BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany College will soon be the new home of the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, currently located in Nashville, Tennessee. The DCHS Board met March 6 and decided that College and DCHS officials can begin discussing details of the relocation to Bethany.
The board chose Bethany after reviewing applications from various institutions. College officials felt Bethany was the appropriate choice for the archives, as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is Bethany College’s founding denomination. Alexander Campbell, who founded Bethany College in 1840, was a leader of Stone-Campbell Movement, which led to the founding of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The movement is named for Campbell and for Barton Warren Stone. The archives hold artifacts, records and documents from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Stone-Campbell churches.
Bethany’s proposal noted that in addition to being historically significant, through Campbell, the College has for many years professionally maintained extensive Campbell archives. The proposed building, which will house the additional archives, would be part of the Campbell Mansion and Renner Visitor Center complex, adjacent to the College’s campus. Both buildings attract visitors and researchers from around the world.
Close by is Campbell Cemetery, known as “God’s acre,” where Alexander Campbell and many of his family members are buried. The Old Meeting House, a church built in Campbell’s lifetime and still used for special ceremonies and church services, is also nearby in the town of Bethany.
“Bethany College is the perfect partner for DCHS, as the Campbell Mansion, Old Meeting House and God’s acre are the perfect backdrop for preserving and sharing the history of Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Stone-Campbell movement,” said the Rev. Dr. Todd Adams, Interim President of DCHS.
Relocation to Bethany will include opportunities for student-workers, the use of Historic Bethany, opportunities for classroom-laboratory partnerships in church history and library science, as well as engagement with the Buffalo Seminary. Buffalo Seminary is the commissioned ministry and continuing education partnership of Bethany College and the West Virginia Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The forerunner of Bethany College was also known as Buffalo Seminary, an academy founded by Alexander Campbell in 1818.
“We are honored to partner with the Historical Society which will lead to opportunities for new infrastructure, innovative partnerships with our founding denomination and alumni and friends, and engaging opportunities for the Bethany community,” said Bethany College President Dr. Scott D. Miller. “As we celebrate our 175th year as a church-related college, I can think of no more appropriate opportunity that honors Bethany’s rich heritage and underscores its bright future.”
Bethany’s application included a letter of support from John Renner, Bethany Emeritus Trustee and 1950 Bethany graduate. The Renner Family Foundation built the Visitor’s Center at the Campbell Mansion in support of Historic Bethany.
Thomas P. Johnson Jr., President of the Johnson Family Foundation, wrote of his support as well. The Nashville archive was built in memory of his grandfather, T.W. Phillips.The Phillips-Johnson family has a history with Bethany that goes back to 1865, when T.W. Phillips began his service as a trustee for Campbell. The College currently houses the T.W. Phillips Memorial Library, Grace Phillips Johnson Visual Arts Center and Phillips Hall.
Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.