Christadelphians in Oxford
There have been Christadelphians in Oxford since the early 1890s, when members from other Christadelphian meetings, first from Stadhampton and then from Abingdon, moved into Oxford to take up employment. Unlike the communities in some of the larger cities such as Birmingham (where the increase in the number of Christadelphians in the second half of the 19th century was particularly remarkable), the Oxford Christadelphian community grew slowly and has always remained relatively small.
But thanks to local preaching efforts, and the arrival of further Christadelphians from elsewhere, the membership increased to 22 by the year 1900. During those early years, the Christadelphians met in private houses in Walton Street, Worcester Terrace and Warwick Street (off the Iffley Road). By 1899 they were holding public meetings in a rented room at 58a St Clements; and by 1904, with a steady increase in the number of baptisms, and other welcome arrivals of baptised believers, the membership in Oxford stood at 51. The ‘fundamentalist’ faith of the Christadelphians proved attractive to Bible-based Christians in other denominations – especially the local Wesleyan Methodists; and it was not long before the Oxford community had increased sufficiently for them to look for a permanent home for their activities: worship, Bible study, preaching and social events.
In common with Christadelphian meetings in many other towns and cities throughout the country, and in spite of the financial sacrifices involved, the Oxford Christadelphians took the important step, in 1905, of buying their own meeting room – the former Wesleyan Chapel in William Street, off the lower end of the Cowley Road. Purchased for the then princely sum of £830, the Christadelphian hall in what later became Tyndale Road has been home to the Christadelphians of Oxford ever since.
Based for more than a century in their own meeting room in Tyndale Road, the Oxford community has been privileged to worship God in a quiet, simple way, to share the faith of the early disciples of Jesus Christ, and to proclaim a Bible-based message of salvation to all parts of the city of Oxford (and beyond). Still numbering around 50 baptised members today, the Christadelphians of Oxford thank God for all the spiritual and material blessings they have received consistently over so many years, and for the benefits of fellowship with the wider community of Christadelphians throughout the world. They look not for worldly increase or prosperity, but for the long-promised return of their Saviour, Jesus Christ, to set up his Kingdom on earth.
There are many thousands of Christadelphians spread across the world, though their largest communities are based in the United Kingdom and North America. Their ‘central’ headquarters are in Birmingham, where their principal community magazine The Christadelphian (produced continuously since 1868) is published for a worldwide readership. They acknowledge only one leader, Jesus Christ, and their individual churches (known variously as ‘ecclesias’, or ‘meetings’) are self-governing, but are bound to each other by a shared commitment to the Bible-based faith of the first-century apostles.
Establishment as a denomination
Their establishment as a separate Christian denomination dates from the 1860s, when the name ‘Christadelphian’ was adopted during the American Civil War as the basis for a loose federation of believers to seek exemption from military service – pacifism being an integral part of their subjection to the teachings of Jesus. The name (which is an anglicised version of the Greek words for ‘brothers in Christ’) was coined by an English medical doctor, John Thomas, who had emigrated to America in the 1830s, where he dedicated himself, until his death in 1871, to the rediscovery of the faith of the early apostles. His writings and preaching commended themselves over many years to individuals and groups of Bible students situated mostly in the Mid-West and East of North America and in many parts of England and Scotland.
Belief in Jesus’ original teachings
Dr Thomas, however, whose fundamentalist Bible-based views were most clearly laid out in the book Elpis Israel (‘The Hope of Israel’), written in 1850 during a return visit to Britain, did not claim leadership of the Christadelphian community. Instead, he was careful to insist, as Christadelphians still do today, that he had simply been instrumental in promoting a return to the original teachings of Jesus, unadulterated by centuries of church tradition. With their belief in a wholly inspired Bible, their acceptance of the ‘oneness’ of God, their commitment to adult baptism, their faith in the resurrection of the body at the time of the second coming of Jesus Christ to re-establish God’s Kingdom on earth, the Christadelphians trace their true origins back through ‘the faithful of all ages’, whose simple trust in the declared purpose of God has, they believe, been shared by all those who have taken God at his word since man was first created.