15 May, 2022

‘Who Are the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ?’

by | 20 September, 2018 | 0 comments

CS Archive from September 25, 1988

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On September 25, 1988, Christian Standard published an item that had been prepared for the Encyclopedia of American Religions titled, “Who Are the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ?”

The writer was Edwin V. Hayden, who served as editor of Christian Standard from 1957 to 1977.

As one might expect, the article is a straightforward introduction to our churches—part history and part snapshot in time. As you read it, I believe you’ll appreciate both the clarity of the writing the clarity of the vision for our churches. Some also will note changes that have occurred in the years since.

—Jim Nieman, managing editor, Christian Standard

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“Who Are the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ?”

By Edwin V. Hayden

Christian churches and churches of Christ constitute an undenominational fellowship which emerged in America from a restoration movement that occurred at the end of the eighteenth and during the early nineteenth century.

Prominent leaders in the movement were Barton W. Stone in Kentucky (was Presbyterian until 1804); Thomas Campbell and his son Alexander, in western Pennsylvania (were Presbyterian until 1809); and evangelist Walter Scott in Pennsylvania and Ohio (was Baptist until 1826).

Accepting the New Testament as the sole authority in faith and practice, adherents to this movement rejected formal creeds and confessions, resting on the Scriptural affirmation that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and head over all things to His church.

In baptism they practiced the immersion of believers, following the apostolic command, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). The Lord’s Supper was observed as a focal part of the public worship each Lord’s Day.

In church government they recognized the local congregation as a self-governing unit led by its self-chosen elders and deacons. Congregations and their members work freely together in many enterprises.

Tensions growing into overt division have marred the fellowship. Rejecting the use of musical instruments in public worship, one segment secured separate designation as the “Churches of Christ” in 1906 and thereafter. The development of central agencies with denominational status created another schism that was finalized with the restructure of the organization-related segment into the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in 1968.

Membership of the “Christian Churches and Churches of Christ” is a little more than one million in 5,700 congregations in the United States and Canada, served by some 10,000 persons in vocational ministries. These people support some 1,500 missionaries in 53 countries throughout the world. They are served by 38 colleges and three graduate seminaries, principally for the education of church leadership. They maintain 40 homes for children, 20 homes for the aged, eight nursing homes, and three hospitals in the United States, plus others related to overseas missions.

None of these agencies is official, and none is supported by all the congregations and their members. Instead, as needs have arisen, members and groups of members have established the agencies, which vary widely in their structure, and depend for their support on such persons and congregations as choose to avail themselves of their services.

The same is true of various national, regional, and state conventions and rallies that bring the people together for inspiration, instruction, and fellowship, without the transaction of business or the adopting of resolutions.

“North American Christian Conventions” met occasionally for these purposes from 1927 to 1948, and have met annually since 1950. Mechanics of the annual conventions are managed from an office in Cincinnati, Ohio. Each year’s gathering brings some 20,000 persons to some part of its four-day program.

A “National Missionary Convention,” serving the same constituency with a mission-oriented program, has met each year since 1947.

Christian Churches and Churches of Christ buy their literature from many different publishers, and especially from Standard Publishing . . . Cincinnati, OH . . . whose books and study materials are directed specifically to their needs. Christian Standard and The Lookout, established in 1866 and 1888, respectively, are their leading publications for adults. Mission Services Association, in Knoxville, Tennessee, publishes many items in the field of missions. The Restoration Herald reaches a nationwide readership, also from Cincinnati.

Christian camps, college campus ministries, and radio and television ministries, variously organized and supported, carry the churches’ message to young people and to the wider community. Theologically speaking, members of this fellowship are known for their Biblical conservatism as they endeavor to promote New Testament Christianity, its doctrine, its ordinances, and its life.


Edwin V. Hayden, Christian minister, educator, and journalist, is retired and lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. [Mr. Hayden died in 2005 at age 91.]

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