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Alexander Campbell

Religious Leader and Founder of the Disciples of Christ

Alexander Campbell was a prolific writer on religious subjects and a vigorous debater and polemicist in the field of religion. He, with some assistance from others, was the founder of the Protestant denomination, Disciples of Christ. Campbell was born September 12, 1788, in Ulster. His father Thomas was a rebellious Scots Presbyterian minister. Father and son broke with the Presbyterian Church in 1812 over immersion, which they considered necessary for salvation. As a result, both joined the Baptist Church. Alexander started his college training at the University of Glasgow but left a year later before embarking for the United States. His father had preceded him to America, and Alexander joined him in 1809. They lived in Pennsylvania but moved to Virginia where Alexander spent a good share of his life. The Campbells wanted to end sectarian divisions in the Christian Church. To do this, they would grant liberty in all matters of opinion as it was, they said, in the original Christian Church. Alexander took over leadership of the movement and associated with the Baptists. But he soon found differences and felt the need to separate. In so doing, he founded the Disciples of Christ in 1839. He became a well-known public figure, debating, writing, lecturing and preaching. He also became a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1829 while operating a large farm. For 20 years he also served as president of Bethany College which he founded in 1840. Before his death on March 4, 1866, in Bethany, the religious movement which he led with help from a few others had attained a membership of more than 300,000 and was continuing to grow.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
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