Christan Church of Kansas

Christian Church in Columbus, Kansas.

Christian Church in Columbus, Kansas.

The Christian Church, or Disciples of Christ, sometimes called Campbellites, is one of the distinctively American church organizations. It grew out of a great revival movement that began in northern Tennessee and southern Kentucky at the beginning of the 19th century. One of the centers of this revival was Cane Ridge, Kentucky, and John Allen Gano, one of the earliest of the disciples, at a meeting held June 22, 1845, said, “The first churches planted and organized since the great apostacy, with the Bible as the only creed or church book, and the name Christian as the only name, were organized in Kentucky in the year 1804. Of these, the Cane Ridge was the first.”

The First Christian Church in Bonner Springs, Kansas was built in 1888. The building burned down in 1956.

The First Christian Church in Bonner Springs, Kansas, was built in 1888. The building burned down in 1956.

The organizers of this church decided to take the Bible as the standard of faith to the exclusion of all creeds and believed the name “Christian” to have been given to the disciples by divine authority. Similar movements took place in other sections of the country at about the same time. Thomas Campbell, a Presbyterian minister, arrived in the United States and began to preach in western Pennsylvania, where people of various Presbyterian denominations resided, and he invited all to his communion. This caused dissension, and charges were preferred against him. He insisted that he was acting according to the Bible and began to preach a restoration of apostolic Christianity, protesting against creeds and advocating the sufficiency of the scriptures, but at no time advocated separation from the church’s fellowship. Many were converted to the new belief and formed the Christian Association. Campbell asked for admission to it, but there was so much controversy over his admission that the members of his church formed an independent Church of Christ on May 4, 1810, under the name of “The First Church of the Christian Association of Washington.” In 1812, the question of baptism came up. The Campbells, father and son, were immersed, and at the next meeting of the church, other members of the organization expressed a desire to be immersed upon confession of faith. From that time, the church accepted baptism as a divine ordinance and maintained the custom.

In 1831, a union of the Washington and Cane Ridge churches was effected, which was the beginning of an era of significant progress and expansion of the Christian Church. In 1900, there were 10,000 churches with 1,250,000 communicants in the United States. This organization’s most significant and strongest bodies were found in the newer states of the west and southwest, with Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio having the most significant number of members.

The Christian church’s first work in Kansas began during the early 1860s, though services were held at Centropolis in Franklin County as early as 1858. One of the first organizations was established at Holton, Jackson County, on July 13, 1862, by Mr. and Mrs. Allen, B. Scholes, and three others. Elder A.J. Francis held the first services in the court-house, but no building was erected until ten years later. A Christian church was organized at Erie, Neosho County, in the spring of 1869 by C.F. Stauber, though services had been held previously by George Booth. The same year, a church was organized in Ottawa by Warren Skells. In 1869, the Christians organized in Jefferson County and erected a church shortly after. A year later, a church was organized at Girard, Crawford County, with 25 members who held services in a schoolhouse until 1871, when a church building was erected.

First Christian Church in Burlington, Kansas, about 1925.

First Christian Church in Burlington, Kansas, about 1925.

Cherokee County was opened to white settlement in 1870, and in October of that year, a Christian church was organized there with 40 members by J. A. Murray. There were a few Christians among the early settlers of Shawnee County. They met in a hall at Topeka under the leadership of elders, with an occasional evangelist, until 1870, when an organization was perfected, and J.W. Mousen was called as the first pastor. At Fort Scott, Bourbon County, a church with ten members was started in the fall of 1871 by Dr. Franklin of Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1876, a church was started at Hiawatha, Brown County, by James McGuire, and it has become one of the leading congregations of the state. With the spread of the faith and growth of the church, it has become divided and now consists of the Disciples of Christ, or Christian church, and the Churches of Christ.

In 1880, according to the census, there were 54 Christian church organizations in Kansas, with a membership of 18,579; by 1890, the organizations had increased to 394 with 190 church buildings and a membership of 25,143, and by 1906, the Christian church ranked fourth of all denominations in Kansas, with a membership of 43,572.

©Kathy Alexander/Legends of Kansas, updated March 2024.

Also See:

Churches of Kansas

Early Missions of Kansas

Kansas Main Page

One-Room, Country, & Historic Schools of Kansas