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Christadelphians

From Academic Kids

The Christadelphians are a nontrinitarian Christian denomination that developed in Britain and North America in the 19th century. They are primarily found in the English-speaking world, but are growing elsewhere, with Christadelphians now found in approximately 130 countries.


Contents

Beliefs

Christadelphians claim to derive their beliefs solely from the Bible (Old and New Testaments), and accept no other writings as inspired by God. According to Christadelphian theology, God is the creator of the universe, and the father of true believers. He is a separate being from his son, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is not a person, but the power of God used in creation and for salvation, and at certain times given to believers.

Jesus is the promised Messiah, in whom the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament (particularly those to Abraham and David) find their fulfilment. He is Son of Man, in that he inherited human nature from his mother, and Son of God by virtue of his miraculous conception by the power of God. Although tempted, he was sinless, and was therefore a perfect representative sacrifice to bring salvation to sinful humankind. God raised him to immortality, and he ascended to Heaven, God's dwelling place. He will return in person to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, centered on the promised land of Israel.

People become followers of Christ by belief in his teachings, by repentance, and through baptism by immersion. Although saved by faith in God's grace, the disciple should seek to live a life consistent with Bible teaching. After death, believers are in a state of non-existence until the Resurrection at the return of Christ. Following the judgment at that time, the accepted are given immortality, and live with Christ on a restored Earth, helping him to establish the Kingdom of God, and to rule over the mortal population for a thousand years (the Millennium). Christadelphians view the future Kingdom of God as the focal point of the Gospel taught by Jesus and the apostles. They take a keen interest in Bible prophecy, and how this can be applied to current events.

In holding these beliefs, Christadelphians reject a number of doctrines held by the mainstream Christian denominations, notably the immortality of the soul, the Trinity, and the pre-existence of Christ. They believe that where the words devil or Satan occur in the Bible, they should be understood either poetically as a symbol of man's inherent impulse to conflict with God's plan, or in reference to specific political systems or individuals in opposition or conflict. Hell is understood to refer to the grave, rather than a place of eternal torment.

Christadelphians claim the doctrines they reject were introduced into Christendom after the 1st century, and cannot be demonstrated from the Bible.

Christadelphians are conscientious objectors (but not pacifists), and refrain from involvement in politics. There is a strong emphasis on personal Bible reading, prayer, and morality. Congregational worship, which usually takes place on Sunday, centres on the remembrance of Christ in bread and wine, a "closed communion" offered to all baptized members.

History & Organization

The name Christadelphian, derived from the Greek words for "Brethren in Christ", was coined by John Thomas. From the mid-19th century, there were groups in many parts of Britain and North America which held to the beliefs outlined above, and who were loosely associated with one another. They met under various names until the time of the American Civil War, when a group affiliation was required to register for conscientious objector status.

Christadelphians usually call their congregations ecclesias. There is no central Christadelphian organization or hierarchy. Ecclesias are autonomous and co-operation between most of them is based on a common acceptance of the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith. Anyone who publicly assents to the doctrines described in this statement and is in good standing in their "home ecclesia" (if they have one) is generally welcome to participate in the activities of any other ecclesia. Christadelphians are not permitted to take communion with any church which does not assent to the doctrines set out in the Statement of Faith.

Christadelphians reject paid ministers. Most male members are eligible to teach and perform other duties, and these are usually assigned on a rotation, rather than having a designated preacher. Governance follows a democratic model, typically with an elected committee for each individual ecclesia. This unpaid committee is responsible for the day-to-day running of the ecclesia and is answerable to the rest of the ecclesia's members.

Christadelphians make a distinction between the roles of male and female members. Practices vary widely, but typically women are not eligible to hold elected offices or to lead services. They are generally allowed to participate in discussions, teach children, perform music, vote on business matters, and engage in most other activities.

Christadelphian ecclesias actively preach to their neighbours and co-operate at a regional, national and international level in evangelism. There are also ecclesially-accountable committees for youth and Sunday School work, military service issues, care of the elderly and humanitarian work. These do not have any legislative authority, and are dependent on ecclesial support. Ecclesias in an area may hold occasional joint activities combining youth groups, fellowship, preaching, and Bible study.

Most children of Christadelphian parents are highly encouraged to become Christadelphians themselves, once they have reached an age where they are able to make their own decisions.

There are currently approximately 50,000 Christadelphians in around 130 countries, many as part of established ecclesias, preaching and worshipping in their local languages.

Differing groups within Christadelphians

There have been several schisms within the Christadelphians, particularly in the early years of the community, which have resulted in separate groups of Christadelphians, each known as a fellowship.

In many cases, the issues were resolved in later years, or the minority group died out. Among those that continue, the most significant in terms of numbers (though confined to North America) is the Unamended fellowship, which developed in the 1890s. At that time, most Christadelphian ecclesias amended the Statement of Faith, to clarify the majority position on resurrection and judgment. Those who did not accept the amendment are referred to as Unamended.

A division centering around a number of issues persisted in Britain and Australia until a reunion in the 1950s. However a minority disagreed with the reunion and formed the Old Paths fellowship which continues to this day.

Many Christadelphians from different fellowships associate with each other, and there are usually continuing attempts to resolve areas of disagreement. As a result of reunions, minor fellowships account for a small fraction of the number of Christadelphians.

Christadelphians have common roots with the Church of the Blessed Hope (CGAF), and there are ongoing attempts to strengthen the ties between these two communities.

External links

Christadelphian websites

Christadelphian Publications and Resources

Other organizations commenting on Christadelphians

  • Apologetics Index (http://www.apologeticsindex.org/c93.html) - entry on Christadelphians

For a response to various critics, see here (http://www.thechristadelphians.org/forums/index.php?s=050ffb04a5c6084ee2e4c439399ea3e6&showforum=21).fr:Christadelphisme no:Kristadelfianerne

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