Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

By: Colby D. Hall and Kenneth L. Teegarden

Type: Overview Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: August 10, 2020

The Disciples of Christ in Texas are a part of a movement started by Barton W. Stone in Kentucky in 1804, and by Thomas and Alexander Campbell and Walter Scott in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio between 1809 and 1823. The two groups united in 1832, and the church moved westward with the tide of migration. The earliest Disciples who came to Texas were led by Collin McKinney. They stopped on the border of Texas just east of Texarkana in 1824 and in 1831 moved on to the Hickman's Prairie and McKinney's Landing areas on the Red River in what is now Bowie County. A church was organized in 1841 with G. Gates as minister and Collin McKinney as elder. The families of the group gradually moved westward until they were all living in Collin and Grayson counties, where, in 1846, they organized Old Liberty or Mantua Church, which became the First Christian Church of Van Alstyne. From this early church sprang most of the Christian churches in North Texas. Their ministers included William McKinney, Collin M. Wilmeth, A. Cartright, J. H. O. Polly, R. C. Horn, and B. F. Hall. Education was provided by the Muse Academy, operated by J. C. Muse. In January 1836 an entire congregation of the Disciples moved by way of Texarkana into Texas under the leadership of Lynn D'Spain and Mansell W. Matthews and settled at Clarksville in Red River County. About 1841 Matthews moved to Rockwall and began preaching generally through North Texas. In 1836 the D'Spain family moved to Nacogdoches, where they established a church and where Hettie D'Spain married Joseph Addison Clark and became the mother of Addison and Randolph Clark, founders of Add-Ran College (now Texas Christian University). In 1833 Dr. William Defee began preaching in Sabine, San Augustine, and Shelby counties. Antioch Church, four miles from San Augustine, was organized in the home of Rhoddy Anthony in 1836 and became the oldest continuous congregation in the area. A church at Rio Navidad had eight members in 1841 and heard a report of four other congregations of Disciples near by. In 1842 a church of 100 members was reported at San Patricio. In 1845 churches were reported at Live Oak Well in Fayette County with David B. Stout as minister, at Clear Creek with J. W. Cox as minister, in Washington County, and in Lamar County.

A fear of ecclesiastic control and a tendency toward biblical literalism and frontier individualism made these early Disciples wary of organization; nevertheless, a "co-operative" sprang up near Palestine as early as 1852 under the leadership of Carroll Kendrick, Samuel Henderson, and John B. Tyler. A statewide meeting of ministers was held at Thorp Spring as early as 1879 and was followed by annual meetings at Waxahachie, Bonham, Ennis, Bryan, Sherman, and Austin. At Austin in 1886 the Texas Christian Missionary Society was organized. This establishment of a society for home-mission work and a controversy over the use of instrumental music in worship services caused disagreement between conservative and liberal elements in the communion. The Firm Foundation at Austin became the journal for the conservatives; the Christian Courier spoke for the progressives after 1888. By 1906 the conservative elements broke off into the Church of Christ.

Executives of the Texas Christian Missionary Society from 1886 to 1959 were A. J. Bush, J. W. Holsapple, B. B. Sanders, J. C. Mason, A. B. Rogers, J. B. Holmes, Patrick Henry, Sr., and Chester Crow. In 1963 the name of the Texas Christian Missionary Society was changed to the Texas Association of Christian Churches. T. T. Swearingen was the executive until 1969. The Disciples of Christ (Christian Church) resolved at their annual assembly in 1956 to change their official name to Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). When the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada made significant structural changes in the late 1960s, the Texas branch was designated one of thirty-six regions and named Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Texas. In 1975 the region was enlarged to include New Mexico, the panhandle of Oklahoma, and Liberal, Kansas, and the regional name was changed to Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Southwest. The executive officer is called "regional minister." Serving in that position since 1969 have been Kenneth L. Teegarden, Harrell A. Rea, James C. Suggs, and M. Margaret Harrison. The purposes of the Disciples' Southwest Region are to engage in mission, witness and service among the people and social structures of the region, and to establish and nurture congregations, provide help, counsel and pastoral care to members, ministers and congregations, and relate them to the worldwide mission and witness of the whole church. In addition to their denominational work, Texas Disciples engage in ecumenical enterprises and belong to the Texas Conference of Churches. In 1860 the Disciples of Christ had 2,500 members in Texas. In 1994 there were 103,130 members in 445 congregations. The denomination has had under its auspices, directly or indirectly, a number of Texas colleges: Carlton College, Carr-Burdette, Randolph College at Lancaster, Hereford College, Midland Christian College, Randolph College at Cisco, Bay View College, Patroon College, Mount Enterprise Male and Female College, Burnetta College, Add-Ran Jarvis College, Add-Ran College, Add-Ran Christian University, Jarvis Christian College, and Texas Christian University. By 1949 all of the schools had been closed or absorbed into other institutions except Jarvis Christian College and Texas Christian University. The Disciples also operate the Juliette Fowler Homes, a benevolent institution in Dallas.

Randolph Clark, Reminiscences (Wichita Falls: Lee Clark, 1919; rpt., Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1979). Winfred Ernest Garrison and Alfred T. De Groot, The Disciples of Christ: A History (St. Louis: Bethany, 1948; rev. ed. 1958). Colby D. Hall, History of Texas Christian University (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1947). Chalmers McPherson, Disciples of Christ in Texas (Cincinnati: Standard, 1920).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Colby D. Hall and Kenneth L. Teegarden, “Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 10, 2020