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Beliefs and practices::Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

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Beliefs and practices {{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Essay-like |date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Message box|ambox}} }} {{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Refimprove section |date=__DATE__ |$B= {{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Refimprove |date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Message box|ambox}} }} }} As an integral part of worship in most Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregations members celebrate the Lord's Supper. Most congregations also sing hymns, read from the Old and New Testaments of Christian Scripture, hear the word of God proclaimed through sermon or other medium and extend an invitation to become Christ's Disciples. As a congregational church, each congregation determines the nature of its worship, study, Christian service, and witness to the world. Through the observance of communion, individuals are invited to acknowledge their faults and sins, to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, to remember their baptism, and to give thanks for God's redeeming love.<ref>Cartwright (1987) pages 22-23</ref> The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) believes that it is in the local congregations where people come, find, and know God as they gather in Christ's name.<ref>Cartwright (1987) page 30</ref> Because Disciples believe that the invitation to the table comes from Jesus Christ, communion is open to all who confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, regardless of their denominational affiliation.<ref>Cartwright, 1991, page 29</ref>

Baptism by immersion
For most Disciples, communion is understood as the symbolic presence of Jesus within the gathered community. Most Disciple congregations practice believer's baptism in the form of immersion, believing it to be the form used in the New Testament. The experiences of yielding to Christ in being buried with him in the waters of baptism and rising to a new life, have profound meaning for the church.<ref>Cartwright, (1987) pages 61 - 68</ref>
"In essentials, Unity; In non-essentials, Liberty; and in all things, Charity."
Marco Antonio de Dominis, De Repubblica Ecclesiastica, adopted as the 19th Century slogan of the Stone-Campbell Movement

For modern Disciples the one essential is the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and obedience to him in baptism.<ref>Cummins. 1991, Pages 64-65</ref> There is no requirement to give assent to any other statement of belief or creed. Nor is there any "official" interpretation of the Bible.<ref>Cummins (1991) pages 14 - 15</ref> Hierarchical doctrine was traditionally rejected by Disciples as human-made and divisive, and subsequently, freedom of belief and scriptural interpretation allows many Disciples to question or even deny beliefs common in doctrinal churches such as the Incarnation, the Trinity, and the Atonement. Beyond the essential commitment to follow Jesus there is a tremendous freedom of belief and interpretation. As the basic teachings of Jesus are studied and applied to life, there is the freedom to interpret Jesus' teaching in different ways. As would be expected from such an approach, there is a wide diversity among Disciples in what individuals and congregations believe. It is not uncommon to find individuals who seemingly hold diametrically opposed beliefs within the same congregation affirming one another's journeys of faith as sisters and brothers in Christ.

Members and seekers are encouraged to take being disciples seriously, meaning that they are student followers of Jesus. Often the best teaching comes in the form, "I'll tell you what I think, but read the Bible for yourself, and then study and pray about it. Decide in what ways God is calling you to be a follower of Jesus."

Modern Disciples reject the use of creeds as "tests of faith," that is, as required beliefs, necessary to be accepted as a follower of Jesus. Although Disciples respect the great creeds of the church as informative affirmations of faith, they are never seen as binding. Since the adoption of The Design of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),<ref>The Design of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)</ref> in 1968, Disciples have celebrated a sense of unity in reading the preamble to the Design publicly. It is as a meaningful affirmation of faith, not binding upon any member. It was originally intended to remind readers that this Church seeks God through Jesus Christ, even when it adopts a design for its business affairs.

". . .the church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one;
consisting of all those in every place that profess their faith in Christ
and obedience to him in all things. . ."

Thomas Campbell — Proposition 1 of the Declaration and address

The Disciples celebrate their oneness with all who seek God through Jesus Christ, throughout time and regardless of location. That oneness is symbolized in the open invitation to communion for all who have professed faith in Christ without regard to church affiliation.<ref>Cartwright 1987. Page 13</ref>

In local communities, congregations share with churches of other denominations in joint worship and in community Christian service. Ecumenical cooperation and collaboration with other Christian Communions has long been practiced, by the Regions.

At the General Church level, the Council on Christian Unity<ref>Council on Christian Unity</ref> coordinates the ecumenical activities of the church. The Disciples continues to relate to the National Council of Churches, of which it was a founding member. It shares in the dialog and in the theological endeavors of the World Council of Churches. The Disciples has been a full participant in the Consultation on Church Union since it began in the sixties. It continues to support those ongoing conversations which have taken on the title Churches Uniting in Christ. The goal of these endeavors is not the merger into some "Super Church", but rather to discover ways to celebrate and proclaim the unity and oneness that is Christ's gift to his church.

Congregations

Congregations of the Christian Church are self-governing in the tradition of congregational polity. They select their own leadership, own their own property, and manage their own affairs.

In Disciples congregations, the priesthood of all believers finds its expression in worship and Christian service. Typically, lay persons who have been elected and ordained as Elders preside with called and installed ordained pastors in the celebration of the sacrament of Holy Communion. The Elders and called Pastors provide spiritual oversight and care for members in partnership with one another.<ref>Cartwright (1987) pages 42 - 44</ref>

Regional ministries

{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Refimprove section |date=__DATE__ |$B= {{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Refimprove |date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Message box|ambox}} }} }} The Regional Churches of the Christian Church provide resources for leadership development and opportunities for Christian fellowship beyond the local congregation. They have taken responsibility for the nurture and support of those individuals seeking to discern God's call to service as ordained or licensed ministers. Typically, they organize summer camping experiences for children and youth.<ref>Regional Ministries</ref>

Regional churches assist congregations who are seeking ministers and ministers who are seeking congregations. Regional leadership is available on request to assist congregations that face conflict. Though they have no authority to direct the life of any congregation, the Regional Churches are analogous to the middle judicatories of other denominations.

General Ministries

{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Refimprove section |date=__DATE__ |$B= {{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||$N=Refimprove |date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Message box|ambox}} }} }} The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) at the "General Church" level consists of a number of self-governing agencies, which focus upon specific Christian witnesses to the world that have emerged in the dialog within the movement since before the first convention in 1849. Typically, these ministries have a scope that is larger than Regional Ministries, and often have a global perspective. The church agencies report to the General Assembly, which meets biennially in odd numbered years. The General Minister and President (GMP) is the designated leader for the General Church, but does not have the administrative authority to direct any of the general church agencies other than "The Office of General Minister and President." The GMP has influence that derives from the respect of the church much as the pastor of a local church leads a local congregation.

The General Ministries are:<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref>

  • Office of the General Minister and President
  • Christian Board of Publication/Chalice Press
  • Christian Church Foundation
  • Church Extension
  • Council on Christian Unity
  • Disciples of Christ Historical Society
  • Disciples Home Missions
  • Division of Overseas Ministries/Global Ministries
  • Higher Education and Leadership Ministries
  • National Benevolent Association
  • Pension Fund

One highly popular and respected General Agency program is the "Week of Compassion," named for the special offering to fund the program when it began in the 1950s. The Week of Compassion is the disaster relief and Third World development agency.<ref>Week of Compassion</ref> It works closely with Church World Service and church related organizations in countries around the world where disasters strike, providing emergency aid.

The General Church has challenged the entire denomination to work for a 2020 Vision<ref>The Four Priorities of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)</ref> for the first two decades of the 21st Century. Together the denomination is well on the way to achieving its four foci:

The relationship between the congregations, regions and the general church are detailed in The Design of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).<ref>The Design of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).</ref><ref>Watkins, Sharon E. (2006) pages 291 -303</ref>

At the 2005 General Assembly, over 3000 delegates voted nearly unanimously to elect the Sharon E. Watkins as General Minister and President of the denomination.<ref>Office of the General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)</ref> Watkins was the first woman to be elected as the presiding minister of a mainline Protestant denomination.<ref>Watkins, Sharon E. (2006) page 206</ref>

Chalice

The logo of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a red chalice with a white St. Andrew's Cross. The chalice represents the centrality of Communion to the life of the church. The cross of Saint Andrew is a reminder of the ministry of each person and the importance of evangelism, and recalls the denomination's Scottish Presbyterian ancestry.

After the 1968 General Assembly, the Administrative Committee charged a sub-committee with the task of proposing a symbol for the church. Hundreds of designs were submitted, but none seemed right. By November the Deputy General Minister and President, William Howland, suggested that the committee's staff consultant and chairperson agree on a specific proposal and bring it back to the committee: that meant Robert L. Friedly of the Office of Interpretation and Ronald E. Osborn.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }}

On January 20, 1970, the two men sat down for lunch. With a red felt-tip pen, Osborn began to scrawl a Saint Andrew's cross circumscribed inside a chalice on his placemat.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }}

Immediately, Friedly dispatched the crude drawing to Bruce Tilsley, a commercial artist and member of Central Christian Church of Denver, with the plea that he prepare an artistic version of the ideas. Tilsley responded with two or three sketches, from which was selected the now-familiar red chalice. Use of the proposed symbol became so prevalent that there was little debate when official adoption was considered at the 1971 General Assembly.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }}

The chalice is a registered trademark of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Congregations and ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are free to use the chalice in publications, web sites and other media. Organizations not affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) are asked to obtain permission.<ref>The Chalice</ref>

Because most congregations call themselves "Christian Churches," the chalice has become a simple way to identify Disciples of Christ Churches through signage, letterhead, and other forms of publicity.


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