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United Kingdom


Map of the United Kingdom

United Kingdom

World Convention is currently building a global reference for the  countries and territories where we know there are Christian – Churches of Christ – Disciples of Christ Congregations. Of the 193 United Nations States, the Stone-Campbell Movement exists in 174. This listing includes other nations and territories, numbering 195 countries where there is at least one representation of our churches.

Rather than waiting for comprehensive, complete information we are putting up the details we have available. If you can correct or add to this information, please contact the World Convention Office with details at gary@worldconvention.org.

Stone-Campbell Movement
            Scotch Baptist minister William Jones in London, began to publish the Millennial Harbinger and Church Advocate in 1835, reprinting several articles from Alexander Campbell. James Wallis (1793-1867) of Nottingham was influenced by those writings and eventually led a group of Scotch Baptists to form the Church of Christ in Nottingham in 1836, the first Stone-Campbell church in Britain. Wallis became an early influential leader of the churches that numbered forty-three congregations and over 12000 members by 1842 when the first Cooperation Meeting was held in Edinburgh. The churches continued to grow in spite of controversy over open membership and premillennialism.

David King (1819-1894) was the most significant second generation leader in Britain, influencing them through his evangelistic work of planting churches in Manchester and Birmingham, through his journals, the Bible Advocate, then the British Millennial Harbinger, and through his voice in the Annual Meeting of the Cooperation. During King’s time there was controversy over how close the British connections should be to the American churches, particularly with the Foreign Christian Missionary Society that was beginning to send evangelists to Britain. Many in Britain were troubled by what they saw as American practices like open communion, paid local pastors, colleges that trained preachers, and missionary societies.

As a result, in 1881 some churches formed the Christian Association, more closely connected with the American Foreign Christian Missionary Society. There were thus two groups of churches in Britain—the Association churches and the Cooperation churches—until they united in 1917.

The church faced several troublesome issues in the first half of the twentieth century.  One was pacifism, a policy of a majority of members during World War One, some of served prison time for their refusal to fight. Another involved education and higher criticism of the Bible. The churches had begun Overdale College in Birmingham in 1920 with William Robinson (1888-1963) as principal. Robinson was an influential theologian in the global Stone-Campbell Movement who defended higher criticism and worked ecumenically, attending the first Faith and Order Conference in Lausanne in 1927 and the first World Council of Churches meeting in Amsterdam in 1948. A third issue was that of having a local preacher or evangelist. The strong tradition in England was for mutual ministry, which made many suspicious of evangelists coming from the United States with financial support.

These controversies led some British congregations to withdraw from the Annual Conference in 1924. Other congregations joined them through the years and they became known as the Old Paths churches. Later they became increasingly associated with Churches of Christ in the United States. Today they number over 70 churches with over 2300 members.

Those churches who were part of the Annual Conference continued to work together to promote unified fundraising and evangelistic work, appointing a General Secretary in 1948,  and publishing an official magazine, the Bible Advocate and a hymnal. The Conference worked toward Christian union first with Baptists and later with Presbyterians and Congregationalists. In 1956 the Conference began to allow guest communion to the unimmersed and in 1972, guest (or ecumenical) membership. By 1978 the majority of the congregations supported union with the United Reformed Church. As a result, in 1980 the Annual Conference dissolved to allow each congregation to decide whether to join the United Reformed Church. Most did in 1981.

Those who did not join formed the Fellowship of Churches of Christ with their own conference structure. Springfield College in Birmingham, is associated with this group. There are 47 congregations with over 1200 adherents in the Fellowship.

Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
World Convention
August 2003

Revised by Gary Holloway, January 13, 2014

For further historical reference see:

History of the British Churches of Christ, Archibald W. Watters, Berean Press, Birmingham, England, 1948.

Let Sects and Parties Fall, David M. Thompson, Berean Press, Birmingham, England, 1980. (A short history of the Association of Churches of Christ in Great Britian and Ireland).

W.R. The Man and His Work, James Gray, Editor, Berean Press, Birmingham, England, 1978. (A brief account of the life and work of William Robinson).

Winged Feet, Margaret Watters, privately published, 1981. (Deals with much of the mission work associated with the British Churches of Christ in which Dr. and Mrs. Watters were involved.)

A short account of the Life and Witness of the Churches of Christ in Great Britain and Northern Ireland Francis, John E.,(Overdale College, Birmingham, England) no date on pamphlet, but circa 1980.

Alexander Campbell’s Tour in Scotland, Thomas Chalmers, Guide Printing, Louisville, Kentucky, 1892. (For first hand account of Campbell’s tour of the British Churches see is notes in the Millennial Harbinger.)

1935 and 1960 World Convention program books contain a wealth of historical information relative to the gatherings of the Convention.

Henry Samuel Earl Papers, Disciples of Christ Historical Society, Nashville, Tennessee

Committee on Fraternal Aid to British Churches Archives, Disciples of Christ Historical Society, Nashville, Tennessee

Churches of Christ in the United Kingdom archive found online at: http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/subs/uk.html

Other sources of note include:
Preacher and Social reformer, Ainsworth, Thomas J., Sydney Black, (Book & Tract Depot, Fulham, London, 1911) B922B
The Outline of my life, Anderson, James, (Publishing Ctte of Churches of Christ, Birmingham, 1912)
Overdale College, 1920-1970, A History of the Training College of the Churches of Christ in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Francis, John E., (Overdale College, n/d).
Memoir of David King, King, Louise, with various papers and addresses advocating the restoration in principle and in practise of primitive Christianity, compiled by his wife (n/p, c.1895)
Adventuring for Christian Unity: A Survey of the History of Churches of Christ (Disciples), Walker, Dean E., (Berean Press, Birmingham, 1935)

Another useful resourcee with much early British CoC material is the ‘Simply Christians’ website: http://www.simplychristians.eu/d4web4s/s4index.htm

Contact Information

A. National Office

The Fellowship of Churches of Christ in Great Britain and Ireland
Dan Yarnell, National Coordinator
Rowheath Pavilion,
Heath Road,
Bournville,
Birmingham B30 1HH
Telephone: +44 (0)1527-455446
Fax: +44 (0) 7092-138798 (within UK only)
Email: danthevicarman@gmail.com

Andy Vail, Fellowship Administrator
Rowheath Pavilion,
Heath Road,
Bournville,
Birmingham B30 1HH
Telephone: 44 (0) 75 7560 1574
Email:fccadmin@btinternet.com                                                                                    Website:www.fellowshipofchurchesofchrist.wordpress.com

The United Reformed Church
86 Tavistock Place
London WC1H 9RT
Telephone: 44 (0) 20 7916 8645
Fax: 44 (0) 20 7916 1928
Website: http://www.urc.org.uk

B. Congregational information

For Fellowship congregations see: Website: www.fellowshipcc.co.uk

For URC congregations see: Website: http://www.urc.org.uk

For “Old Path” (sometimes known as ‘OP’) or a cappella congregations see:
Website: http://www.christian-worker.org.uk

C. Educational Institutions

British Bible School
36 TinternRise, Eye, Peterborough
Cambridgeshire PE 6 7YL
Email: study@britishbibleschool.com
Web site: http://www.britishbibleschool.com

Springdale College: Together in Mission
Rowheath Pavilion
Heath Road
Bournville
Birmingham
B30 1HH
Email: admin@springdalecollege.org.uk
Website: www.springdalecollege.org.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)121 4585240

D. Social Service Ministries

See the United Reformed Church website www.urc.org.uk

E. Magazines/Periodicals

Fellowship: Fellowship Newsletter
Dr. Richard Whitehouse, editor
1 Bridge End Avenue
Selston Notts, NG16 6BE

Telephone: +44 (0)1773 777416
email: richard.whitehouse87@ntlworld.com

URC: Reform
Kay Parris, Editor
86 Tavistock Place
London, WC1H 9RT
Telephone: 020 7916 8630
Email: reform@urc.org.uk

A cappella: Christian Worker
Graham Fisher, Editor
5 Portway, North Marston
Buckingham, MK18 3PL
Telephone: (01296) 670568
Web site: http://www.christian-worker.org.uk

F. International Ministries
G. Conventions/Lectureships/Assemblies/Forums/Conferences

Fellowship: for information concerning the Annual Celebration see website www.fellowshipcc.co.uk.

URC: See website www.urc.org.uk

H. Points of Interest

There many historic churches and chapels associated with the history of the Movement in the United Kingdom. The British Churches of Christ Historical Society has a collection of historic material recently relocated from the University of Birmingham to Westminster College, Cambridge.