(ECC) Historic Society

History Library Archives

Our history began on the American frontier within the various "Christian" church and American and Canadian Restoration Movement which was founded by Barton Warren Stone, (pictured here) and is historically rooted in the formal organization of the Christian Church, June 28, 1804, in Bourbon County, Kentucky.

Initially, churches in and adherents of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement identified themselves as:

  • Evangelical Christian Church
  • The Christian Association
  • Free Christian Church
  • Campbellites
  • Baptists
  • Christian Baptists
  • Unitarian Baptists
  • Restorationers
  • Baptist Reformers
  • Reforming Baptists
  • Republican Methodists
  • Primitive Christians
  • Church of God
  • Disciples
  • Disciples of Christ
  • Christian Church
  • Church of Christ
  • Open Brethren
  • Campbellite Baptists
  • The Christian Society
  • New Lights
  • The Christian Connexion
  • The Christian Congregation
  • Reformers
  • Church of Disciples
  • Restitution Church of God
  • Christadelphians
  • Christian Disciples

In Laura, Ohio, in 1854, an anti-slavery remnant of the Christian Disciples organized as the Evangelical Christian Church took the message of Christ to the black community. A number of early congregations of the Evangelical Christian Churches invited black ministers to preach in their pulpits, while white ministers crossed cultural boundaries to preach in the pulpits of a number of mixed congregations. Ministers and members were strong supporters of and workers in the Abolition Movement and participated in the Underground Railroad. Christian unity and freedom reflected the beliefs of the Barton Stone and his followers.

The early Christian Church was non-creedal and stressed the basic beliefs that represent our Statement of Faith that is simple, Biblical Christianity. In addition to Stone, the early Christian Church also had its origins in the work of two other former Presbyterian ministers, Thomas and Alexander Campbell. It is closely related to the Confessing Movement found in several other mainline denominations.

From these men sprang the present day Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), The Churches of Christ (non-instrumental), and the International Churches of Christ. Unfortunately most of the churches of the American Restoration Movement abandoned many of the teachings of Barton Stone and became more and more Campbellite. The Evangelical Christian Church remains true to the basic teachings of Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell.

Several church bodies identifying with the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement today are very creedal and range from ultra-conservative to ultra-liberal as can be seen in the United Church of Christ which is an attempt to unite all Christian denominations into one national body as well as the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches which merged English Christians with American Christians in 1931. Another group, The Christian Congregation, claims direct lineage to the early Stone movement.

In 1905, nearly all congregations of the Evangelical Christian Church, after great revival activity in Indiana and Ohio, assimilated in the Evangelical Christian Churches of America, Cleveland, Ohio; the Congregational Church, Boston, Massachusetts; and, The Christian Congregation, Kokomo, Indiana. The remainder were absorbed into the Disciples of Christ and various independent Christian churches of the American Restoration Movement.

During the First World War, many Evangelical Christian Churches became independent and a formal organization ceased to exist until 1966. Churches calling themselves Evangelical Christian Churches, Christian Churches of America, Christian Missionary Churches, Bible Evangelical Churches, Community Churches and Evangelical Congregational Churches were chartered and incorporated as members of the Evangelical Christian Churches, Farmland Indiana.

Throughout the `80`s and `90`s the Evangelical Christian Churches were beset by a number of separations. One group formed the California Conference of the Evangelical Christian Churches, Long Beach, California, now defunct. A number of Pennsylvania congregations eventually ceased to exist as they united with the Evangelical Christian Church, which became Wesleyan, and a small holiness denomination, formed in 1892, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Mid-West Congregational Fellowship, Modoc, Indiana, absorbed a few churches and another group became Trinity Fellowship, Williamsburg, Indiana. The majority continues as the Evangelical Christian Churches, Albany, Indiana.

The theological history of the Evangelical Christian Churches traces its origin to the teaching and preaching of New England Congregationalist, Horace Bushnell, generally recognized as a theological liberal. A few former ministers of the Evangelical Christian Church, disagreeing strongly with the theology of Bushnell, and wanting returned to their Restorational roots, desired to reorganize as the Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples). This reorganization has been described as an "overt recognition of the body's denominational status," and the modern Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) have been described as "a Reformed North American Mainstream Traditional Denomination."

Canadian History Library Archives

See full size imageThe Evangelical Christian Church, founded in 1804, as the Christian Church (Christian Disciples), joined with many Canadian branches of Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement church bodies in 1832. This was the first work of the Canadian Evangelical Christian Church to formed in 1810 in Ontario and the Maritimes provinces. It was known as the Stone-Campbell movement in Canada that united the Kentucky and Virginia leaders and their independent congregations. Since the 1920's, and 1930's, each Canadian Evangelical Christian Church has been governed by the decisions of delegates at biennial General Assemblies and resolutions implemented by each congregation and other church units.

It was after the Second World War, that a collaboration between an All-Canadian and North-American (Evangelical Christian Church) Movement began as a way to coordinate and unite the various churches and ministries within the Restoration Movement. As this movement developed, in Canada, following up to the early 1940's, .... the Great Western Revival caused a tidal wave of religious interest and excitement in the Canadian Evangelical Christian Church to sweep across North America, revolutionizing a spiritual hunger for God, and unifying Christians on the basis of New Testament Kingdom principles, while liberating the spiritual landscape in Canada. The leaders of this movement sought to reform the church along non-sectarian, non-creedal lines, embracing Stone's motto of "Let the unity of Christians be our polar star."

The founders of the Canadian Evangelical Christian Church's message to the national General Assembly and all the Assemblies of the North-American (Evangelical Christian Church) was to raise objections against African-American discrimination, and called for the immediate Abolition of slavery in the United States and around the world. In the early 1960's, and 1970's, many new Canadian Evangelical Christian Church ministers centralized and relocated from the Southern Ontario (Region) District to the Maritime Provinces of the District of Halifax, Nova Scotia (Region) District and to various parts of the regions of Newfoundland Districts, rebirthing new ministries and planting new Spirit-filled missional Assemblies of the Canadian Evangelical Christian Church.

Since the early 60's, the governmental polity of the North American Evangelical Christian Church was formed to allow for independence, and all individual churches the freedom to restructure their congregations and clergy to worship as they choose, adopting a simple Christianity which allows all Christians the right to participate in Holy Communion and believer's baptism without human restrictions. Church structures of any and all types usurped the autonomy, the responsibilities, and the rights of the congregations and clergy. The Canadian Evangelical Christian Church distinguish between clergy and laypersons on biblical rather than sacramental grounds. The ordination of women and men to the ministry normally followed graduation of theological study at an accredited seminary with credentials granted by the national church body on behalf of the whole church.

The Union of Evangelical Christian Churches was founded in 1992 to continue the tradition of the Union of Evangelical Christians, which had been founded in Russia in 1909 and then banned under communist rule. The leaders believed in the essential unity of the body of Christ, they could not accept the sectarianism that was all around them. Several church bodies identifying with he Stone-Campbell restoration movement today are very creedal and range from ultra-conservative to ultra-liberal as can be seen in the United Church of Christ which is an attempt to unite all Christian denominations into one national body as well as the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches which merged English Christians with American-Canadian Christians in 1931.

In the early, 1990's, Central Office and District Offices were moved to a remote area of the regions of Southern Ontario, where many Canadian Evangelical Christian Church assemblies continue to operate and spread to every province throughout Canada. The "Standard" newsletter as a news publication, renamed by past newsletters, was developed to open the channels of communication and the free exchange of ideas to the General Assembly of the Canadian Evangelical Christian Church. The Canadian Evangelical Christian Church, as a religious separate group within the Restoration Movement tradition, reorganized in 2001, and restructured as the Evangelical Christian Church in Canada (Christian Disciples) in 2005 as a one world-wide Religious Body. The Evangelical Christian Church adopted a process to plan the "restructure" the entire organization. Throughout the last century, many district offices were established to oversee the many independent Canadian Evangelical Christian Church assemblies and ministries which continue to branch out in Western Canada, drawing from their Restoration heritage, and offering significant contributions to evangelical discussions of the theology of conversion and ecclesiology.

Within the North American (Evangelical Christian Church), the Region of Canada, which had 30 churches and some 3500 members in the mid-1990s (down from 38 churches in the 1980s), is unique in that it functions as a national church and has full denominational status at national and international levels. Local congregations gathered regularity in regional meetings for fellowship. All Christian faiths were free to establish places of worship, train clergy, and proselytize to their faith. To this day, the Evangelical Christian Church in Canada (Christian Disciples) offers Holy Communion to all Christians and baptism by immersion for new Christians, according to the New Testament pattern.

Today the Evangelical Christian Church in Canada (Christian Disciples) continues the historical tradition of sound, moral, biblical Christianity and humanitarian work. They believed that divisions in the church come from church polity, not from the Bible. Each of the Evangelical Christian churches and affiliated ministries has a sound doctrine and moral fiber. The affiliated ministries offer assistance to the poor and homeless, and a wide array of counseling services, etc. In addition, a strong, vital ministry to the afflicted and disabled was carried on.

Learning a lesson from our past we endorse several Bible Colleges and Seminaries for theological training. The Evangelical Christian Church ministers believe in a “faith in action” and practice the Golden Rule. They were firm believers in “Be ye not hearers of the Word only but doers also.” Feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, working with alcoholics, caring for widows and orphans are just a few of the humanitarian efforts with which they concern ourselves.