The identity statement of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) states: “We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As part of the one body of Christ we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us.”
Our name, Christian Church, does not mean we think we are the only Christians, but we strive to be only Christian. Or perhaps it would be better to say, simply Christian. Our communities, which we usually call congregations, are diverse in their history and their practice today. Being a movement for wholeness means staying in relationship, within our congregations, and among our congregations, even when we do not see eye-to-eye on all issues. At our best, this is not to say our convictions are not strong, but to say that following Jesus together is itself a defining conviction of our movement. In our congregations you will see the diversity of Canada--different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, different political values, different worship styles--striving to follow Jesus alongside one another.
While each is distinct, usually a Disciples congregation will practice weekly Communion and an open-table, celebrate baptism by immersion of believers, have a passion for Bible study, and strongly believe in cooperation and relationship with other faith communities.
Jesus gathered at a table his disciples and shared a simple meal of bread and wine. That holy feast, connecting Christians across time and geography and denomination, continues. In most of our congregations, we celebrate this each Sunday. We call it Communion because it makes a community with one another and Jesus himself, or the Lord's Supper because it is his meal and he is the host. Because Jesus is the host at the Table, we welcome all to the Table as Jesus welcomed us, and visitors are welcome to observe or participate, as they desire. The chalice is our logo as a reflection of our passion for gathering together in Communion.
Trying to emulate our understandings of the earliest Christian practice and affirming our contemporary belief in the freedom of each person to develop their own faith and relationship with God through Jesus, our congregations usually practice baptism by immersion as a way for someone to freely follow Jesus' example and join the church. (However, most congregations honour and accept baptism performed in other churches and in other ways. Some of our congregations are affiliated with other Christian denominations, and in those cases the practice is a matter of individual choice.)
We are a noncreedal church, meaning we do not use any particular statement of faith as a measure of whether or not someone belongs in our midst. "We are called to study and read scripture for ourselves. Rather than having tests of faith and creedal statements, we critically and thoughtfully study scripture, taking into account the history and background – the context – in which it was written."*
Studying the Bible as individuals and as congregations is a freedom and a responsibility. Studying the Bible gives us a shared language and shared points of reference to discuss our faith, our doubts, our experiences, and our hopes with one another. It is common in Disciples congregations to meet people who are passionate about learning and thinking about the Bible, all passionately not necessarily drawing the same conclusions.
A Movement for Wholeness
Our institution is called the Christian Church in Canada because our founders did not want to be defined by their names or any doctrine other than Jesus, and we are called Disciples of Christ because we place being his students and followers first. We are passionately ecumenical. We believe in our unity with other Christians. We believe what we share is more important than our differences. We do not deny our differences and disagreements, we wilfully pray that the unity we find in Jesus be greater than them.
We have a full Communion agreement with the United Church of Canada, meaning we recognize one another's ministries and ministers, while being institutionally distinct. In Canada, we have shared and cooperative ministries with multiple other denominations. We look for where and how God calls us to work better together, whether in camps, chaplaincies, or congregations.