HOW & WHY TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN

Origin Of The Church of Christ

I noticed that you had the churches of Christ originating from the Holiness church. This is not the case. Most denominational historians believe that we came from the Presbyterians. This is because they believe that we owe our origins to Thomas and Alexander Campbell. Both who were Presbyterians. Q27Z37PXCNGA
We received an email a while back from a visitor concerned about the information we’ve provided regarding the origins of the Church of Christ denomination. There are three different and distinct denominations which claim the title “Church of Christ”. There is the Church of Christ which was founded by James O’Kelly which then gave rise to the “Boston Church of Christ” group founded by McKean in 1967 which is now known as the “International Church of Christ” and then another unrelated group called the “United Church of Christ” or “UCC” for short. I will post the original concern(s) our visitor had and will then post my response along with some updated notes to provide clarity.

Question: I examined the chart that you have prepared concerning the various denominations. I noticed that you had the churches of Christ originating from the Holiness church. This is not the case. Most denominational historians believe that we came from the Presbyterians. This is because they believe that we owe our origins to Thomas and Alexander Campbell. Both who were Presbyterians. However, this is is misrepresentation. The Campbells were convinced that a first century church existed. They believe that if we followed the pattern of that church found in the New Testament that it could be restored. Thus, their efforts were solely to that end. The first century church was the church of Christ (Matt. 16:18; Rom. 16:16). It is restored under that name today.

Because we find denominations often coming with a variety of backgrounds from all over the spectrum, the denominations flowchart is created to give a very general sense, but not a literal sense of denominational origin. Otherwise the chart would be just an indecipherable tangled mess. (Kind of like it is now!)

However, with regards to the CofC, my intention was to show its descending from Methodist roots during the "Restoration" movement, but the chart was convoluted at that point which made it appear as if the CofC came from the Holiness movement, which was not my intention.

I must say, however, that I do not share your opinion that 'most' church historians (there aren't "denominational" historians as yet) hold solely to a Presbyterian origin, if an historian does hold to this view it could perhaps belie a lack of further research as technically, the Church of Christ came about over time from Methodist, Baptist, AND Presbyterian roots and/or influence. Perhaps when I post the next revision of the flowchart I will try to better represent this origin visually.

(editor’s note: The Denominations Family Tree has been updated and now reflects the United Church of Christ as coming from Reformed, Congregational and Lutheran influence. The O’Kelly Church of Christ coming via Methodist, Baptist, and then the Campbell Presbyterianism)

If you go to our denominational history page, you can get a much greater and more detailed understanding of a denomination's "branch" from the tree. Here is the historical information from our site which specifically pertains to the Church of Christ:

Ultimately, this movement was birthed as part of the 'Restoration Movement' in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Founded by a Methodist preacher named James O’Kelly in 1793. O’Kelly sought to escape the control of the Methodist church and broke away to form a new group called the Republican Methodist Church which, as it moved from Virginia, south and west, the name was changed to the 'Christian Church’.

O’Kelly in the southern states was joined by a group of New England Baptist preachers, Abner Jones and Elias Smith, who shared his zeal to return to a “first century church” and they taught followers to scorn all
of the denominations or “creeds” formed by man and embrace the Bible, specifically the New Testament, as the sole authority in life. They believed in baptism for the believer and not as infants, as did O’Kelly.

Another group of early charismatic leaders/founders for the Church ofChrist were the Presbyterian ministers Barton Stone and the Scottish immigrant father-son team Thomas and Alexander Campbell.

With Methodist, Baptist, and now Presbyterian influence, ultimately this group merged in Kentucky in the 1830s and to this day, rejects denominationalism i.e. the “creeds of man” in favor of the Bible alone to pursue a more pure form of New Testament Christianity. This group became the denomination known as the Church of Christ.

There it is, the origins of the Church of Christ in a nutshell.

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