Sunday, January 27, 2019

Christian Colleges and Disciple Division: Hereford and Lockney

To what degree were the Disciples of Christ distinguished from the Churches of Christ before the U.S. Census Bureau listed them separately beginning in 1906?

The evidence of two Christian colleges established in northwest Texas prior to the recognition of the split suggests that division predated the founding of these schools by a number of years. For example, in his 1955 book, The Story of Texas Schools, C. E. Evans identifies "Pan-Handle Christian College," sometimes called Hereford College, which began in 1902, as a Christian School, while Lockney Christian College, established in 1894, is listed as a Church of Christ School.[1]

Likewise, in his 2018 book, Higher Education in Texas, Charles R. Matthews, Chancellor Emeritus of the Texas State University System, places Hereford Christian College among schools established by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and Lockney Christian College among schools established by the Church of Christ.[2]

Although W. M. Stoker in his Pictorial History of Early Higher Education in the Texas Panhandle does not take up the history of the college at Lockney, he does refer to Hereford Christian College's affiliation with the Disciples of Christ.[3]

Scholars writing institutional as opposed to educational history make exactly the same distinction. For example, in his book A History of Colleges Established and Controlled by Members of the Churches of Christ, M. Norvel Young discusses Lockney Christian College, but not the college at Hereford.[4] In the same way, History of the Churches of Christ in Texas, 1824-1950, by Stephen Eckstein Jr., provides information about Lockney Christian College, but does not mention Hereford Christian College.[5] By the same token, in Religion on the Texas Frontier, Carter Boren, who traces the history of the Disciples in the Lone Star State, offers a section titled "Panhandle Christian College, 1902-1911," but says nothing of Lockney.[6] 

In his book The Disciples Colleges: A History, D. Duane Cummins includes a table listing "Church of Christ Colleges" in one column and "Disciples Colleges" in another. He places "Lockney College" in the Church of Christ column and "Hereford-Panhandle Christian College" in the Disciples column.[7]

Of course, it is possible for later sources to simply project into the past a division that did not exist at the earlier time in question. But in this case, the overall evidence suggests that these two Christian colleges were typical of a division that had existed for some time. Beginning in the late-nineteenth century, some leaders and historians of the Restoration Movement in America have insisted that the Civil War did not result in immediate division. But it is much more likely that the radical autonomy of the congregations in the movement made it more difficult for observers to perceive division. Which is to say that I agree with Bill Humble, who in 1965 wrote:
The Civil War . . . so shattered the sense of brotherhood between northern and southern Christians that they could never again be called 'one people' in any meaningful sense.  . . . What had happened was that two threads of alienation--sectional bitterness and antagonistic understandings of the restoration principle--had become tangled together and had shattered the Christians' oneness.[8]

[1] C. E. Evans, The Story of Texas Schools (Austin, TX: Steck Company, 1955), 352, 355.

[2] Charles R. Matthews, Higher Education in Texas: Its Beginnings to 1970 (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2018), 87-90, 295, 297.

[3] W. M. Stoker, A Pictorial History of Early Higher Education in the Texas Panhandle (Canyon, TX: West Texas State University, 1976), 16.

[4] M. Norvel Young, A History of Colleges Established and Controlled by Members of the Churches of Christ (Kansas City, MO: Old Paths Book Club, 1949), 148-52.

[5] Stephen Daniel Eckstein Jr., History of the Churches of Christ in Texas, 1824-1950 (Austin, TX: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1963), 166, 170, 209, 217, and 310.

[6] Carter E. Boren, Religion on the Texas Frontier (San Antonio, TX: Naylor Company, 1968), 250-51.

[7] D. Duane Cummins, The Disciples Colleges: A History (St. Louis: CBP Press, 1987), 84.

[8] B. J. Humble, "The Influence of the Civil War." Restoration Quarterly 8 (Fourth Quarter 1965), 246.

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