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‘Restoration Movement’: Stone-Campbell Movement Research Paper

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Also known by the name ‘Restoration Movement,’ Stone-Campbell Movement led by figures like Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell took place in the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries. The movement was an independent movement aimed to reshape the new Churches having a population of 3,000,000 towards the New Testament. Led by Campbell, there were groups in America in the earlier parts of the nineteenth century that advocated the idea of the Second Coming of Jesus to earth, such as the Millerites and the Mormons. Although such groups were disliked by mainstream American Protestants, the Millerites, who stirred an unprecedented movement of messianic expectation in America in the 1830s and early 1840s, assigned no particular role in their messianic scheme for conversion (Ariel, 2000, p. 10). The belief in the Second Coming of Jesus and his reign on earth for a thousand years began capturing the hearts of members of major Protestant churches in America only in the decades after the Civil War when a new messianic belief known as Restorationism was accepted by the then American evangelists.

Campbell and the Evangelical Alliance

It was decided on August 19, 1846, that 150 nations with 50 denominations would gather in London for 14 days and would worship all the evangelical principles that were held in common between them (Baker, 2002, p. 31). This messianic belief to convert the Christian church without even regarding Catholicism, orthodoxy, and Protestantism, gained ground in the last decades of the nineteenth century among members of evangelical Protestant churches in America, such as Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists. Based on the New Testament, the Restoration Movement divided Christianity and meshed well with the fundamentalist view, which criticized the prevailing cultural trend in society and offered an alternative philosophy of history to the liberal postmillennialist notions that prevailed in American Christianity at the time.

Being the acknowledged leader of the Evangelical Unity Movement, Campbell started with spontaneous leadership for forty years. Campbell’s assessment of the Evangelical Alliance is a critical gateway into understanding the current relationship between the Stone-Campbell Restoration movement and Evangelism (Baker, 2002, p. 31). Today Restoration movement leaders and churches have moved into Evangelicalism which is a personally salient, robust religious faith with high levels of participation and adherence to traditionally orthodox Christian teachings. The Evangelical Alliance enabled Campbell to thrive in the face of secularism and religious pluralism, which not just was the result of better marketing to a hipper religious consumer but because it acted as a religious subculture that requires both cultural engagement and theological orthodoxy (Campbell, 1996, p. 115). It would not be wrong to say that the credit of enlivening Evangelicalism thrives on the shoulders of Campbell’s movement for making effective in establishing a market niche but because at the heart of this religious subculture is the mandate to be “in” but not “of” the world.

The evangelicals, after attaining the name of the movement, approached gender, work, and family with an odd assortment of cultural and religious tools with an impetus to participate in and make their presence felt within the broader culture-to transform it for the kingdom of God-places evangelicals both distinctly outside the mainstream and firmly within it. The movement catered mostly European Americans, educated, and members of the middle and upper-middle classes, evangelicals are fully engaged in their culture in terms of employment, politics, education, personal consumption, and civic life.

Historians write Campbell’s ‘irony thesis’ has peculiar and dramatic application to the modern history of both the Episcopal Church and the Reformed Episcopal Church. On the one hand, Anglo-Catholicism plunged the Episcopal Church into a world of medievalism, canon law, and prelacy, but at the same time, it allowed the mind of the church to accommodate itself to modernism far more easily than if it had been ruled by the Evangelicals. Similarly, the Anglo-Catholics came to believe that their construction of Anglicanism was irresistible; they did not foresee the strength of the Evangelical resistance, the willingness of one bishop to provoke schism as a response to Anglo-Catholicism, or the ability of the Evangelicals to survive as a movement outside the official boundaries of the Episcopal hierarchy.

By the same token, the Evangelicals who became the Reformed Episcopal Church after 1873 also thought of themselves as a conservative movement (at least in terms of resisting Anglo-Catholic ‘innovation’), but as the debates over the vestments of the Reformed Episcopal Church amply demonstrate, they were perfectly willing to alter those traditions even as they doggedly announced their intention to preserve them. Historians write that the Reformed Episcopalians were not New Testament repristinators like Alexander Campbell, something the early Reformed Episcopalians were at pains to point out. They were, however, complex innovators, and what they formulated as an alternative to the Episcopal Church after 1873 combined so many disparate and unlikely elements that it is a wonder they survived Cummins himself (Guelzo, 1994, p. 14).

American Protestant Denominations

Evangelical revival often condoned the persistence of American sectarianism rather than sinking ecclesiastical differences in the fires of spiritual Awakening. Although the revivals of the 1740s encouraged the children of the Awakening to see themselves as part of a great national evangelical Protestant consensus, still, for laypeople and clergy alike, the experience of revival was more likely to confirm them in their confessional or sectarian pigeonhole and increase their confidence in it as the place where they had seen grace come down in divine torrents. And much as they would respect the Evangelicalism of other denominations, the revivals and awakenings only made people happier to cultivate their own gardens.

This is not to say that none of the American Protestant denominations surveyed by Baird’s pioneering volume ever manifested an interest in church union beyond their own confessional circle or experienced an embarrassment over their rampant and confusing divisions. Alexander Campbell’s restoration movement, the ‘Presbygational’ Plan of Union of 1801, Samuel Schmucker’s ‘Apostolic, Protestant Confession’ proposal, and even the Muhlenberg Memorial were all notable exceptions to sectarian complacency, and all of them were driven by evangelical convictions. The problem all of them shared, however, was that these convictions were fuelled by a mix of pragmatism and fear rather than serious theological concern over the prospect of a divided Christianity.

Schmucker, Muhlenberg, and the ‘Presbygationalists’ were more concerned about the efficiency of missions rather than church union, and there was more than a little touch of disingenuous nativism in plans that often looked like an effort to circle the Protestant wagons against the putative threat of hordes of immigrant Roman Catholics from Ireland and Germany.

For those reasons, each of these plans and platforms for unity treated questions of polity and order as obstacles to be nudged aside by genteel compromises, rather than seeing them as issues with legitimacy of their own. Nor were the compromises consistent: Campbell really wanted church union, but he offered it only on the condition that all other Christians destroy their own polities and join him in practicing his own bizarre brand of congregationalism. Schmucker and Muhlenberg quietly surrendered any hope of achieving actual church union; they called instead for degrees of confederated effort that would leave other individual denominational identities unchallenged and unoffended (Guelzo, 1994, p. 123).

Catholic Unity and Campbell’s Movement

The only other important concept of unity that antebellum American Protestants expended much effort in exploring was the ‘catholic unity’ described and defended by John Williamson Nevin in the 1840s and 1850s and the Anglo-Catholics. Unfortunately, Nevin ‘Mercersburg Theology’ was never more than a temporary eruption on the small denominational horizon of the German Reformed Church, but Nevin had the virtue of looking the ‘church question’ square in the face, and he insisted that neither the Campbellites nor the Schmuckerites had much to offer American Protestantism until it settled and defined its doctrine of the church. Struggling with that doctrine nearly sent Nevin to Rome, but the seriousness with which Nevin undertook that struggle is a good measure of the power of the ‘church question’ when it was adequately posed, and that attraction explains a good deal of the fascination of Anglo-Cathohcism to Episcopalian converts like Clarence Walworth. Unhappily for them, both Nevin and the Anglo-Catholics were moved by the attraction of Romantic ideology at a time when American theological life was still dominated by the prevalence of Scottish realism. Moreover, they chose to experiment in schemes of ‘catholic unity’ at a time when American church life was still too frightened by the specter of immigrant Romanism to find much comfort in anything smacking of ‘catholicity.’

Despite little incentive, the very fact that Muhlenberg, Schmucker, Campbell, and Nevin had raised the question of church unity at all meant that there was certainly interest and maybe even hope that the smug sectarianism and cheap confederation could be transformed into the glittering carriage of union. Had not the United States only just fought a savage civil war that wrestled political localism into permanent submission to national sovereignty? In such an atmosphere of reasserted political union, perhaps the American churches could at last find their way to unions of their own, just as the Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians had presaged the break-up of the federal union in the 1830s and 1840s, the restoration of the union could signal the need for a similar process amongst the churches. And so it was that the great assemblage of the Evangelical Alliance arrived in New York City, waiting for the spark from heaven to fall on the most remarkable and propitious religious gathering on the North American continent.

Causes of the Campbell’s Movement

The Campbell’s Movement depicts the juxtaposition even on matters of worship of agendas and traditions common to the denomination and the civil government reveals in Methodist thought an organic connection between the church and the nation that can be traced to the beginning of both institutions. Even those Methodists, who before 1784 existed organizationally as a religious society under the general if distant jurisdiction of the Church of England, embraced the ideals of liberty of conscience and freedom of religious expression popular in colonial America. After realizing the Methodist denomination, Campbell did not even bothered to influence Methodists to continue to uphold the value of freedom for “spreading scriptural holiness throughout the land” for reforming the nation; and for providing opportunities for worship in different liturgical styles (Tucker, 2000, p. 3).

Though in the early years, Methodists often pointed to the rise and development of the nation as a sign of God’s work among a righteous people, though they were quick to admonish when correction seemed to be in order, but later Campbell started influencing them indirectly in an evangelical manner. This prophetic witness has remained a characteristic part of Campbell’s, and it has been held alongside an equally characteristic Campbell patriotism and nationalism. Yet at times that critical edge has been wittingly or unwittingly blunted as Campbell simultaneously sought to be faithful to God and relevant to the American people.

Campbell’s movement no doubt often we assume that agreement, harmony, or even unanimity among the members of a community is a necessary prerequisite for their life together to flourish. Campbell diversity with regard to defining our most crucial beliefs and values, aspirations, and goals, therefore, is frequently seen as a potential, if not actual, enemy of a shared social existence. In case of analysing Campbell Movement we could analyse that a powerful assumption seems to be at work, especially within some religious groups, to the effect that conflict over ideas, values and beliefs is something to be feared, that it must be avoided at all costs, and if it cannot be avoided, it must be carefully managed and quickly resolved.

Campbell among some religious communities, the possibility of such open conflict produced such anxiety that the group, or the group’s leaders acting on behalf of the group, strived to silence by force if necessary any voices raised in contradiction to or in defiance of the official voice of the community. Campbell never had any alternative to apparently unthinkable, and summarily dismiss with the heretical belief that some forms of conflict regarding the most crucial issues of heart, mind, soul and life, though at times painful, are ordinary and beneficial to a society or a community, and that some forms of conflict evidence a cultural and historical richness and profundity without which a human group can hardly be described as a community at all.

Another issue faced by the Stone-Campbell Movement was the anti-black racism, which was powerful and well documented but ultimately failed to explain how free blacks were able to negotiate fissures of class and caste that divided them from each other. Campbell acquire an importance to historians concerned with this process of negotiation because they constitute the single most accessible point of entry into the emotional life of the black evangelical community (Juster & Macfarlane, 1996, p. 237).

Restoration to the Alliance to bring its assembly to the United States was at once a symbolic and a highly ironic gesture. On the one hand, nineteenth-century American Protestantism was crisscrossed and entangled with the growths and offshoots of the dozens of radical Protestant sects that had emigrated from Europe during the colonial period. Whether they owed their present existence to New England Puritans or Pietist Lutherans or Anabaptist Mennonites, American Protestants were mostly the children of the Radical Reformation, and the individual legacies of those sects had proven both tenacious and fecund. Despite the large-scale involvement of American Protestants in the upheavals of the Great Awakening of the 1740s, few groups involved in the Awakening were moved by that experience to loosen their grip on their sectarian identities.

Although many prominent individuals, such as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and David Brainerd, seemed to offer an example of how evangelical revivalism could efface formal confessional boundaries in the common task of spreading the gospel, the examples were isolated and sometimes illusory. In fact, the Awakening often succeeded in further multiplying sectarian divisions, and once the revivalist dust had settled, the intricate sectarian loyalties and identities reappeared, unmoved and stronger for having been injected with a measure of revivalist fervour.

In that sense, the Restoration movement was an evangelical revival often condoned the persistence of American sectarianism, rather than sinking ecclesiastical differences in the fires of spiritual Awakening. It is not clear why Cummins was invited to play such a prominent role in the Evangelical Alliance conference. He was, after all, only the assistant bishop of a comparatively small diocese in the Episcopal Church, and the names of Tyng, Eastburn, Johns, and Alfred Lee enjoyed greater prominence among Evangelical Episcopalianism.

It was in an atmosphere thick with such flammable remarks that the Fifteenth General Council met in First Church, New York, in June 1897. It was assumed from the beginning that this Council would witness the final showdown on the vestments question, and the assumption was not disappointed. In the very first afternoon session on June 9, a resolution on vestments was introduced by the Presiding Bishop, Thomas W. Campbell, bishop of the Canadian synod since 1891 (Campbell, 1996, p. 243). Although Campbell himself disliked the wearing of the surplice, his resolution called for tolerance of the gown, surplice, and scarf for presbyters, and the rochet for bishops. Latane, however, at once proposed a conflicting resolution, calling for the outright abolition of all but the black gown except and this was to be a sop thrown to Cheney in parishes where the old vestments were still being worn. The debate over the resolutions worked its way through committees and over dinner tables for two days, until the Council, voting by orders, defeated Campbell’s tolerance resolution.

The wonder was that Cheney simply did not leave the Reformed Episcopal Church altogether, but Cheney had put too much into the church to leave it now, and it was a very good question as to where, at age sixty-one, he could now expect to go. Instead, he stayed on at Christ Church, running the Synod of Chicago as his own Episcopal fiefdom with Samuel Fallows’s assistance, and defiantly wearing his rochet and chimere up until his death in 1916. Presiding Bishop Campbell left the Reformed Episcopal Church in disgust before the end of the year, as did two of Cheney’s own presbyters, Frederick Walton and William Fairley. But worse than the loss of individuals, the 1897 ‘Black gown’ resolution symbolized the closure of the original spirit of the Reformed Episcopal Church. It heralded, instead, the quiet descent of the Reformed Episcopalians into an ecclesiastical conundrum where they would always be too obviously Episcopalian to satisfy most non-Episcopalians, and too stridently anti-Episcopahan in thought, word, and dress ever to be able to persuade significant numbers of Episcopalians to join them.

Both the Anglo-Catholics and the Reformed Episcopalians existed in a strangely symbiotic relationship, in that both were dramatically anti modern movements and both thought there was good reason for being so dramatic about it. However this was not the case according to Campbell, in their eyes, the loss of religious authority in Anglo-American Victorian culture, and the impact of complex national and international market empires, spelled a serious loss in moral meaning and individual autonomy.

The urban, industrial self appeared fragmented and illusory, a Jamesian flow of consciousness without weight or significance, an exercise in irrationality tossed up and about on the storms of the unconscious (Guelzo, 1994, p. 270). The Reformed Episcopalians struck back at the tide of modernism by wishing themselves back to the coherent self of the Scottish philosophy, the Evangelical model of rationalism in which the self could be known immediately as a whole. Except the Campbell evangelists both Reformed Episcopalians and Anglo-Catholics were thus traditionalists, and shared what might be called a traditional outlook. And both were part of the overall struggle of Christian orthodoxy to negotiate ‘new vehicles of consent’ that would somehow affirm some kind of continuity with the past while giving a fresh sense of order and stability to class and social relations. However Stone-Campbell Movement did not negotiated with the traditional morals and never gave up till the end of their lives.

Campbell Movement was based upon some simple and core elements that mark our identity like those beliefs and practices that have imprinted our life as a people, as congregations, and as a denomination and church were developed over the early years of our life always with an eye focused upon the unity of the church (Welsh, 2004). The movement believed in constitutionally one because it followed the New Testament not because of our action or agreement as individuals, but because of God’s action in Jesus Christ. The movement was all about what the leaders Barton W. Stone, and Thomas and Alexander Campbell believed that the unity and reconciliation of the whole church was the basic birthright which calls us as a people of faith and faithfulness.


Ariel Yaakov, (2000) Evangelizing the Chosen People: Missions to the Jews in America, 1880-2000: University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC.

Baker R. William, (2002) Evangelicalism & The Stone-Campbell Movement: With Essays by Everett Ferguson, Jack Cottrell, Craig L. Blomberg, John Mark Hicks, Robert C. Kurka & Stanley J. Grenz: Vol 1: Congress Library.

Campbell A. Ted, (1996) Christian Confessions: A Historical Introduction: Westminster John Knox Press: Louisville, KY.

Gallagher K. Sally, (2003) Evangelical Identity and Gendered Family Life: Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, NJ.

Guelzo C. Allen, (1994) For the Union of Evangelical Christendom: The Irony of the Reformed Episcopalians: Pennsylvania State University Press: University Park, PA.

Juster Susan & Macfarlane Lisa, (1996) A Mighty Baptism: Race, Gender, and the Creation of American Protestantism: Cornell University Press: Ithaca, NY.

Tucker Westerfield B. Karen, (2000) American Methodist Worship: Oxford University Press: New York.

Welsh Robert, (2004) “Christian Unity and Our Identity as Disciples of Christ” In: The Ecumenical Review. Volume: 56. Issue: 1.

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