The Saga of Daniel Sommer (III)

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

Tensions between the "antis" and the progressives" became frequent and more intense toward the close of the nineteenth century. Daniel Sommer was catapulted into a place of great prominence when he purchased the AMERICAN CHRISTIAN REVIEW and thereby began to occupy the editorial chair formerly held by the noted preacher, Benjamin Franklin. Daniel Sommer became to the North what David Lipscomb was in the South. Both were the most noted defenders of the Faith in their respective areas of influence.

The "Sand Creek Declaration"

A good part of Sommer's prominence, and his infamy among liberals, was attributable to a speech he delivered in Shelby County, Illinois on August 17, 1889. Daniel Sommer reported that on this occasion, "More than five thousand people" (DANIEL SOMMER, p. 267), were present.

The Sand Creek church was a country congregation located three and one-half miles northwest of Windsor, Illinois. It had been established by John Storm in 1834. The "Declaration" at Sand Creek was significant because brethren from five congregations on that occasion declared they would no longer fellowship those innovationists who used mechanical instruments in worship, and who proposed to cooperate in evangelism through the American Christian Missionary Society.

Daniel Sommer was chosen as the spokesman for the great assembly. He dosed his speech with these words:

"It is, therefore, with the view, if possible, of counteracting the usages and practices that

have crept into the churches, that this effort on the part of the congregations hereafter named is made, and, now, in closing up this address and declaration, we state that we are impelled from a sense of duty to say, that all such that are guilty of teaching, or allowing and practicing the many innovations and corruptions to which we have referred, that after being admonished, and having had sufficient time for reflection, if they do not turn away from such abominations, that we can not and will not regard them as brethren."

N.S. Haynes, Illinois Christian Church Historian, wrote of Sand Creek church, "It was here that the pigmy and disloyal Address and Declaration was issued in 1889.

By that act that church wrote 'Ichabod' in large letters upon its record" (HISTORY OF

THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST IN ILLINOIS, p. 653). He said that Sommer's speech was a "cross and papistic address."

Many historians have thought that this "Sand Creek Declaration" marked the beginning of overt division in the body of Christ. However, one would have to be quite naive historically to fail to see that the latent seeds of division were already obvious from the 1830's and 1840's when the push began to, be made for a brotherhood-wide missionary organization. In fact, division already had occured in many places before 1889. Sommer, and those who collaborated with him at Sand Creek, simply announced that they formally recognized that division was present.


Most brethren who have' not had their heads buried in the sand have heard the epithet "Sommerism" hurled a few times. Frequently, those who sought to stigmatize by obstreperously hurling Brother Sommer's name would have been stopped cold if someone had asked them to define "Sommerism.

It is probable that Brother Sommer's name first began to be used opprobriously because of his Sand Creek speech. The Disciple of Christ Historian, Louis Cochran, said of Sommer: "He was not a gifted orator, but what he lacked in eloquence he made up in conviction, and as he addressed the assembled brethren on the spreading evil of innovations, he inspired a perspiring group of them to compose a 'Declaration' against the men who commended 'the objectionable and unauthorized things taught and practiced in many of the congregations, to the great grief and mortification of some of the members.' (CAPTIVES OF THE WORD, p. 205)

Cochran also stated that the "Sand Creek Declaration" was significant, "For a fire that no man could put out had been set ablaze by a relatively obscure man in Illinois named Daniel Sommer" (CAPTIVES OF THE WORD, p. 205).

"Sommerism" soon came to equated with the spirit of the "Sand Creek Declaration." Even the GOSPEL ADVOCATE sounded its protest against the Sand Creek pronouncement. The ADVOCATE stated, "The Sand Creek manifesto is manifest folly, and the ADVOCATE emphatically denies any sympathy with Sommerism, whatever that is, Sand Creekism, sand-lotism, Standardlism, or any other partyism in religion. (Cochran, Op. Cit., p. 206) The Sand Creek Declaration seems to be the origination of the stigmatic nature of the epithet "Sommerism."

However, later on "Sommerism" came to be a label attached to nearly every idea which some brother thought to be extreme.


October 8, 1970