Alexander Campbell

Campbell, Alexander, 1788–1866, clergyman, cofounder with his father, Thomas Campbell, 1763–1854, of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Of Scottish lineage, both were born in Ireland and educated at the Univ. of Glasgow. Both were Anti-Burgher Presbyterians, a division opposed to the discipline of the main church. In 1807 the father went to America, where he was welcomed among the Scotch-Irish in SW Pennsylvania. His presbytery condemned him for asking all Presbyterians to join his church members in the communion service. Although his synod upheld him, the atmosphere remained so hostile that he and his followers, popularly called Campbellites, withdrew. They formed (1809) the Christian Association of Washington, Pa., setting forth its purposes in a "Declaration and Address." That year Campbell was joined in America by his family. In c.1812, having accepted the doctrine of immersion, the Campbells joined the Baptists, but by the late 1820s differences caused trouble. Alexander Campbell, who had assumed leadership, advocated a return to scriptural simplicity in organization and doctrine; his followers became known as Reformers. He founded (1823) the Christian Baptist to promote his views and addressed audiences in the new western states. He edited (from 1830) the Millennial Harbinger, wrote The Christian System (1839), and in 1840 founded Bethany College in West Virginia and became its president. Meanwhile, the Reformers had seceded from or been forced out of many Baptist churches, and Campbell suggested that they form congregations and call themselves Disciples of Christ. Many of the "Christians," led chiefly by Barton Warren Stone, joined congregations of the Disciples; in 1832 the two leaders agreed to unite their efforts.

See R. Richardson, Memoirs of Alexander Campbell (2 vol., 1868–70); S. M. Eames, The Philosophy of Alexander Campbell (1966); E. J. Wrather, Creative Freedom in Action (1968).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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