Disciples of Christ was a branch of the general body of Disciples or Christians, and sometimes called Christian churches, or churches of Christ (Disciples). This denomination traces its origin to the religious revival movement during the early years of the nineteenth century, in which the leaders of the movement appealed for the use of the Bible alone, without human addition or an effort to state beliefs as creeds and formulas. Its genesis is a part of the general revival movement, also represented by the Christians (Christian connection)
The founder was Rev. Alexander Campbell, son of Rev. Thomas Campbell, both of whom were natives of Scotland, but who migrated to America and located in Pennsylvania.
In 1809 the “Christian Association of Washington, Pa.” was formed. From this body was issued the historic “Declaration and address,” which forms the basis of the doctrinal statements of the denomination.
Rev. Alexander Campbell – age 65
The next year the first church of the Christian Association of Washington was constituted. For several years the Campbells, Barton W. Stone and others struggled with problems of organization, involving varied and conflicting groups and opinions, until 1832, when a partial union was effected, but without a definite declamation in the matter of title or designation. The growth of the new organization was rapid, especially in the middle west.
During the War, the movement suffered as did all other organizations. As the denomination grew and strong leaders developed, differences began to arise, especially in opposition to the use of societies for carrying on missionary work, and the use of instrumental music in the churches. The death of Alexander Campbell in 1866 temporarily embarrassed further progress.
The doctrinal position of the Disciples involves the acceptance of the divine inspiration of the holy scriptures and the all sufficiency of the Bible as a revelation of God’s Will and as a rule of faith in life, with belief in the Trinity, the incarnation, miracles, the necessity of faith, repentance and obedience in order to salvation, the obligation of the divine ordinance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the duty of the observance of the Lord’s Day, the memory of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the divine appointment of the churches of Christ, and the fullness and freedom of salvation, and the final judgment with the reward of the righteous and punishment of the wicked.
Church of Christ – Scottsboro, Alabama ca. 1930
The churches are congregational. Each church elects its officers, calls its ministers and conducts its own affairs without supervision of any outside ecclesiastical authority. Officers of the church are pastors, elders and deacons. Applicants for the ministry are ordained by authority of the local church. The minister is a member only of the church where he is located. Ministerial associations are formed, and churches unite in district and church conventions for mutual conference in regard to their general affairs. These conventions however have no ecclesiastical authority. The American Christan Missionary Society, Christian Woman’s Board of Missons, The Foreign Christian Missionary Society, the National Benevolent Association of the Christian Church, the Board of Church Extension, Board of Ministerial Relief, and Christian Educational Society are general agencies for carrying on the activities of the churches of the Disciples.
In 1826 the first sermon by a Disciple in Alabama was preached by Rev. B. F. Hall at Moulton. During the five years following a record is preserved of services held in the state by Revs. Ephraim Smith, John M. Barnes Pryor Reeves, T. Cantrell and Moses Park.
Catoma Street Church of Christ in Montgomery, Alabama
In 1830 Rev. Tolbert Fanning engaged in a religious debate at Moulton, followed by a series of sermons, and the organization of a church. This was probably the first Church of Christ in Alabama. In the same year Rev. William Hooker formed a church at Mount Hebron. Within the next 10 years churches were organized in Morgan and Marion counties. From about 1840 the denomination spread rapidly throughout different parts of the state. The War retarded progress.
About the close of the War, Rev. D. Barron built a church 6 miles west of Troy, and later he called a meeting of the churches of south Alabama. About 40 delegates responded. The conference did not perfect a permanent organization, but called Dr. F. M. D. Hopkins and Dr. Robert W. Turner for evangelistic work. These men labored faithfully, and achieved fine results, but because of the loose nature of the association of cooperation, they were compelled to discontinue. Other cooperation meetings were called.
It was not until October 19, 1886, however, that the Alabama Christian Missionary Co-operation was organized at Selma. There were 14 churches represented, with 23 delegates. Preachers present were Dr. David Adams, Rev. J. M. Barnes, Rev. R. W. Van Hook. Rev. J. H. Kinnebrew, Rev. J. N. Grubbs, Rev. A. R. Moore and Rev. R. Moffett. Rev. Mr. Barnes opposed the formation of the organization, contending that it was unscripiiiral and an innovation. His protests, however, were unavailing.
The convention was chartered by the legislature February 28, 1901. The incorporators were Dr. E. C. Anderson, J. W. Henry, Rev. O. P. Spiegel, Rev. Kilby Ferguson, T. S. Bagley, A. A. Oden, J. W. Hardesty and W. E. Zimmerman. In accordance with the act a constitution was adopted, which slightly modified and enlarged its original scope. Among other things it declares that tne object of the convention “shall be for the cooperation of the churches of Christ in Alabama, for systematic collection of monies to spread the gospel of Christ Jesus in Alabama, but.it may appropriate funds to other fields.”
In 1903 Rev. Dr. A. R. Moore, then serving the First Christian Church of Birmingham, founded the Alabama Christian, devoted to the interests of the denomination in the state. It was successfully conducted by him as long as he remained in Alabama, and after his removal, it was taken over by Rev. D. P. Taylor as editor and publisher. Later Rev. O. P. Spiegel became editor and publisher, by whom it is now conducted.
Statistics of this denomination in Alabama, as shown by the U. S. census report of 1906 are: 154 organizations; 8,756 members, of which 3,496 are male, and 5,260 females; 95 church edifices, with a seating capacity of 22,672; value of church property 204,750; 68 Sunday schools, with 421 teachers and 3,110 scholars.
Conventions.—The list below contains the number, date and place of holding of the several conventions:
1st, Selma, October 19, 1886.
2nd, Selma, 1887.
3rd, Selma, November 21-23, 1888.
4th, Birmingham, November 21-23, 1889.
5th, Anniston, November 20-22, 1890.
6th, Birmingham, 1891.
7th, Selma, 1892.
8th, Birmingham, 1893.
9th, Hartselle, 1894.
10th, Selma, 1895.
11th. Eutaw, 1896.
12th, Birmingham, 1897.
13th, Selma, 1898.
14th, Birmingham, 1899.
15th, Anniston, 1900.
16th, Greenville, 1901.
17th, Selma, 1902.
18th, Bessemer, November 9-12, 1903.
19th, Oxford, November 14-17, 1904.
20th, Athens, November 13-15, 1905.
21st, Mobile, November 15-19, 1906.
22nd, Jasper, November 11-14, 1907.
23rd, Eutaw, November 4-6, 1908.
24th, Selma, 1909.
Rev. O. P. Spiegel, Sketch of the Church in Alabama, in Rev. John T. Brown. Churches of Christ (1904); U. S. Bureau of the Census, Religious Bodies. 1906 (1910), pp. 235241. In Alabama Christian Missionary Co-operation, Minutes. 1903, pp. 3-9, is an historical sketch of the churches in Alabama, by Rev. D. A. R. Moore.