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The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume IIIThe Nineteenth Century$
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Timothy Larsen and Michael Ledger-Lomas

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780199683710

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199683710.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 24 January 2022

Restorationists and New Movements in North America

Restorationists and New Movements in North America

(p.276) 11 Restorationists and New Movements in North America
The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume III

Douglas A. Foster

Oxford University Press

The American Revolution inspired new movements with a longing to restore what they believed was a primitive and pure form of the church, uncorrupted by the accretions of the centuries. Unlike most Canadians, Americans were driven by the rhetoric of human equality, in which individual believers could dispense with creeds or deference to learned ministers. This chapter argues that one manifestation of this was the Restorationist impulse: the desire to recover beliefs and practices believed lost or obscured. While that impulse could be found in many Protestant bodies, the groups classified as ‘Restorationist’ in North America emerged from what is today labelled the Stone-Campbell movement. They were not known explicitly as Restorationists as they identified themselves as ‘Christian Churches’ or ‘Disciples of Christ’ in a bid to find names that did not separate them from other Christians. The roots of this movement lay in the Republican Methodist Church or ‘Christian Church’ founded by James O’Kelly on the principle of representative governance in church and state. As its ‘Christian’ title implied, the new movement was supposed to effect Christian unity. It was carried forward in New England by Abner Jones and Elias Smith who came from Separate Baptist congregations. Smith was a radical Jeffersonian republican who rejected predestination, the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and original sin as human inventions and would be rejected from his own movement when he embraced universalism. The Presbyterian minister Barton W. Stone was the most important advocate of the Christian movement in Kentucky and Tennessee. Stone was a New Light Presbyterian who fell out with his church in 1803 because he championed revivals to the displeasure of Old Light Presbyterians. With other ministers he founded the Springfield Presbytery and published an Apology which rejected ‘human creeds and confessions’ only to redub their churches as Christian Churches or Churches of Christ. Stone’s movement coalesced with the movement founded by Alexander Campbell, the son of an Ulster Scot who emigrated to the United States after failing to effect reunion between Burgher and Anti-Burghers and founded an undenominational Christian Association. Alexander embraced baptism by immersion under Baptist influence, so that the father and son’s followers were initially known as Reformed (or Reforming) Baptists. The increasing suspicion with which Baptists regarded his movement pushed Alexander into alliance with Stone, although Campbell was uneasy about formal terms of alliance. For his part, Stone faced charges from Joseph Badger and Joseph Marsh that he had capitulated to Campbell. The Stone-Campbell movement was nonetheless successful, counting 192,000 members by the Civil War and over a million in the United States by 1900. Successful but bifurcated, for there were numerous Christian Churches which held out from joining the Stone-Campbell movement, which also suffered a north–south split in the Civil War era over political and liturgical questions. The most buoyant fraction of the movement were the Disciples of Christ or Christian Churches of the mid-west, which shared in the nationalistic and missionary fervour of the post-war era, even though it too in time would undergo splits.

Keywords:   Joseph Badger, Alexander Campbell, Thomas Campbell, Christian Association, Christian Churches, Disciples of Christ, Abner Jones, Joseph Marsh, Reformed Baptists, Republican Methodist Church, Restorationism, Springfield Presbytery, Elias Smith, Stone-Campbell movement

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