We have our community formed as the first centurycommunities, but our name deriving from the Greek delphos (brother) and Christ was taken on by the English RestorationistDr. John Thomas in the 19th century.
Dr. Thomas, born in Hoxton Square, Hackney, London, on April 12, 1805, as the son of a Dissenting minister, also named John Thomas, came from a French Huguenot refugees family. At the age of 16, in Chorley, he began studying medicine, showing a keen interest in chemistry and biology. He published several learned medical articles for The Lancet, one of which argued in favour of the importance of the use of corpses for the study of medicine (it was illegal in England to dissect them at this time).
Going on ahead and prepare for his family which wanted to emigrate, like many at that time, to the New World, he took the opportunity to further his career and accepted an appointment as ship’s surgeon on the Marquis of Wellesley which was bound from St Katharine Docks, London to New York in 1832.
On the ship he encountered many Europeans who called themselves Christian but all had different ideas about Christ and how to worship God. this made him think and the long hours on board gave him many opportunities to talk about faith, the Bible and God.
Getting closer to the American land the ship came into a big storm and landed a few times on sandbanks. Several times, off the coast of Nova Scotia, the ship was raised, each time the keel striking the sea bed with such force that both crew and passengers were convinced the ship would break up. You can imagine the fear going on aboard.
The medic also knowing how precious his life was, fearing for it made a call to God. Praying to the Most High, Dr. Thomas asked for mercy and promised that in case he would survive this trip he would spend more time to God, if God wanted that from him.
Aided by a change in wind direction, the captain’s efforts to turn the ship back out to sea were successful and after one final bone-jarring grounding, the ship floated free. Thomas never forgot his vow to dedicate his life, should he be spared, to religious study and to seeking out the truth about the matter of life and death.
As such he went looking for the truth by going deeper into Bible reading and study. He also made further contacts with people also looking for truth, for God, the right way of living, reasons and perfect law. Like others who went searching for Biblical truth he looked for people to join and form a community of believers or church.
Dr. Thomas became attracted by the teachings of Thomas and Alexander Campbell, the most prominent leaders of the Disciples of Christ movement of the early 19th century. Campbell’s followers were committed to restoring primitive Christianity.
Hussites, Anabaptists, Landmarkists, Puritans, Waldensians and many seventh-day Sabbatarians their ideas were spreading over the North American continent and influencing many pioneers who had and took enough time to read and study the Bible.
It was Alexander Campbell who encouraged John Thomas to become an evangelist, spending his time travelling around the eastern States of America preaching, until eventually settling down as a preacher in Philadelphia. It was here on 1 January 1834 that he married Ellen Hunt who became his lifelong companion and constant support throughout the trials of faith that persisted throughout his life.
In May 1834 the Apostolic Advocate saw the light. It was one of the first in a series of magazines Thomas wrote for and edited. It got 5 volumes, 1834-38 and was followed up with 4 volumes of Herald of the Future Age from 1845 until 1848 and Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come (11 volumes, 1851-61)
Residing in the New World the people really felt the pressures and importance of the land. Having time to spend reading the bible, God’s infallible Word, many came to understand that God is concerned with the earth as a whole, and the nations inhabiting it. They saw that careers of great empires are under God’s control and their fate is predicted. They also became convinced that the severe troubles of the modern world are all foreseen.
Dr. Thomas came very well to understand that, though we may suffer a lot, there is for everybody a good solution: the establishment by God of a new order in the earth as the only means by which the waywardness of mankind can be controlled.
By his thorough bible study Dr. Thomas came to see how widely held orthodox Christian beliefs were blatantly wrong and if a person wanted to be a true Christian, he should have to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and keep to the biblical truth, like Jesus kept to his heavenly Father‘s Words. He was convinced that man had to do away with human teachings when they were false dogmatic teachings. In true Christianity there is no place for false teachings. For him all followers of Christ should go for sound apostolic and biblical teachings.
When confronted with a community which keeps to false teachings a person should leave that group and that is what Dr. Thomas also did.
After having himself rebaptised he rejected his former beliefs and associations with the Campbellites and was formally disfellowshipped in 1837. This did not stop him to continue his preaching work and many came to listen to his sermons or exhortations. He also managed to invoke others to continue the bible reading and bible study in small groups. From such groups came different Bible Students of which some groups are still active today. From groups installed by Thomas came other groups, because of differences in certain matters or because they wanted to focus on other things. As such the International Bible Students became a strong group and the schism in their organisation bringing forth the Jehovah Witnesses makes it why so many people find similarities in both those groups with our teachings, which is logical having both claiming to follow the same Book of books as basic study material.
By May 1848, Thomas had decided to return to British pastures to seek an entrance for the gospel. On 1 June, he embarked on the De Witt Clinton, docking in England twenty-one days later.
Throughout the entire period 1848-1864, John Thomas’s routine was full of travelling for the purpose of building up the American ecclesias. He continued this heavy schedule even when he was ill, and also maintained his work as a writer, editor, correspondent and debater. The record of his itinerary alone presents the reader with an exhausting experience. Many of his lecture tours extended over periods of weeks.
His visits to Britain was of crucial importance in the development of British Christadelphianism. By means of his tours and his magazines, Thomas had influence over a large number of Campbellite and Millerite individuals, (some of his meetings were attended by several thousand people), principally in two areas – the North and East Midlands, and Scotland.
Professor at the Edinburgh University from 1843-65, and engaged in the education of deaf-mutes in Washington, D.C., Alexander M. Bell and his wife were apparently very interested in the truth, and helped in the efforts of Dr. Thomas’ lectures. They were so very impressed with the Doctors work in the Truth, that they were on the committee to help get the first Edition of Elpis Israel published.
In July 1864, the export of Dr. Thomas’s Heralds having ceased three years previously, Robert Roberts commenced production of The Ambassador and a new chapter began in the history of the Baptised Believers.
John Thomas’s conversion from the Campbellites to what became the Christadelphians was no ‘Damascus Road’ affair: his views matured slowly during the period 1832 to 1847. By 1847, he had sympathisers; by 1848, he was the de facto leader of a new sect, having himself baptised the first converts to it; yet, still, he was unclear on certain matters – especially, though not only, regarding fellowship. The baptism of individuals into a faith with lots of vigour, enthusiasm and spirituality, but with no fixed creed, was not a recipe for tranquillity. This state of affairs largely explained why Thomas’s converts were spiritually diverse. The subsequent concentration of authority in the hands of Robert Roberts, and Roberts’s penchant for clarity of thought, and intermittent casuistry, in matters spiritual, accounted for much of the turbulence in the years following 1864, when Roberts became founding editor of The Ambassador. The strong-minded individualism of some of these early pre-1864 converts constitutes part of the explanation of how the post-1864 turbulence created schism early in the group’s existence: two splinter-groups emerging within a decade of 1864.
John Thomas sailed for New York on 11 October 1850, well satisfied with the effects of his labours in Britain to that date.
In 1864, during the course of the American Civil War, Dr. John Thomas choose for the name Christadelphians, coming from christou and adelphoi or delphos (brother) which combined to mean ‘brethren in Christ’. Throughout history there have been many groups who called themselves brothers or brethren in Christ who wanted to avoid any form of violence.
He did this, not for novelty’s sake – he was himself preaching to a variety of different Christian assemblies at this time and was far from exclusive in intent – but, in compliance with the requests of contemporary U.S.A. authorities, to provide a label for those who were his followers to apply to themselves so they could avoid military service in that war. Thus ‘Christadelphianism’ relates to the period after 1864, on this definition. However, British believers continued to call themselves by divergent, vaguer terms for some time afterwards. The use of the label ‘Christadelphian’ became much more a standard term for the group after the name of these believers’ main periodical was changed, in 1869, from The Ambassador of the Coming Age to The Christadelphian. (Advocate & Herald magazines from 1835-1861)
From July 1864, this monthly periodical The Ambassador began to be published in Britain, and statistics relating to membership and conversion became available for historical scrutiny for the first time on a national basis.
Roberts was prominent in the period following the death of John Thomas in 1871, and helped craft the structures of the Christadelphian body. Robert Roberts was certain that John Thomas had rediscovered the truth. Robert Robert‘s life was characterised by debates over issues that arose within the fledgling organisation; some of these debates can be found in the book Robert Roberts—A study of his life and character by Islip Collyer.
In Great Britain the community found several adherents and until today lots of Christadelphians may be found in England.
As English people discovered other parts to live in the world Christadelphianism also spread to those countries. Having no central organisation, each group moved and evolved on its own, sometimes others not knowing about their development. Each local congregation, or “ecclesia” as it is known, is run by its own male members and is autonomous. Such independent structure makes it more difficult to find all necessary information to have a detailed history of the group.
For the Low countries, some English Christadelphians regularly visited Holland, Belgium and France. Most Biblestudents found followers in the South of Belgium and North of France. The spiritual development of the ‘Baptised Believers’ was not just limited to the work of settled ecclesiae in the towns. Brethren who were, or who became, isolated in Belgium, Holland and France were sustained by visits from itinerant English brethren during the first years of the 20th century. Sometimes this would result in the strengthening of the numbers in isolation sufficient to warrant the formation of a new ecclesia; on other occasions, very small groups would agree to meet together as a sizeable congregation – sometimes meeting in more than one place to share the burden of transport.
Jean Baptiste Tilmant and his friends tried to go from one place to an other connecting those interested in the truth. François Caré could bring Edouard Verdière thinking about what the bible students told and what he was accustomed to hear what should be written in the bible, but what is not to find in there. Also Léonard Smets came to see the difference in what was taught in the Catholic church and what was said in the bible. this made the region of Liège having some active bible students and forming small house churches.
On different visits to the European continent Joseph Franklin Rutherford and Charles Taze Russell could meet Belgian enthusiasts, who talked in their own regions about their studies and those from other bible students.
After the second world war several Catholics started doubting more the existence of God and the Catholic Church. English Christadelphians, from the Christadelphian Bible Mission (CBM), yearly came over to preach and hand out leaflets for a week.
In 1957 Holland got the ecclesiae in Ede, Amersfoort and Den Haag which are still continuing to reach people. The “Kerkgenootschap Ekklesia der Broeders in Christus Ede” (Churchsociety ecclesia of the Brethren in Christ Ede) has the Landelijk Predikingsfonds (Rural Preaching fund) which takes care for the distribution of the Dutch magazine Met Open Bijbel, the Dutch books, the reading plan and other Bible reading tools in Dutch.
In 2014, in addition to the weekly meetings in Amersfoort, a study and preaching week was held at Maasbommel, with members of the Dutch ecclesiae and some foreign believers. The subject of the study was “The story in the Scriptures as a narrative form.”
The ecclesia in Groningen and in North Limburg are smaller ones which like so many churches of other faithgroups are facing reducing numbers.
In the 1980ies Marcus Ampe, who at that time was still a non-trinitarian Baptist, tried to bring people to God and to reconcile the many believers who did not agree any-more with the doctrinal teachings of their denomination. With some other people coming from the Jehovah’s Witnesses and protestant churches he organised the Vrije Christenen or Free Christians.
After having already brought others into Christadelphianism Marcus Ampe, like many others of his brethren and sisters escaping the pressure of the American Southern Baptists Union pushing with their trinitarian views, got himself also rebaptised and choose to affiliate with and taking on the name Christadelphian. Next to his own space were he discusses worldly situations he started to present several religious sites as well. The MSN sites, taken over by Multiply were later transferred to Blogger, still offering Our World as a window on our world and discussing religious matters.
Today, in Belgium, there are different Christadelphian groups active. Several of them are offering services in Farsi and/or English (ecclesiae in Oostende, Gent, Antwerp, Leuven, Mons and a few in Brussels), whilst one in Brussels and Leuven is also providing services in Dutch.
In March 2016 we started with the Triptych in Dutch about looking and finding God, with as components: 1. Op zoek naar God; 2. De Weg naar God; 3. God vinden; which shall be translated in English and placed on these pages.
Who We Are
From a tiny country at the West of the European continent the Belgian Christadelphians are in quantity perhaps ignorable Christians, but you should know that it is not the majority which is going to win the race to the end goal, the Kingdom of God.
We are humble people who know that we do have faults and particular peculiarities. We love all the differences in our fellow man which makes the world more interesting and full of colours.
As children of God we follow rabbi Jeshua, in many countries better known as Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Following the teachings of Jeshua we worship the same God the Father as he did, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and try to build up our life like the early Christians. We also take up seriously the task Christ Jesus has given his followers to go out into the world and to proclaim the Good News of the coming Kingdom of God.
We are not dependent on a worldly hierarchical cleric system, but under the guidance of the cornerstone of God‘s Church. As independent followers of Christ, looking not so much about personal salvation but about a bigger plan, we are structured as the first century Christians trying to be properly in Christ.
- Who we are
- Who are the Christadelphians
- What are Brothers in Christ
- Christadelphian people
- Christadelphians worldwide
- Major differences in thinking opposed to other Christians
- Christadelphians their faith
- Our faith and beliefs
- Our Aims
- Our history
- 19th century London Christadelphians
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- The bible and us
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