History of the Christian Disciples of the Evangelical Christian Church in Canada
"We Are Christians Only, But Not The Only Christians, And The Bible Is Our Only Book."
The Evangelical Christian Church often called the Christian Church (Christian Disciples), in the United States is a conservative Protestant denomination stemming from the early 19th-century Restoration Movement led by Barton Warren Stone and Walter Scott of Kentucky, Thomas and Alexander Campbell of Virginia, and in Canada, John R. Stewart of the Scottish Baptist Church movement from Perthshire, Scotland.
The Evangelical Christian Church in Canada (Christian Disciples), founded in 1810 as the first evangelical movement in Canada before Confederation. This group identifies with the "Christians" formally organized by Barton W. Stone in Kentucky in 1804, with the first Canadian "Christian" fellowship at "Crossroads" in Prince Edward Island in 1810. The Canadian movement also embraced the values of the Holiness movement of the late 19th century. The leaders sought to reform the church along non-sectarian, non-creedal lines, embracing Stone's motto of "Let the unity of Christians be our polar star." The name of the newly united groups incorporated "disciples" and "Christians" and became known as the Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples). Scholars combined rationalism in biblical studies with the philosophy developed during the WELSH revival and second GREAT AWAKENING, an evangelical religious revival movement (1790-1840). From its earliest beginnings in Canada, many autonomous congregations emerged as members who embraced the simple lines of the organization. Church buildings were built as meeting places where these congregations came together to worship Jesus Christ as Lord and God.
John R. Steward was the first to have planted the first restorationist congregation in the Canadian colonies, in 1810, at "the Crossroads," Queens' County, Stratford, Prince Edward Island. As early as 1810, he was holding worship services in his home. At that time, all the adherents were of Scots ancestry and their faith was influenced by Baptist theology. By 1813, the young congregation decided to establish their first meeting house - a crude log cabin was only thirty feet long by twenty feet wide. Steward was baptized by Alexander Crawford who had come to Nova Scotia from the Scottish Island of Arran in 1810, and to PEI in 1811. Crawford had been a student of the Haldane school at Edinburgh and had witnessed the baptism of the Haldane's. As well, several of the families that included the Stewards at Crossroads may have responded to Haldane preaching at revivals in Perthshire, Scotland before migrating. Alexander Crawford, who was then also working in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Crawford would remain with the Cross Roads congregation for almost two years before moving to Tryon. The Evangelical Christian Church is the OLDEST - Christian Disciples Church in Canada - Stratford, PEI
The earliest influences that subsequently affected the Christian Disciples movement in Canada were three reforming Baptism movements with a Presbyterian backdrop in Scotland - The "Scotch Baptists," the "Scottish Baptists," and the Haldane movement. "Scotch Baptists" was a description given to this small group of believers who added baptism to the tenets of the "Old Scots Independents" in Canada. The faith of a number of migrants to Canada was shaped by these developments. Subsequently, in America, there were also three Baptist groups along with both Methodist and Presbyterian connections that exerted an influence in the colonies of British North America: the Christian Connection, the Free Will Baptists, the early Baptist phase of the Disciples of Christ, and the "Christians" of North Carolina and Kentucky. The journals and missionaries of these groups influenced the Canadian settlers to have played a role in Canada's Confederation.
Other groups in America that would affect Restoration in Canada were: the reforming "Christians" of O'Kelly's influence of North Carolina, and Barton W. Stones' in Kentucky, the first a Methodist, and the second a Presbyterian; the "Christian Connection" of Elias Smith and Abner Jones, former Baptists of New England (there were 33 "Christian Connection" churches planted in Upper Canada by 1834); and the "Free Will Baptists" of Benjamin Randalls's leadership in New Hampshire who impacted the early days of Restoration in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and in Upper Canada via New York State.
The restructuring of congregations during the 1960s and early 1970s culminated in the publication of the constitutional document, Design (1978). Since then, the church has been governed by the decisions of delegates at biennial General Assemblies, and resolutions are implemented by each congregation and other church units. Within the North American ECC, the Region of Canada, which had 30 churches and some 3500 members in the mid-1990s (down from 38 churches in the 1980s), is unique in that it functions as a national church and has full denominational status at national and international levels.
Today, the Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) offers the Holy Communion to all Christians and baptism by immersion for new Christians. The prior baptism of persons transferring from other denominations is recognized and accepted, a practice known as "open membership." Ordination of women and men to the ministry normally follows graduation from a theological study in an accredited seminary, with credentials granted by the national church on behalf of the whole church. Congregations are involved in cultural and charitable activities in their communities and world development and local and international mission projects. The Christian Disciples of the Evangelical Christian Church have a long heritage of openness to other Judeo-Christian traditions having come into existence as a 19th-century protest movement against denominational exclusiveness. At the local level and beyond, the Christian Disciples are frequently involved in cooperative and evangelical work globally.
The Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) hold non-sectarian views, working to unite all Christians under the restored authority of the New Testament - returning to a healthy biblical view of "Sola Scriptura" - by Scripture alone. They are actively involved in social issues and cultural life, nationally and internationally. This participation in sacramental life consists of believers' immersion baptism and the weekly celebration of the Lord's Supper, as a response of obedience to the teachings, life, and ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus, who is God in the flesh. The Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples) distinguished between clergy and laypersons on functional rather than sacramental grounds. Congregations are currently led by elders and deacons who are neither ordained nor appointed for life. Lay elders, many of them women, often take charge of a Lord's Supper celebration. The Evangelical Christian Church grants credentials by the regions or districts.
Each year, clergy and churches gather at their General Assembly for the purpose of training, discussing religious and political matters that concern Canada, and connecting with other pastors in the group. Regional groups are for the purpose of relationships and the sharing of information and ideas. See Disciples History in Canada concerning our founder, Alexander Campbell
The Evangelical Christian Church in Canada (Christian Disciples) is also a sister denomination to the Evangelical Christian Church in North America U.S.A., and the Evangelical Christian Church in England.