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Disciples of Christ Overview

Discussion in 'Disciples of Christ DIR' started by Green Gaia, Aug 26, 2005.

  1. Green Gaia

    Green Gaia Veteran Member

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    The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), also known as the Disciples of Christ or simply as the Christian Church, is a denomination of Christian Protestantism based on the teachings of Thomas Campbell and Alexander Campbell of Pennsylvania and Barton W. Stone of Kentucky. Both families were originally Presbyterians.

    History

    The roots of the Disciples of Christ lie in the Restoration Movement of the early 1800s, with a focus on Christian unity and lack of strict denominationalism. This focus came from a study of the New Testament by the movement's founders. Tolerance of other viewpoints that differed on non-essentials was key, as was inclusion based on the Lord's Table (Communion). It has been estimated that the indigenous movement that gave rise to the modern Disciples of Christ (and its associated offshoots) has only been surpassed in size by only one other body of North American origin, that of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    The unity of this group was shaken by the formation of a missionary society in the late 1840s, a development looked upon with disfavor by many, especially among the smaller, more rural, and Southern congregations, and by the adoption shortly after this by some congregations of instrumental music, predominantly (at first) pianos and organs. After the American Civil War the dispute became more strident, as many leftover regional animosities became a subtext. By the 1870s and 1880s there were essentially two groups within the Restoration Movement, although the break was not truly formalized until the Religious Census of 1906 in which the congregations that disagreed with instrumental music and the missionary society asked to be listed separately as the Church of Christ.

    Another group, perhaps nearly as conservative as the Church of Christ (but at variance with the Church of Christ mainly on Biblical interpretations concerning the use of musical instruments during worship), was disturbed by the liberalism that it perceived to be predominant at a church conference in Memphis, Tennessee in 1926, forming the North American Christian Convention the next year. Slowly over the next forty-five years, the split between these "Independents" and the Disciples became more or less complete; this group is now known as Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ.

    At the time of the 1906 division, the Disciples were by far the larger of the two bodies; now it would seem possible that they might be the smallest of the three current major divisions of the Restoration Movement. To this point, despite serious concerns over the direction of the denomination being expressed by some of the more conservative members, further open division has not occurred.

    Modern Disciples

    The Disciples of Christ declare only one essential tenet of the faith: belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In addition, the Disciples affirm that Jesus is the son of God and that he offers saving grace to all, as all persons are God’s children. Beyond this, there are several central practices generally associated with the Disciples:

    * Open Communion: Communion is celebrated weekly during the worship service; no individual is ever refused Communion.
    * Baptism by immersion: Disciples practice "Believer's baptism" by immersion in the name of the Trinity, however, other baptism traditions are honored in converts. Re-baptism may be performed for converts or existing members if requested, but this practice is not normative of the denomination at large. Most Disciples ministers will not administer re-baptism.
    * The unity of the church: Disciples believe that all Christians are called to be the Body of Christ; they deny that any denomination (including their own) is the "one Church." Disciples seek opportunities for common witness and service with other denominations. As early Disciples leader Barton Stone declared, "Unity is our polar star."
    * Common ministry: Disciples ministers are ordained by individual congregations based on criteria established by the general church, and after an intensive in-care process with their respective regional church. An ordained Disciples minister normatively holds a Master of Divinity degree from a theological seminary. Lay persons often lead worship, and lay elders and deacons preside at Communion.
    * Freedom of belief: Individual members are free to follow their consciences; they are expected to extend that freedom to others. Members are encouraged to seek guidance from scripture, study, and prayer, but to develop their own opinions about most issues.

    In addition, Disciples churches practice congregationalist church governance and utilize a "bottom-up" hierarchy. While other denominations utilize a top-down hierarchy where the senior church official or church council holds ultimate authority, the ultimate authority of the Disciples of Christ church lies in the individual, independent congregations. A General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a biannual gathering of congregations, expresses only the views of that particular assembly and holds little power to bind the denomination as a whole, although decisions may be made that affect the general manifestation of the church. The denomination is governed by the The Design of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

    At the 2005 General Assembly, 3000+ delegates voted (almost) unanimously to elect Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, Senior pastor of Disciples Christian Church in Bartlesville, OK, to become the General Minister and President of this or any Christian denomination.

    From Wikipedia.
     
  2. sojourner

    sojourner Annoyingly Progressive Since 2006

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    There is some misinformation in the Wikipedia overview that I'd like to respectfully address.

    1) A Ministerial ordinand is usually ordained in his/her home congregation. The ordination is administered by the region in which the candidate has held his or her candidacy. That region is responsible for guiding the candidate through the ordination process.

    2) Deacons serve at the Table. Elders preside at the Table, many times in conjunction with the minister. There is a distinct difference between the office of deacon and the office of elder, and both entail specific Table duties.

    3) Celebrating Communion each week is one of the central theological and practical points of the Disciples of Christ. It its the focus of our Sunday worship, and makes a basic theological satement about who we are as Church. The act of weekly Communion identifies us, both as Christians and as a denomination.

    Thanks for the opportunity to expound.
     
  3. sojourner

    sojourner Annoyingly Progressive Since 2006

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    When the Design was adopted in 1969, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) officially became a denomination, feeling that doing so would best suit its ongoing identity and ministry. Disciples no longer embrace the restoration principle, as they once did. They are still at the forefront of ecumenical efforts, and still identify themselves by the impetus of the unity of all Christians.
     
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