Christadelphian

Not to be confused with Brethren (disambiguation).

The Christadelphians (a word created from the Greek for "Brethren in Christ"; who was the group's founder. Christadelphians hold a view of Biblical Unitarianism.

Although no official membership figures are published, the Columbia Encyclopedia gives an estimated figure of 50,000 Christadelphians.[6] They are spread across approximately 120 countries;[7] there are established churches (or ecclesias, as they are often called) in many of those countries,[8] along with isolated members. Census statistics are available for some countries. Estimates for the main centers of Christadelphian population are as follows: United Kingdom (18,000),[9] Australia (10,653),[10] Mozambique (7,500),[11] Malawi (7,000),[12] United States (6,500),[13] Canada (3,375),[14] New Zealand (1,785),[15] India (1,750),[16] Kenya (1,700),[17] Uganda (1,000)[16] and Tanzania (1,000).[18] This puts the total figure at around 60,000.

History

19th century

The Christadelphian religious group traces its origins to Dr John Thomas (1805–1871), who migrated to North America from England in 1832.[19] Following a near shipwreck he vowed to find out the truth about life and God through personal Biblical study.[19] Initially he sought to avoid the kind of sectarianism he had seen in England. In this he found sympathy with the rapidly emerging Restoration Movement in the United States of America at the time. This movement sought for a reform based upon the Bible alone as a sufficient guide and rejected all creeds. However this liberality eventually led to dissent as John Thomas developed in his personal beliefs and started to question mainstream orthodox Christian beliefs. Whilst the Restoration Movement accepted Thomas's right to have his own beliefs, when he started preaching that they were essential to salvation, it led to a fierce series of debates with a notable leader of the movement, Alexander Campbell. John Thomas believed that scripture, as God's word, did not support a multiplicity of differing beliefs, and challenged the leaders to continue with the process of restoring 1st-century Christian beliefs and correct interpretation through a process of debate. The history of this process appears in the book Dr. Thomas, His Life and Work (1873) by a Christadelphian, Robert Roberts.[20]

During this period of formulating his ideas John Thomas was baptised twice,[21] the second time after renouncing the beliefs he previously held. He based his new position on a new appreciation for the reign of Christ on David's throne.[22] The abjuration of his former beliefs eventually led to the Restoration Movement disfellowshipping him when he toured England and they became aware of his abjuration in the United States of America.

The Christadelphian community in Britain effectively dates from Thomas's first lecturing tour (May 1848 – October 1850). His message found a particular welcome in Scotland, and Campbellite, Unitarian and Adventist friends separated to form groups of "Baptised Believers". Two thirds of ecclesias, and members, in Britain before 1864 were in Scotland.[23][24][25] In 1849, during his tour of Britain, he completed (a decade and a half before the name Christadelphian was conceived) Elpis Israel[26] (elpis being Greek for "hope") – in which he laid out his understanding of the main doctrines of the Bible. Since his medium for bringing change was print and debate, it was natural for the origins of the Christadelphian body to be associated with journals and books, namely the Herald of the Kingdom and The Ambassador (which later became The Christadelphian).

In this desire to seek to establish Biblical truth and test out orthodox Christian beliefs through independent scriptural study he was not alone and, amongst other churches, he also had links with Adventist movement and with Benjamin Wilson (who later set up the Church of God of the Abrahamic Faith in the 1860s).

Although the Christadelphian movement originated through the activities of John Thomas, he never saw himself as setting up his own disciples. Rather he believed he had rediscovered 1st-century beliefs from the Bible alone,[27] and sought to prove that through a process of challenge and debate and writing journals. Through that process a number of people became convinced and set up various fellowships that had sympathy with that position. Groups associated with John Thomas met under various names, including Believers, Baptised Believers, the Royal Association of Believers, Baptised Believers in the Kingdom of God, Nazarines (or Nazarenes) and The Antipas[28] until the time of the American Civil War (1861–1865). At that time, church affiliation was required[where?] to register for conscientious objector status, and in 1865 Thomas chose for registration purposes the name Christadelphian.[5]

Through the teaching of John Thomas and the need in the American Civil War for a name, the Christadelphians emerged as a denomination, but they were formed into a lasting structure through a passionate follower of Thomas's interpretation of the Bible, Robert Roberts. Roberts's mother took him as a boy of 10 to hear John Thomas speak in Aberdeen, Scotland. At the age of 13 he read Thomas's Elpis Israel. He was baptised in 1853 at the age of 14 in the River Dee and joined the "Baptised Believers". He was 're-baptised' in 1863 "on attaining to an understanding of the things concerning the name of Jesus, of which he was ignorant at his first immersion".[29] In 1864 he began to publish The Ambassador magazine.[30] This was renamed The Christadelphian in 1869 and continues to be published under that name.[31] Roberts was prominent in the period following the death of John Thomas in 1871, and helped craft the structures of the Christadelphian body.[32]

Robert Roberts was certain that John Thomas had rediscovered the truth, and it is largely down to Roberts' organisation that the Christadelphian body exists in its present form. His life was characterised by debates over issues that arose within the fledgling organisation; some of these debates can be found in the book Robert Roberts—A study of his life and character by Islip Collyer. He also wrote a booklet called a A Guide to the Formation and Conduct of Christadelphian Ecclesias.[33] which has been significant in establishing the basic structure most ecclesias follow today.

Initially the denomination grew in the English-speaking world, particularly in the English Midlands and in partsTemplate:Which? of North America. In the early days after the death of John Thomas the group could have moved in a number of directions. Doctrinal issues arose, debates took place and statements of faith were created and amended as other issues arose. These attempts were felt necessary by many to both settle and define a doctrinal stance for the newly emerging denomination and to keep out error.

  • In 1873, the Nazarene Fellowship, led by Edward Turney of Nottingham, separated over the atonement. The division was relatively short-lived, however, with most of the 200 people who had left returning within the next few years.[34] Following his death in 1879, Turney's most active supporter, David Handley of Maldon, returned to the main grouping,[35] and the group gradually died out. In the 1950s Ernest Brady revived Turney's cause and the name of the group.[36]
  • In 1885, the Suffolk Street Fellowship formed over the inspiration of the Bible. Robert Ashcroft, a leading member, wrote an article which challenged Christadelphian belief in plenary inspiration and which, although he himself left, led to a division in the main body. One group formed a new ecclesia which later met in Suffolk Street, Birmingham. Other ecclesias throughout the world which supported them became known as the "Suffolk Street fellowship" to distinguish them from the group they had separated from, which became known as the "Temperance Hall fellowship". The main magazine of this group from 1884–1957 was The Fraternal Visitor, whose editors included J.J. Bishop and J.J. Hadley (d. 1912), then Thomas Turner, and finally Cyril Cooper (till reunion in 1957).
  • In 1898, the Unamended Fellowship separated as a result of differing views on who would be raised to judgment at the return of Christ. The majority of Christadelphians believe that the judgment will include anyone who had sufficient knowledge of the gospel message, and is not limited to baptized believers.[37] The majority in Britain, Australia and North America amended their statement of faith accordingly. Those who opposed the amendment in North America became known as the "Unamended fellowship" and allowed the teaching that God either could not or would not raise those who had no covenant relationship with him. Opinions vary as to what the established position was on this subject prior to the controversy.[38] In North America those who continued to associate with Britain on the basis of the amended 1898 statement became known as the Amended Fellowship, in contrast to the Unamended Fellowship, who took their lead from the Christadelphian Advocate Magazine of Thomas Williams of Chicago.
  • In 1923, the Berean Fellowship was formed, as a result of varying views on military service in Britain, and on the atonement in North America. In 1942 the Bereans again divided over marriage and divorce with the stricter party forming the Dawn Fellowship.[39] The majority of the North American Bereans re-joined the main body of Christadelphians in 1952; though a number continue as a separate community as of 2013.

20th century

The Christadelphian position on conscientious objection came to the fore with the introduction of conscription during the First World War. Varying degrees of exemption from military service were granted to Christadelphians in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. In the Second World War, this frequently required the person seeking exemption to undertake civilian work under the direction of the authorities.

During the Second World War the Christadelphians in Britain assisted in the Kindertransport, helping to relocate several hundred Jewish children away from Nazi persecution and founding a hostel Elpis Lodge.[40][41] In Germany the small Christadelphian community founded by Albert Maier went underground from 1940–1945, and a leading brother, Albert Merz, was imprisoned as a conscientious objector and later executed.[42]

In the 20th century, more moves were taken to try to reunite various of the earlier divisions. In the early 1950s the majority of the Berean Fellowship re-joined the Temperance Hall Fellowship, with the remainder continuing as a separate community. In 1957–1958, there was further reunion with the Suffolk Street Fellowship, which had already incorporated many of the Unamended Fellowship outside North America. This re-united group, which now included the large majority of Christadelphians, became known as the Central fellowship[43] named after the Birmingham Central ecclesia. In Australia and New Zealand a union occurred in 1958 between the Central fellowship and the Shield fellowship (which was allied to the Suffolk Street fellowship) through an understanding expressed in a document called the Cooper-Carter Addendum. Those who held that the reasons for separation from the Suffolk Street Fellowship remained, opposed the re-union and formed the Old Paths Fellowship.[44] There is also some co-operation between the Central (Amended) and Unamended Fellowships in North America – most recently in the Great Lakes region, where numerous Amended & Unamended ecclesias have opened fellowship to one another despite the failure of wider attempts at re-union under the North American Statement of Understanding (NASU)[45] in recent years.

Despite success in reuniting large sections of the wider Christadelphian community and periodic efforts at reuniting smaller offshoots, there are still a number of small groups who remain separate from other bodies of Christadelphians. These include the Berean Fellowship,[46] the Dawn Fellowship, the Old Paths Fellowship, the Companion Fellowship[47] and the Pioneer Fellowship.[48] However, Dawn Christadelphians and the former Lightstand Fellowship in Australia united in November 2007.[49] Most of the divisions still in existence within the Christadelphian community today stem from further divisions of the Berean fellowship.[50]

Today

The post-war, and post-reunions, period saw an increase in co-operation and interaction between ecclesias, resulting in the establishment of a number of week-long Bible schools and the formation of national and international organisations such as the Christadelphian Bible Mission[51] (for preaching and pastoral support overseas), the Christadelphian Support Network[52] (for counselling), and the Christadelphian Meal-A-Day Fund (for charity and humanitarian work).

The period following the reunions was accompanied by expansion in the developing world, which now accounts for around 40% of Christadelphians.[53]

Organisation

Fellowships today

Since the reunions in the UK and Australia in 1957, two generations of Christadelphians have grown up with little awareness of the existence of the minority "fellowships", or awareness that the main group is called "Central" by the minority groups. Parallel with this generational change, many articles and books by member of the Central grouping on the doctrine and practice of fellowship now reject the notion itself of separate "fellowships" among those who recognise the same baptism, viewing such separations as schismatic.[54] A third significant change, outside North America, has been the shrinking of the minority "fellowships" due to defection to the main group and natural causes. According to Bryan Wilson, functionally the definition of a "fellowship" within Christadelphian history has been mutual or unilateral exclusion of groupings of ecclesias from the breaking of bread.[55] This functional definition still holds true in North America, where two other sizeable groups, Unamended Christadelphians and the CGAF, are not received by most North American Amended ecclesias. But outside North America this functional definition no longer holds. Many ecclesias in the "Central" grouping would not refuse a baptised Christadelphian from a minority "fellowship" from breaking bread; the exclusion is more usually the other way.

Today the Christadelphian body remains divided into a number of "fellowships", by far the largest being the Central fellowship (with ~55,000 members), named after the now-defunct Birmingham Central ecclesia, once its largest and most influential ecclesia.[43] There remains a large number of Unamended Christadelphians, particularly in the US and Canada. Smaller fellowships include the Berean Christadelphians, the Dawn Christadelphians, the Old Paths Christadelphians, and the Pioneer Christadelphians. The number of adherents to the various smaller groups of Christadelphians varies from approximately 1,850 members (the Unamended Christadelphians as of 2006)[56] to groups made up of little more than one or two immediate families.

Estimates of numbers:

  • Central = 55,000[57]
  • Unamended = 1,850 (East Coast & Midwest USA; Ontario, Canada)[58]
  • Dawn = 800 (UK; Australia; Canada; India; Jamaica; Poland; Philippines; Russia)[59]
  • CGAF = 400 (primarily Ohio & Florida, USA)[60]
  • Old Paths = 400 (UK 250; Australia/New Zealand 150)[61]
  • Berean = 330 (US 200 primarily Texas; Kenya 100; Wales 30)[62]
  • Companion = 80 (Australia; New Zealand; United Kingdom)[63]
  • Watchman = 50 (UK; India)[64]
  • Other small groups = 100~300 total[65]

They tend to operate organisationally fairly similarly, although there are different emphases. For instance the Berean Christadelphians focus on the pioneer Christadelphians and the Dawn Christadelphians put a huge importance on the need to follow a consistent set of disciplines regarding divorce and remarriage. These different Christadelphian fellowships are to some degree localised. For example, the Unamended Fellowship exists only in North America, and some of the others are confined to the English-speaking world.

Each fellowship has a statement of faith, the most common of which is the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith (BASF), named after an ecclesia in Birmingham. This is used by all Old Paths ecclesias without amendment from the days of Robert Roberts. Most Unamended ecclesias have a similar statement of faith called the Birmingham Unamended Statement of Faith (BUSF)[66] with one clause being different. The Berean Christadelphians generally use BASF.[67] The Dawn Christadelphians[68] use a statement of faith which is based on the original 1886 statement of faith, but has four additions addressing issues that have arisen since that time. Some Christadelphian groups which are separated to a greater or lesser degree from the main body of Christadelphians use statements of faith which differ in some regard from the BASF and from each other. Within the "Central" grouping individual ecclesias also may have their own statement of faith, whilst still accepting the statement of faith of the larger community.

For each fellowship, anyone who publicly assents to the doctrines described in the statement and is in good standing in their "home ecclesia" is generally welcome to participate in the activities of any other ecclesia although some ecclesias have statements around their positions, especially on divorce and re-marriage, making clear that offence would be caused by anyone in that position seeking to join them at the 'Breaking of Bread' service.

There are now clear differences between a number of ecclesias arising from a more 'liberal' view being taken on a number of issues which, in the past, would not have been tolerated.

General organisation

In the absence of centralised organisation, some differences exist amongst Christadelphians on matters of belief and practice. This is because each congregation (commonly styled 'ecclesias') is organised autonomously, typically following common practices which have altered little since the 19th century. Most ecclesias have a constitution,[69] which includes a 'Statement of Faith', a list of 'Doctrines to be Rejected' and a formalized list of 'The Commandments of Christ'.[70] With no central authority individual congregations are responsible for maintaining orthodoxy in belief and practice, and the statement of faith is seen by many as useful to this end. The statement of faith acts as the official standard of most ecclesias to determine fellowship within and between ecclesias, and as the basis for co-operation between ecclesias. Congregational discipline and conflict resolution are applied using various forms of consultation, mediation, and discussion, with disfellowship (similar to excommunication) being the final response to those with unorthodox practices or beliefs.[71]

The relative uniformity of organisation and practice is undoubtedly due to the influence of a booklet, written early in Christadelphian history, called A Guide to the Formation and Conduct of Christadelphian Ecclesias.[33] It recommends a basically democratic arrangement by which congregational members elect 'brothers' to arranging and serving duties,[72] and includes guidelines for the organisation of committees, as well as conflict resolution between congregational members and between congregations.[73] Christadelphians do not have paid ministers. Male members are assessed by the congregation for their eligibility to teach and perform other duties, which are usually assigned on a rotation basis, as opposed to having a permanently appointed preacher. Congregational governance typically follows a democratic model, with an elected arranging 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.

Inter-ecclesial organisations co-ordinate the running of, among other things, Christadelphian schools[74] and elderly care homes, the Christadelphian Isolation League (which cares for those prevented by distance or infirmity from attending an ecclesia regularly) and the publication of Christadelphian magazines.

Beliefs

Due to the way the Christadelphian body is organised there is no central authority to establish and maintain a standardised set of beliefs and it depends what statement of faith is adhered to and how liberal the ecclesia is, but there are core doctrines most Christadelphians would accept. In the formal statements of faith a more complete list is found. For instance in the Central fellowship, the BASF, the standard statement of faith, has 30 doctrines to be accepted and 35 to be rejected.

The Bible

Christadelphians state that their beliefs[75] are based wholly on the Bible,[76] and they do not see other works as inspired by God.[77] They regard the Bible as inspired by God and, therefore, believe that, in its original form, it was error free (errors in later copies are thought to be due to 'errors of transcription or translation').[78] Based on this, Christadelphians teach what they believe to be true Bible teaching.[79][80]

God

Christadelphians believe that God is the creator of all things and the father of true believers,[81] that he is a separate being from his son, Jesus Christ,[82][83] and that the Holy Spirit is the power of God used in creation and for salvation.[84] They also believe that the phrase Holy Spirit sometimes refers to God's character/mind, depending on the context in which the phrase appears,[85] but reject the orthodox Christian view that we need strength, guidance and power from the Holy Spirit to live the Christian life,[86] believing instead that the spirit a believer needs within themselves is the mind/character of God, which is developed in a believer by their reading of the Bible (which, they believe, contains words God gave by his Spirit) and trying to live by what it says during the events of their lives which God uses to help shape their character.[87][88]


Jesus

Christadelphians believe that Jesus is the promised Jewish Messiah, in whom the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament find their fulfilment.[83][89][90] They believe he is the Son of Man, in that he inherited human nature (with its inclination to sin) from his mother, and the Son of God by virtue of his miraculous conception by the power of God.[83][89][91] Although he was tempted, Jesus committed no sin, and was therefore a perfect representative sacrifice to bring salvation to sinful humankind.[83][89][91] They believe that God raised Jesus from death and gave him immortality, and he ascended to Heaven, God's dwelling place.[89] Christadelphians believe that he will return to the earth in person to set up the Kingdom of God in fulfilment of the promises made to Abraham and David.[92][93] This includes the belief that the coming Kingdom will be the restoration of God's first Kingdom of Israel, which was under David and Solomon.[94][95][96] For Christadelphians, this is the focal point of the gospel taught by Jesus and the apostles.

Salvation

Christadelphians believe that people are separated from God because of their sins but that mankind can be reconciled to him by becoming disciples of Jesus Christ.[97][98] This is by belief in the gospel, through repentance, and through baptism by total immersion in water.[98][99] They do not believe we can be sure of being saved, believing instead that salvation comes as a result of a life of obedience to the commands of Christ [100] After death, believers are in a state of non-existence, knowing nothing until the Resurrection at the return of Christ.[101] Following the judgement at that time, the accepted receive the gift of immortality, and live with Christ on a restored Earth, assisting him to establish the Kingdom of God and to rule over the mortal population for a thousand years (the Millennium).[102] Christadelphians believe that the Kingdom will be centred upon Israel, but Jesus Christ will also reign over all the other nations on the earth.[103] Some believe that the Kingdom itself is not worldwide but limited to the land of Israel promised to Abraham and ruled over in the past by David, with a worldwide empire.[104]

Life in Christ

The historic

Disagreement with some mainstream doctrines

Christadelphians reject a number of doctrines held by many other Christians,[107] notably the immortality of the soul (see also mortalism; conditionalism), trinitarianism,[82][85] the personal pre-existence of Christ,[83][85] the baptism of infants,[99] the personhood of the Holy Spirit[82][83][84][85] the divinity of Jesus and the present-day possession of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (see cessationism).[84][85][89] They believe that the word devil is a reference in the scriptures to sin and human nature in opposition to God, while the word satan is merely a reference to an adversary (be it good or bad). According to Christadelphians, these terms are used in reference to specific political systems or individuals in opposition or conflict. Hell (Hebrew: Sheol; Greek: Hades, Gehenna) is understood to refer exclusively to death and the grave, rather than being a place of everlasting torment (see also annihilationism).[91][108] Christadelphians do not believe that anyone will "go to Heaven" upon death. Instead, they believe that only Christ Jesus went to Heaven, and when he comes back to the earth there will be a resurrection and God's kingdom will be established on earth, starting in the land of Israel.[95][96] Christadelphians believe the doctrines they reject were introduced into Christendom after the 1st century in large part through exposure to pagan Greek philosophy,[109] and cannot be substantiated from the Biblical texts.[82][83][85]

Other historical groups and individuals with some shared doctrines

One criticism of the Christadelphian movement has been over the claim of John Thomas and Robert Roberts to have "rediscovered" scriptural truth.[110][111] However, although both men believed that they had "recovered" the true doctrines for themselves and contemporaries, they also believed there had always existed a group of true believers throughout the ages, albeit marred by the apostasy.[112][113][114]

The most notable Christadelphian attempts to find a continuity of those with doctrinal similarities since that point have been geographer Alan Eyre's two books The Protesters[115] (1975) and Brethren in Christ[116] (1982) in which he shows that many individual Christadelphian doctrines had been previously believed. Eyre focused in particular on the Radical Reformation, and also among the Socinians and other early Unitarians and the English Dissenters. In this way, Eyre was able to demonstrate substantial historical precedents for individual Christadelphian teachings and practices, and believed that the Christadelphian community was the 'inheritor of a noble tradition, by which elements of the Truth were from century to century hammered out on the anvil of controversy, affliction and even anguish'.[117] Although noting in the introduction to 'The Protestors' that 'Some recorded herein perhaps did not have "all the truth" — so the writer has been reminded',[117] Eyre nevertheless claimed that the purpose of the work was to 'tell how a number of little-known individuals, groups and religious communities strove to preserve or revive the original Christianity of apostolic times',[118] and that 'In faith and outlook they were far closer to the early springing shoots of 1st-century Christianity and the penetrating spiritual challenge of Jesus himself than much that has passed for the religion of the Nazarene in the last nineteen centuries'.[119]

Eyre's research has been criticized by some of his Christadelphian peers,[120] and as a result Christadelphian commentary on the subject was subsequently more cautious and circumspect, with caveats being issued concerning Eyre's claims,[121][122] and the two books less used and publicized than in previous years.

Nevertheless, all the distinctive Christadelphian doctrines, down to interpretations of specific verses, can be found particularly among 16th century Socinian writers (e.g. the rejection of the doctrines of the trinity, pre-existence of Christ, immortal souls, a literal hell of fire, original sin)[123] Early English Unitarian writings also correspond closely to those of Christadelphians. Also, recent discoveries and research have shown a large similarity between Christadelphian beliefs and those held by Isaac Newton who, among other things, rejected the doctrines of the trinity, immortal souls, a personal devil and literal demons. Even with most source writings of those later considered "heretics" destroyed, evidence can be provided that since the 1st century CE there have been various groups and individuals who have held certain individual Christadelphian beliefs or similar ones.

For example:

Organised worship in England for those whose beliefs anticipated those of Christadelphians only truly became possible in 1779 when the Act of Toleration 1689 was amended to permit denial of the Trinity, and only fully when property penalties were removed in the Doctrine of the Trinity Act 1813. This is only 35 years before John Thomas' 1849 lecture tour in Britain which attracted significant support from an existing non-Trinitarian Adventist base, particularly, initially, in Scotland where Arian Socinian and unitarian (with a small 'u' as distinct from the Unitarian Church of Theophilus Lindsey) views were prevalent.

Modern mainstream theology developing similar beliefs

Over the last 100 years some mainstream Christian theologians and Biblical scholars have gradually been developing beliefs which the Christadelphian community has historically held. Example areas are satan and demons; the atonement; justification; heaven and hell; the state of the dead.

  • The state of the dead: The majority of standard scholarly Jewish and Christian sources today describe the state of the dead in terms identical or very close to the Christadelphian view.[157][158]
  • The future hope for humankind and the world: An increasing number of scholars are also affirming resurrection and a renewed and transformed earth (not going to heaven) as the ultimate hope for humankind and the world.[158][159]
  • The atonement: The majority Christian interpretation of the Anselmian-Calvinist doctrine of the atonement as penal substitution has been criticized in mainstream Christianity since the 19th century,[162] resulting in increasing rejection of traditional penal substitution.[163] The Christadelphian distinction between representation and substitution has been noted in the relevant scholarly literature,[164] and representative participation (an interpretation long held by Christadelphians)[165] is widely considered the original Biblical teaching on the atonement.[166]

Practices and worship

Christadelphians are organised into local congregations, that commonly call themselves ecclesias,[76] which is taken from usage in the New Testament[167] and is Greek for gathering of those summoned.[168] Congregational worship, which usually takes place on Sunday, centres on the remembrance of the death and celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ by the taking part in the "memorial service". Additional meetings are often organised for worship, prayer, preaching and Bible study.

Ecclesias are typically involved in preaching the gospel (evangelism) in the form of public lectures on Bible teaching,[169] college-style seminars on reading the Bible,[170] and Bible Reading Groups. Correspondence courses[171] are also used widely, particularly in areas where there is no established Christadelphian presence. Some ecclesias, organisations or individuals also preach through other media like video,[172] podcasts[173] and internet forums.[174] There are also a number of Bible Education/Learning Centres around the world.[175]

Only baptised (by complete immersion in water) believers are considered members of the ecclesia. Ordinarily, baptism follows someone making a "good confession" (cf. 1 Tim. 6:12) of their faith before two or three nominated elders of the ecclesia they are seeking to join. The good confession has to demonstrate a basic understanding of the main elements - "first principles" - of the faith of the community. The children of members are encouraged to attend Christadelphian Sunday Schools and youth groups. Interaction between youth from different ecclesias is encouraged through regional and national youth gatherings. Many ecclesias organise holidays for young people, the most popular form in the UK being camping holidays and Youth Weekends such as Swanwick and others locally organised by different ecclesias.

Christadelphians understand the Bible to teach that male and female believers are equal in God's sight, and also that there is a distinction between the roles of male and female members.[176] Women are typically not eligible to teach in formal gatherings of the ecclesia when male believers are present, are expected to cover their heads (using hat or scarf, etc.) during formal services, and do not sit on the main ecclesial arranging (organising) committees. They do, however: participate in other ecclesial and inter-ecclesial committees; participate in discussions; teach children in Sunday Schools as well as at home, teach other women and non-members; perform music; discuss and vote on business matters; and engage in the majority of other activities. Generally, at formal ecclesial and inter-ecclesial meetings the women wear head coverings when there are acts of worship and prayer.

There are ecclesially-accountable committees for co-ordinated preaching, youth and Sunday School work, conscientious objection issues, care of the elderly, and humanitarian work. These do not have any legislative authority, and are wholly dependent upon ecclesial support. Ecclesias in an area may regularly hold joint activities combining youth groups, fellowship, preaching, and Bible study.

Christadelphians refuse to participate in any military (and Police forces) because they are conscientious objectors.[177][178]

Christadelphians do not vote in political elections, as they take direction from Romans 13:1-4, which they interpret as meaning that God puts into power those leaders He deems worthy. To vote for a candidate that does not win an election would be considered to vote against God's will. To avoid the risk of such conflict, Christadelphians abstain from voting.

There is a strong emphasis on personal Bible reading and study[179] and many Christadelphians use the Bible Companion to help them systematically read the Bible each year[180]

Hymnody and music

Christadelphians are a non-liturgical denomination. Christadelphian ecclesias are autonomous and free to adopt whatever pattern of worship they choose. However, in the English-speaking world, there tends to be a great deal of uniformity in order of service and hymnody.

Christadelphian hymnody makes considerable use of the hymns of the Anglican and British Protestant traditions (even in US ecclesias the hymnody is typically more British than American). In many Christadelphian hymn books a sizeable proportion of hymns are drawn from the Scottish Psalter and non-Christadelphian hymn-writers including Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, William Cowper and John Newton. Despite incorporating non-Christadelphian hymns however, Christadelphian hymnody preserves the essential teachings of the community.[181]

The earliest hymn book published was the "Sacred Melodist" which was published by Benjamin Wilson in Geneva, Illinois in 1860.[182] The next was the hymn book published for the use of Baptised Believers in the Kingdom of God (an early name for Christadelphians)[28] by George Dowie in Edinburgh in 1864.[183] In 1865 Robert Roberts published a collection of Scottish psalms and hymns called The Golden Harp (which was subtitled "Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, compiled for the use of Immersed Believers in 'The Things concerning the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ'").[184] This was replaced only five years later by the first "Christadelphian Hymn Book" (1869), compiled by J. J. and A. Andrew,[185] and this was revised and expanded in 1874, 1932 and 1964. A thorough revision by the Christadelphian Magazine and Publishing Association resulted in the latest (2002) edition[186] which is almost universally used by English-speaking Christadelphian ecclesias. In addition some Christadelphian fellowships have published their own hymn books.

A more contemporary worship style is now popular in some quarters. The Praise the Lord songbook[187] was produced with the aim of making contemporary songs which are consistent with Christadelphian theology more widely available. This book is either used as a supplement to the more traditional Hymn Book or is used in place of the traditional Hymn Book. Another publication, the "Worship" book[188] is a compilation of songs and hymns that have been composed only by members of the Christadelphian community. This book was produced with the aim of providing extra music for non-congregational music items within services (e.g. voluntaries, meditations, etc) but has been adopted by congregations worldwide and is now used to supplement congregational repertoire.

In the English-speaking world, worship is typically accompanied by organ or piano, though in recent years a few ecclesias have promoted the use of other instruments (e.g. strings, wind and brass as mentioned in the Psalms). This trend has also seen the emergence of some Christadelphian bands[189] and the establishment of the Christadelphian Art Trust to support performing, visual and dramatic arts within the Christadelphian community.

In other countries, hymnbooks have been produced in local languages,[190] sometimes resulting in styles of worship which reflect the local culture. It has been noted that Christadelphian hymnody has historically been a consistent witness to Christadelphian beliefs, and that hymnody occupies a significant role in the community.[191]

References

Further reading

  • Bibliography of Christadelphians
  • Fred Pearce, Who are the Christadelphians? Introducing a Bible Based Community (Birmingham: CMPA). Available online
  • Stephen Hill, The Life of Brother John Thomas – 1805 to 1871 (2006).
  • Peter Hemingray, John Thomas, His Friends and His Faith (Canton, Michigan: The Christadelphian Tidings, 2003 ISBN 81-7887-012-6).
  • Andrew R. Wilson, The History of the Christadelphians 1864–1885 The Emergence of a Denomination (Shalom Publications, 1997 ISBN 0-646-22355-0).
  • Charles H. Lippy, The Christadelphians in North America Studies in American Religion Volume 43 (Lewiston/Queenston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1989 ISBN 0-88946-647-5). 1-895605-32-6.
  • Lorri MacGregor, Christadelphians & Christianity (Nelson, B.C.: MacGregor Ministries, 1989 ISBN 1-895605-32-6).
  • Robert Roberts, Christendom Astray: Popular Christianity (Both in Faith and Practice) Shewn [sic] to Be Unscriptural, and the True Nature of the Ancient Apostolic Faith Exhibited: Eighteen Lectures [on Christadelphian doctrine], Originally Published as 'Twelve Lectures on the True Teaching of the Bible' (Birmingham, Eng.: C.C. Walker, 1932).
  • Harry Tennant, The Christadelphians: What they believe and preach (Birmingham, England: The Christadelphian, 1986 Foundations' on thechristadelphian.com).
  • Bryan R. Wilson, Sects and Society: A Sociological Study of the Elim Tabernacle, Christian Science and Christadelphians (London: Heinemann, 1961; Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1961).
  • BBC article, Religion & Ethics—Christianity: Subdivisions: Christadelphians. Available online
  • online
  • Rachel Hocking, A Study of Christadelphian Hymnody: singing with the spirit and with the understanding, 2000. Available online

External links

  • Christadelphia World Wide
  • This Is Your Bible
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.