Religion & Spirituality

The Early History of Transylvania University: An Archetype of Restoration Movement Institutions of Higher Education

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The Disciples of Christ or Restoration Movement had its genesis in the early part of the nineteenth century. As the movement moved westward, individuals and complete congregations of other religious persuasions aligned themselves with the new
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   The Early History of Transylvania UniversityAn Archetype of Restoration Movement Institutions of Higher EducationJames M. Owstonin partial fulfillment of LS 758History and Development of Higher Education AdministrationDr. Rudy PauleyMarshall University Graduate CollegeNovember 19, 1998  Transylvania University2The Early History of Transylvania UniversityAn Archetype of Restoration Movement Institutions of Higher EducationThe Disciples of Christ or Restoration Movement has its genesis in the early partof the nineteenth century. As the movement moved westward, individuals and completecongregations of other religious persuasions aligned themselves with the new movement.As churches were established on the frontier, a need for grammar school, secondary andhigher education followed. Many individuals seeing this need, established schools. In1836, the Disciples higher educational mission began with what would eventuallybecome Transylvania University. The early history of Transylvania is an archetype of themovement’s educational experiences.To fully understand the dynamics of the establishment of TransylvaniaUniversity, it is necessary to understand the movement’s srcin and growth. Fourindependent movements seeking New Testament simplicity of faith and practice arecredited with the laying the foundation of the greater movement. These early leaders areas follows: James O'Kelly, Abner Jones and Elias Smith, Barton W. Stone, and Thomasand Alexander Campbell.The initial move to denominational independence occurred when, following adisagreement on church government, James O'Kelly separated from the Methodist-Episcopal church in 1793. Preferring a congregational government, he formed what wassrcinally known as the Republican Methodists. Located in Virginia and North Carolina,this group of churches began using the name of “Christian” in 1794 (Jennings, 1919, pp.62-63).  Transylvania University3Beginning in 1801, a similar movement among New England Baptists hadoccurred. Abner Jones and Elias Smith withdrew from the Baptist convention anddropped all denominational names preferring the name of “Christian” (Murch, 1962, pp.32-33). In 1804, Barton W. Stone and four others dissolved the Springfield Presbytery inKentucky and southern Ohio and took the name of “Christian” (Davis, 1913, pp. 113-114). Rice Haggard, of the O’Kelly Secession, is credited with inspiring both O’Kellyand Stone for using the name Christian only (Murch, 1962, p. 89). Evidence suggeststhat the three groups of Christians had limited contact beginning in 1809; eventually, thisgroup was identified as the Christian Connexion (Jennings. 1919, p. 75);While these movements provided various levels of influence in the succeedingyears, the father and son team of Thomas and Alexander Campbell were instrumental inthe srcin of the Disciples. Coming from Ireland in 1807, the elder Campbell, an OldLight, Anti-Burgher, Seceder Presbyterian, began questioning the divisions found inChristianity. Following chastisement from the Chartiers Association for servingcommunion to Presbyterians of a different synod, Thomas wrote the “Declaration andAddress” in 1809. Separating from the Presbyterians, Campbell and a group of severalothers formed the Christian Association of Washington (County, PA). Because of theirnewly adopted position on immersion, Thomas and Alexander Campbell srcinallyaligned themselves with the Redstone Baptist Association. Eventually the Disciples orReformers, as they were also known, became an independent movement. Walter Scott, anoted Disciples evangelist, did much to aid the Campbells in furthering the movement onthe American frontier. In 1832, the Disciples and some of Christian Connexion (orChristians) began moving towards unity. While most of Stone's group followed in this  Transylvania University4union, there is evidence that some O'Kelly and Smith/Jones churches also cooperated.Those churches that didn't merge eventually became a part of the United Church of Christin 1957 (Murch, 1962, pp. 35-168).The movement was not without various disagreements. Three major divisions of the Restoration Movement exist today. The churches of Christ evolved because of theintroduction of societies, conventions, instrumental music and other innovations. Whilethis schism has its roots in the mid nineteenth century, the churches of Christ officiallyseparated from the Disciples in 1906. While the churches of Christ have no organization,there are seventeen accredited institutions that are associated with this brotherhoodAnother division in the movement are the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ;these are autonomous churches that have fellowship with one another as a part of a“brotherhood.” The separation from the Disciples of Christ has its roots in the 1927formation of the North American Christian Convention. While this convention has noofficial status among the churches, it began as a rendezvous for conservativecongregations in the Disciples' movement opposing organization and liberal theologicalpractices. When the Disciples officially became a denomination in 1968, the independentchurches asked to be removed from the Disciples’ yearbook. Like the churches of Christ,the independent group has not official organization; churches and individuals supporteducational institutions on a voluntary basis (Owston, J.M., 1996). The ChristianChurches (Disciples of Christ) is an organized denomination and its schools arecooperatively supported by a Board of Higher Education (Garrison & DeGroot, 1948, p.419).  Transylvania University5The Disciples and Higher EducationThe story of the Disciples’ immersion into the world of higher education nearlyparallels the brotherhood’s own history: separation from former bodies, mergers and aneventual self division.. Prior to the movement’s actual entry into collegial education, afailed attempt to start Christian College located at New Albany began on January 24,1833 with a granting of a charter by the state of Indiana. While Alexander Campbellvoiced his opinion that such efforts were premature, the institution promised anenvironment where students could “obtain an education without the danger of becominginfidels or sectarians” (Campbell, 1833, pp. 189, 249). Barton W. Stone and Walter Scottwere listed among its incorporators, however, Scott denied any knowledge of the work prior to receiving a letter declaring him as faculty president (Garrison & DeGroot, 1948,p. 233). The New Albany institution never came to fruition and the movement was stillwithout its own college.Bacon CollegeIn three short years and almost accidentally, the first Disciples’ college opened,began instruction and continued a career (sometimes turbulent) which created lastingeffects upon higher education. Championed by the movement’s early leaders, its forayinto higher education was not initiated by the Campbells, Stone or Scott. The credit forfounding the Disciples’ first college belongs to layman Thornton F. Johnson, a relativelynew adherent to the movement. In 1829, Johnson, a West Point graduate, accepted aprofessorship in mathematics and civil engineering at a fledgling Baptist controlledinstitution at Georgetown, Kentucky. It was here that Johnson aligned himself with the“Christian” or “Stoneite” congregation, and in 1832, he fully embraced the union of the
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