<font face=arial>Dear Reader:
It is said that they who do not learn the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. Today we consider a portion of our brotherhood's history and lay that beside our present problems. With a better understanding of our past you will better perceive what is happening to us today. If you find the lesson useful, please forward it to other brothers and sisters.
- <font size=5 color=indigo>OUR RELIGIOUS COUSINS</font>
<font size=3 color=indigo face=times new roman>Most of us have relatives from whom we are removed by time, distance and interests. We have first and second cousins, many of whom we hardly know, even though we share a common ancestry. The same is true of our religious kindred.
In the first half century of our back to the Bible movement, numerous groups merged together and coalesced into one brotherhood. There were the Christians of New England, the heirs of Drs. Abner Jones and Elias Smith. They derived from Baptist roots. There were the Christians of the Atlantic Seaboard, James O'Kelly's New Light Christians who emerged from the Methodist Church. In Kentucky and the mid-South states, Barton Stone led a multitude with Presbyterian roots to abandon their old faith and resolve to be Christians only. They usually called their congregations Churches of Christ. In Virginia, Thomas and Alexander Campbell launched a movement among Presbyterians and Baptists, generally known as Disciples of Christ. All of these having a common goal to be non-denominational Bible Christians, a common standard, the New Testament of Christ and a common desire for unity as Christians, they gladly extended the hand of fellowship to each other.
With a few minor exceptions, they worshiped and worked together for the first 80 or so years of the movement. Following the Civil War (1861-1865) a new spirit appeared among these Christian brethren. As some of them grew wealthy and successful, they and their congregations came to desire to be like their denominational neighbors. Some were no longer content with their congregational polity. They were determined to organize the brotherhood with a general convention and a missionary society to manage its evangelist endeavors. Some wanted to modify their worship to be more like their denominational neighbors. The most visible feature of their change was the introduction of instrumental music into their worship. Behind both of these innovations was a loss of faith in the authority of Bible and loss of commitment to do all things according to the scriptural pattern God had provided (Heb. 8:5; II Tim. 1:13).
As tensions grew between those embracing those new ideas and those determined to stay true to their original commitment, alienation set in. Those preferring the innovations flocked together. Those who could not in good conscious abide them were constrained to go their separate way. From 1880 to 1900 this leaven of division worked among our brethren. By 1906 the division was so obvious that even the U. S. Census Bureau took note of it. From that epochal date onward, there were two separate bodies, each tracing its roots back to the Restoration Movement of the 19th Century. Those preferring to be like their neighbors were generally known a Christian Churches and Disciples of Christ. Those preferring to continue in the steps of their fathers in the faith were known as Churches of Christ. Fully 85 percent of the congregations and members chose the more liberal path. The minority was left struggling to survive and recover. With God's blessing, in the next fifty years, they rebounded and surpassed the others.
For the next 80 years there was little or no contact between these alienated brethren. The spirit of change and departure continued to work among the progressives. Within 25 years they themselves divided as theological skepticism swept through the more liberal Disciples of Christ schools and congregations. As they abandoned the idea of restoring the ancient faith they rushed to embrace denominationalism and a place in the ecumenical circle of Protestants.
The conservative Christian churches evolved more slowly. They generally clung to the Scripture and gradually came to resemble Evangelical Protestants. Their women were given a place in the public worship and leadership of their churches. Their views on fellowship continued to broaden.
There were a few failed attempts at reconciliation over those 80 years. In the decade of the 1980s a movement was launched by Don DeWelt and other leaders of the Christian Churches, inviting individual preachers and professors of our brethren to discuss restoring unity. Our brethren who rushed to participate, tended to be men of malleable convictions and a compromising spirit. They insisted that they had high hopes of persuading the representatives of the Christian Churches to abandon their instruments of music and stand with us on a solid biblical basis. In time a strange thing emerged from these unity meetings. Rather than the digressives abandoning their error our spokesmen were influenced to abandon their biblical position of praising God with the fruit of their lips and embrace the golden calf of the instrumentalists. They returned home sowing their seeds of apostasy among our people They were easily seduced by the glittering innovations of their cousins of the Christian Churches. We predict that many of them will soon be receptive to the invitation of their Disciples of Christ cousins to sit with her and her sister denominations at the ecumenical round table. He that understands these things will not be easily deceived by the false prophets of the change movement.</font>
John Waddey, Editor
Christianity: Then and Now