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Date of establishment: September 07, 1809
Date of dissolution: May 04, 1811 (Active for 2 years)
Location: Washington, PA

The Christian Association of Washington was an organization conceived by Thomas Campbell and a group of supporters for the purpose of promoting Christian unity through a focus on the evangelical Christianity his readers held in common. 

After Campbell’s withdrawal from the Chartiers Presbytery and the Associate Synod of North America, he did not cease his ministerial labors. Between 1809 and 1810 he continued to meet groups of friends and acquaintances in religious services, regularly preaching and administering the Lord’s Supper in the vicinity of Washington, Pennsylvania. Those who attended Campbell’s unauthorized services came from the various Presbyterian groups in the community and other denominations, though some had never belonged to any church but were in agreement with Campbell’s ideas. It soon became apparent that something should be done to make a more permanent arrangement. 

Early in the summer of 1809, a number of interested persons gathered at the home of Abraham Altars on the road between Washington and Mt. Pleasant to discuss next moves. After an opening prayer Thomas Campbell reminded the group of his dissatisfaction with division in the church. Petty controversies over minor opinions should be set aside. He proposed the Bible as the only basis for belief and practice, which would become the means of reuniting the church. Campbell closed his presentation by suggesting a “rule” on which he believed the group could act: “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.” Before adjourning, those assembled adopted this statement as a guide for all their actions. 

While in Ireland, Campbell had been interested in and joined an evangelical society while minister at Ahorey. In Rich Hill he often heard the Haldanes and other visiting speakers in the Independent (Congregational) meetinghouse. Undoubtedly these experiences led Thomas to the idea of forming a Christian organization that would not be a church, but an agency to which individuals could belong. There was no suggestion of forming a new religious movement. 

A second meeting was held on August 17, 1809. Those attending were in general agreement and chose as the name of their organization the Christian Association of Washington (after the Pennsylvania county in which they lived). A committee of twenty-one members was appointed to consider procedure. Their first action was to agree that there should be a published statement of the purposes and objectives of the organization. Their second action was to ask Thomas Campbell to write such a document. 

By September 7, 1809, the document was completed and read at a special meeting of the leaders of the association held at the home of Jacob Donaldson. It was approved unanimously, and plans were made for its publication. Sometime in the last two weeks of 1809 the Declaration and Address of the Christian Association of Washington came from the press. It has since become one of the basic documents of the Stone-Campbell Movement. 

Upon its publication Thomas Campbell saw that copies were given to ministers of every denomination in the area, asking them to give serious consideration to the proposals in the document. To Campbell’s and the group’s great disappointment, the Declaration and Address received little attention by anyone. 

As the months passed Thomas Campbell came to believe that the Christian Association must become an independent church in order to carry out the functions of a Christian group. Therefore, at the last meeting of the association, May 4, 1811, the Christian Association of Washington constituted itself a church with a congregational form of church government and thereafter was known as Brush Run church. 

See also Brush Run Church; Campbell, Thomas; Declaration and Address; Presbyterians, Presbyterianism 

BIBLIOGRAPHY Lester G. McAllister, Thomas Campbell — Man of the Book (1954). 


Foster, Douglas A.. The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (pp. 600-602). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition. 

This entry, written by Lester G. McAllister, was originally published in The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (Edited by Douglas A. Foster, Paul M. Blowers, Anthony L. Dunnavant, and D. Newell Williams; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), pages 173-174. Republished with permission.