By the early 1830s in Kentucky the “Disciples” movement of Alexander Campbell had joined the “Christian” movement of Barton W. Stone. Perhaps no one felt that joining as poignantly as Jacob Creath, minister at South Elkhorn near Lexington.
Like many congregations in the region, South Elkhorn was associated with the Baptists. However, trouble was in the air because of some wanting to make the Philadelphia Confession (a paraphrase of the Westminster) a test of faith. For the emerging Disciples at South Elkhorn such a test would not do.
Sometime in 1830 or 1831, Creath wrote an “Address” to his fellow Baptists. “We do not wish to be understood as renouncing fellowship,” he wrote, but he did want his thinking to be understood. Having debated for months with other ministers, Creath confessed that he was now “weary of the details.” Still, he outlined in easily accessible language the principles guiding Disciples.
First, he said, Disciples insisted on the independence of congregations. Secondly, the “sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures” composed the authority by which they lived. And, finally, the “importance of faith” was central. On these three great principles Creath was ready to take his stand, but he was unwilling to add any confession about his faith which had been written by a non-Biblical author. A confession from Philadelphia, or any other place, was simply unacceptable to Creath and his fellow Disciples.
In the middle of his “Address,” Elder Creath reported a rumor which had reached him. “We sometimes hear it said, ‘you are changed.’” These Christians at South Elkhorn had been transformed. There was definitely something going on and Creath was not ready to deny it. We imagine that, like many others of the time, his fellow Kentuckians believed the change to be solely the result of the charisma of Alexander Campbell. But Creath does not point to any individual in his “Address,” instead he turns to his three great principles. Yes, freedom and scripture and faith, he said, would cause anyone to change. It is the change that always occurs among Disciples.
Creath closes his appeal by saying “we remain your brethren.” He was in no hurry to lay aside relationships. In fact, it was just the opposite. He was weary of the details, but not weary of fellowship and dialogue. He was most certainly changed, but the change did not include isolationism. Creath and his fellow Disciples remained a part of the “brethren” and the faith experienced at South Elkhorn carried these Christians forward in mission and ministry.
To learn more about the life and ministry of South Elkhorn Christian Church (DOC) visit: www.southelkhorncc.org
By Glenn Thomas Carson
Disciples of Christ Historical Society
This article was provided by the Disciples of Christ Historical Society and used here by permission.
To learn more about your faith story, please visit the Disciples of Christ Historical Society's website at: www.discipleshistory.org
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