It is the 12th of September 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
Let’s get right down to it: it was on this day, the 12th of September in 1803 that Barton W. Stone and a few of his colleagues officially withdrew from the Presbyterian Synod of Kentucky and formed their own Springfield Presbytery.
Now, a story about one group of aggrieved Christians huffing and puffing and stomping it and into their own subgroup is… nothing terribly surprising in the history of the church. So, obviously, there is more to this story. The following year Stone and his colleagues issued a formal and public “Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery”. This was a publicity stunt and they dissolved their presbytery and sought to unify a new group of Christians seeking to eliminate denominational structures in favor of a unified and diverse Christian Church (for those of you interested in the history of “non-denominational" Christianity in America this is a big moment).
Let me tell you a bit about Barton Stone (you may remember him getting a mention or two on this show in the past).
Stone was born in rural Maryland in 1772. He would be a son of the Revolution with his democratic and iconoclastic spirit. He would also be a frontiersman pushing the boundaries of America both physically and metaphorically.
He was not interested in Christianity until a college friend invited him to a revival meeting led by a staunch Calvinist. Stone was taken by the event and wanted to become a Christian, but was dismayed that he felt no internal call and had furthermore been distressed by the emphasis on Predestination.
Nevertheless, Stone would join the Presbyterian church and be ordained in 1798. But his fit with that church body was fraught with trouble. He found comfort in many Reformed doctrines but his lack of education and perhaps a bit of a rebellious spirit led him to reject any kind of predestination and instead placed the onus of saving faith on the Christian’s reception of the general call to repent.
Furthermore, he had led, in 1801, the famous Cane Ridge Revival. This revival rightly takes its place in the annals of American Great Awakening and Revival history, but there is a curious twist to this one. It was called a “sacramental revival”. Now, if you have a hard time putting together “sacramental” and “revival” that’s ok! It is common to think of the more enthusiastic folks leaving behind physical things, or at least subverting under more “spiritual” things.
But what had upset Stone was the church’s refusal to allow communion services across denominational lines. Stone’s revivals would hold open communion feasts for all who desired to partake. Stone also believed that Infant Baptisms were valid, although if one desired to not baptize their babies or be themselves, re-baptized he welcomed those at the Revival.
It’s not hard to see why a Presbyterian Synod would object, as Stone had rejected their doctrine, oversight, and church structure.
But Stone’s dogged and popular preaching style (emphasizing the love of God and human agency) combined with his location on the American frontier helped his message take off. He soon met Alexander Campbell, a Scotch-Irish immigrant who was, with his father Thomas, a leader of the Restoration Movement in America.
The fruit of this would be the Stone-Campbell Movement that sought to downplay all denominational and sectarian strife. They would become known as the “Christian Church” or the “Disciples of Christ”. Today, although it has split many times itself, this body of churches represents one of the larger Christian traditions with the Churches of Christ denomination being amongst the largest in America today.
The Disciples of Christ and Churches of Christ had their genesis in the Stone Campbell Movement which began when Barton Stone officially left the Presbyterian church for his own short-lived ersatz Presbytery on this, the 12th of September in 1803.
The last word for today is from Matthew 7:
7 “Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door is opened. 9 Who among you will give your children a stone when they ask for bread? 10 Or give them a snake when they ask for fish? 11 If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him. 12 Therefore, you should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you; this is the Law and the Prophets.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 12th of September 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man whose favorite Stones include Barton, Emma, and the Rolling, He is Christoper Gillespie.
The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. Go Rams.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.