Disciples of Christ

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) came into being in 1832 in Lexington, Kentucky, with the union of Barton Stone's Christians and Alexander Campbell's reformers. The uniting groups shared the catholic vision of restoring unity based on the authority of Scripture to the divided church.

Both Campbell's reformers and Stone's Christians had established congregations in Tennessee before the Lexington unity event. In 1796, as a young Presbyterian minister, Barton Stone made his way from North Carolina to Kentucky by preaching his way across Tennessee. In 1801 he was host pastor to the great Cane Ridge, Kentucky, communion that launched his movement toward unity, “our polar star.” He then left the Presbyterian church. In 1810 he moved to Tennessee, where he lived until 1814. Ministering as an itinerant evangelist, he established the first Christian congregation at Hopewell, Sumner County, in 1811. By the time of the 1832 union with Campbell's followers, there were approximately twenty-five congregations and 2,000 members in Tennessee.

Campbell's reformers came to Tennessee in the person of Philip S. Fall. This young English immigrant was a Reformed Baptist converted by Campbell's teachings. Fall moved from Louisville, Kentucky, in 1826, and began work in Nashville as a preacher and teacher. In two ministries in Nashville, he developed his congregation (today's Vine Street Christian Church) into the largest church among Campbell's followers. The membership was almost evenly divided between blacks and whites.

At the time Tennessee celebrated its bicentennial in 1996, it was the home of sixty-seven Disciples congregations with 23,350 members. The Disciples' largest North American congregation is located in Memphis: the 9,000-member Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church, an African American congregation. The Disciples Divinity House at Vanderbilt University is one of the Disciples centers for education of ministers. The Disciples of Christ Historical Society of Nashville is the worldwide archival center of the Stone-Campbell Movement, which now encompasses three denominations.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Disciples of Christ
  • Author
  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
  • URL
  • Access Date July 25, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018