My faith tradition

Written by Joel on April 20th, 2008

I grew up in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), DOC for short. I thought it might be helpful to attempt to explain the main tenets of this tradition.

In short

  • Unity is of primary importance.
    • Christians can disagree on matters of faith and remain unified.
    • Creeds are not to be used as a test for fellowship.
    • Strangely enough, it would be possible to hold Roman Catholic faith about many matters and yet find a welcoming home in a DOC congregation.
  • Personal interpretation of scripture is encouraged if not required.
  • Celebration of the Lord’s Supper is central to worship and practiced every Sunday.
  • We practice believer’s baptism (as opposed to infant baptism).
  • The church government is focused on the congregation. Individual congregations own their own property and call their own pastors. The diocese (we call them regions) exercises little authoritative control over churches. The bishop (we call them regional ministers) serves needs that cannot be covered by a local church and provides counsel to local pastors.

One of the catch-phrases of this tradition is “unity is our polar star.” Our founder, Alexander Campbell sought to bring all Christians together in line with Jesus’ prayer “that they might be one.”

Campbell sought to boil faith down to what he called essentials. I have labored to find a definition (i.e. a list) of these essentials to faith, but any such list does not appear to exist. I believe this is intentional so that the broadest possible definition of Christian can be held.

Another favorite DOC quote is “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.” This basically means that we will agree upon the essentials of faith but allow personal freedom in other beliefs. My best guess at the essentials is the affirmation that “Jesus is my Lord and Savior” because this is all that is required for a believer to be baptized.

Campbell believed that disagreement among fellow Christians was not grounds for division. That we could disagree with one another and yet call each other Christians and maintain our communion.

Today the DOC church is a mainline Protestant denomination. While many congregations, and the general church, are involved in ecumenical ministries I wouldn’t define it as a “movement” anymore.

Because decisions are made at the congregational level, there may be huge differences from church to church in the DOC tradition. Anything from architecture and worship style to teaching and theology can differ greatly.

The DOC church has been a safe and affirming place for me to wrestle with my faith. And while I have some concern about the lose theological structure which exists, I’m certain that I wouldn’t have been able to explore my faith as deeply anywhere else.


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