Churches of Christ in Australia
Churches of Christ in Australia belong to the Stone-Campbell family of churches, which include the Christian Church (Disciples), Christian Churches and Churches of Christ in the USA, and churches in over 160 countries throughout the world. They are members of the Disciples Ecumenical Consultative Council. The history of the Churches of Christ in Australia goes back to 1845, when a young immigrant from Britain who had been converted in Nelson, New Zealand in the first Church of Christ congregation there, joined a Scottish Baptist group in Adelaide who had abandoned their denominational name. His convincing testimony won many to an appreciation of the example of the New Testament Church. The next year a chapel was put up. By 1865 there were five Christian churches in southern Australia, with a membership of 253. The first annual conference was held in 1866. There was a division of opinion over the nature of the conference, but in 1872 the principle of congregational independence prevailed. In 1889 evangelistic work was extended to the colony of Western Australia.
A College of the Bible was established in Melbourne in 1907, and another Bible college at Woolwich, a Sydney suburb, in 1942. A year earlier the federal conference had authorized the start of organized work among the Aborigines. Today Churches of Christ are found in all states and territories of Australia. Churches of Christ in Australia have a history which parallels the national history as it has been involved in the movements of people first to the rural areas and in recent years to the cities. The churches are alive as local congregations, which place an emphasis on lay participation in worship and government. This means that the ethos of theology, liturgy, church programming and evangelism reflects the concerns of the lay membership. The care of congregational life based on the Christian gospel is seen as vital. Since the mid-1990s a significant focus has been on reengaging missionally with post-modern western culture. Among the major issues faced by Churches of Christ in Australia are: (a) to enable church growth with a theology that is biblical and authentic to Australians; (b) to help members towards an understanding of the unity of the church on the basis of rediscovering a New Testament understanding of the church itself; (c) to witness to the renewal of human community based on the gospel imperatives.
Churches of Christ in Australia have good relations with sister churches in New Zealand, Western India, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, the United Kingdom, Poland, Albania, Zimbabwe, Indonesia and the United States.