I am encountering a group known as the Christadelphians. How did they originate and what do they believe?
The Christadelphians (“brothers of Christ”) were founded in 1848 by John Thomas, a physician and the son of a Congregationalist minister. Thomas for a time had associated himself with the Campbellites (the “Church of Christ” movement). In 1848 he wrote Elpis Israel–An Exposition of the Kingdom of God, a book which contained his religious ideas.
The sect attracted members in the U.S., Canada, and England and came to be known as the Christadelphians during the U.S. Civil War, when the members’ pacifism forced them to select a name. They have experienced no significant growth since that time and today have approximately 20,000 members in England and 16,000 in the U.S. Members are also found in Canada, Australia, Germany, and New Zealand.
Christadelphians hold to unitarianism, the belief that there is only one person in the Godhead. They see Jesus as one of many “Elohim” or “created gods” who were at one time mortal men; in this Christadelphians are much like Mormons. The Holy Spirit is not considered a person but a force.
Christadelphians believe the soul “sleeps” between death and resurrection and that there is no eternal punishment; in this they are like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The wicked will not be raised on the last day. Christadelphians deny the existence of the devil and claim that Christ will soon return to reign in Jerusalem for a thousand years.
Christadelphians have no central authority. Each local church or “ecclesia,” as it is called, functions independently and generally meets in private homes or rented buildings. They do not employ salaried clergy, but elect “serving brethren” for three-year terms. They do not have missionaries and are opposed to military service, trade unions, holding elective office, and voting in civil elections; again, in these matters they are like the Jehovah’s Witnesses.