Submitted by
Kelly Thompson and Jon Berquist,
Chairs of Councils

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Council of Colleges and Universities

Disciples related colleges and universities represent a broad range of opportunities for students to experience the richness of a liberal arts education steeped in the Disciples tradition of faith, reason, and wholeness. There are fifteen colleges and universities that are in covenant with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) across the United States. While they are diverse in their settings and academic offerings, all have a commitment to academic excellence, a passion for social justice, and provide an inclusive community that respects all people and cultures.

The covenantally affiliated schools are:

  • Barton College
  • Bethany College
  • Chapman University
  • Columbia College
  • Culver-Stockton College
  • Drury University
  • Eureka College
  • Hiram College
  • Jarvis Christian College
  • University of Lynchburg
  • Midway University
  • Texas Christian University
  • Tougaloo College
  • Transylvania University
  • William Woods University

Disciples schools focus on character, service, and leadership; providing ample opportunities for student to get involved in the community, explore faith and values, and connect to new ideas and perspectives. All institutions offer Disciples scholarships and financial aid to help make higher education affordable. Each offers a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degree opportunities with a unique scope of majors and programs of study.

Established in connection with the church, through Higher Education and Leadership Ministries, the primary purpose of the Council of Colleges and Universities is to provide an avenue for discussion of common concerns and issues, generally institutional in character, and for the sharing of its members’ expertise.  The Council also exists as a forum at which the institutions may discuss strategies for denominational understanding and for the development of denominational fiscal support.  The Council also provides advice and recommendations to HELM and is a means by which institutions can explore appropriate ways of working with HELM and the wider church.  In addition to providing a forum, the Council is a means for fellowship of the chief executive officers of the institutions holding membership in the Council.

Highlights of work of the council include:

Over the past two years, nearly all of the Disciples colleges and universities have experienced increases in undergraduate admissions applications. Several schools have also seen significant increases in enrollment. The council continues to work with HELM to recruit Disciples students to attend Disciples colleges and universities

HELM has held info sessions at churches, regional assemblies, and racial ethnic constituency gatherings, to share information with high school students and with their parents. These info sessions have generated excitement and interest in Disciples colleges and universities and have contributed to increased number of students seeking enrollment at Disciples schools.

HELM staff and representatives from other Disciples general ministry have promoted ministry programs for young adults by working with Disciples chaplains and campus ministers. This continues to encourage Disciples college students participating in the NBA XPLOR program, DOM Global Mission Intern Program, DHM Disciples Peach Fellows, and many others

During 2018, HELM worked closely with Tougaloo College to achieve the school’s goal of moving toward full covenantal affiliation with the church. The proposal was well received and approved by all relevant councils and boards of the church. It became official during the 2019 General Board meeting.

Council on Theological Education

All of us are called to serve God with our lives. Some, however, feel called to serve in specific vocational ministries. For those who are discerning this calling, considering the possibility of theological education and where that might take place is crucial. Throughout the history the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and throughout the entirety of the Stone-Campbell movement, Disciples have been committed to the education and training of those serving in ministry. And while the context in which ministry takes place today is very different than in previous generations, the commitment to excellence in education continues.

Today there are seven seminaries and divinity houses that are in covenant with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) across the United States. Each of them offers various degrees, certificates, and programs, as well as varying approaches in journeying with students. Some offer a traditional, residence-based experience, others have on-line classes with short on-campus intensives throughout the year, and still others offer a blending of on-site and distance learning. However, while they may differ in the format of classes as well as specific degrees and programs offered, all have a commitment to journeying with students in discerning their calling, equipping them with the knowledge and experience to serve God in the wider church and world.

Established in connection with the church, through Higher Education and Leadership Ministries, the Council on Theological Education is and organized means of communication and cooperation both among its member institutions and between its membership and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The Council includes up to two voting representatives selected by each theological education institution affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) [Current Members: Brite Divinity School; Christian Theological Seminary; Lexington Theological Seminary; Phillips Theological Seminary; Disciples Divinity House of the University of Chicago; Disciples Divinity House at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, and Disciples Seminary Foundation

The last two annual meetings of the Council of Theological education took place in Indianapolis and were hosted by Higher Education and Leadership Ministries at Disciples Center. Highlights of the meetings include:

  • Presentation from and conversation with General Minister and President Teresa “Terri” Hord Owens. The conversation focused on the goals and priority of the Office of the General Minister and President, as well at the church’s commitment to strong theological education institutions.
  • Presentations from and engagement with leaders of the Association of Theological Schools where data was presented on enrollment trends at schools across North America, with a focus on Disciples schools and the numbers of Disciples students enrolled in ATS schools. The members of CTE committed to engaging in continued intentional conversations around increasing enrollment of Disciples students at Disciples theological education institutions.
  • The Council also met with leadership from the Pension Fund and the National Benevolent Association as part of their ongoing effort to strengthen connections with Disciples of Christ general ministry partners.






General Board Report
January 2, 2019
Rick Lowery, President DCHS

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A stable foundation for the future

Disciples of Christ Historical Society has been in a period of transition the last few years, as we have relocated from Nashville, Tennessee, to Bethany, West Virginia. The move is now complete, and DCHS is well positioned to accomplish our mission to preserve and proclaim the story of Disciples of Christ within the broader Stone-Campbell tradition, with its distinctive witness to the essential unity of the church as sign and “harbinger” of God’s transforming work of justice and peace in the world.

Our finances are stable. Our budget is balanced. Our future is bright.

Thanks to the strong leadership of our Board, the prudent investment strategy of Christian Church Foundation, which now manages the bulk of the investments that help fund our ministry, and the competent and rigorous accounting of Treasury Services in the Office of the General Minister and President, we are financially secure and transparent in our stewardship of resources devoted to this important ministry. We have strict and reasonable rules in place for the responsible management and growth of our endowment. Our finances are audited as part of Treasury Services’ annual audit. We are living within our means. We are hopeful about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

In 2017, the Historical Society conducted a national search for a new president, following the Executive Search Process established by the General Board (rev. 04-08-2013). I was called and subsequently installed as president on November 5, 2017, at National City Christian Church in Washington, D.C., an event that coincided with the dedication of DCHS’s Oscar Haynes Exhibit on African American Disciples History, on permanent loan to National City. In 2019, we will update that exhibit with additional papers, photographs, and other important artifacts that chronicle the historic contribution of African-American Disciples to the life and witness of our church.

Under the leadership of archivist Shelley Jacobs, a team of part-time workers, including several Bethany College students, continues to organize the archival collection and unpack our extensive library of books and journals related to the Stone-Campbell movement. We continue to receive and process files and documents from congregations, regions, and various ministries from the three major “streams” of the Stone-Campbell tradition.

In the coming months we will begin the long, careful process of checking and digitizing our card catalog and making it available online. We are, in the normal course of responding to research requests, scanning materials and increasing the number of documents, files, and photos stored in digital as well as physical form. That process will continue and, we hope, accelerate in the future. Our goal is to make the collection more accessible to researchers who may not be able to travel to Bethany, WV.

In 2018, we responded to research requests from scholars and other researchers from around the world from all three streams of the Stone-Campbell movement and from a variety of other Christian and religious and non-religious backgrounds. For example, we hosted and assisted a prominent Church of Christ historian writing a new biography of Alexander Campbell, and, in the process, discovered what we believe is a never-before-published image of Campbell. We provided access to materials for use in books, articles, genealogical research, and televised documentaries. In August, for example, in collaboration with Global Ministries, we hosted a television crew from Nanjing, China, making a documentary about Disciples mission workers Lewis Smythe and James McCallum, who helped protect Chinese civilians during the Nanjing Massacre in 1937-1938 and later filed affidavits with their diaries and letters to document the atrocity. DCHS preserves many of their papers and diaries. This documentary, which aired recently on Chinese television, was a follow-up to an earlier documentary that also featured materials from DCHS about Nanjing Disciples mission workers Minnie Vautrin and Miner Searle Bates who, in an effort to protect civilians, also stayed in Nanjing when the Japanese army entered the city. (A striking bronze relief of Minnie Vautrin facing off soldiers to protect Chinese women and girls behind her outstretched arms is prominently featured in the Nanjing Massacre Museum in Nanjing.) Preserving and telling these and other stories of courage and faith is the beating heart of our mission at DCHS.

In 2018, we closed our “Welcome to Bethany!” Capital Campaign, which brought more than $300,000 of gifts and pledges to complete renovations to the Bethany facility and thus support the work of the Society. DCHS is especially grateful to our capital campaign chairs, Peter and Lynne Morgan, whose good names, diligent work, and unyielding faith in the mission of the Historical Society inspired the many contributors who made the campaign such a resounding success.

We are continuing to improve our website, having accomplished a major overhaul in 2018. We plan in 2019 to add features that will increase the usefulness of the website for online research.

In 2018, the DCHS Board took the initial step toward a strategic planning process with a day-long session immediately before our fall Board meeting. We anticipate refining the results of our initial conversation in preparation for our Board meeting in March of 2019.

Additions to our 12-person Board of Trustees, effective in January 2019, enhanced diversity, giving us 50-50 gender balance and increasing representation by persons of color to 33.3%.

Collaboration among the three “streams” of the Stone-Campbell tradition

DCHS has a distinctive mandate to promote collaboration between the three major streams of the Stone-Campbell movement: Disciples of Christ, Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, and a cappella Churches of Christ.

To embody that mandate, our ByLaws require that we have at least one representative from the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and one representative from the Churches of Christ on our Board of Trustees. We are in compliance with that requirement and cherish the insightful contributions and dedicated work of these Stone-Campbell partners.

In other ways as well, we have worked to maintain and strengthen ties with all three streams of the movement. In June 2018, I attended and staffed a DCHS booth at the North American Christian Convention in Indianapolis. Also in 2018, DCHS participated in a National Endowment for the Humanities grant proposal led by Abilene Christian University to digitize and connect backlist titles related to Stone-Campbell history. Our hope, should the grant proposal succeed, is to create a place on the web where researchers can locate and access basic resources in the various Stone-Campbell collections. This effort is consistent with the explicitly stated desire of our Board that DCHS encourage collaboration between the various libraries and archives of the three streams of the Stone-Campbell tradition.

Here at Bethany, we continue to arrange for tours of the Campbell Mansion for pastor’s classes and other visitors from congregations representing all three streams.

Among constituencies within the Disciples stream of the Stone-Campbell movement in 2018, I represented DCHS at General Board and General Cabinet meetings and at the biennial assemblies of National Convocation, Obra Hispana, and NAPAD.

In 2018, I covered both ends of the Stone-Campbell historical spectrum, giving the Founder’s Day Address at Bethany College in March and the Cane Ridge Heritage Day address at Cane Ridge Meeting House in Kentucky in June. In these lectures, I explored the morally mixed legacy evident in the writings and practices of Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone with regard to the abhorrent American practice of human enslavement.

Telling stories suppressed, ignored

An especially important part of the mission of DCHS in the next period will be to help recover and tell stories that have been by default or design suppressed or under-reported in the overall telling of our story as a church.

We will take a significant step in that direction at General Assembly this year.

In the 1880s, Preston Taylor, an African-American Disciple born in 1849 as an enslaved person in Louisiana, started a funeral business and bought land for a cemetery on the top of a hill in Nashville, Tennessee, the current site of the historic Greenwood Cemetery. It was a humane and revolutionary act, because African Americans had severely limited access to proper funeral care and burial in Nashville at that time. In fact, cemeteries there typically had rules explicitly forbidding the burial of people of African descent. Taylor also created an amusement park on the property he bought that allowed African-American children to have access to recreation otherwise available in Nashville to “whites only.” Taylor also organized the first black bank in Nashville and took the lead in creating the Tennessee State Agricultural and Industrial Normal School for Negroes (later, Tennessee A&I State College), which is now Tennessee State University, an historically black state land grant university that today serves a diverse population of students from Middle Tennessee and around the world.

In 1917, Taylor was instrumental in forming the National Christian Missionary Convention (NCMC), an auxiliary organization to the International Convention of Christian Churches (ICCC), to serve needs of African-American Disciples being inadequately addressed, he and others thought, in the agencies and structures of the ICCC. Taylor served as president of NCMC from its founding until his death in 1931.

In the mid-1950s, under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. R.H. Peoples, pastor of Second Christian Church in Indianapolis, NCMC began to develop a process to eventually merge the work of NCMC with that of ICCC and the United Christian Missionary Society.

In 1968, Disciples approved two historic documents. The first, “A Proposed Recommendation on Principles for Merger…” (commonly called “The Merger Agreement”) formally brought together NCMC and ICCC, to bring to full fruition a process that had already begun in 1960. The second document, The Design of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),” was, effectively, the constitution of our denomination. In 1969, the restructured church held its first biennial General Assembly in Seattle, Washington. The 2019 General Assembly marks the 50th Anniversary of that first General Assembly of the new church that emerged from the Merger Agreement and The Design.

On Tuesday evening of the 2019 General Assembly, we will commemorate these two historic documents and look to the “second fifty years” of our life as a denomination. DCHS is collaborating with the Office of the General Minister and President and the General Assembly worship committee to plan and conduct this liturgical celebration of our past and our future at this key moment in our church’s history. As part of this evening celebration from the main stage of the Assembly, we will show a brief video of interviews with people who were close-up eye-witnesses to The Merger Agreement and The Design.

At this General Assembly, we will also sponsor a panel discussion evaluating The Merger Agreement and The Design at the half-century mark.

DCHS is also collaborating with Chalice Press to publish a book centered around transcriptions of audio-taped interviews conducted in 1990-1991 by James Seale, former president of DCHS, with a number of key figures in the process of Restructure that led to the Merger Agreement and The Design. The book, co-edited by myself, Duane Cummins, Peter Morgan, and Lawrence Burnley, will include comments on the broader social-historical context of Restructure, as well as reflections by Disciples leaders today on where we stand as a denomination at the half-century mark. This will be the first volume in the new James and Mary Dudley Seale Series on Disciples and Public Engagement. It will be available for purchase at General Assembly.

There, we also will launch the multi-year “Make Disciples History” audio archive project. Modeled on NPR’s “StoryCorps,” “Make Disciples History” will invite people to record about 5 minutes of response to the questions, “What difference does my church make in my life?” and “What difference does my church make in the world?” We are particularly hopeful that this project will highlight the racial-ethnic diversity of our church and give voice to those who often have been underrepresented in published histories of our tradition. In concert with this project, we are offering a workshop on storytelling.

We also are joining with the Council on Christian Unity for an evening meal at General Assembly featuring the Rev. Peter Marty, publisher of The Christian Century, who will speak about Disciples minister C.C. Morrison, who bought the failing Disciples publication in 1908 and refocused it as a “nondenominational” magazine committed to the “social gospel” understanding of Christian faith. Marty will explore how Morrison’s vision of faith for the public good plays out today, particularly in issues of interfaith understanding and collaboration.

A final word

My colleagues in the General Cabinet have been wonderfully supportive of the Historical Society and of me personally as I have worked to get up to speed in the job. I particularly appreciate the leadership and support of the DCHS Board and of our General Minister and President Terri Hord Owens. I am honored to serve in this important ministry of remembrance and ongoing recommitment to the core values that have sustained and defined us a movement for wholeness in this fragmented world.

Respectfully submitted,

Rick Lowery


GA-1707 Disciples of Christ Historical Society


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General Assembly Report
P.O. Box D
7229 Main
Bethany, West Virginia 26032
John M. Imbler, Interim Executive Director

The Disciples of Christ Historical Society is alive and well! It just celebrated its 75th year of mission and ministry which began on the campus of Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri. In 1958, the Society moved to the T.W. Phillips Memorial Building in Nashville, Tennessee where it resided until the summer of 2016. Today it sits in the historic Bethany, West Virginia area where the footsteps and hoof beats laid down by Thomas and Alexander Campbell, their families, and so many visiting religious and political dignitaries of nineteenth century U.S. walked and rode.

Within the Society’s logo is the caption The Future of History. Alexander Campbell once commented, “To aid us in looking forward, let us…look back.”  Archival work is foundational to the mission of DCHS. The Society’s archival resources are largely comprised of solicited and unsolicited donations. Since the move, the Society has received significant, some rare, materials from individuals, congregations, and wider ministries of restoration churches.


The eleven semi-trailer loads that traveled from Nashville to Bethany have long been emptied, but the materials have yet to be all unpacked. Books, journals, brochures, congregational and judicatorial records, ministerial files, portraits, artifacts, memorabilia, and other treasures of the Stone-Campbell movement are safely stored in a temperature- humidity-controlled vault or on display throughout the building. With the support of the Renner and the Phillips-Johnson families as major donors through the years, the Renner Visitor Center, adjacent to the Campbell mansion and study and across the road from the Campbell cemetery, was renovated and expanded to house the Society and its holdings. Ground breaking occurred in October of 2015, and the building dedication took place in September 2016. It was a notable achievement to complete the construction and the massive move in less than a year. The proximity to these landmark sites and agreement between Bethany College and the Historical Society enable the Society to “manage” Historic Bethany offering educational opportunities, conducting tours, and sponsoring conferences.

The dedication service was held in conjunction with the weekend regional assembly of the Christian Church in West Virginia and closed with the Kirkpatrick Lecture delivered by the Rev. Dr. D. Newell Williams, president and professor of modern and American church history at Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth. Dr. Williams’ remarks on “Stone-Campbell History: Past and Future” captured the essence of the Historical Society’s mission of protecting the past for the generations ahead.


A quiet, yet successful capital campaign over the course of two years has resulted in gifts and pledges in excess of $280,000 submitted by eighty-five individuals, families, and foundations. Some of those gifts were designated for specific rooms and projects as well as supporting the costs of construction. Among those designations were the A. Dale Fiers president’s suite and the Peter and Lynne Morgan Gathering Place – a patio for receptions and relaxing conversations. In addition, money was earmarked for a student worker endowment fund and for the purchase of archive shelving. The Rev. Dr. Peter Morgan, president emeritus of the Society, and Lynne Morgan served as campaign chairs with the (late) Rev. Dr. Harold (Hal) Watkins and Evelyn Watkins serving as honorary chairs. Begun in 2015, the campaign will run through 2018 so the goal of raising $300,000-400,000 is still within reach.

There are two major benefits of endowments and named funds of the Society held in trust by the Christian Church Foundation: protection of the assets and the potential for greater growth. By the end of 2016, these investments approached $7,000,000 with no indebtedness by the Society beyond the construction loan.


Called out of retirement in May 2016 to be the interim executive director in a deployed capacity, the board determined that my credentials as a life member of the Society, educator, Disciples historian and author, and former seminary executive were among the skills needed to guide the final stages of the transition and prepare DCHS for its reconstructed life in its new location. Among the responsibilities assigned were to help facilitate the move in Bethany; manage the finances, which by then were stable; work with the board of directors to update the Society’s mission and structure; and rebuild relationships with Stone-Campbell heirs through interpretation and communication.

At the September 2016 board meeting, in conjunction with the dedication of the facilities, it was voted that the Society would remain a general ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). With that critically important decision made, during this current year a search committee of the board will interview and recommend a new president, so another of my tasks is to enable a smooth leadership transition.

In August of 2016, Shelley L. Jacobs began work as archivist on a full-time basis. She came to DCHS from an affiliation with the Churches of Christ in Saskatchewan. Her master’s degree in church history from Harding University Graduate School of Religion focused on restoration studies. As part of her resume, she was director of the library for Western Christian College and oversaw the transition of the archives collection to the Saskatchewan Archives Board as the college closed. In 2010 Ms. Jacobs was named Historian of the Year by the Canadian Churches of Christ Historical Society.


Dr. Imbler participated in the North American Christian Convention of the Christian Church/Churches of Christ hosting an exhibit booth as well as at the Indianapolis General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). During the past twelve months, he has lectured publicly, taught graduate courses, and led Sunday school classes all on Stone-Campbell themes.

Ms. Jacobs moderated a session and presented a paper at the Christian Scholars Conference held at Lipscomb University on Christian Churches and Churches of Christ in Western Canada. She also led a workshop at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures entitled “From Nashville to Bethany in 2016 (The Journey of the Disciples of Christ Historical Society’s Stone-Campbell Archives).”

Both Dr. Imbler and Ms. Jacobs have met and continue to meet with congregations, clergy groups, and educational institutions as well as hosting visitors, students, and researchers at the Society’s building and Campbell sites.

Located in the Phillips Building in Nashville was an exhibit hall specifically honoring Oscar Haynes. Mr. Haynes was a noted African-American businessman, Disciples church leader, benefactor, and social activist from the Washington DC area who served on the DCHS board. As the transition was under way, it was determined that the permanent Haynes exhibit would be housed in National City Christian Church where he had been a member. The exhibit will display books, articles, memorabilia, artifacts, and photographs of individuals and events depicting the contributions to church and society by African-American Disciples from the nineteenth century to the present. The unveiling and dedication service for this exhibit is scheduled for National City Christian Church Heritage Sunday in October.

Engaging the Future

Even with the normal disruption caused by any major life transition, opportunities abound. In preparation for strengthening the work of the Society and the calling of a new president among the goals established are:

1 – increasing a financial base sufficient for the ongoing work of the Society and for its future;

2 – creating a multi-purpose website that tells the story of the Society with links to affiliated institutions enabling broader research capabilities and interpreting the history of the Stone-Campbell people;

3 – building an electronic data base for individuals seeking information on Stone-Campbell resources, genealogical records, and archival holdings;

4 – adopting a new constitution and enabling documents such as a collection development policy that reflects the Society’s new reality;

5 – organizing and cataloging the archives in such a way that the materials are readily accessible to staff and researchers;

6 – re-establishing publications such as books, journals, and newsletters;

7 – sponsoring lectures on Stone-Campbell themes;

8 – providing resources to encourage congregations to develop their own histories.

In addition to my deep appreciation to the board of directors and to interim president the Rev. Dr. Todd Adams which have been engaged for two years to bring the Society to this healthy position, my sincere thanks to three other ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ): to the staff of the Christian Church in West Virginia for clerical, pastoral, and moral support to get us up and running; to the administration, faculty, staff of Bethany College for their welcome and willingness to share resources and time to orient us to becoming part of the Bethany community and to feel at home there; and to the public relations department of Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa for providing technical assistance as we rebrand DCHS towards its second 75 years.


The General Board has reviewed GA-1707 from the Disciples of Christ Historical Society. The report is submitted to the General Assembly for presentation and discussion. No action is required. (Discussion time: 12 minutes)