Campbellism at Union City
Campbellism at Union City
Alexander Campbell was a Scots Presbyterian, who became a Baptist, and then formed his own church, known today as the Disciples of Christ (Christian Church). Some of his followers use the name Church of Christ. Other denominations called them Campbellites. As we have written in this column, a number of Baptist churches in Madison County were divided over Campbellism. Some of them went over to the new denomination en masse, others lost over 50% of their membership to the movement. Some Presbyterian churches also split over the new doctrines, but most of the membership of the Christian churches came from the Baptists. The Union City Baptist Church was one of those most affected by Campbellism. Details come from Conkwright's book on churches in the Boone's Creek Association, of which Union was a member. Conkwright wrote from the viewpoint of the Baptists and used the word Reformers for the followers of Campbell. The major division between Baptists and Disciples was then, and is now, the question of baptismal regeneration. The Disciples teach that you must be baptized to be saved, Baptists say you do not. The Union City Baptist Church was constituted on April 30, 1812, with 18 members. Until 1839 the church was a member of the Tate's Creek Association. In 1847 it joined the South Fork Association and in 1857 became a member of Boone's Creek Association. Today the church is back in the Tate's Creek group. To quote Conkwright: "--at the Union City Church in 1829-30 when Elder Alexander Campbell and his followers, especially Elder Raccoon John Smith, made such a fight in the Boone's Creek Association and sank six out of thirteen battleships of the Baptists in the sea of baptismal regeneration, which were lost to the Baptists forever. At Union City, only 15 members were saved from the wreck. About this time the doctrine preached by Alexander Campbell was becoming widely accepted and he had many followers even in the Baptist churches, the members of which were very restless and many were divided. In June 1829 a motion was made by Samuel Denny asking if the church still adhered to their original principles. By a majority vote the church said it did. However in October 1830, there was a division in the church, a majority of the members going to the sect known as Reformers, believing in the doctrine as preached by Alexander Campbell, leaving but 15 who held to the original faith. During the ministry of Bro. Joseph Ambrose, in 1848, the church agreed with the Reformed brethren to erect a brick building on the ground occupied by the old log church, the Baptists to worship the first Sunday in each month and the Reformers the second Sunday. The meeting house was owned jointly until November 3, 1893, when the Baptists purchased the interest of the Reformers in the lot and building." The Reformers erected their own building and are now known as the Union City Christian Church. Thus Madison County churches split in the 1830s and a new denomination, mainly known today as Christian churches, came into being. Could the memberships of the Baptist and Christian churches in 1992 intelligently debate the issue of baptismal regeneration? Both hold to total immersion rather than sprinkling like the Methodists and Presbyterians, but is it necessary for salvation? In Union City they agreed to disagree and we have two churches. At Pond-White Oak the Christian church replaced the Baptist. The division in Madison County remains, as it does in the nation. A quick look at the scene shows that about half the churches are under the denominational label Christian, about half under the name Disciples of Christ. So Alexander Campbell's followers have split among themselves. And then there are the Churches of Christ. But that is another story, for another time.
Dr. Fred Engle
Content may be freely copied for personal and educational purposes with appropriate citation. Permission is required to reprint.
Dr. Fred Engle, “Campbellism at Union City,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed January 30, 2023, https://madisonsheritage.eku.edu/items/show/937.