The Christadelphian religious group traces its
origins to John Thomas (1805–1871), who emigrated to North America from England
in 1832. Following a near shipwreck he vowed to find out the truth about life
and God through personal Biblical study. Initially he sought to avoid the kind
of sectarianism he had seen in England. In this he found sympathy with the
rapidly emerging Restoration Movement in the US at the time. This movement
sought a reform based upon the Bible alone as a sufficient guide and rejected
all creeds. However, this liberality eventually led to dissent as John Thomas
developed his personal beliefs and began to question mainstream orthodox
Christian beliefs. Whilst the Restoration Movement accepted Thomas's right to
have his own beliefs, when he started preaching that they were essential to
salvation, it led to a fierce series of debates with a notable leader of the
movement, Alexander Campbell. John Thomas believed that scripture, as God's
word, did not support a multiplicity of differing beliefs, and challenged the
leaders to continue with the process of restoring 1st-century Christian beliefs
and correct interpretation through a process of debate. The history of this
process appears in the book Dr. Thomas, His Life and Work (1873) by a
Christadelphian, Robert Roberts.
During this period of formulating his ideas John Thomas was baptised twice, the second time after renouncing the beliefs he previously held. He based his new position on a new appreciation for the reign of Christ on David's throne. The abjuration of his former beliefs eventually led to the Restoration Movement disfellowshipping him when he toured England and they became aware of his abjuration in the United States of America.
The Christadelphian community in Britain effectively dates from Thomas's first lecturing tour (May 1848 – October 1850). His message was particularly welcomed in Scotland, and Campbellite, Unitarian and Adventist friends separated to form groups of "Baptised Believers". Two thirds of ecclesias, and members, in Britain before 1864 were in Scotland. In 1849, during his tour of Britain, he completed (a decade and a half before the name Christadelphian was conceived) Elpis Israel in which he laid out his understanding of the main doctrines of the Bible.
Since his medium for bringing change was print and debate, it was natural for the origins of the Christadelphian body to be associated with books and journals, such as Thomas's Herald of the Kingdom. In his desire to seek to establish Biblical truth and test orthodox Christian beliefs through independent scriptural study he was not alone. Among other churches, he had links with Adventist movement and with Benjamin Wilson (who later set up the Church of God of the Abrahamic Faith in the 1860s).
Although the Christadelphian movement originated
through the activities of John Thomas, he never saw himself as making his
own disciples. He believed rather that he had rediscovered 1st Century
beliefs from the Bible alone, and sought to prove that through a process of
challenge and debate and writing journals. Through that process a number of
people became convinced and set up various fellowships that had sympathy
with that position. Groups associated with John Thomas met under various
names, including Believers, Baptised Believers, the Royal Association of
Believers, Baptised Believers in the Kingdom of God, Nazarines (or
Nazarenes) and The Antipas until the time of the American Civil War
(1861–1865). At that time, church affiliation was required in the United
States and in the Confederacy in order to register for conscientious
objector status, and in 1864 Thomas chose for registration purposes the name
Through the teaching of John Thomas and the need in the American Civil War for a name, the Christadelphians emerged as a denomination, but they were formed into a lasting structure through a passionate follower of Thomas's interpretation of the Bible, Robert Roberts. In 1864 he began to publish The Ambassador of the Coming Age magazine. This was renamed The Christadelphian in 1869 and continues to be published under that name.Roberts was prominent in the period following the death of John Thomas in 1871, and helped craft the structures of the Christadelphian body.
Robert Roberts was certain that John Thomas had rediscovered the truth. Robert Robert's life was characterised by debates over issues that arose within the fledgling organisation; some of these debates can be found in the book Robert Roberts—A study of his life and character by Islip Collyer.
Initially the denomination grew in the English-speaking world, particularly in the English Midlands and in parts of North America. In the early days after the death of John Thomas the group could have moved in a number of directions. Doctrinal issues arose, debates took place and statements of faith were created and amended as other issues arose. These attempts were felt necessary by many to both settle and define a doctrinal stance for the newly emerging denomination and to keep out error. As a result of these debates, several groups separated from the main body of Christadelphians, most notably the Suffolk Street fellowship and the Unamended fellowship.
The Christadelphian position on conscientious objection came to the fore with the introduction of conscription during the First World War. Varying degrees of exemption from military service were granted to Christadelphians in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. In the Second World War, this frequently required the person seeking exemption to undertake civilian work under the direction of the authorities.
Lacking any agreed headquarters or leadership structure due to the principle of 'ecclesial autonomy', there is no officially agreed statement of doctrine or practice. The community holds together by a broad common assent to the core doctrinal principles of the Christadelphian community, which are outlined on the above tab "Doctrines". Each ecclesia tends to have their own slant on finer points of doctrine and on matters of practice; some practice an effectively open table, others are very closed. Some enforce a dress code, others do not. Some express loyalty to Christadelphian writers and publishers in cities such as Adelaide, Australia or Birmingham, United Kingdom- others do not. Some work more with local churches and denominations, others only with other Christadelphians, and some refuse to have fellowship with most other Christadelphians or anyone. So the movement is now very diverse and encompasses a broad spectrum.
[material taken partly from Wikipedia]
Our resources related to Christadelphian history include:
William Norrie's sister Jane was the wife of Christadelphian pioneer Br
Robert Roberts; in 1904 he published a 3 volume history of how the true
Gospel developed in Britain in the 19th century, called "The Early History
of the Kingdom of God in Britain". Very few copies were published, and we
are only aware of three hard copy originals of this invaluable work. It's
full of little known facts and is invaluable to anyone interested in the
development of the Truth in the UK in the 19th century, written as it is by
someone close to Br Robert Roberts. Anyone interested in Christadelphian
history will find this fascinating reading, presenting many new perspectives
and largely unrecognized facts. We're delighted to say that this book has
now been scanned and the three volumes are available online at: