Setting the Table With Bibles: A History of the Non-Aligned, Non-Class Churches of Christ
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This study seeks to explore the non-aligned, non-class Church of Christ, a particular movement within the Churches of Christ\Disciples of Christ, which has never been recognized as a separate and independent part of the conservative movement of either of these groups even though their numbers are approximately three hundred congregations within the United States and many more abroad. This particular movement’s interrelationships and doctrinal similarities among the affiliated congregations have changed very little over the past 100 years. Their way of responding to problems within their local, independent congregations, coupled with their development from a distinctly different lineage than the ‘mainstream’ Disciples of Christ or other Churches of Christ, make them an interesting group to study and explore. This group may also be classified as a hyper-congregational organization in their insistence on maintaining their independence within a loosely confederated fellowship of like faith and doctrine. Utilizing oral history interviews, primary source documents (such as sermons, correspondence, periodicals, and pamphlets), secondary literature (Church of Christ and non-Church of Christ) and photographic media, this study follows the development of the non-aligned, non-class Churches of Christ during the early 1800s through the middle of the twentieth century. Five main aspects will be discussed in this document: (1) these congregations developed in rural areas, free from the encroachment of new people and new ideas and yet their influence and characteristics would influence many other groups throughout the southern United States, (2) these congregations began through the efforts of men such as James O’Kelly in the late 1700s and Moses Park in 1845, men with a vision of congregations based upon a primitive pattern established within the Bible almost two thousand years ago, (3) the influx of local Baptists, who had likewise fought against certain religious innovations, into the early development of the non-aligned, non-class Churches of Christ prompted them to reject missionary societies and paid preachers, (4) they received further instruction from men who helped to maintain the views of the congregations in Randolph County, by reinforcing their doctrines through consistent preaching and teaching, and (5) these congregations maintained strong ties to one another through intermarriage and attending each other’s meetings, thereby reinforcing conservative teaching in an unbroken generational line.