FIRST GENERATION THEATRE

Restoration is seeking to be moved by the same impetuses and energy that fired apostolic witness to Jesus Christ. Restoration is living on the cusp of a new reality, opening present life to the dramatic grace and truth of God.

People and events remembered within our Churches of Christ story are not memorable; they invoke intentional faith. The authors of our movement did not seek to construct memories; they were concerned with God’s futurity.

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voices of restoration

Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

The Presbytery of Springfield sitting at Cane Ridge, in the county of Bourbon, being, through a gracious Providence, in more than ordinary bodily health, growing in strength and size daily, do make and ordain this our last Will and Testament:

We will, that this body die, be dissolved, and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large; for there is but one body, and one Spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling.

We will that our name of distinction, with its Reverend title, be forgotten, that there be but one Lord over God's heritage, and his name one.

We will, that our power of making laws for the government of the church, and executing them by delegated authority, forever cease; that the people may have free course to the Bible, and adopt the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

Barton W. Stone and others, 1804
  - abridged

Declaration and Address of the Christian Association of Washington

Let none imagine that the subjoined propositions are at all intended as an overture towards a new creed, or standard, for the church; or, as in any wise designed to be made a term of communion; nothing can be farther from our intention. They are merely designed for opening up the way, that we may come fairly and firmly to original ground: upon clear and certain premises: and take up things just as the Apostles left them. That thus disentangled from the accruing embarrassments of intervening ages, we may stand with evidence upon the same ground on which the church stood at the beginning.

That the Church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one; consisting of all those in every place that profess their faith in Christ.

That although the Church of Christ upon earth must necessarily exist in particular and distinct societies, locally separate one from another, yet there ought to be no schisms, no uncharitable divisions among them.

Nothing ought to be inculcated upon Christians as articles of faith; nor required of them as terms of communion, but what is expressly taught and enjoined upon them in the word of God.

Thomas Campbell, 1809
- abridged

 

millennial harbinger 1830-1870

The Millennial Harbinger was the pre-eminent publication of the early Restoration Movement and was edited by Alexander Campbell for several decades. The journal contained essays on ‘leading terms and phrases’ of scripture and biblical books, essays on the treatment of African-American slaves and emancipation, church news, reviews, correspondence and considered replies to readers’ queries.

The millennial imagination of early Restoration Movement writings invokes Christian life and activity on a frontier, that here and now, God’s future kingdom might transform the present. Christian proclamation was inseparable from a millennial imagination that anticipated God’s reality. Effective proclamation demanded the renewal of words, so that the gospel message was spoken to be heard and invoked response. 

Even in its anticipation of God's future, the Millennial Harbinger was very practical and situational in focus. As well as dealing with local issues, there is a strong focus on biblical interpretation in light of the historical origins of the church. The contributors strain to hear and to articulate the original drama of scripture and apostolic witness, encouraging readers to live with similar trust and tenacity in their frontier contexts. 

Links to Restoration Movement publications

 

Australian Beginnings

Taking Root from One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, Graeme Chapman

Australian Churches of Christ were pioneered by laymen who emigrated to the southern continent in the middle third of the nineteenth century. Local initiative led to separate development in S.A., N.S.W. and Victoria.

The British became interested in Australia after the American colonies declared their independence. No longer able to shuttle excess prisoners across the Atlantic, they looked to Australia as a substitute dumping ground. For much of its early history, Australia was little more than a vast and isolated penal colony. However, with a gradual increase in the number of free settlers and emancipists, the colonies began to change character. By the late 1840's and early 1850's it was obvious that a new nation was emerging. Colonials began demanding a greater say in the development of the national character and destiny. They stepped up agitation against convict transportation and for a larger degree of self-government.

Religion counted for little in the early phase of Australia's development ... Unlike America, which was founded in the interests of religious freedom, white settlement in early Australia was inhospitable to Christianity.

The Churches, however, were not deterred by the general religious apathy. Christian communions in the home country were quick to establish colonial bridgeheads to care for those of their members who had emigrated. Among the more evangelical there was a strong desire to reach and win the irreligious. Unfortunately, the sectarian rivalry that marred relations in Britain was also imported, and frequently frustrated effective outreach.

However, among the growing community of Churches contributing to the Christian impact upon the young community was a body concerned with the scandal of division, that went under the name 'Disciples of Christ' or 'Christian Churches.' These Churches of Christ, as they came increasingly to refer to themselves, convinced that God had called them into existence to call the Christian world back to the unity the Church enjoyed in New Testament times, set out to persuade fellow Christians that it was only by concerting their effort that they would effectively influence the nation. Their unique message foreshadowed the concern for unity that was to become characteristic of the Church of the twentieth century.