Christians (improperly pronounced Chrstians), a denomination usually styled "the Christian Connection."
I. History. — This body is purely American in its origin, having sprung from three different sources widely apart from each other — the Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian Churches in different parts of America.
(1.) When the so-called "O'Kelly secession" from the Methodist Episcopal Church (q.v.) took place in the year 1793, the seceders at first took the name of "Republican Methodists," but afterward assumed the name of "Christians," avowing the N.T. as their only code of doctrine and discipline.
(2.) In the year 1800, Dr. Abner Jones, a member of the Baptist Church in Hartland, Vermont, "becoming dissatisfied with the creed of his church, and with all sectarian denominations, and preferring the Bible alone as the confession of his faith," organized a church of twenty-five members in the town of Lyndon, Vt. In a few years he was joined by ministers from the Close Communion and Free-will Baptist churches, who left their former associations, and, in some cases, brought their flocks with them.
(3.) The third source of the new sect was found in Kentucky and Tennessee. About the year 1801, several ministers withdrew from the jurisdiction of the Presbyterian Church, and "organized themselves into a new and independent presbytery, called the Springfield Presbytery. They kept up this organization for about two years, when they formally adopted a new name for themselves and followers — that of Christians." (See Davidson, Presbyterian Church in Kentucky, chap. 8.)
The three bodies thus separately organized were finally brought into one society, adopting the common name "Christians." They have become quite numerous.
At the Quadrennial General Conference of this denomination held at Marshall, Michigan, on October 2, 1866, and the following days, the following Annual Conferences were represented by delegates:
Conferences No. of delegates 1 Passamaquoddy 2 Vermont Western 18 3 Merrimack 20 4 Rockingham 5 York and Cumberland 15 6 Strafford 13 7 Mass. and Rhode Island 8 New York Eastern 47 9 New York Central 40 10 New York Western 14 11 New York Northern 11 12 New York Southern 14 13 New Jersey 14 14 Tioga River, N.Y 25 15 Erie, Pa. 16 16 Canada 17 Miami, O 52 18 Central Ohio 29 19 Maumee Valley 5 20 Southern Ohio 30 21 Deer Creek O 14 22 Eel River Ind. 16 23 Antioch and Blufton 42 24 Western Indiana 32 25 Mason River Ill. 5 26 Nothern Ill. and South Wisc. 28 27 Central Ill. 28 Spoon River 25 29 North-eastern Iowa 29 30 Union, Iowa 8 31 Des Moines, Iowa 28
32 Eastern Michigan 17 33 South-east Michigan 7 34 Central Michigan 35 Grand riverValley 36 Southwestern Michigan 37 Northern Ind. and West. Michigan 12 38 Richland Union Wis 6 39 Nothern Wisc. 40 Jacksonville
The Rev. I. C. Goff, of Illinois, was elected President. A letter, expressing harmony of views and fraternal feelings, was read from the Association of General Baptists in England, this being the first communication of the kind since 1823. The General Conference replied by a series of resolutions, reciprocating the feelings of the General Baptists, and by appointing a delegate to attend their next annual meeting. It was resolved to establish a Biblical institute in the State of New York, and to increase the number of denominational periodicals by the establishment of a Quarterly and of an Annual Register. The original platform of the denomination, namely, "That the name Christian is the only name of distinction which we take, and by which we, as a denomination, desire to be known, and the Bible our only rule of faith and practice," was unanimously reaffirmed.
A convention of members of the denomination in the Southern States ("Southern Christian Convention") was held at Mount Auburn, N. C., on May 2, 1866, at which it was resolved to revive the denominational book concern at Suffolk, Va., which had been destroyed by fire soon after the beginning of the war. See Annual American Cyclopoedia for 1866, s.v. Christian Connection; Minutes of the U. S. Quadrennial Christian Connection (Dayton, 1866).
II. Doctrines. — Each congregation of "Christians" is independent, and they take the Bible as their binding standard of doctrine. The following principles appear to be generally recognized among them: (1) The Scriptures are inspired, and are of divine authority. (2) Every man has a right to interpret the Bible for himself, and therefore differences of theological views are no bar to Church fellowship. (3) There is one God, but the doctrine of the Trinity is not generally received. (4) Christ is a divine being, preexisted, and is the mediator between God and man. (5) Christ's sufferings atone for the sins of all men, who, by repentance and faith, may be saved. (6) Immersion is the only proper form of baptism, and believers the only proper subjects (rejecting infant baptism). (7) Communion at the Lord's table is open to believers of all denominations.
III. Government and Usages. — Though each congregation is theoretically independent, there are "Annual" or "State" Conferences, composed of ministerial and lay delegates from the churches, which receive and ordain pastors, etc., but can pass no laws binding the several churches. They have an American Christian Convention, whose officers from 1866 to 1867 were: President, D. P. Pike, of Massachusetts; Secretary, N. Summerbell, of Ohio; Secretary of Missionary Department, D. E. Millard, of Michigan; Secretary of Educdtional Department, J. W. Haley, of Massachusetts; Secretary of the Sabbath-school Department, I. C. Goff, of Illinois; Secretary of the Publishing Department, C. A. Morse, of Ohio. The forms of worship, etc., are in general the same as those in the Baptist churches.
The Constitution of the General Convention, as amended in 1866, is as follows:
ARTICLE I. — This organization shall be styled "The American Christian Convention"
ART. II. The business of the Convention shall be to arrange, direct, or transact such matters as may be thought proper and necessary, in connection with and for the furtherance of the interests and honor of the cause of Christ.
ART. III. The officers of the Convention shall consist of a President, one Vice-president from each state or province connected with the Convention, a Secretary of the Convention, and one Secretary for each department hereinafter provided for; all of the above officers, except the Vice-presidents, shall be chosen by ballot for the term of four years, and until their successors are chosen. The Vice-presidents shall be nominated by the states and provinces represented in the Convention.
ART. IV. It shall be the duty of the President to preside in all meetings of the Convention and of the Executive Board.
ART V. In the absence of the President at any meeting ons of the Vice- presidents shall preside.
ART. VI. The Secretary shall faithfully note and record all the doings of the Convention and of the Executive Board.
ART. VII. The Convention shall consist of the following named departments, viz.: 1. Missionary; 2. the Educational; 3. the Publishing; 4 the Sabbath-school; 5. Treasury Department. Each department shall have an appropriate secretary, who shall have the supervision thereof, subject to the control of the Executive Board hereinafter named.
ART. VIII. The Executive Board shall consist of the President and the six Secretaries above named whose duty it shall be to carry out any measure determined on by the Convention, and any other measure which it may deem necessary and proper; and each Secretary shall, not less than one month prior to every regular meeting of the Convention, make a written or printed report of the doings of his department. accompanied with recommendations, which, on the opening of the Convention, the President shall lay before it, together with a like report and recommendation made by himself to the Convention.
ART. IX. The Secretary of the Treasury shall keep and invest funds belonging to the Convention, subject only to be drawn by a vote of the Convention or Executive Board; in either case the order to bear the sanction and signature of the President and Secretary of the Convention. He shall give bonds to the acceptance of the Executive Board.
ART. X. Any person shall, on the payment of twenty-five dollars into the treasury, be entitled to a certificate of life membership; or, on the like payment of three dollars, to a certificate of quadrennial membership. Every Christian benevolent organization, Convention, Conference, and church which shall contribute to the treasury of the Convention shall be entitled to membership, with one vote for every three dollars quadrennially contributed. Also the presidents of our Conferences, state associations or state Conferences, and colleges or institutes, shall be ex-officio members of the Convention.
ART. XI. The Missionary department shall have charge of the missionary enterprises of the denomination, with the power to acquire and hold the title to real estate, appropriate to church purposes, erect churches, and aid in their erection and maintenance, and in general promote the cause of Christ in all parts of the world. The Educational Department shall establish colleges and Biblical and literary institutes, as well as aid those already established by the denomination, and assist young men preparing for the ministry by pecuniary loan or gifts. The Publishing Department shall have charge of the publishing interests of the denomination, the printing and diffusing of useful books, magazines, papers, tracts, and every form of literature suitable to religious and moral culture. The Sabbath-school Department shall have charge of the cause of Sabbath-schools, their establishment support, and successful operation throughout thee denomination, endeavoring to secure their welfare, and promote interest, zeal, and efficiency in this department.
ART. XII. The sessions of the Convention, under this Constitution, shall be called by the Executive Board quadrennially, and at other times when deemed by them necessary and proper.
IV. Statistics. — The denomination published in 1867 in the United States three periodicals, viz. The Christians Sun (discontinued during the war, but revived inc 1867), at Suffolk, Va.; The Herald of Gospel Liberty — the first religious newspaper published in this country., first number issued September 1st, 1808 — now published at Newburyport, Mass.; and The Gospel Herald, at Dayton, O. The statements concerning their statistics greatly vary. Belcher, The Religious Denominations in the United States (1854), gives to them 607 organized churches, 489 ministers, and 34,000 communicants. In 1889 they claimed 1906 churches and 1452 ministers, and 147.253 communicants. The denomination has spread in England and the English possessions. Their institutions of learning are Christian Union College, at Merom, Ind.; Graham College, in North Carolina; and academies at Wolfborough, N. H., and Starkey, N. Y. They are to commence a Biblical School, and have fixed its location at Newark, N. Y. More than sixty Conferences have been organized in the United States and Canada, which meet annually. — Winebrenner, History of all Denominations; Belcher, History of Relig. Denom. in the U. S., Gorrie, Churches and Sects; Schem, Ecclesiastical Year-book, p. 78; Baird, Religion in America.