A sister from the Disciples of Christ asks, “I’ve heard about the United Church of Christ, but I’m not very familiar with it. Is it from the Stone-Campbell movement, as are the Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and the independent Christian Churches? Or does it have earthly roots elsewhere? And why did the Stone-Campbell movement split three ways? Can you recommend a good book on the subject?”
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The UCC is a merger denomination from the joining of the Congregational Church (descendant of the Puritans), the Congregational Christian Church (itself a merger), and the Evangelical & Reformed Church (a merger of two churches both with Swiss Reformation roots). The Congregational Christian Church flowed from certain Christian Churches, who descended from the Christian Connection, a New England back-to-the-Bible movement led by Elias Smith and Abner Jones and one tributary which flowed in part into the stream which became the Restoration Movement of Campbell and Stone. The United Church of Christ is thus about 32nd cousin to the Churches of Christ, although neither part of the family now claims kin to the other.
Churches of Christ and Christian/Disciples churches officially split about 1906, supposedly over instrumental music in worship and use of missionary societies. However, geography (North versus South), culture (urban versus rural) and economics (rich versus poor) also played important parts — and the cracks and fissures which finally split had begun as early as the1850’s before the Civil War.
The Christian Churches and the Disciples officially divided in the late1960’s when the Disciples went through “Restructure,” forming an official, mainline denomination. Unlike the independent Christian Churches, the Disciples officially participate in the ecumenical movement, and tend to be more liberal on social and moral issues at the national level. However, some Disciples congregations are very Bible-based, Christ-centered and grounded in traditional Christian values.
I think the best single book on the Campbell-Stone movement in general — and a very readable and enjoyable book at that — is Dr. Leroy Garrett’s volume titled THE STONE-CAMPBELL MOVEMENT (AN ANECDOTAL HISTORY). You can order it from him at Lgarrett@iglobal.net. On the origin and history of Churches of Christ in particular, I recommend Richard Hughes’ surprisingly candid REVIVING THE ANCIENT FAITH: THE STORY OF CHURCHES OF CHRIST IN AMERICA (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996).