Statement of Faith & Division of Christadelphian Fellowships
Local statements of faith had been written by local congregations since the 1850s, but formal declarations of faith determining fellowship were not utilized until 1862–64, the years when Christadelphians began to change from an informal movement into a defined denomination. In America the registration of "groups of believers" and the coining of the name Christadelphian (Ogle County Illinois, 1863) coincided with the British arm of the movement taking a fixed stand against belief in a supernatural devil (Edinburgh, 1863).
The statement of faith (or creed, or confession of faith) used by most Unamended Christadelphians today has its origins in the 1877 statement of faith of the Birmingham Central Ecclesia, Britain (known as the Birmingham Statement of Faith, or BSF). This 1877 statement was partly a response to a doctrinal dispute 1873–1877 between congregations in Britain. The doctrine in dispute was known as “Renunciationism”, “Free life”, or “Turneyism” after the originator Edward Turney of Nottingham. Turney essentially preached Jesus Christ was "not born of a condemned nature" (that is a "free life") and therefore he did not benefit in any way from his own death. The doctrine was argued against by Robert Roberts in Birmingham and John James Andrew in London among others.
The 1877 BSF already had some informal status as a benchmark in Britain and overseas due to the Birmingham Central Ecclesia being where the editorship of The Christadelphian Magazine was based at the time, but equally local ecclesias usually had their own local statements with similar wording, and continued to do.
The 1877 BSF begins with, “A statement of the ‘One Faith,’ upon which the Christadelphian Ecclesia of Birmingham is founded; together with a specification of the fables current in the religious world, of which they require a rejection on the part of all applying for their fellowship.” It contained seventeen provisions outlining the “Truth to be Believed” and seventeen “Fables to be Refused”. This statement of beliefs became basis of fellowship for the majority of Christadelphian meetings in England and North America. Those disagreeing with the Birmingham positions left fellowship. During the next ten years the organization and wording of the statement was revised, but no doctrinal changes were made.
A significant change was the addition of a "Foundation Clause" in 1885 about inspiration. This removed a large part of the British Christadelphian movement into the "Suffolk St." (name of the location of the second major ecclesia in Birmingham) or "Fraternal visitor" (name of the group's magazine) "fellowship". In the same year, March 1885, Thomas Williams commenced publication of The Christadelphian Advocate Magazine in Waterloo, Iowa. Williams supported Birmingham Temperance Hall's addition to BSF 1877 of the new "Foundation Clause", and therefore the "disfellowship" of the Suffolk St. group. Williams also approved Robert's position related to Edward Turney 12 years earlier, though Turney's Nazarene fellowship had already effectively petered out with his death in 1879 and the return to the main grouping of his supporter David Handley in 1881.
In 1898 a third division of Christadelphians occurred, this time over “resurrectional responsibility”. Since Christadelphians teach a bodily resurrection and judgment at the return of Jesus Christ to earth, the controversy was over who would be resurrected and called to judgment. At question was whether or not persons who knew the word of God but were not baptised would be judged and condemned for rejecting the “Truth”, subsequently called in Unamended literature “enlightened rejectors”. Although the exact phrase was not used in Britain, the Sydney Australia ecclesia had already excommunicated "ten who are not able to see that unbaptised and knowing rejectors of the truth are responsible" in 1884. And this action had been defended by the editor Robert Roberts. Nevertheless the Birmingham Central Ecclesia did not immediately add this to their statement of faith, though some ecclesias did so. The statement of the North London ecclesia in 1887 read "Resurrection affects those only who are responsible to God by a knowledge of His revealed will". In 1894 J.J. Andrew of North London published a booklet 'Blood of the Covenant' in which he argued that no unbaptised would be raised and judged. On April 3 and 5, 1894 a debate was held on "Resurrectional Responsibility" between Roberts and Andrew, and on April 15 Islington Temperance Hall ecclesia, London, passed as resolution to separate from Barnsbury Hall ecclesia, London. The controversy continued 1894–1898. Roberts was absent from the UK in 1897 and died in 1898 in San Francisco, so opposition to J.J. Andrew was left to A.T. Jannaway and Frank Jannaway at London Clapham, and Charles Curwen Walker, the deputy editor in Birmingham.
In 1898 following the examples of London Islington and some other London ecclesias the Birmingham Central meeting amended Clause 24 of BSF to read “the responsible (namely, those who know the revealed will of God, and have been called upon to submit to it)” in BASF, where the original 1877 BSF had stated only the “responsible (faithful and unfaithful)” would be judged. The change in wording was to emphasize that some individuals who were not baptized would be called to the judgment seat of Christ along with all baptized individuals, and that the reason for resurrection was knowledge of God's will, not an association with Christ’s sacrifice. Some Christadelphians consider that there are larger doctrinal implications involving the change. (For example, Williams, Lippy, Farrar, and Pursell outline larger doctrinal problems.) There are also Christadelphians who consider this a stand-alone issue, and point to the fact that no other clause of the BSF was amended. In theory the change made recognition that some unbaptised would be raised and judged a requirement of fellowship. However this was not pushed outside of London and other areas like Yorkshire where Andrew's influence had been strongest. The London Clapham brethren led by Frank Jannaway urged all ecclesias who did not already have "amendments" prior to 1898 to adopt the new Birmingham amendment, and made it a fellowship issue in London, although the new editor Charles Curwen Walker in Birmingham and his assistant Henry Sulley in Nottingham did not push the issue.
In the U.K. the new 1898 Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith (BASF) replaced BSF 1884 as a 'touchstone' but did not cause a significant division in Britain outside London, and even today many British ecclesias continue to have either local statements predating 1884, 1877, or modern statements. However the result of the amendment was a division of the Christadelphians in North America where the community separated into "Amended" (those using the new BASF), and "Unamended" those using the old BSF, or in 1909, the BUSF.
Subsequently J.J. Andrew separated from most of his own supporters, including John Owler of Barnsbury Hall, Islington ecclesia in London, and Albert Hall of the Sowerby Bridge ecclesia in Yorkshire, and Andrew was reportedly rebaptised in 1901, dying in 1907. However the division lingered on with Hall and Owler as "unamended" in Britain and Thomas Williams as "unamended" editor of The Advocate in Chicago. Williams visited Britain in 1903–04 at Owler and Hall's invitation, supporting their position against the "amendment", also urging the British "Unamended" (known as the "Up and be doing" movement) not to join with the large "Suffolk St" group.
In 1909, the BUSF was revised and clarified in both title and in six propositions. “Birmingham” was dropped from the title and only the “palable errors .. none of which, however, causes doctrinal trouble” were changed. Thomas Williams, editor of the Advocate, explained:
- “It is a mistake to think that we intended to get up another Statement of Faith. The one we have published is the Old Birmingham Statement, with a few corrections made, which the original writers of it would have made if their attention had been called to the errors – not serious errors of doctrine, but yet errors that were awkward. The reason for calling it “The Christadelphian Statement,” and omitting “Birmingham” lies against calling it “The Chicago,” etc. It is undesirable to have any place named as more prominent than others. Therefore it is “The Christadelphian Statement of Faith,” and each ecclesia can have its own address printed on the cover, as many are now doing.”
The amendment in the UK had little lasting effect other than moving a number of meetings from "Central" to "Suffolk St" groupings. Both John Owler and Albert Hall emigrated to North America, where first Owler then Hall subsequently succeeded Thomas Williams (died 1913) as editors of The Advocate. From America Owler urged the few British "Unamended" (the "Up and be doing" movement) to join with the larger "Suffolk St." grouping in 1920, creating a bond also between the US Unamended and editor of the Fraternal Visitor in Britain, Thomas Turner. "Suffolk St." reunited with "Central" in 1957.
Other articles related to "division, christadelphians, statement of faith":
... A major division occurred among the Christadelphians 1895-1899 on the issue of "resurrectional responsibility" ... took the decision in January 1898 to amend Clause 24 of their Statement of Faith by inserting 18 words in brackets to clarify this ... in Leeds and London did not accept the amendment and a division in the UK followed led by Albert Hall and John Owler, and finding support from Thomas Williams (Christa ...
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