The name ‘Christadelphians’ is a combination of two greek words: ‘christos’ and ‘adelphoi’ and means ‘brethren in Christ’. Early on, groups of believers went by many different names, however during the American Civil War a group in Illinois registered themselves as “Brethren in Christ, or in a word Christadelphian” for the purpose of conscientious objection. This name was soon adopted by many like-minded groups of believers in America and Britain. Since then, independent Christadelphian groups have been established in countries all over the world.
Although the modern movement dates to the nineteenth century, the Christadelphians believe they hold the same faith as the apostles and early Christians. All of our beliefs and doctrines can be traced from the New Testament to the earliest Christians of the 1st and 2nd Centuries in documents such as the Epistle of Clement, The Didache and The Apostles’ Creed. In the almost two thousand years between then and now, we believe there have been many independent communities around the world who have eagerly studied the Bible and accepted its simple teachings.
With the advent of religious freedom in Europe in the 16th Century Reformation, the same beliefs and practices resurfaced in Bible-minded groups such as the Swiss Anabaptists and Polish Socinians. The early English Baptists held similar beliefs (although these beliefs are not held by Baptists today). In the 18th Century many leading figures in the Enlightenment such as Sir Isaac Newton and William Whiston held these beliefs.
The modern Christadelphian movement has its origin in the 1830s, an age of revival and reform in America and England. In America a medical doctor, John Thomas, published the Herald of the Kingdom, which set out Bible teaching on the resurrection and the Kingdom of God. In Britain a journalist named Robert Roberts took up the same cause in the Ambassador of the Coming Age. Thomas and Roberts made no claims to any vision or personal revelations–only to try to be honest students of the Bible. We do not believe that Thomas or any of our pioneer members were ‘inspired’ or infallible — nor do we believe they where the first to discover these beliefs — and we hold the Bible to be the only authority on doctrine and practice.
How are we organised?
We are a lay community patterned after first century Christianity, and very small in comparison to other Christian movements of similar age. Membership is determined by a full understanding of, and public assent to, the Bible’s teachings. Each community of believers is autonomous, and is responsible for its own finances, yearly programs and policies. Each community has an annually elected committee who manage the affairs of the congregation. Other office holders and speakers are also elected by members on a yearly basis. Members of each congregation are addressed as “Brother” and “Sister”, and all have an equal joint responsibility for the welfare of the congregation. Many special events and projects are organized by ad hoc committees who see needs and voluntarily fill them. A strong common belief binds us together.
Ecclesias are bound together in ‘fellowship’ by a common statement of faith, exchange speakers for Sunday services and special studies, and may cooperate with inter-ecclesial activities and projects. We have strong ties with ecclesias in other places, to the extent that members often attend Bible Schools and Study Weeks in the eastern states and overseas. We expect and encourage our young people to marry within the faith, and they meet each other at Youth Conferences and other scheduled events. For these reasons we are a learning society with very rich social and family connections and decades-long friendships.
We do not tithe, or have any dietary requirements or ritual observances, other than adult baptism upon conversion and an expectation that members will regularly attend meetings where possible, especially the Sunday morning service. In general we have a conservative culture with a somewhat academic emphasis, especially in regard to Biblical knowledge.