About Us

 

Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) in Canada
1804-2013


Our Spiritual Heritage As Christian Disciples

See full size imageThe Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) in Canada, as a mainstream, Christ focused and centred, non-denominational Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement in North America, traces its historic roots to the formal organization of the Christian Church in 1804 in Bourbon County, Kentucky, U.S.A., and in 1810 near Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada under the leadership of Barton Warren Stone (1772-1844), a former Presbyterian minister. The Barton Stone Movement later merged with the efforts of Thomas Campbell (1763-1854) and his son Alexander Campbell (1788-1866) to become the Restoration Movement that gave birth to the Churches of Christ (Non-Instrumental), the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and The Christian Connection. This movement sought to restore the whole Christian church, and the unification of all Christians, in a single body patterned after the church of the New Testament. This was done by continually pointing all Christians back to freedom in Christ, rather than trusting in legalism, rules or regulations. In a nutshell, it was believed that the church had departed from the New Testament model by following the traditions of man. On June 28, 1804, they adopted the name the "Christian movement" to identify their group with Barton Stone based on its use in Acts 11:26 which became the remnants of the Springfield Presbytery. Of the majority of independent churches that aligned with the "Disciples movement" which identified with the Campbell's group, decided to use the name the "Christian Disciples," until it was renamed The Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) in 1860.

The Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples), as a restructured group within the Restoration Movement tradition in North America, made significant contributions to evangelical Christianity by becoming a historic movement of the 21st century that has a position that is conservative theologically, and focused throughout Canada with an unique contemporary approach to the church of Jesus Christ. Originally, the Evangelical Christian Church blended on the American frontier through various efforts to cut through the complexities of sectarian dogma to find a basis for Christian unity. Out of the Great Western Revival (1801) in Kentucky, arose the short-lived Springfield Presbytery, which dissolved in 1804 so that its members might "go free" simply as Christians. This movement sought to end the divisiveness that had arisen within denominational differences, while appealing to all Christians to disassociate from the lunacy of denominationalism and religion in Christian unity which only become a recipe for legalism. Barton Stone's concept of unity grew from a belief that Christians could extract the Bible’s truths by reason of the scriptures, and approached it without presuppositions. These truths, in turn would displace human forms of order, leading to the unstoppable result that Christians would start “flowing together” and others would come to faith because of the biblical model of unity. Both groups were opposed to the use of creeds as tests of faith for membership, and believed that a simple confession and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior, and God was sufficient to unite all Christians into a covenant relationship around the world as Kingdom citizens.

The Evangelical Christian Church, also known as the Christian Church (Christian Disciples) or (Christians), became the Stone-Campbell Movement of early nineteenth-century North America, that based its Biblical mission on the Great Commission found in the gospel of Matthew chapter 28 verses 18 and 19, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." This group looked to the whole Bible to discover practices and Kingdom principles that united the early church in substance. The term, the Restoration Movement, or the New Reformation, has been used to describe their interest in restoring the New Testament church in the biblical pattern that was found in the book of Acts. In their examination of the Scriptures, this group found that the early church gathered on the first day of the week to partake of "Holy Communion." They began to celebrate the Lord's Supper once a week for their healing and wholeness. They also determined that baptism by immersion, as portrayed in the New Testament, was for adult or mature Christians only. They adopted this biblical practice in their churches and abandoned the ritual of infant baptism while adopting child dedication. Separation between Church and State was believed and practiced unlike the modern church today which believes in incorporation, charitable status and building permits etc., to claim its historic roots. This practice ended in the early 1900s. However, while the principles of the Restoration Movement exist today, many Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) clergy continue to enjoy many freedoms in their ministries and churches without human dictatorship.

Through the early twentieth century, many Restoration churches, not otherwise apart of the three larger Restoration bodies existed under such names as the Canadian Evangelical Christian Churches, the Evangelical Christian Churches, Christian Churches, Independent Christian Churches, the Christian Churches of North America, the Christian Missionary Churches, the Bible Evangelical Churches, the Community Churches, Evangelical Congregational Churches, Congregational Christian Churches, and the Evangelical Protestant Churches which traces its roots to various Lutheran and Reformed churches from Germany in 1720 that was a part of the Stone movement. The Christian Church also merged with the Congregational Churches in 1931 to form the Congregational Christian Churches. In 1957 after twenty years of discussion and work, the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church, became the product of the merger of two German-American denominations, that forged with the United Church of Christ. Some of these churches came together in 1966 as the Evangelical Christian Churches, Farmland, Indiana. The majority of these congregations that have not been otherwise absorbed, continue as the Evangelical Christian Churches, Albany, Indiana. .

Beginning with the Old Prussian Union of 1817, and existing manly at the national level, united churches have been formed from a combination of Protestant (esp. Reformed, Congregational, Methodist, Evangelical Christian Church, Baptist and and Anglican churches). The general framework of their thought nevertheless followed Reformed (Calvinist) lines, modified by the influence of British Independents (the originally Scottish Glasites - or Sandemanians - in practice a strictly New Testament sect, and the Congregationalists). The Prussian Evangelical Christian Church shared the orthodox Protestant emphasis on the authority of Scripture. The classis biblical position differs from that of other Protestants in being a product of the early 19th rather than the 16th or 17th century. Reform and Congregational churches entered into what was the largest number of unions recorded. The broadest diversity so far brought into union of the Church of North India (formed in 1970), incorporating Anglican, Baptist, Brethren, Congregational, Disciples, Methodist and Presbyterian elements. United churches formed a very diverse group linked not so much by a uniform ecclisiology of church life, but by a commitment to a visible structure of unity of Evangelical Christian Churches within American-Canadian church history.

See full size imageThe Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) attempts to continue the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement tradition as embodied in its several slogans, "Call Bible things by Bible names," "The church of Jesus Christ on earth is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one," "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak. Where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent," In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love," We are not the only Christians. We are Christians only;" and "No creed but Christ. No book but the Bible." "No head-quarters but heaven, no creed but Christ, no book but the Bible, no plea but the gospel, and no name but the divine." The Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) believes that ecclesiastical traditions divide, but Christians should be able to find common ground by following the practice (as best as it can be determined) of the early church. Through out history, it was found that names of human origin divided the church, but Christians should be able to find common ground by using biblical names for the church (i.e., "Christian Church," or "Church of God or Christ" as opposed to "Methodist" or "Lutheran", etc.). It seeks to perpetuate the message first preached by Barton Stone and his colleagues. This includes an emphasis on the Bible as the all sufficient rule of faith and practice in every area of the Christian life. The Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) did not officially accept decisions by the early Church Councils, particularly in the third and fourth centuries. Those matters were left to individual interpretation. It only accepted the Trinitarian approach to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, while considering itself a conservative, non-creedal Christian movement that shares the distinctive view that the authentic primitive church order is being restored to the whole church in the power of the Holy Spirit, using only the early church as a model.

The Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) in Canada acknowledges as its Sole Head, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior. The Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) is a community of believers who through baptism by faith in Jesus Christ are bound by covenant to God and to one another. The Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) draws inspiration from the truth of scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit, celebrating around the Lord's Table the life, death and resurrection and continuing presence of Jesus Christ. It also looks to the presence, power and energy of the Holy Spirit to prosper its creative and redemptive work in the world without the control of human dictatorship. The basis of this Christian fellowship is found in relationship with one another in accordance with the teaching of our Lord and practice among evangelical Christians. Walter Scott, a Methodist and a close colleague to Alexander Campbell, developed a reasonable, scriptural, "plan of salvation." Its "positive," or objective, steps into the church (faith, repentance, baptism, remission of sins, and gifts of the Holy Spirit) attracted thousands who longed for religious security but had not experienced the emotional crisis and subjective assurance that characterized the prevailing revivalism. Today, the Evangelical Christian Church biblically recognizes two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord's supper. Another practice which is not a sacrament in the Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) is the washing of feet as illustrated by the Lord.

See full size imageThe Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) is not only inter-denominational in structure, but it is a non-denominational ecclesiastical religious body that reflects a rich variety of theological, cultural, and sociological perspectives and backgrounds. The early participants in this movement consisted, of those leaders who came away from a variety of fundamental, evangelical denominations and religious groups.  The popular Christian Disciples' bias against theology as a divisive preoccupation with human opinions - as well as Alexander Campbell's early protest against ecclesiastical instituations as unwarranted by Scripture and threatening to freedom - also was inferred from the New Testament. They insisted of using Bible names. They did this, not in an attempt to reform any particular denomination, but rather in an effort to "restore" the "original" church along non-sectarian, and non-creedal lines, embracing Barton Stone's motto, "Let the unity of Christians be our polar star."

The Campbell movement was characterized by a "systematic and rational reconstruction" of the early church, in contrast to the Stone movement which was characterized by "radical freedom and lack of dogma." The Campbells also had designated themselves as "Reformers," and other early leaders also saw themselves as reformers, seeking Christian unity and restoring apostolic Christianity. Despite the differences, the two movements agreed on several critical issues. Both men saw restoring apostolic Christianity according to a biblical pattern found in the New Testament as a route to Christian Liberty, while stressing Christian unity and fellowship under God. That is why Barton Stone did not believe in a denominational hierarchy that governs but a biblical structure that serves the church. One of the basic goals of the English Puritans during the Restoration Movement was to restore a pure "primitive" church that would be a true apostolic community. Barton Stone believed that unity among Christians could be achieved by using apostolic Christianity as a true model in the interest of peace, love, mercy, and kindness. The Restoration Movement began during, and was greatly influenced by, the Second Great Awakening. While the Campbells resisted what they saw as the spiritual manipulation of the camp meetings, the Southern phase of the Awakening "was an important matrix of Barton Stone's reform movement" and shaped the evangelistic techniques used by both Stone and the Campbells.

Another important theme during the Restoration Movement was that of hastening the millennium. Many Americans of the period believed that the millennium was near and based their hopes for the millennium on their new nation, the United States. Members of the Stone movement believed that only a unified Christianity based on the apostolic church, rather than a country or any of the existing denominations, could lead to the coming of the millennium. The Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) held loyal to this belief throughout the centuries. Stone's millennialism has been described as more "apocalyptic" than that of Alexander Campbell, in that he believed people were too flawed to usher in a millennial age through human progress. Alexander Campbell believed that it depended on the power of God, and that while waiting for God to establish His kingdom, one should live as if the rule of God were already fully established.

For the Stone movement, this had less to do with eschatological theories and more about a countercultural commitment to live as if the kingdom of God were already established on earth. The Evangelical Christian Church believes this apocalyptic perspective or world view led many in the Stone movement to adopt pacifism, avoid participating in civil government, and reject violence, militarism, greed, materialism and slavery.

To this day all Evangelical Christian Churches are self governing in the tradition of congregational polity. This movement is not "just another denomination" but a "assembly of believers" who have agreed together to love God, love each other, and serve the world. The Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) maintains a high commitment to religious freedom, Christian unity, and the priesthood of all believers who make up the body of Christ. As Christian Disciples, we are given the keys of the Kingdom of God through the power of the gospel of grace. That is why Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) leadership is never static and fixed but is fluid and dynamic. It is never program-oriented but is people-oriented. It is never building-oriented but a builder of community, never in control but is able to shift from being leader, to a peer or follower. Leadership is never "qualified" but demonstrates godly qualities, never one person but multiple persons. It is never an office holder or an officer, but leadership is a servant among servants of God, not a ruler over people.

The Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) encourages diversity when we gather, and desires discussion with those who agree to disagree. We're distinctly Christian and our love for Jesus is communicated clearly, but aside of having no creed, we have a specific statement of beliefs that is truly biblical, and we enjoy freedoms that are not under authoritarian control. We see our role in the body as providing a safe place for those ministers who can't seem to find their voice in a more traditional setting. This is the right to private judgment, interpretation of scripture, and liberty of conscience. We will be the first to tell our brothers and sisters that we don't have all the answers, but we are heading toward deep uncharted waters, traveling where the wind of the Holy Spirit blows, and waiting on the Holy One who is leading us to adventures yet unknown.

As a result, all Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) ministers come from evangelical, charismatic, mainline, and post-Christian intercultural backgrounds. The religious and philosophical views represented are equally varied. This provides occasional tension and awkward moments, but also incredibly rich and beautiful dialog, which stretches us and causes us to grow in humility and maturity. We embrace one another fully as beautifully flawed, unique individuals in the family of God who are called to rule and reign with Christ as world changers and history makers within the Kingdom of God on this earth.