Who are the Disciples of Christ?
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was founded in the early 1800s in the United States. The founders envisioned a united church of Jesus Christ modeled on the New Testament. We structure our community around the biblical idea of covenant, emphasizing not obedience to human authority but accountability to one another because of our shared belief in Christ.
Today our 3,600 congregations still share these characteristics:
• Each congregation is self-governing and calls its own pastor.
• Worship services may be formal or informal, and include women and men in leadership.
• Open discussion of issues is encouraged. Diversity of opinion is common.
• We are growing in racial and ethnic diversity
The Lord's Supper, or Communion is celebrated in weekly worship. The table is open to all who believe in Jesus Christ. That means that all are invited to respond to Christ’s invitation to draw closer to God around the communion table no matter where you come from, what you’ve done or who you are. All are welcome at the table. We do not discriminate against race, religion or creed. For Disciples, the open table is a powerful symbol of our deep commitment to Christian unity. The open table honors diversity even as it celebrates unity in Christ.
Believer's baptism is of equal importance to Disciples. A profession of faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior precedes the actual water baptism, by the ancient form of immersion. Though Disciples practice no other form of baptism, they honor other baptism traditions. Disciples do practice infant dedications in which parents covenant with God to raise the child in the Christian tradition.
Freedom of Belief
Disciples are called together around belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Persons are free to follow their consciences guided by the Bible, the Holy Spirit, study and prayer, and are expected to extend that freedom to others. We hold the centrality of scripture, recognizing that each person has the freedom - and the responsibility - to study God's Word within the community of the church. In our diversity we belong to one another because we commonly belong to Christ.
Each congregation of Disciples is autonomous--calling its own pastors and staff members; adopting its own budget; writing its own constitution; and deciding which missions, charities, and benevolence its members wish to support. For the most part Disciples of Christ congregations do align themselves with sister churches at a district, regional, and national level. Such groups provide various gatherings and conventions; camp and conference programs, educational materials; and many church agencies and missions which no single church can provide. Most congregations participate in ecumenical groups and strive towards Christian unity.
The Disciples have parented many colleges, universities, and seminaries. These include Texas Christian, Drake, Bethany, Hiram College, Brite Divinity School, Lexington Theological Seminary, and Christian Theological Seminary. Through the National Benevolent Association of the Christian Church, Disciples share in the support of over sixty homes for the aged and institutions caring for mentally and physically challenged individuals. Home and overseas ministries are extensive. Disciples share in Church World Service, One Great Hour of Sharing and many other interfaith ventures.
From the ranks of our Disciples of Christ congregations, we boast three U.S. Presidents. Many other widely known statesmen, musicians, writers, and pastors trace their roots to our religious community.