Christadelphians call themselves such because of their belief that all who are in Christ are His brethren. At the time of the Civil War this name was selected when their members were granted exemption from military duty on the ground of being conscientious objectors to war.
The church was founded by John Thomas, M.D., an Englishman, who came to the United States in 1844. For a time he connected with the Disciples of Christ, but soon he declared his opposition to the doctrines of that body, believing that their religious teaching of that day was contrary to the teaching of the Bible. He held to the Bible as the only rule of faith and practice, and the idea of the restoration of primitive Christianity.
The Christadelphians have no conferences nor associations but hold "fraternal gatherings." They designate their congregations as "ecclesias" to "distinguish them from so-called churches of the apostasy." They have no ordained ministers. At present they have 134 societies or ecclesias, and 3,352 members, principally in England, United States, and New Zealand. They have had an increase of less than 500 in the past ten years. Their largest ecclesia is in Birmingham, England. The Christadelphia Advocate, published at Waterloo, Iowa, is their organ.
Each ecclesia is self-organized and self-governed. Each ecclesia keeps its own records. There is no central office, and no attempt is made to compile statistics.
They meet every first day of the week to eat bread and drink wine in remembrance of the Captain of their salvation, who died for them. The morning service is usually confined to "the brethren"—at which the speaking is directed to "those within." Evening meetings are for "those without"—held as a rule on Sunday evenings. The subject of the evening address is always some aspect of "the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus." At these meetings there is never any collection. All collections are made privately or by a collection at the morning service. They expend but little money on building "places of worship," and a "hired place" is deemed sufficient.
Marriage with an unbeliever is an offense against the law of Christ. If such an offense takes place, the ecclesia must signify its disapproval by a resolution sent to the offending brother or sister, after which the member may retain his place among the brethren only by admitting the offense. Their beliefs are as follows:
1. They do not hold to the ordinary view of the Trinity. They believe the Holy Spirit is not a person but an effluence of divine power. They believe in one supreme God, who dwells in unapproachable light; in Jesus Christ, in whom was manifest the eternal spirit of God, and who died for the offenses of sinners, and rose for the justification of believing men and women. They believe that Christ is the Son of God, deriving from the Deity moral perfection, but from His mother a human nature. He has a threefold character of prophet, priest, and king; the first of which He purchased by His life and death on earth. Now as priest He mediates before the Deity. As King He will return to earth and reign over all the world from the throne of David in the Holy Land.
1. One baptism only—immersion. "Buried with Christ unto death to sin," which is essential to salvation.
2. immortality only in Christ. God will restore to immortal life all who love Him in this life.
3. Hell not as a place of torment but as the grave.
4. Resurrection of the just and unjust.
5. litter annihilation of the wicked, and the non-resurrection of those who have never heard the gospel, who lack in intelligence (as infants), or those who are sunk in ignorance or brutality.
6. Second coming of Christ to establish His kingdom on earth, which is to be fitted for the everlasting abode of the saints.
7. Proximity of this second coming. For the purpose of reigning on earth.
8. At the end of the thousand years the righteous will receive their reward of eternal life and the wicked will be sentenced to eternal death
9. Satan as scriptural personification of sin and not as a personal devil.
10. Millennial reign of Christ on earth over the nations, during which sin and death will continue in a milder degree, and after which Christ will surrender His position of supremacy, and God will reveal Himself and become Father and Governor of a complete family.
11. Salvation only for those who can understand the faith as taught by Christadelphians, and who become obedient to it.
12. They believe the corruption of civil and ecclesiastical affairs has advanced beyond all human power of redress, and can be dealt with only by the judgments of God. Hence the fact that Christadelphians, though strictly law abiding, do not feel called upon to engage in efforts for social or political amelioration, and refuse to bear arms.
Ada L. Foulston. [Minister's Wife, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.]
When the people of God engage in this work with real travail of soul, there will be manifest a decided change in cities and villages. This hovering about churches to keep them propped up, makes them more dependent on human effort. They learn to lean on the experiences of their fellow men, and do not make God their dependence and their efficiency. . .
We are not to hover over the ninety and nine, but to go forth to save the lost, hunting them up in the wilderness of the large cities and towns.. . . This is no time for the messengers of God to stop to prop up those who know the truth, and who have every advantage.—Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 231-233.
In every church the members should be so trained that they will devote time to the winning of souls to Christ. How can it be said of the church, "Ye are the light of the world," unless the members of the church are actually imparting light? Let those who have charge of the flock of Christ awake to their duty, and set many souls to work.—Testimonies, Vol. VI, p. 436.
The Bureau of Census of Religious Bodies of the U.S. Department of Commerce reports a combined constituency of nearly 40,000 for nine Pentecostal bodies in 1936. Of these the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ was the largest. Later statistics from the 1943 Year Book of American Churches give a constituency of 291,000 for 13 bodies.
"The Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ," they report, "is a continuation of the great revival that began at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, A.D. 33." The true followers have been little known, but they believe that there have always been some "contenders for the faith." Throughout the centuries there have been spasmodic outbursts of these spiritual gifts. In 1901 a great revival broke out in Kansas and spread to Texas and Los Angeles in 1906. From there it has projected throughout the United States and into several other nations. The strongest churches are in the Midwest, the South, and Los Angeles, headquarters being in Newark, Ohio.
The Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ Church is representative of her sister churches, as there was a general movement throughout the Midwest about forty years ago. The movement went southward and to southern California. The many other branches are more recent offshoots that have sprung up in the various parts of the country sometime following the first awakening.
Doctrines held by the Pentecostal Assemblies are: Inspiration of the Word, salvation through Christ, atonement, the world waxing worse, the soon coming of Christ when the living righteous will be translated, a thousand years of peace on the earth, followed by the resurrection of the wicked and their judgment. They discourage divorce, except on scriptural grounds, believe firmly in sanctification by the Holy Ghost, and that this is manifested by the gift of tongues. They are conservative in dress. It is of interest to note that several of the churches adhere to the following teachings : tithing, foot washing, danger of uniting with unions, noncombatancy, and the strict observance of Sunday.
The Pentecostal Assemblies organization is Presbyterian in form ; each local church manages its own affairs so long as it is done in harmony with the General Assembly. There is a foreign mission board, a young people's association, and the Pentecostal Outlook is the official organ of the denomination.
These Pentecostal churches are not affiliated with the Church Federation but are rather isolated from other denominations because of their peculiar demonstrations and their desire to separate from the world. Their increased membership, however, has had a profound influence upon the uneducated classes in the Central and Southern States. Their contributions to society include orphanages, hospitals, and homes for the aged.
Maxine Kochenderfer. [Bible Instructor, Central California.]
* A continuation of the belief and work of other denominations. British-Israelism and the Presbyterian' Church were discussed in the previous issue of The Ministry.