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The Evangelical Christian Church in Canada (Christian Disciples) as a mainstream denomination was founded in 1804 under the leadership of Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell who led the way of the Restoration Movement in North America.
Our Spiritual Heritage As Christian Disciples
The Evangelical Christian Church in Canada (Christian Disciples), as a mainstream religion in Canada, traces its historic roots to the formal organization of the Christian Church in 1804 in Bourbon County, Kentucky, U.S.A., and in 1810 near Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada under the leadership of Barton Warren Stone (1772-1844), a former Presbyterian minister. The Stone Movement later merged with the efforts of Thomas Campbell (1763-1854) and his son Alexander Campbell (1788-1866) to become the Restoration Movement that gave birth to the Churches of Christ (Non-Instrumental), the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
The Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples), as a restructured group within the Restoration Movement tradition, made significant contributions to evangelical Christianity by becoming a Fundamentalist movement of the 21st century that has a position that is conservative theologically, and focused throughout Canada, United States and world-wide on radical biblical congregationalism, and traditional Christian Church thinking with an unique contemporary approach.
The Evangelical Christian Church, also known as "Christian Disciples" became the Stone-Campbell Movement of early nineteenth-century North America, that based its biblical mission on the gospel of Matthew chapter 28 verse 19, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." This movement brought together a conglomeration of members from different Christian groups and denominations that called followers to join in Christian unity and restore the ideas of the New Testament church, holding authoritative no book but the Bible and believing no creed but Christ within Judea-Christianity.
In 1832, many Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Lutherans and others that became followers of the Alexander Campbell's group made an effort to unite in purpose with Barton Stone's group in Kentucky. These leaders sought to reform the church along non-sectarian, non-creedal lines. When the question arose as to the name to be adopted, the Alexander Campbell's group took the name "Disciples" while Barton Stone's group favored the name "Christians." As a result, "Christian Disciples" was taken and used, becoming the most powerful movements in American and Canadian history - and a uniquely world-wide religious body, known as The Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples).
Through the early twentieth century, many Restoration churches, not otherwise apart of the three larger Restoration bodies existed under such names as the Canadian Evangelical Christian Churches, the Evangelical Christian Churches, the Christian Churches of North America, the Christian Missionary Churches, the Bible Evangelical Churches, the Community Churches, Evangelical Congregational Churches, Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical Protestant Churches which traces its roots to various Lutheran and Reformed churches from Germany in 1720. The Congregational Christian Church itself was the product of a merger in 1931, between the Congregational Church and a number of Christian Churches. The Congregational Church developed in England while migrating to the United States and Canada. Some of these came together in 1966 as the Evangelical Christian Churches, Farmland, Indiana. The majority of these congregations that have not been otherwise absorbed, continue as the Evangelical Christian Churches, Albany, Indiana.
The Evangelical Christian Church attempts to continue the Restoration tradition as embodied in its several slogans, "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak. Where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent," In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love," We are not the only Christians. We are Christians only;" and "No creed but Christ. No book but the Bible." It seeks to perpetuate the message first preached by Barton Stone and his colleagues. This includes an emphasis on the Bible as the all sufficient rule of faith and practice in every area of the Christian life. It also includes an emphasis on a Trinitarian approach to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, while considering itself a conservative, non-creedal Christian movement that shares the distinctive view that the authentic primitive church order is being restored to the whole church in the power of the Holy Spirit, using only the early church as a model.
The Evangelical Christian Church in Canada acknowledges as its Sole Head, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior. The Evangelical Christian Church is a community of believers who through baptism by faith in Jesus Christ are bound by covenant to God and to one another. The Evangelical Christian Church draws inspiration from the truth of scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit, celebrating around the Lord's Table the life, death and resurrection and continuing presence of Jesus Christ. It also looks to the presence, power and energy of the Holy Spirit to prosper its creative and redemptive work in the world without the control of human dictatorship. The basis of this Christian fellowship is found in relationship with one another in accordance with the teaching of our Lord and practice among evangelical Christians. It recognizes two sacraments, Baptism and the Lord's supper. Another practice which is not a sacrament in the Evangelical Christian Church is the washing of feet as illustrated by the Lord.
The Evangelical Christian Church is not only non-denominational in structure, but it is an ecclesiastical religious body that reflects a rich variety of theological and sociological perspectives and backgrounds. The early participants in this movement consisted, of those who came away from a variety of fundamental, evangelical denominations and religious groups. They did this, not in an attempt to reform any particular denomination, but rather in an effort to "restore" the "original" church along non-sectarian, and non-creedal lines, embracing Barton Stone's motto, "Let the unity of Christians be our polar star."
The Campbell movement was characterized by a "systematic and rational reconstruction" of the early church, in contrast to the Stone movement which was characterized by "radical freedom and lack of dogma." Despite the differences, the two movements agreed on several critical issues. Both men saw restoring apostolic Christianity according to a biblical pattern found in the New Testament as a route to Christian Liberty, while stressing Christian unity and fellowship under God. Barton Stone believed that unity among Christians could be achieved by using apostolic Christianity as a true model in the interest of peace, love, mercy, and kindness.
All Evangelical Christian Churches are self governing in the tradition of congregational polity. This movement is not "just another denomination" but a "body of believers" who have agreed together to love God, love each other, and serve the world. That is why Evangelical Christian Church leadership is never static and fixed but is fluid and dynamic. It is never program-oriented but is people-oriented. It is never building-oriented but a builder of community, never in control but is able to shift from being leader, to a peer or follower. Leadership is never "qualified" but demonstrates godly qualities, never one person but multiple persons. It is never an office holder or an officer, but leadership is a servant among servants of God.
The Evangelical Christian Church encourages diversity when we gather, and desires discussion with those who agree to disagree. We're distinctly Christian and our love for Jesus is communicated clearly, but aside of having no creed, we have a specific statement of beliefs that is truly biblical, and we enjoy freedoms that are not under authoritarian control. We see our role in the body as providing a safe place for those ministers who can't seem to find their voice in a more traditional setting. This is the right to private judgment, interpretation of scripture, and liberty of conscience. We will be the first to tell our brothers and sisters that we don't have all the answers, but we are heading toward deep uncharted waters, traveling where the wind of the Holy Spirit blows, and waiting on the Holy One who is leading us to adventures yet unknown.
As a result, all Evangelical Christian Church ministers come from evangelical, charismatic, mainline, and post-Christian intercultural backgrounds. The religious and philosophical views represented are equally varied. This provides occasional tension and awkward moments, but also incredibly rich and beautiful dialog, which stretches us and causes us to grow in humility and maturity. We embrace one another fully as beautifully flawed, unique individuals in the family of God who are called to rule and reign with Christ as world changers and history makers within the Kingdom of God on this earth.