession of Christ; mutual recognition of members; common celebration of the Lord’s Supper/Holy Communion; mutual recognition and reconciliation of ordained ministries; and common commitment to mission.
1926-1967– The Stone Campbell movement formally separated into the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Church of Christ. While there is not universal consensus on the reason for the separation, it is generally acknowledged that the Church of Christ held to a stricter/more literal view of scripture whereas the Disciples has a call towards a more open, theistic reading of scripture.
1968– A representative assembly meeting in Kansas City overwhelmingly approved the Provisional Design for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Church historian D. Duane Cummins writes: “Approval of the Provisional Design marked the passage of the Disciples into denominational maturity. While we long for the day when all churches are gathered together as one, we recognize the need for a strong network of other Disciples of Christ churches among us.