First Christian Church is a covenant congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Disciples, as we’re called, are about holding faith and reason together while embracing all people in God’s love. Rather than calling ourselves a denomination, we identify as a movement:
We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.
As part of the one body of Christ, we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us.
Like most Christians, Disciples affirm:
Jesus Christ is the son of the Living God and offers saving grace to all. All persons are God’s children.
SO WHAT DO DISCIPLES BELIEVE?
It is no simple task to summarize what members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) believe. In his book We Call Ourselves Disciples, the late General Minister and President Emeritus Dr. Kenneth Teegarden explains:
“Disciples always have opposed…the use of creeds to exclude persons from the church. It was (the) use of creeds as ‘tests of fellowship’ that the Disciples’ founding fathers fingered as the major cause of division among Christians…(So) unlike most other churches, we Disciples do not have an official doctrinal statement we can refer to when someone asks, ‘What does the Christian Church believe?'”
From its earliest days, the Disciples have held to this motto (attributed to Rupertus Meldenius): ‘In essentials, unity: in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.’ This motto expresses the cherished conviction that liberty should be allowed in the nonessential areas into which most creedal statements roam.
A widely known slogan among Disciples claims “No Creed but Christ.” That conviction is borne out in the manner in which persons come to be a part of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Dr. Teegarden goes on to say:
“Standing before a congregation of Disciples to confess faith in Jesus Christ and become part of the church, a person is asked only one question. It is usually phrased, ‘Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and do you accept him as your personal Savior?’ The person who responds, ‘I do,’ might have recently completed a church membership course. If so, the instruction will not have been to transmit a system of doctrines. In fact, a person who is comfortable with a dogmatic approach would be disappointed in the Christian Church.”
We Disciples have beliefs and practices in common with all sorts of Christians. These apparent similarities sometimes are superficial, sometimes fundamental. We baptize by immersion, so we look like Baptists. We have Communion every Sunday, so we look a bit like Roman Catholics.
We stress the ministry of the laity, so we look a little like Quakers. Our congregations call their pastors rather than accepting assigned ministers, so in that respect we look like Presbyterians.
We rely heavily on preaching and teaching, so we look somewhat like Methodists. We have congregational government, so we look a lot like the United Church of Christ.
BELIEFS AND PRACTICES USUALLY ASSOCIATED WITH DISCIPLES INCLUDE:
While the above quotes may make it sound like being a member of the Disciples of Christ means there is a moving target. However, the beliefs and practices usually associated with Disciples include:
The Lord’s Supper, or Communion, is celebrated in weekly worship and is open to all who believe in Jesus Christ.
The Oneness of the Church
All Christians are called to be one in Christ and to seek opportunities for common witness and service
Freedom of Belief
As Disciples, we are called together around two essentials of faith: a belief in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and that Christians are free to follow their conscience guided by Bible study, the Holy Spirit and prayer. We are expected to extend that freedom to others.
Baptism by Immersion
In baptism, the old self-centered life is set aside, and a new life of trust in God begins. Although Disciples practice baptism by immersion, other baptism traditions are honored.
The Ministry of Believers
Both ministers and lay persons lead in worship, service and spiritual growth.
DISCIPLES PRINCIPLES OF IDENTITY
The succinct statement of identity above is undergirded by twelve distinct principles of what it means to be Disciples of Christ:
1. We confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and proclaim him Lord and Savior of the world, requiring nothing more – and nothing less – as a basis of our life together.
2. We hold the centrality of scripture, recognizing that each person has the freedom – and the responsibility – to study God’s Word within the community of the church.
3. We practice the baptism of believers, which emphasizes that God’s grace demands a response of faith and discipleship, while also recognizing the baptism performed in other churches.
4. We gather for the Lord’s Supper, as often as possible, experiencing at this table the gracious, forgiving presence of Jesus Christ.
5. We structure our community around the biblical idea of covenant, emphasizing not obedience to human authority but accountability to one another because of our shared obedience to Christ.
6. We participate in God’s mission for the world, working with partners to heal the brokenness of creation and bring justice and peace to the whole human family.
7. We hear a special calling to make visible the unity of all Christians, proclaiming that in our diversity we belong to one another because we commonly belong to Christ.
8. We witness to the Gospel of God’s saving love for the world in Jesus Christ, while continuing to struggle with how God’s love may be known to others in different ways.
9. We affirm the priesthood of all believers, rejoicing in the gifts of the Holy Spirit – which include the gift of leadership – that God has given for the common good.
10. We celebrate the diversity of our common life, affirming our different histories, styles of worship, and forms of service.
11. We give thanks that each congregation, where Christ is present through faith, is truly the church, affirming as well that God’s church and God’s mission stretch from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth.
12. We anticipate God’s coming reign, seeking to serve the God – Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer – whose loving dominion has no end.