Brothers of Christ, a sect founded by Dr. John Thomas (1805–71), an English physician who came to the U.S. in 1832. At first he associated with the Campbellites (Disciples of Christ), but disagreed with them on several doctrinal points (see campbell, alexander; christian church). He severed his ties with Campbellism in 1834. Between 1844 and 1847 Thomas developed his own theological system, which he maintained was that of primitive Christianity. Branding all existing churches as apostate, he won a few converts in the U.S., Canada, and England. The name Christadelphian was adopted during the Civil War.
Christadelphians reject the doctrine of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ. They deny eternal punishment and the existence of a personal devil. They believe that Christ will soon ascend David's throne in the Holy Land, gather the 12 tribes of Israel, and rule the world for 1,000 years. Baptism by immersion is considered the sole valid form. Only those who have heard and accepted what the sect considers divine truth will receive the gift of immortality; no others will be raised from the dead. Members of the sect try to disassociate themselves from the secular community; they do not serve in the armed forces, vote, seek public office, join labor unions, or indulge in wordly amusements. They are also opposed to smoking, divorce, and marrying outside of the sect.
Local congregations, called ecclesiae, follow a congregational polity. They employ no salaried clergy; each congregation elects its own "serving brethren" for three-year terms. They handle all liturgical and administrative duties. Christadelphians usually meet for worship in private homes or rented halls. Local congregations hold a weekly communion service on Sunday. They emphasize the study of the Bible and sometimes sponsor public lectures to interest outsiders. The sect maintains no foreign missions, seminaries, or schools, except for a few summer Bible schools. Christadelphian congregations do not recognize an overall ecclesiastical authority; they may join other ecclesiae in loose federations.
Bibliography: b. r. wilson, Sects and Society: A Sociological Study of the Elim Tabernacle, Christian Science, and Christadelphians (Berkeley 1961). c. h. lippy, The Christadelphians in North America (Lewiston, N.Y. 1989).
[w. j. whalen/eds.]
A. S. Hargreaves
Chris·ta·del·phi·an / ˌkristəˈdelfēən/ • n. a member of a Christian sect, founded in the U.S. in 1848, that claims to return to the beliefs and practices of the earliest disciples and holds that Christ will return in power to set up a worldwide theocracy beginning at Jerusalem. • adj. of or adhering to this sect and its beliefs.