Who We Are:
As members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), we do not have the "brand name recognition” of some other denominations; and, to some degree, that is good. Our founding fathers, Stone and Campbell, never set out to form a denomination in the first place, but rather sought to foster the unity of the church for the sake of Christ's mission. Nevertheless, we evolved into a distinct group within the universal church; and, as such, we have a particular identity and culture.
How do you explain this in your evangelistic outreach? The following list of 10 attributes, compiled by Richard L. Spleth, Regional Minister, Christian Church in Indiana in 2010, identifies and clarifies the combination of things that are unique to the Disciples. It would be difficult to find this combination of characteristics anywhere but within the Disciples. According to Rev. Spleth, “there is no single characteristic in the list that is true only for our church; each item is also found in other Christian communities; however, the combination is a distinctive one, and a healthy one too, I believe. The things that together identify the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) include these 10 attributes.”
Weekly observance of the Lord's Supper.—Life of a Disciples' congregation is centered at the communion table. Through communion, we are connected to one another and to God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord's Supper or Communion is celebrated in weekly worship. It is open to all who are followers of Jesus Christ. The practice of Holy Communion has become the central element of worship within the Disciples tradition.
Disciples' observance of the Lord's Supper emanates from the upper room, where Jesus shared bread and wine with his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the living Christ is met and received in the sharing of the bread and the cup, representative of the body and blood of Jesus. The presence of the living Lord is affirmed and he is proclaimed to be the dominant power in our lives.
The chalice symbolizes the central place of communion in worship for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The X-shaped cross of the disciple Andrew is a reminder of the ministry of each person and the importance of evangelism.
Open membership.—Recognizing that the traditions of the whole church are many and varied, we do not insist that our baptismal practice is the only one that is valid. We know that baptism is God's action far more than our own.
Attitude of tolerance and rejection of creeds as tests of faith.—We celebrate diversity as being a strength rather than weakness, and we do not expect everyone's interpretation of the Bible or the Christian life to be identical.
Inclusion of the leadership of women.—We believe that God provides spiritual gifts to all and do not restrict any office or role in the life of the church by gender.
Emphasis on lay leadership.—Aside from performing weddings (which is regulated by the state), lay persons in our church are permitted and encouraged to do all things, including presiding and offering the Eucharistic prayers at the Lord's Table, duties often restricted to ordained clergy in other denominations.
Believer's baptism by immersion.—Following the earliest tradition of the church, we demonstrate our commitment to God by dramatic action, letting the waters of our baptism give witness to God's grace upon us.
Just as baptism represents the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it symbolizes the death and burial of the old self of the repentant believer and the joyous birth of a brand new being in Christ. Those who founded the Disciples movement taught baptism by immersion as the accepted form. Today, we accept all forms of baptism.
Baptism, as a gift of grace, received by faith, expresses its meaning in a variety of images: new birth, a washing with water, a cleansing from sin, a sign of God’s forgiving grace, the power of new life now, and the pledge of life in the age to come. The meaning of baptism is grounded in God’s redemptive action in Christ, it incorporates the believer in the community in the body of Christ, and it anticipates life in the coming age when the powers of the old world will be overcome and the purposes of God will triumph.
Importance of scripture.—We believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God and that it is best heard and understood within the community of faith with the diverse insight that context provides.
Congregational yet voluntarily connectional.—We give the local congregation authority over its life and ministries, and yet we share resources freely with a connected church (our denomination), knowing that the mission of the church is not just local.
Educated clergy.—We set educational and professional standards for ministers, licensed and ordained, and hold our clergy to ethical accountability through denominational oversight.
Priority on ecumenical life.—Disciples earnestly pray and strive for the unity of the church and attempt to work in ways that bridge the separation of Christ's body.