Monday, February 06, 2006

Origins of the name "Christadelphian" (2)

In the "certificate" which John Thomas wrote for Samuel Coffman and "the brethren of Ogle County" (ten males in all) he refers to the Antipas Association of Christadelphians in New York as the publishers of a pamphlet called 'Yahweh Elohim'. He cites this as evidence that a denomination with the name "Christadelphian" was already in existence.

Yet Christadelphian tradition is quite definite that the name "Christadelphian" was born out of necessity due to the need to register a denomination of conscientious objectors during the American Civil War. Something doesn't add up here. Either (a) the name was invented for this purpose, as Roberts implies in his biography of John Thomas, and which has formed part of the Christadelphian tradition ever since, or (b) it was already in use in New York as a denominational title. Both can't be right.

And if the name "Christadelphian" was already in use in New York before the need to register a denomination, then it appears that John Thomas was already planning a new denomination - perhaps to break away from the Believers Movement.

In future messages, as I've already promised, I plan to look at some of the influences on the development of the Believers Movement up to this point in 1864, and what may have been in John Thomas's mind when he was planning a new denomination.

The full text of the "certificate" follows, for interest. There are some interesting expressions which give us a glimpse of how John Thomas saw himself within the "denomination". For example:
  • He refers to New York (where he lived at the time) as "the Radiating Centre" of the denomination.
  • He describes himself as "the personal instrumentality by which the Christian Association aforesaid in Britain and America have been developed within the last fifteen years", apparently taking sole credit for the development of the Believers Movement. But in future messages we will examine whether this is correct.

“This is to certify that S. W. Coffman and others (The names of the ten male members were given) constitute a Religious Association denominated herein, for the sake of distinguishing them from all other ‘Names and Denominations,’ Brethren in Christ, or, in one word, Christadelphians, and that said brethren are in fellowship with similar associations in England, Scotland, the British Provinces, New York and other cities of the North and South—New York being for the time present the Radiating Centre of their testimony to the people of the current age and generation of the world.”

“This is also to certify, that the Denomination constituted of the associations or ecclesias of this name conscientiously opposes, and earnestly protests against ‘Brethren in Christ’ having anything to do with politics in wordy strife, or armsbearing in the service of the Sin-powers of the world under any conceivable circumstances or conditions whatever; regarding it as a course of conduct disloyal to the Deity in Christ, their Lord and King, and perilous to their eternal welfare.”

“This being individually and collectively the conscientious conviction of all true Christadelphians, they claim and demand the rights and privileges so considerately accorded by the Congress of the United States in the statute made and provided for the exemption of members of a Denomination conscientiously opposed to bearing arms in the service of any human government.”

“This is also further to certify that the undersigned is the personal instrumentality by which the Christian Association aforesaid in Britain and America have been developed within the last fifteen years, and that therefore he knows assuredly that a conscientious, determined and uncompromising opposition to serving in the armies of ‘the Powers that be’ is their denominational characteristic. In confirmation of this, he appeals to the definition in respect to war on page 13 of a pamphlet entitled ‘Yahweh Elohim’ issued by the Antipas Association of Christadelphians assembling at 24 Cooper Institute, New York, and with which he ordinarily convenes. Advocates of war and desolation are not in fellowship with them, or with the undersigned,
John Thomas.”

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