Christian Church Denomination

Overview of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

The Christian Church Logo
Image: Courtesy of the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ

The Christian Church, also called the Disciples of Christ, started in the United States from the 19th century Stone-Campbell Movement, or Restoration Movement, which stressed openness at the Lord's Table and freedom from creedal restrictions. Today, this mainline Protestant denomination continues to fight racism, support missions, and work for Christian unity.

Number of Worldwide Members

Disciples number nearly 700,000, in 3,754 congregations.

Founding of the Christian Church

The Christian Church took advantage of religious freedom in America, and especially the tradition of religious tolerance in Pennsylvania. Thomas Campbell and his son Alexander wanted to put an end to divisiveness at the Lord's Table, so they split from their Presbyterian heritage and founded the Christian Church.

Barton W. Stone, a Presbyterian minister in Kentucky, rejected the use of creeds, which separated Christian denominations and caused factionalism. Stone also questioned belief in the Trinity. He named his new faith movement Disciples of Christ. Similar beliefs and goals led the Stone-Campbell movements to unite in 1832.

Two other denominations sprang from the Stone-Campbell movement. The Churches of Christ broke away from the Disciples in 1906, and the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ separated in 1969.

More recently, the Disciples and the United Church of Christ entered into full communion with each other in 1989.

Prominent Christian Church Founders

Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Scottish Presbyterian ministers in Pennsylvania, and Barton W. Stone, a Presbyterian minister in Kentucky, were behind this faith movement.


The Christian Church is spread through 46 states in the United States and is also found in five provinces in Canada.

Christian Church Governing Body

Each congregation has freedom in its theology and does not take orders from other bodies. The elected representative structure includes congregations, regional assemblies, and the General Assembly. All levels are considered equal.

Sacred or Distinguishing Text

The Bible is recognized as the inspired Word of God, but members' views on the inerrancy of the Bible range from fundamental to liberal. The Christian Church does not tell its members how to interpret Scripture.

Notable Christian Church Ministers and Members

Barton W. Stone, Thomas Campbell, Alexander Campbell, James A. Garfield, Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan, Lew Wallace, John Stamos, J. William Fulbright, and Carrie Nation.

Christian Church Beliefs and Practices

The Christian Church does not have a creed. When accepting a new member, the congregation requires only a simple statement of faith: "I believe that Jesus is the Christ and I accept him as my personal Lord and Savior." Beliefs vary from congregation to congregation and among individuals concerning the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the existence of heaven and hell, and God's plan of salvation. Disciples of Christ ordain women as ministers; the current General Minister and President of the organization is a woman.

The Christian Church baptizes by immersion at an age of accountability. The Lord's Supper, or communion, is open to all Christians and is observed weekly. The Sunday worship service consists of hymns, reciting the Lord's Prayer, Scripture readings, a pastoral prayer, a sermon, tithes and offerings, communion, a blessing and a recessional hymn.

To learn more about Christian Church beliefs, visit Disciples of Christ Beliefs and Practices.

(Sources:,,, and Religions of America, edited by Leo Rosten.)