Wine Skins and Grace Centered Magazine are good places to start. Sometimes the Christian Chronicle. Though of late I am disgusted.
Here is my advice: be willing to look outside the churches of Christ.
I’m frankly trying to figure all three of these periodicals out myself.
Grace Centered Magazine seems way out of date. Its home page has reviews of two movies released in 2007 — in the summer of 2007 as I recall — not exactly timely stuff. Some of the articles posted there are fantastic (especially Joe Beam’s work), but they were posted a long time ago. The news is generic conservative news items — nothing special to the Churches of Christ.
Meanwhile, New WIneskins is publishing lots of material, but most of it’s generic evangelical material — interviews with Brian McLaren, Geraldine Ferraro, etc. Some of it’s really good stuff, but there’s little that speaks to the Churches of Christ as such, although some good articles on our problems do pop up now and again.
I have no hesitancy in recommending either to anyone. Both publish good stuff. And much of the evangelical material they both review is very good. In fact, the latest articles from New Wineskins are particularly well done.
But neither seems to be making a particular effort to bring reconciliation to the Churches of Christ. Rather, both are internet periodicals that could be read by any evangelical beneficially. Their mission seems to be solely to the progressive churches and even to evangelicals in general.
In fact, they may well be an indication of where we’re headed — toward generic evangelicalism, while leaving the conservative Churches of Christ behind.
The Christian Chronicle is, of course, very obviously targeted to a Church of Christ audience, publishes Church of Christ news (and does it well), and makes a point of speaking to some of the issues peculiar to the Churches, such as the recent series “Are We Growing?”
And the Chronicle publishes interviews with representatives of all the elements of the a cappella tradition — which is a triumph by itself. However, the Chronicle treats the legalists as in no need of change and declines to serve as a forum in which the the sides can exchange views.
For example, in the conclusion of the “Are We Growing?” series, one suggestion to help us grow was “moderation,” meaning a church should be theologically moderate. Of course, this means moderate in the Church of Christ context, which is a strategy destined to fail (I speak from experience). Nowhere did the Chronicle suggest that the Churches reconsider their views on grace — views that force us to divide over trivia and that make us very unattractive to the unchurched.
And among the Churches held up as examples of how to grow were some of our most legalistic congregations! I mean, the net effect was, I’m afraid, to comfort those who least need to be comfortable.
In fact, the Chronicle is the best-postured institution in the Churches of Christ to bring reconciliation to the Churches. It’s read by all sides. It has a large subscriber base. All it has to do is open its pages for a conversation between the two sides on the issues that really matter, such as: does grace cover doctrinal error in the form of our worship? Surely both sides would love to have their views published!
I mean, the only way the two sides are ever going to reconcile is by talking. It won’t happen by pretending the problem isn’t serious. Or refusing to talk about it. Or by compromise. Or by “moderation.” It gets solve through conversation, if at all.
And the Chronicle and Oklahoma Christian University (which owns the Chronicle, I think) both need to realize that if the division continues at its current pace, their financial base will seriously erode. Oklahoma has already lost more members and adherents of the Churches of Christ than any other state from 1980 to 2007, having lost 11,011 adherents (members and their children) — 12% of the 1980 total! It also lost 7.1% of its congregations. And I’m confident the pace is accelerating rapidly.
(Losing a higher percentage of adherents than congregations means the average congregation is now smaller than it was in 1980!)
We are in desperate need of instruction on grace. And other than the Chronicle, I don’t know of any publication that could be of much help. They are uniquely situated. It’s a God-given gift that should be used to have the two sides talk — a lot.
I’m confident that if the two theologies are well presented by both sides, the progressive viewpoint will be most persuasive — which will help bring reconciliation. It won’t totally solve the problem of course, but it would be a major step. I’m sure those more conservative than me feel the same way. Surely they would be delighted to have their theories compared to the progressives’ in an open forum.
Of course, as you noted, there are some truly excellent resources available from outside the Churches of Christ — which is true. And as our churches turn more and more to such resources and find less and less benefit in our periodicals and universities, some of our institutions will fail and close their doors. The only sensible path for any institution that relies on donations and the goodwill of the Churches is to do everything in that institution’s power to resolve the division.
Wishing won’t make it go away. And yet many of our institutions are acting as though that were true. But this round of division is not between two competing degrees of legalism. Rather, it’s between two radically different views of grace, repentance, and even God. It won’t be long before the two sides are completely unwilling to support common institutions, forcing institutions to make a choice. And it won’t be long.