Practices and Beliefs
It is no simple task to summarize what members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) believe. In his book We Call Ourselves Disciples, General Minister and President Emeritus Dr. Kenneth Teegarden explains:
“Disciples always have opposed…the use of creeds to exclude persons from the church. It was (the) use of creeds as ‘tests of fellowship’ that the Disciples’ founding fathers fingered as the major cause of division among Christians…(So) unlike most other churches, we Disciples do not have an official doctrinal statement we can refer to when someone asks, ‘What does the Christian Church believe?'”
“For many years, The Christian Evangelist,a forerunner of our present journal The Disciple, carried a maxim in its masthead: ‘In essentials, unity: in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.’ It expresses the cherished conviction that liberty should be allowed in the nonessential areas into which most creedal statements roam.” A widely-known slogan among Disciples claims “No Creed but Christ.” That conviction is borne out in the manner in which persons come to be a part of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Dr. Teegarden goes on to say:
“Standing before a congregation of Disciples to confess faith in Jesus Christ and become part of the church, a person is asked only one question. It is usually phrased, ‘Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and do you accept him as your personal Savior?’ The person who responds, ‘I do,’ might have recently completed a church membership course. If so, the instruction will not have been to transmit a system of doctrines. In fact, a person who is comfortable with a dogmatic approach would be disappointed in the Christian Church.”
“We Disciples have beliefs and practices in common with all sorts of Christians. These apparent similarities sometimes are superficial, sometimes fundamental. We baptize by immersion, so we look like Baptists. We have Communion every Sunday, so we look a bit like Roman Catholics. We stress the ministry of the laity, so we look a little like Quakers. Our congregations call their pastors rather than accepting assigned ministers, so in that respect we look like Presbyterians. We rely heavily on preaching and teaching, so we look somewhat like Methodists. We have congregational government, so we look a lot like the United Church of Christ.”
While Disciples honor no human-made creed, the preamble to a document called The Design for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) poetically and prayerfully expresses our shared affirmations in this way:
“As members of the Christian Church, we confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and proclaim him Lord and Savior of the world. In Christ’s name and by his grace we accept our mission of witness and service to all people. We rejoice in God, maker of heaven and earth, and in the covenant of love which binds us to God and to one another. Through baptism into Christ we enter into newness of life and are made one with the whole people of God. In the communion of the Holy Spirit we are joined together in discipleship and in obedience to Christ. At the table of the Lord we celebrate with thanksgiving the saving acts and presence of Christ. Within the universal church we receive the gift of ministry and the light of scripture. In the bonds of Christian faith we yield ourselves to God that we may serve the One whose kingdom has no end. Blessing, glory and honor be to God forever. Amen.”
About the Chalice
The red chalice, bearing the “X-shaped” cross of St. Andrew was adopted as the symbol of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) by the denomination’s General Assembly in 1971.
The chalice symbolizes the centrality of the Lord’s Supper to Disciples life. The St. Andrew’s Cross, the national cross of Scotland, focuses attention on the *Scotch Presbyterian roots of the church. Thomas and Alexander Campbell both studied in Scotland and were Presbyterians. St. Andrew has been identified with the laity and evangelism, prominent emphases of the Disciples over the years.
The red color of the chalice signifies vitality, spirit and sacrifice. The chalice and St. Andrew’s Cross, symbol of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), adopted by the church’s General Assembly in 1971, is a trademark registered with the United States Patent Office.
[*21st usage — “Scottish.” Writing in the mid-1800s, the Campbells referred the Presbyterian Church of Scotland as the “Scotch Presbyterian” church.]
To learn more about Disciples of Christ, please visit any of the following:
National Church – www.disciples.org
Disciples Homeland Ministries – www.homelandministries.org
Disciples Pacific-Southwest Region – www.disciplespswr.org
Disciples World magazine – www.disciplesworld.com