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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course US: Religious Records - Part 2 by Beverly Whitaker, CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Christian Churches and Churches of Christ
Until 1906, it shared a common history with the Churches of Christ and until 1968 with what became the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Its separation from the Disciples of Christ has its roots in the 1927 formation of the North American Christian Convention which began as a grouping of conservative congregations in the Disciples’ movement. The use of the word “Convention” rather than “Church” indicated that no corporate decisions would be binding; instead congregations would voluntarily convene to engage matters of common concern.
Increasingly dissatisfied over a move towards an official organization of the Disciples and in opposition of open membership policies in some churches, there were some attempts at reconciliation in the 1930s and 1940s with the Disciples’ International Convention. The Disciples’ participation in the Ecumenical Movement was a further wedge between them. Consequently, when the Disciples reorganized in 1968, the independent churches asked to be removed from the Disciples’ yearbook. By 1971 this body of independent congregations had sufficient particularity and cohesion in its own eyes to request a separate listing in the Yearbook of American Churches.
The Christian Churches and Churches of Christ make up a “brotherhood,” an undenominational fellowship of Protestant Christians who are dedicated to the restoration of New Testament Christianity. They commonly use either the name Christian Church or Church of Christ. Those designating themselves as Christian Church are often therefore confused with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Likewise, congregations using Churches of Christ are frequently confused with the non-instrumental churches of Christ which officially separated from the Disciples in 1906.
Demographically, the heartland of its strength is approximately the same as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)—from western Pennsylvania and Kentucky across to Missouri and Iowa. Since World War II, there has been notable growth in Oklahoma, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina. Unlike its sister fellowships within the Restoration family, the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ are also strong on the west coast, in northern California, Oregon, and Washington.
The Independent Christian Churches have approximately 1,072,000 members with 5,678 churches in the United States. (See Faith Communities Today) Another estimate of its U.S. membership is 1,200,000. [Handbook of Denominations, 10th edition, 1995].
Beliefs, Practices and Records
In its “centrist” position, it stands to the right of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and to the left of the churches of Christ, both also being movements within the indigenous American Campbellite movement. Theologically and structurally, theChristian Churches and Churches of Christ holds much more in common with the churches of Christ than with the Disciples of Christ.
For their creed and moral code, they depend on direct quotations from the Bible. Communion is central to each Sunday’s worship; baptism is by immersion.
They identify their beliefs as follows: “We speak where the Bible speaks, we are silent where the Bible is silent. In essentials unity; in opinions liberty; in all things love. We are not the only Christians; we are Christians only. No creed but Christ; no book but the Bible.”
- Christian Churches and Churches of Christ
4210 Bridgetown Rd.
Cincinnati, OH 45211
The North American Christian Convention (NACC) is an annual, open gathering of Christians committed to the Lordship of Christ and the authority of the Bible as God’s Word. NACC provides an annual forum for Christians to come together for sharing preaching, teaching, fellowship, resources, and ideas for furthering Christ’s kingdom here on earth. Members of Christian Churches and Churches of Christ attend from the United States, Canada, and Mexico as well as individuals from around the world.
- North American Christian Convention
110 Boggs Lane
Cincinnati, OH 45246
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Among the largest religious groups in the United States, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) could be called the most American. It was born on America’s 19th century frontier, part of the largest religious movement to have originated in the United States—the Restoration Movement.
For more than a century the Disciples were individual congregations in a loosely bound organization of local churches. Seeing the benefit of restructuring for efficiency and economy, they adopted a new design of organization in 1968. The local church remains the basic unit, but they are grouped into 36 regions. Local congregations send voting representatives to regional and national assemblies.
Members are located in large numbers along a crescent from Pittsburgh to San Antonio.
|Membership in 2002 is reported in The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2003. Their statistics for all church groups are based on reports made by officials of each group, as compiled by the 2002 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, and World Almanac research.|
- Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
3,781 houses of worship
The Christian Church official webpage currently gives a count of 800,000 Christian believers in about 3,700 congregations in the United States and Canada.
Beliefs, Practices and Records
Its Vision: “To be a faithful growing church, that demonstrates true community, deep Christian spirituality and a passion for justice.” The scriptural basis for this Vision is from the Old Testament, Micah 6:8.
One important belief dating back to its origins in the Restoration Movement is “that people shouldn’t be forced to put faith in creeds but only in Jesus Christ.” Another strong belief is “that God wants churches to be in unity instead of in pieces.”
Disciples believe that all persons, lay and ordained are called to be ministers of the Gospel and ministers to one another. Disciples regions support congregations and their pastors and help congregations find pastors.. Regional ministers provide spiritual leadership, and regional staff members help congregations through periods of change, and sometimes through conflict. General and regional ministries assist in starting and revitalizing congregations.
Membership ordinarily requires only a confession of belief in Jesus Christ and subsequent baptism by immersion of adult believers. The Lord’s Supper (Communion) is central to each worship service.
As might be expected due to the belief in believer’s baptism, these churches do not usually keep birth records. They do, however, keep records of adult baptisms, membership records; marriage; death and burial; obituaries and biographical sketches for leaders; and meeting reports published in periodicals. Persons can access these records through major collections and repositories as well as at individual churches listed in Mac Lynn’s Directory and electronic sources and indices.
- Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
130 E. Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Disciples of Christ Historical Society
1101 Nineteenth Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37212
In response to my query, a representative of the Disciples of Christ Historical Society indicates these kinds of records are sometimes in their holdings:
| Death, Burial, Obituaries
| Biographical Sketches for Leaders
Churches of Christ (Non-instrumental)
Leaders in the churches of Christ were more conservative than the Disciples of Christ from which they withdrew in 1906. That date is marked as the time of withdrawal because it was listed separately then by the Federal Census Bureau.
Today they are the largest of the three principal bodies of the Restoration Movement, existing not as a denomination but rather a fellowship with no central headquarters, which makes record acquisition difficult.
The churches of Christ have approximately 2,000,000 members throughout the world, most of whom are in the United States, heaviest in the southern states, particularly Tennessee and Texas, though congregations exist in each of the fifty states and in more than eighty foreign countries
U.S. membership estimates number about 1,400,000 in nearly 13,000 churches. [Handbook of Denominations, 10th edition.]
Beliefs, Practices and Records
The group stresses a New Testament pattern of church organization and worship, opposing the use of musical instruments.
Beliefs are outlined in detail at the Internet Ministries website.
Following the plan of organization found in the New Testament, churches of Christ are autonomous. They are bound together by their common faith in the Bible and adherence to its teachings. There is no central headquarters and no organization superior to the elders of each local congregation. There are no conventions, annual meetings, or official publications. Congregations do cooperate voluntarily in supporting the orphans and the aged, in preaching the gospel in new fields, and in other similar works.
This statement appears on a Churches of Christ website:
- We are undenominational and have no central headquarters or president. The head of the church is none other than Jesus Christ himself (Ephesians 1:22-23). Each congregation of the churches of Christ is autonomous, and it is the Word of God that unites us into One Faith (Ephesians 4:3-6). We follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and his holy Apostles, and not the teachings of man. We are Christians only! [Internet Ministries]
Internet Links—Restoration Movement Churches
Abilene Christian University - Center for Restoration Studies
Abilene Christian University - Center for Restoration Studies - Christian Churches and Churches of Christ
Appius Forum - Restoration Movement in the Church
by Howard A. White
Internet Ministries - Churches of Christ - Who are the churches of Christ and what do they believe in?
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses US: Religious Records - Part 2 offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about these courses or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.