Day 15: Bournville, Springdale College, and the Fellowship of the Churches of Christ in the United Kingdom and Ireland

Springdale-opaqueHello all:

I am again behind in posting to the blog.  As soon as I got home from the UK, I hoped on a plane for a last minute, unexpected trip to Portland, Oregon.  Once I got home, I then had the Christian Scholar’s Conference to attend.  Things have been quite busy.

After my time in London, I went to Bournville, near Birmingham, at the invitation of Andy Vail, the Administrator of the Fellowship of the Churches of Christ in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Andy takes care of the daily needs and operations of the (inter)national manifestation of the Stone-Campbell Movement there.  The movement looks quite different in the UK and Ireland than it does in the United States.  While the U.S. witnessed three main splits in the movement, and dozes of smaller schisms within the three major streams of the movement, the movement in the United Kingdom and Ireland has only split once.  That split is between the Old Paths Churches of Christ, and the Fellowship of Churches of Christ.   The Old Paths congregations are conservative in nature.  They maintain acapella worship, practice mutual edification (and reject located ministers), and are fully autonomous. There are approximately 74 congregations located throughout Britian, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The Fellowship of the Churches of Christ, on the other hand, does employ instrumental music in its services.  These congregations often employ mutual edification, but not all congregations that affiliate with the fellowship at ME congregations.  While each congregation in the fellowship is autonomous, they do all pledge to cooperate together through a national office.

Through this national office, the church supports Springdale College.  Springdale is the only remaining school of higher education associated with the Stone-Campbell Movement remaining in the United Kingdom.  It shares offices with the Fellowship, on the second floor of the congregation that meets in Bournville, the Pavilion Christian Community.    Interestingly, the church operates the only establishment in Bournville licensed to sell alcohol.  Bournville, home to Cadburry’s national offices, was founded by Quakers as a dry town.

Andy and I met for several hours and discussed the condition of the Stone-Campbell Movement in the United Kingdom, as well as the history of the Movement in the UK and Ireland, the split with the Old Paths Churches, and the formation of the United Reformed Church out of UK Churches of Christ, British Presbyterians, and UK-wide Congregational Churches.  Andy introduced me to a number of books on the history of the Stone-Campbell Movement in the United Kingdom that I was unaware of, as well as acquainted me with archival resources on the larger movement located in the UK.

Finally, Andy walked me through his dissertation, which he will defend soon at the University of Birmingham. Andy’s research is on pacifism during World War I among evangelical churches, including the churches of the Stone-Campbell Movement, in the area of Birmingham.  Since much of my own research is on Stone-Campbell Pacifism during World War I in the United States, I was happy to learn much about pacifism in our movement in the UK.  I was happy to learn that while pacifism is generally weak in our movement in the United States, it is alive and well in our churches in the UK.