THE FIVE CARDINAL PRINCIPLES
OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCHES

The Christian Churches that entered the United Church of Christ had a strong tradition of opposition to creeds. The Christian Churches of the Ohio Valley had organized as the result of a heresy trial in the Presbyterian Church. They had seen the Westminster Confession used to try to control freedom-loving preachers, to impose a false conformity to antiquated ideas, and to prevent the ordination of gifted leaders. The Bible was their only rule of faith. But every movement finds in time that it needs to summarize its principles for the purposes of instruction and for defining itself to the world.

The “Principles and Government of the Christian Church” were adopted by the Christian Churches of the South and first printed in a Christian periodical in 1866. They became widely used by the Christian movement throughout the country. They became known as the “Five Cardinal Principles” of the Christian Church. In the Twentieth Century, a sixth was commonly added.

Because this was widely used as an instructional tool, and did not have an “official” form, there is great variety in the wording, though not in the meaning, of the principles. The text below is based on the text in Milo T. Morrill’s A History of the Christian Denomination in America.

The Five Cardinal Principles

The Cardinal Principles, six in number, will also be found at the web site of the
United Church of Christ


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