The Restoration Movement
Salisbury Christian Church was established in 1875 and traces its heritage back to the Restoration Movement in the early 19th century. Understanding the Restoration Movement will help you better understand Salisbury Christian’s stance on certain doctrinal issues.
The Restoration Movement is often referred to as The Stone-Campbell Movement or the American Restoration Movement. The Restoration Movement sought to restore the unity and biblical essentials of the New Testament Church. Christian Unity and Freedom were the plea of numerous Restoration leaders from the late 18th and into the 19th century. Individuals such as Thomas and Alexander Campbell of Pennsylvania, Barton W. Stone, Walter Scott, and “Raccoon” John Smith of the Kentucky/Tennessee region, were at the forefront of the movement on the American frontier. From these leaders and the churches that were subsequently established came several “slogans” that existed to clarify the movement:
“No Creed but Christ”
The Restoration Movement strongly rejects any man-made creeds as a test of congregational fellowship. Creeds (including these slogans) may be helpful in delineating certain beliefs but are never seen as a means of salvation or bringing an individual into church membership.
“In essentials, unity; in opinions, liberty; in all things, love.”
One of the main ideals of the early Restorationists was Christian Unity which is found in Jesus’ prayer in John 17. This phrase helped to show how all believers should treat one another. When it comes to matters of the essentials of the faith (Christ’s Divinity, Authority of the Bible, etc.) Christians are to be united. But the Restorationists admitted that not all believers would agree on certain non-essentials (things that had no effect on Salvation). In such cases we are to respect the opinions of others and never exclude from fellowship those who have differing opinions. Above all we are to treat fellow believers with love. Disagreements WILL appear in the church and should be handled with love and prayer.
“We are Christians ONLY, but not the only Christians.”
Another ideal of the Restoration Movement was to do away with denominationalism. Many RM leaders felt that allegiances to denominations were becoming stronger than allegiance to Christ. They believed that denominationalism was a strong dividing force between brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, Restoration leaders sought to be called only “Christians” rather than Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, and so on. That’s why most churches tracing their heritage back to the Restoration Movement are usually called “Christian Church” or “Church of Christ”. And that’s why most of our churches are completely independent and free of a denominational over-structure. Though we call ourselves Christians only we do not claim that we are the only true Christians. We believe that you can find good and true Christians throughout all groups of believers. We do, however, pray for the unity of the Church just as Jesus did in John 17.
Want to learn more about the Restoration Movement? Here are a few books and websites to check out!
Leroy Garrett: The Stone-Campbell Movement: the Story of the American Restoration Movement
Richard T. Hughes: Reviving the Ancient Faith
Sam E. Stone: Simply Christians: New Testament Christianity in the 21st Century
Center for Restoration Studies (Abilene Christian University)
The Restoration Pages (Memorial University, Newfoundland)