GLOBAL RESTORATION MOVEMENT SPREADS
||The Restoration Movement, or the
New Reformation, consolidated and grew tremendously between 1830 and 1860. In
1801, the Cane Ridge Revival in Kentucky would plant the seed for a movement in
Kentucky and the Ohio River valley to disassociate from denominationalism.
Barton W. Stone and five others published The Last Will and Testament of the
Springfield Presbytery in 1804 giving up denominational ties and preferring to
be known simply as Christians, depicting the central message or emphasis of the
Movement. Stone was influenced by his earlier involvement with O'Kelley and knew
of the Republican Methodists use of only the name Christian.
"Restorationism" in the sense of "Christian primitivism"
refers to the attempt to correct the shortcomings of the current church by
using the primitive church as a model, and has also been described as
"practicing church the way it is perceived to have been done in the New
Testament. Restorationism sought to renew the whole Christian church, on the
pattern set forth in the New Testament, without regard to the creeds developed
over time in Catholicism, Orthodoxy, or Reformed Protestantism, which allegedly
kept Christianity divided. Churches are now found throughout the globe,
claiming to "concentrate on the essential aspects of the Christian faith,
allowing for a diversity of understanding with non-essentials." Basically,
there are those whose beliefs and doctrines may differ on minor subjects, but
who believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God as the savior and authority of the
At the same time important changes left their mark on the movement's
progress and future for The Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples).
The Christian Disciples acknowledged Barton W. Stone as its leader while
Campbell and others slipped into the background. Some say the "Christian
Disciples" grew on "preaching, publishing, pedagogy and the
plea." Most important, it grew!
4 Key Principles of the Restoration
1. Christianity should not be
divided, Christ intended the creation of one church.?2. Creeds divide, but
Christians should be able to find agreement by standing on the Bible itself
(from which all creeds are human expansions or constrictions) instead of on the
opinions of men about the Bible.?3. Ecclesiastical traditions divide, but
Christians should be able to find common ground by following the practice (as
best as it can be determined) of the early church.?4. Names of human origin
divide, but Christians should be able to find common ground by using biblical
names for the church (i.e., "Christian Church" or
"Assembly" as opposed to "Methodist" "Baptist" or
Here we survey the movement's
extensive growth in the period. I'll also note the reasons for that growth.
Reasons for the Restoration
Movement's rapid growth.
The Restoration Movement grew
faster than any other religious movement between 1830 and 1860. Starting from
almost nothing in 1800, 1860 estimates placed total membership at 195,000.
Statistics show some 2,100 congregations and 1,800 ministers. Campbell, who
published statistics in the Millennial Harbinger in 1857, showed even
more with 225,000 members in 2,700 congregations served by 2,225 ministers. We
may never know the real numbers, but it became obvious that rapid growth
A. The circulation of notable
papers. Restoration Movement editors published periodicals in nearly every
region. Many had substantial influence. The major papers, of course, reached
larger audiences and many outside the Restoration Movement digested this
material. Many people simply left their denominational churches to join the Restoration
Movement. Restorationism is not a single religious movement, but a wave of
comparably motivated movements that arose in the eastern United States and
Canada in the early 19th century in the wake of the Second Great Awakening.
These movements attempted to transcend the divisions of Protestant
denominationalism, and to restore Christianity according to its original
pattern, as they believed it to be.
Leading up to the 19th century,
individual study of the Bible proliferated among many people in the United
States, but a sizeable number of those curious about the Scriptures were
indifferent to the Church and the Christian life. The Second Great Awakening
was a series of revivals that made its way especially across the frontier
territories, fed by this religious sentiment of intense interest in the Bible,
accompanied by disinterest in, or dissatisfaction with, the Church. As these
revivals spread, they gathered converts to one of the Protestant sects of the
time such as the Baptists, Methodists, Congregational Church or Presbyterian
Church. However, the fact that the revival moved freely across denominational
lines, with practically identical results, went farther than ever before toward
breaking down the historical allegiances which kept adherents to these
denominations loyal to their own and opposed to the others.
Restorationist movements were
characterized by a discontent with mere cooperation between denominations. The
leaders of these movements did not believe that the revivals were intended by
God to simply fatten the old institutions, and perpetuate the old divisions.
Restorationism sought to renew the whole Christian church, on the pattern set
forth in the New Testament, without regard to the creeds developed over time in
Catholicism or Protestantism, which allegedly kept Christianity divided.
This draws attention to a precept
implied by Restorationism, sometimes called the Great Apostasy. The Great
Apostasy is a term used to describe a general fallen state of traditional
Christianity, that it is not a legitimate successor to the church founded by
Jesus Christ. If there were no apostasy-at-large and a church on the true and
legitimate pattern was present, there would be no need for a restoration. Thus,
restorationists can be compared to one another in their conviction that there
has been an apostasy, a departure from essential Christianity so extensive and
disastrous as to render futile any plan to remodel Christianity on existing
foundations; necessitating a complete reconstruction, a restoration.
B. The movement of Baptists.
Many Baptist congregations came into the reformation "lock, stock, and
barrel." The Mahoning Baptist Association represented just one of these
Baptist groups. Baptists in Indiana, notably the Blue River Baptists and the
Silver Creek Association, along with Baptists in Virginia and North Carolina
also came into the movement. Quite often, when entire associations adopted the
restorationist position, individuals left to form new congregations following
the old Baptist order of things.
C. The period's Primitivism
promoted restorationism. Historians refer to the period between 1829 and
1841 as the "Age of Jackson," "The Age of the Common Man,"
or the "Age of Egalitarianism." The people of the day romantically
elevated the common man. Americans considered the "old paths"
superior to the newer ways. Men looked back to the golden ages of Greece and
Rome with longing. You can see such interest in frontier names: Paris, Athens,
Liberal and New Harmony. Campbellian reform called Christians back to the
"old paths" so the plea fit the age.
Some writers link the Restoration
Movement to Jacksonian primitivism. I think this interpretation is too
simplistic. The Restoration Movement providentially appeared at "just the
right time." Like so many successful men and movements it "was at the
right place at the right time."
D. The nonsectarian plea.
Settlers built new communities every time the frontier moved west. The
Disciples offered the hope that Christians moving to these new towns did not
need to be divided over sectarian differences. Many settlers prayerfully and
carefully considered the movement's plea.
E. Disciples migrated west, too.
Disciples simply took their faith with them. Wherever they went they started
new churches worshiping on the New Testament "pattern." In some
cases, such as in Kansas, Disciples established some of the territory's first
F. Church planting. By the
mid-1840s, the Restoration Movement formed cooperative agencies. Missionary
associations formed specifically to send missionaries overseas, but they also
sent workers to the midwest and the frontier to begin new churches.
G. Personal work of the leaders.
History reveals that whenever Alexander Campbell toured an area increased
interest in "the plea" spread. When Barton Stone moved to Illinois
and then Missouri he increased interest in those areas, too.
H. Campbell's debates. Other
restorationists debated sectarians throughout the period but Campbell's proved
most influential. Whenever Campbell debated in an area the plea grew
dramatically. Following the Campbell-Rice Debate on baptism the Presbyterians
purchased the publication rights because of "their victory." So many
Presbyterians left their churches that they stopped printing the debate. The
debates also increased Campbell's notoriety and made the reformation more
palatable, particularly those debates with Robert Owen and Bishop Purcell.
II. Examples of substantial growth.
A. The East. For some reason
the Restoration Movement never really took root in the eastern United States.
Once the movement recognized Alexander Campbell's leadership, the New England
Christians refused fellowship. Unitarianism and Universalism tinctured those
groups anyway but a few congregations united with the movement after Campbell
visited New England in 1836. A few Christian Churches in Massachusetts and an
independent congregation in Danbury, Connecticut, joined the movement. At one
point a few Vermont and Maine bodies identified with the movement but they
ultimately died out.
|The plea enjoyed some strength in
Pennsylvania and Virginia. This was expected. After all, the first Campbellite
congregation formed in the panhandle of Virginia (now West Virginia) at Brush
Run and the next was Wellsburg, which formed in 1815. Campbell's Virginia fame
grew after he served as a delegate to Virginia's constitutional convention in
Richmond in 1829. A congregation began meeting in Richmond as a Baptist Church
but the Baptists effectively forced it out of fellowship. The Richmond church,
once independent, "mothered" six more congregations.
Reformation churches began in
Maryland in 1833 when Alexander Campbell held meetings there in a Haldanian
church. After the Georgetown union in Kentucky, Maryland's "New
Lights" joined the Disciples. The first Washington, D.C. congregation met
in the home of Dr. James T. Barclay in 1843. Barclay later became the movement's
first foreign missionary.
B. The Deep South.
Republican Methodists established a congregation near Athens, Georgia in 1807.
This congregation joined the reformation in 1842. Campbell visited Savannah in
1838 and many of the city's notables attended his meetings.
Alabama churches grew from Georgia
and Tennessee migrations. Alabama opened up when upper south cotton lands
"played out" and growers needed new land. The Disciples held a
convention in Alabama sometime around 1849 spurring growth in the region. In
addition, Campbell toured Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana three times: 1839,
1857 and 1859.