The Stone-Campbell Movement

This is the next in a series of posts to answer the questions Amanda Socci asked me at Write Nonfiction in November.  If you're a nonfiction writer, make sure to check out her November writing challenge.

The next question Amanda asked me was, "What exactly is the Stone-Campbell movement and why do you think it is important?"

The Stone-Campbell movement is also called the Restoration Movement.  It began in the early 1800s and was started by Thomas and Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone, as well as a few other men.  The men found themselves disturbed by the state of the denominations they were involved in.  They decided they wanted a church that went back to the ideas in the book of Acts.  They wanted to have one united church that allowed for differing ideas on theological points that are not issues of salvation.

I really appreciated the ideas of the Restoration Movement when I began studying the history and beliefs of the movement.  But as I studied, I was disappointed to learn about the various divisions that brought the movement to where it is today. 

The first division was based on one of the mottoes of the Restoration movement:  "Where the Bible speaks, we speak; where the Bible is silent, we are silent."  One section of the Restoration movement understood that to say if the Bible doesn't instruct us on an issue, it is permissible, or at least open to discussion.  The other section understood it as saying if the Bible doesn't tell us we can, then we can't.  This disagreement created a division over the use of instruments in the worship service and several other issues that are nearly forgotten today.  In 1906, after many years of disagreements, the two groups became two distinct groups with different names:  the Christian churches and the Churches of Christ. 

After the first division, a second division became apparent among the Christian church.  A section of them decided that beliefs that were long-believed to be essential beliefs for a Christian were no longer essential.  It was decided that being united was more important than any belief.  There were other issues, but this one was the most significant.  The two groups were officially divided in 1926.  They became the independent Christian Churches and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). 

Learning about these divisions was disheartening, but I still agree with many of the original tenets of the Campbells, Stone, and other founders of the movement, and I consider myself a member of the movement, even though I am currently not a member of a Restoration movement church.

Happily, in recent years, there have been talks between the Churches of Christ and the independent Christian Churches.  Those involved are seeking to bridge the gap created by over one hundred years of disagreement and avoidance.  The Christian Standard published an excellent article about these meetings.  You can read it by clicking here.  

If anyone is interested in learning more about the Stone-Campbell movement, a great book to look into is Union in Truth: An Interpretive History of the Restoration Movement by James B. North.  (This is an affiliate link.)

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