We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As part of the one body of Christ, we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us.– The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States & Canada identity statement.

A Heritage of Openness

The Disciples have a long heritage of openness to other Christian traditions having come into existence as a 19th-century protest movement against denominational exclusiveness. At the local level and beyond, Disciples are frequently involved in cooperative and ecumenical work.

In 1910, the Disciples established the Council on Christian Unity, the first denomination in the world to have an organization devoted to the pursuit of Christian unity.  Disciples helped organize the National and World Councils of Churches. The denomination also contributed the first lay president of the National Council (1960-63), Indiana industrialist J. Irwin Miller.

The Rev. Paul A. Crow Jr., retired president of the Council on Christian Unity, the Rev. Michael K. Kinnamon, now on the faculty at Seattle University (2013), along with the Rev. Patrice Rosner, are Disciples who served as chief executives of the Consultation on Church Union – now Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC) – which is striving for visible unity.

Disciples have given leadership to the establishment of Christian Churches Together (CCT) that brings together Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, Evangelicals and Pentecostal Christians around racial issues. The Rev. Richard L. Hamm, former General Minister, and President was CCT’s first full-time executive.

In 1989, the Disciples and the United Church of Christ declared that “a relationship of full communion now exists between our two churches.” The ecumenical partnership rests on five pillars of acceptance and cooperation: a common confession of Christ; mutual recognition of members; common celebration of the Lord’s Supper/Holy Communion; mutual recognition and reconciliation of ordained ministries; and a common commitment to mission.

Joint work between the Disciples’ Division of Overseas Ministries and the UCC’s Wider Church Ministries (formerly known as United Church Board for World Ministries), dates from 1967. World mission for both churches is now carried out by the Common Global Ministries Board, established in 1995. In 2012, we had 46 fully supported missionaries and nine Global Mission interns. Global Ministries also placed 14 long-term Volunteers, 37 Overseas Associates and 23 short-term volunteers in 2012. In keeping with their ecumenical mission, the Disciples have approximately 270 international church partners in nearly 70 countries.

In 2013, Disciples Home Missions and the UCC hired three staff in Children and Family Ministries to share between the denominations. A formal ministry-sharing at the regional level began in Montana. In addition, key executives of both denominations took the necessary training to have ministerial standing in both denominations.

In the wider ecumenical movement, Disciples have held theological conversations with the Roman Catholic Church and with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. Our East Wichita church is proud to be a part of this storied history rooted in unity.

Early History

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) grew out of two movements seeking Christian unity that sprang up almost simultaneously in western Pennsylvania and Kentucky – movements that were backlashes against the rigid denominationalism of the early 1800s.

Thomas and Alexander Campbell, a Presbyterian Scotch-Irish immigrant father, and son in Pennsylvania rebelled against the dogmatic sectarianism that kept members of different denominations – and even factions within the same denomination – from partaking of the Lord’s Supper together. Walter Scott, an immigrant from Scotland, was a successful evangelist of the resulting Campbell movement as it separated from the Baptists.

Barton W. Stone, a fifth-generation American in Kentucky and also a Presbyterian, objected to the use of creeds as tests of “fellowship” within the church, which were a cause of disunity, especially at the Lord’s Table. He was a key participant in the Restoration Movement following the Cane Ridge Revival of 1801.

“Christians,” the name adopted by Stone’s movement, represented what he felt to be a shedding of denominational labels in favor of a scriptural and inclusive term. Campbell had similar reasons for settling on “Disciples of Christ,” but he felt the term “Disciples” less presumptuous than “Christians.”

The aims and practices of the two groups were similar, and the Campbell and Stone movements united in 1832 after about a quarter of a century of separate development.

The founders of the Christian Church hoped to restore Christian unity by returning to New Testament faith and practices. But the church found that even this led to division. One group which opposed practices not specifically authorized by the New Testament, such as instrumental music in the church and organized missionary activity, gradually pulled away. That group finally was listed separately in the 1906 federal religious census as the “Churches of Christ.”

Another group began a separation in 1926 over what it felt were too-liberal policies on the mission field in the practice of baptism. More than 40 years later (1967-69) some 3,000 of those congregations formally withdrew at the time of Disciples restructure. They refer to themselves as the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ.

In this way, Hillside Christian Church is blessed to be part of a story of openness and inclusivity, as we seek to carry on the tradition of those that have come before us at our East Wichita church.