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THE CHRISTIAN UNION CHRUCHES.
This body, which is now called the Independent Churches of Christ in Christian Union, was organized in Ohio during the first years of the Civil War. Elder J. V. B. Flack was one of the most prominent leaders of the movement, which was outspoken in opposition to the war. They believed that it had been “produced by an unwarrantable meddling both North and South, and great injustice and insane haste on the part of extreme leaders in both sections.” They were opposed to the introduction of politics into the pulpit, and withdrew from existing denominations because they could not tolerate what they regarded as political preaching Elder Flack declared that he was persecuted by the ministers and members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in which he was a pastor. Writing of the matter some years later, he said: “We refused to vote in the conference for resolutions
We refused to pray for the success of war. We refused to bring politics into our pulpit. We refused to join in the ranks that marched on the streets at war meetings. We refused to make certain war speeches. We refused to prefer charges against members of the church whom the fanatics accuse of being disloyal. We refused to preside at forced trials of good men who were tried for political opinions."
He claimed that on account of taking this attitude he was severely persecuted, and led to withdraw from the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1863. He preached to various companies of men and women after his withdrawal from the Methodist Episcopal Church; but the first church of the new denomination was organized by the Rev. Ira Norris, at Lacon, Ill., late in 1863 or early in 1864. At a convention held in Columbus, O., in February, 1864, persons representing five different denominations being present, the foundation of the new denomination was laid. The principles of the Christian Union are in brief as follows:
1. The oneness of the Church of Christ.
The church claims to be non-partisan, non-sectarian, and non-denominational. It aims to furnish a basis for the union of all true believers by making its organization as simple as possible and by eliminating from its system controversial questions in doctrine and polity. It has 294 congregations, 183 church edifices valued at $234,500, and 18,214 communicants; 105 halls, with a seating capacity of 14,705, are occupied as meeting-places. years prior to the census of 1890 its membership was estimated at over 100,000 by Elder Flack and others.
SUMMARY BY STATES.
Organi. Church zations. Edifices.
Value of Church Property.
4 12 I 6 26
3 31 16 5 I 8 56
I 8 6 5
20 4 I I 3 31
I 94 I
1,000 1,000 12,000 39,050
50 376 190 264
50 206 1,599
495 443 15
184 68,000 $234,450 18,214
THE CHURCH OF GOD.
JOHN WINEBRENNER, the founder of this denomination, which in doctrine, polity, and usage resembles both the Baptist and Methodist Churches, became a member of the first Reformed German Church, Philadelphia, in 1817, and three years later pastor of a church of the same denomination in Harrisburg. There were four congregations under his care. Under his plain and pungent preaching a revival of religion began, the progress of which was opposed. The opposition continued five years or more, resulting in a separation from the church. The revival extended into various parts of Pennsylvania and even into Maryland, and hundreds of persons were converted. These persons were organized into separate churches. Meanwhile, Elder Winebrenner, after a careful study of the Bible, had changed his views respecting points of doctrine and polity. In 1830 he, with Andrew Miller, John Eliot, John Walborn, David Maxwell, and James Richards, who were recognized as teaching elders, met in conference and agreed upon a basis of church organization. The following are the leading principles:
1. That the believers in any given locality according to the divine order are to constitute one body. The division of believers into sects and parties under human names and creeds is contrary to the spirit and letter of the New Testament, and constitutes the most powerful barrier to the success of Christianity.
2. That the believers of any community organized into one body constitute God's household or family, and should be known by the name of the Church of God.
3. That the Scriptures without note or comment constitute a sufficient rule of faith and practice. Creeds and confessions tend to divisions and sects.
4. That there are three ordinances binding upon all believers; namely, immersion in water in the name of the Trinity, the washing of the saints' feet, and the partaking of bread and wine in commemoration of the sufferings and death of Christ.
Upon the basis of these principles the denomination was organized, the first conference being held in 1831.
The conferences of the Church of God, of which there are several, are held annually, and are called elderships. There is a general conference or general eldership which meets triennially. This is the chief legislative and judicial body. The presiding officer of an annual eldership, or of the general eldership, is called the Speaker. There are itinerant and local ministers and exhorters, as in Methodism, and the weaker congregations are organized into circuits. The itinerant ministers are appointed to pastorates by stationing committees of the annual elderships.
The Church of God is represented in fourteen States and the Indian Territory. Its chief strength, however, lies in the State of Pennsylvania, where it originated. Fully one half of its total communicants are to be found in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. It has sixteen annual elderships. There are 479 organizations in all, with 338 church edifices, having an average seating capacity of 342