Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 9, 1951
NUMBER 14, PAGE 4-5a

Disciples And Baptists

Of special interest to the members of both denominations and of general interest to all who are concerned about church affairs is the program that is going to bring both Disciples of Christ and Northern Baptists into Chicago at the same time for their annual conventions next year. No joint meetings of any kind are planned, but it is the expressed hope of leaders in both denominations that friendly visits will be made back and forth by the various delegates, and that this "fraternization" may be a helpful step leading toward eventual union of the two bodies. In fact, the two Conventions have been planned and arranged with that very purpose in mind.

As we view the matter from an outsider's point of view, we can see no reason at all why there should not be a merger of these two bodies. Such would be in keeping with the world-wide trend toward such consolidations and unifications; and we think it would be a happy circumstance if these groups of people could agree to walk together as one. Each of them has much to gain and little to lose by the projected step. There are few if any doctrinal barriers of sufficient importance even to warrant discussion; the things they have in common far outweigh the things in which they differ. In attitude and temperament they are much alike; in their religious "philosophy" there is a kinship with one another which seems to make each body closer to the other than it is to any of the other leading Protestant groups.


Consider, for example, some of the basic and fundamental similarities of the Disciples and Northern Baptists:

1. Baptism. Both bodies practice immersion, yet neither body will exclude from its fellowship those who have not been immersed. An increasing number of congregations in both bodies, and a growing number of preachers, favor the "open membership" plan—a device by which the pious unimmersed are accepted into full fellowship by the congregations. Thus it is that both Disciples churches and Northern Baptist churches have in them a considerable number of people who have been sprinkled rather than immersed—or who have merely "professed faith in Christ" with no kind of "baptism" of any sort.

2. Government. Both bodies are congregational in their form of government, the supreme and final authority in any congregation resting in the majority will of the members of that congregation. The authority of their international conventions is moral and psychological rather than legal. In matters of actual legal standing, each congregation is autonomous and independent.

3. The Bible. Both denominations claim to accept the Bible as their only creed; neither has any authoritative written statement of doctrine that is recognized as legally binding on all members. Both denominations have a considerable element of "liberalism" within their clergy; and there is a feeling of fraternity and fellowship growing out of this attitude which binds them together. Each denomination, for example, seems to have more in common with the other than it has with the group with which it has been historically associated. The Northern Baptists, for instance, are much closer to the Disciples Church in their basic attitudes than they are to the Southern Baptists with whom they were once (prior to the War Between the States) united. And the Disciples of Christ have much more in common with the Northern Baptists than they have with the Church of Christ, from whom they split off shortly after the War between the States.

4. Societies and Boards. Both denominations have an almost identical philosophy respecting the various church boards and agencies through which they work. They consider these organizations as mere "methods" and "tools" through which they work. Each denomination will declare that any agency which seeks to exercise control or authority over any congregation is abusing its power. (Such abuse of power seems to be inherent in organizations of this sort, and both Baptists and Disciples have waged long and bitter family fights over the problem.)

5. Worship. Both denominations use instrumental music, featuring soloists, both instrumental and vocal. Both denominations observe the Lord's Supper at any time of the week that seems convenient (Thursday and Friday are favorite week-days). Disciples traditionally have the communion every Sunday, while most Baptist churches observe it at rather longer intervals. However there is no basic conviction governing the Baptists in this which would prevent their having the Supper every Lord's Day. In fact, a number of Baptist churches are already doing so.

Probable Results

If the merger comes, it will undoubtedly have a great influence not only on the two churches themselves but on the Church of Christ as well. And the effect on the Church of Christ, as we see it, will be good and only good. For seventy-five years now people have been confusing the Church of Christ with the Disciples' Church. Because of the early connection of the Disciples with the Restoration movement, many good people have supposed that "there is but very little difference" between the Disciples and the Church of Christ. Thousands of people, untaught and unwary, have been led astray into denominationalism by this false idea.

A merger of the Disciples with the Baptists will demonstrate to the world, as nothing else could, that there is a fundamental difference between the Disciples' Church and the Church of Christ. It will show clearly that the leaders of the Disciples congregations regard their body as a "sister denomination," on an equal footing with other great denominations. And the vast body of members of the Disciples' Church, interested in being a part of a great and influential religious body, will rejoice at the enlarged size of their denomination and the enhanced prestige they carry.

So, we say, on with the merger! May it speedily come. There is much to gain, and little to lose. We do sincerely hope, however, that the merged church will agree on a name that is distinctive and unique. The phrase "church of Christ" should not be applied to anything that is not the "church of Christ." And if the proposed merger materializes, it will certainly be clear that the group thus formed will not be the New Testament church. Let them then select some good name that is entirely new and different, say, for example, a name combining some syllable or part of both their original names. We suggest "The Bapciple Church," or perhaps "The Disbap Church." That will help much to keep things straight.

— F. Y. T.