Restoration Movement

The Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement (or simply, Restoration Movement) is a religious reform movement born in the early 1800s in the United States. The nickname is taken from the names of Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell, who are regarded by some historians as the leading figures of four independent movements with like principles who merged together into two religious movements of significant size. Many of the more conservative members of the Churches of Christ object to the phrase "Stone-Campbell Movement" as being derogatory. Restorationism sought to renew the whole Christian church, on the pattern set forth in the New Testament, without regard to the creeds developed over time in Catholicism or Protestantism, which allegedly kept Christianity divided. Churches are now found throughout the globe, claiming to "concentrate on the essential aspects of the Christian faith, allowing for a diversity of understanding with non-essentials."

Key practices are the weekly celebration of the Lord's Supper presided over by lay person and a commitment to believer's baptism.


Five modern branches

Five modern religious groups trace their heritage back to roots in the Stone-Campbell Restoration movement:

The Christian - Churches of Christ - Disciples of Christ family of Churches have a XVIIth World Convention of Churches of Christ ( in Nashville, Tennessee in July-August 2008.

Pioneers of the movement

Although Stone and Campbell were to become the best-known and most influential early leaders of the movement, others preceded them and laid the foundation for their work.

Scholars such as C. Leonard Allen at Abilene Christian University say that, besides the New Testament, the Restoration Movement was also influenced by the philosophy of John Locke and Scottish common sense philosophy.

Key principles

  • Christianity should not be divided, Christ intended the creation of one church.
  • Creeds divide, but Christians should be able to find agreement by standing on the Bible itself (from which all creeds are human expansions or constrictions) instead of on the opinions of men about the Bible.
  • Ecclesiastical traditions divide, but Christians should be able to find common ground by following the practice (as best as it can be determined) of the early church.
  • Names of human origin divide, but Christians should be able to find common ground by using biblical names for the church (i.e., "Christian Church" or "Church of Christ" as opposed to "Methodist" or "Lutheran", etc.). It is in this vein that conservative members of the Churches of Christ object to the phrase "Stone-Campbell Movement".

The Christian Connection

The Christian churches of Smith and Jones came into contact with some of the Christian churches of James O'Kelly and found they had enough in common to join forces. This coalition, referred to as the "Christian Connection," (sometimes spelled "Christian Connexion") joined with Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell's "Christians" in 1826.

Stone spent several years trying to reconcile the Christian Connection with Alexander Campbell, but distrust between Campbell and the Connection caused it to fail. Some members united with Campbell and Stone when they split off; however, most of the Christian Connection merged with the Congregational Churches, which in 1957 united with other churches to become the United Church of Christ.

Churches of Christ/Disciple of Christ split

In 1906 the Churches of Christ and the larger Disciples of Christ split over many issues that ran back to the Campbell-Stone Union in 1824. Actually, it is more correct to say that a split which had been brewing for decades was formalized in 1906, the U.S. Census Bureau listed the groups separately for the first time in its religious census. One of the issues that lead to the split was exclusivism. Since 1836 Campell and Stone noticed a growing "furious zeal for orthodoxy". The exclusivism faction never comprised a majority within the whole of the Restoration Movement, but it did eventually dominate the majority of the Southern churches. In the American South, churches of the Restoration tradition tend to identify themselves with the name Church of Christ and argue that it was their faction that remained true to the original principles of the Restoration Movement, not vice versa.

On October 23, 1849, a group of individuals met in Cincinnati, Ohio with the intention of creating a "general church organization for the furtherance of the work by the church collectively." This action caused immediate disagreements among the churches, because such organizations had previously been abolished. Barton W. Stone himself had in fact taken part in the abolition of the Springfield Presbytery, and authored at that time a very influential document, The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery, which contained within it the idea that the existence of all such bodies was necessarily divisive and hence sinful.

About nine or ten years after that, L. L. Pinkerton, who was a member of the Midway, Kentucky church brought a piano into the church building. One of the elders of that assembly removed the piano that evening but it was soon replaced by another. Until that time all singing in the churches had been a capella - without instrumental accompaniment. Generally speaking, the bulk of the urban congregations, particularly in the Northern states, were not totally averse to this development, which was also gaining momentum in the other religious groups around them, while rural congregations, particularly in the Southern United States, tended to oppose this trend.

About 40 years later, the U.S. Census Bureau, in consultation with the leaders of the two factions, decided to list the members of these two movements separately. Although exclusivism was one of the factors involved in the split, it was not the only factor. Other issues revolving around baptism, plus the missionary society and instrumental music issues noted above, also contributed to the split. In most Churches of Christ, it is maintained that the prime issue was that of instrumental music in services of worship.

After the split the Churches of Christ generally became more exclusive, while the Disciples of Christ became more inclusive. The Churches of Christ became more rigid in their interpretation of the Bible, while the Disciples became less so, becoming more "mainline", where for the most part they remain today.

By 1926 a split began to form within the Disciples over the future direction of the church. Conservatives within the group began to have problems with the perceived liberalism of the leadership, upon the same grounds described earlier excepting instrumental music. In 1927 they held the first North American Christian Convention, and the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ began to emerge as a distinct group from the Disciples, although the break was not totally formalized until the late 1960s. by this time the decennial religious census was a thing of the past and it is impossible to use it as a deliniation as it was in 1906.

The Disciples of Christ today are still not totally devoid of the conservative-liberal tension. Within the Disciples is Disciples Renewal, a movement calling the church back to its roots in Restorationism and away from the mainline liberalism of the National Council of Churches. It is closely related to the Confessing Movement found in several other mainline denominations.

Church of Christ schisms

After the split between the Church of Christ and the Disciples of Christ movements, many Churches of Christ found that other issues still divided them.

Since the members of the Churches of Christ agreed that there was no scriptural basis for an association of churches or a synod, the churches were all independent and autonomous. All disagreements in doctrine were handled locally, although open discussion was encouraged on a national or international basis. Most issues were discussed by the publishers of religious periodicals, who used their periodicals to present their own views and to debate the views of others. Between 1920 and 1960 over 20 splits among the Churches of Christ had formed. Critics charged that the Churches of Christ had in some ways become a series of denominations within a denomination, exactly what Stone and Campbell had worked so hard to avoid.

The most notable subgroups were:

  • The "one-cuppers", who believe that the use of only one cup during the Lord's Supper is acceptable.
  • The non-Sunday school group, who believe that Sunday School, mentioned nowhere in the Bible and unheard of prior to the 18th century, was wrong.
  • The "non-institutional" brethren, who objected to centralized oversight between congregations and the resulting institutions such as children's homes. They did not object to cooperating to accomplish certain goals, which they currently continue to do, but held that each assembly engaged in such an effort must oversee its own participation without external oversight or the pooling of funds into an intercongregational fund or a fund overseen by one church but funded by many. The non-institutional brethren also hold that the universal fellowship of believers is not organizable nor institutional. Therefore the word "group" in describing them is seen as derogatory.
  • Premillennialist Faction --While Premillennialism is mainstream doctrine in many Protestant denominations, it has never been so in Churches of Christ, but has had enough adherents that they were a visible subgroup.

It should be noted of the first three groups listed that there is a considerable overlap in viewpoints. For example, almost all in the "one-cup" group also reject both Sunday School and "institutions". Most in the non-Sunday School group likewise also reject "institutions". Both of those groups, and to a far lesser extent, the mainstream as well, have been at odds over whether to hire a full-time "minister", titled as such, for a congregation. They asked whether this was in fact an acceptance and endorsement of the extra-Biblical concept of clergy. Many of them believe that preaching is best and only properly done by regular male members of the church, perhaps occasionally reinforced by a travelling evangelist engaged only for a specific event or series of events. There has also been some discussion about whether anyone now living truly meets what are seen as the New Testament requirements for the office of elder.

At one time, pacifism was an issue of serious concern. Prominent Church of Christ leaders before World War II such as David Lipscomb, J.W. McGarvey, Moses E. Lard, Robert Milligan, and Tolbert Fanning held pacifist positions. In recent decades the pacifist faction of this group has largely died out.

Another schism which ultimately split the Churches of Christ again, was the Crossroads Movement which started in the 1960s and 1970s. The Crossroads Movement initially started as a somewhat radical, although largely accepted, movement within the church. Under the Crossroads Movement, each church was divided into "Prayer Cells". Each Cell had a "Prayer Brother" who was assigned newer members in the church. Within each prayer cell the members would confess their sins, in "Soul Talks", and offer support. Each cell's brother would then form Prayer Cells with other Prayer Brothers in a pyramid organization. The Crossroads Movement started at the 14th Street Church of Christ in Gainesville, Florida, which became known as "Crossroads Church of Christ", an incubator for the future International Churches of Christ. The Crossroads Movement spread across Churches of Christ as a means to revitalize smaller churches and evangelize college campuses. This movement appears to be directly related to the Shepherding Movement that was gaining influence in the wider Evangelical world at the time.

Partially in reaction to the Crossroads Movement and Postmodernism, many congregations have questioned the traditions of the mainstream Churches of Christ, sometimes hiring preachers from outside the Churches of Christ and generally taking a more tolerant stance toward other churches. Essentially, these congregations now constitute yet another subgroup. Some of these congregations no longer use the name "Church of Christ" and even allow instrumental music, but insist they remain loyal to the Restoration traditions of non-denominationalism and Biblical authority. Many within the mainstream Churches of Christ see this as a move toward Evangelicalism.

The Restoration Movement globally

Restoration Movement churches are found around the globe. Their genealogies are representative of developments in North America. Their theological orientation rqanges from fundamentalist to liberal to ecumenical. In some places they have joined with churches of other traditions to form united churches at local, regional or national level. National profiles are available on the VIIth World Convention of Churches of Christ ( website].

These trends can be seen with the Churches of Christ in Australia.

See also

External links

A different view of the history of this movement (from a "non-institutional" viewpoint) may be discovered by studying the publications of Truth Magazine Publications and Florida College publications. External links for these two publishing sources are:


  • North, James B. (1994). Union in Truth: An Interpretive History of the Restoration Movement. Cincinnati, Ohio: The Standard Publishing Company. ISBN 0-7847-0197-0.
  • Flavil R. Yeakley, ed., The Discipling Dilemma: A Study of the Discipling Movement Among Churches of Christ (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Co., 1988).
  • C. Leonard Allen and Richard T. Hughes, Discovering Our Roots: The Ancestry of Churches of Christ (Abilene, TX: ACU Press, 1988)
  • Martin Edward Wooten, "The Boston Movement as a 'Revitalization Movement'" (D.Min. thesis, Harding Graduate School of Religion, 1990)
  • Jerry Jones, What Does the Boston Movement Teach? vols. 1-3 (Bridgeton, MO: Jerry Jones, 12880 Bittick, 1991-93)
  • United States Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of the Census, Religious Bodies, 1906 (United States Printing Office, 1910), 236
  • West, Earl Irvin (2002). The Search for the Ancient Order Vol. 1. Gospel Light Publishing Company. ISBN 0-8922-51-54-9
  • Foster, Douglas A.(Editor), Blowers, Paul M.(Editor), Dunnavant, Anthony L.(Editor), Williams, D. Newell(Editor). The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. ISBN 0-8028-38-98-7
  • Foster, Douglas A., Reese, Jack, Childers, Jeff W. The Crux of the Matter: Crisis, Tradition, and the Future of Churches of Christ. ACU Press. ISBN 0891120351

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