A history of the Churches of Christ and their educational programs in Michigan 1841-1965
Beaman, Norman Howard
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As yet men have not found a satisfactory bond for unity and peace. An investigation of religious movements in our heritage may lead to an understanding of areas in religion where men may find common ground. By tracing the development of the Restoration Movement as expressed through the Churches of Christ in Michigan from l841 through 1965, it may be determined what contribution it has made in knitting men together. This is a descriptive study of the Churches of Christ in Michigan from 1841 through 1965. Since no comprehensive work has been written about the growth of these churches and their educational programs, this investigator has had to gather information from interviews, correspondence, manuscripts, church records, official documents, church directories, pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers, and numerous related books. During the first half of the nineteenth century, Thomas and Alexander Campbell, with their colleagues, tried to get people to lay aside their sectarian loyalties and to become united through their common loyalty to a Divine Person as their only creed and final authority. This new freedom in religion appealed to the frontiersmen who had so recently won their political independence. Like the Catholics, Alexander Campbell insisted on a visible unity of the church. He believed that both immersion and communion are divinely appointed channels of grace through which men realize mystical union with God. Like the Protestants, he emphasized the priesthood of all believers; the New Testament as a sufficient witness to faith and practice and love as the most effective discipline. Therefore, being neither Catholic or Protestant, this system suggests a common ground on which they some day may come together. To extend and serve this basis for unity, he established Bethany College. Both the Disciples of Christ and the Churches of Christ embrace the above principles of the Restoration Movement. The latter approaches 2,250,000 members in the United States, with churches or mission stations in over 100 other countries. A number of educational and benevolent institutions are supported by the members. It is with the development of these Churches of Christ in Michigan that this paper is primarily concerned. These churches had their beginning in Michigan with the year 1841. During the first hundred years, progress was relatively slow and meager. World War II brought an influx of people. This new blood produced a stimulus to the churches, resulting In an increasing number of congregations, memberships, offerings, and service projects. By 1965 there were one hundred sixty-two Churches of Christ in Michigan with over twenty thousand adherents. These churches own properties valued at nearly fifteen million dollars. Annually the members are giving around three million dollars with five hundred thousand of this going to missionary and benevolent endeavors in Michigan. The members of the Churches of Christ believe that each individual should receive training which develops him physically, mentally, socially, and religiously. Consequently, current educational enterprises supported by the members include Michigan Christian College, Harding Graduate Extension courses, Wayne State University Religious Center, and Michigan Christian Youth Camp. In the congregations there are also special training classes for the deaf and mentally retarded; leadership training classes for Bible school teachers and other church workers; and Bible school classes for all ages on the week-ends, in the evenings, and during the summer months. Of the nearly fifteen million dollars the Michigan Churches of Christ have spent for buildings over one and a half million have gone for educational buildings. From offerings each year of almost three million dollars, nearly one hundred twenty-three thousand are spent annually for literature, visual aids, and other teaching materials. With more functional sanctuaries and educational buildings, better trained professional and lay workers, more effective teaching materials, increased assistance to weak congregations, and a deeper devotion on the part of all, it is believed that in the future the Churches of Christ in Michigan should reach new heights of growth and service.