A Directory of Progressive Churches of Christ?

I often receive requests from readers for the name of a progressive Church of Christ in their area. And so I thought it might be helpful to create a resource that attempts to do just that.

The danger of making such a list is that some would see it as a move toward separation from other Churches of Christ. And some would take offense at the notion of “labeling” a church as anything.

And, then, there’s the problem with defining “progressive,” which is often used in more of a relative sense — A is more progressive than B.

For the purposes of such a list, my thought would be to define a Church of Christ as “progressive” if the leadership does not consider instrumental music a salvation or fellowship issue — even if the church is staunchly a cappella or otherwise very traditional in its practices.

What do you think? Good, useful list, especially for people moving into a new area? Or divisive step toward creating a new denomination?

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About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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29 Responses to A Directory of Progressive Churches of Christ?

  1. David Himes says:

    Wow, tough call. Because I think the answer to both your final questions could be yes. It's useful information; but could also be perverted for divisive purposes.

    I'd probably come down against publishing such a list.

    If folks need to be selective for their own reasons, then they need to visit congregations and make their own decisions

  2. Jerry Starling says:

    I agree with David. On balance, it would be somewhat similar to ultra-conservative churches publishing a list of the "only faithful churches." I'm not even sure I like the idea followed in the 21st Century directory of putting identifiers on churches to show what particular "brand" of church this is.

    One church I where preached advertised in the phone book as "supporting Herald of Truth." When a notice of renewal came up, I dropped that line – because I knew the church was not sending one dime to Herald of Truth. They were just using that to distinguish themselves from another church across town that believe it to be sin to send funds there.

  3. Dennis Dossey says:

    I agree with Jerry and David — that it would be better left unpublished. I put more trust in being shown what a group believes, than told.

    To the other extreme, I have often wondered if the Kingdom might be better served if each of "our" new churches opened under a different name. Different than Church of Christ and different from each other. (Even the more conservative among us recognize other authorized names than Church of Christ.) Each would have to become recognized as the church by their "fruit" rather than their name.

  4. Alan says:

    I wouldn't be surprised to see an ultra-conservative church posting a list of like-minded conservative churches. I'd be somewhat surprised to see a progressive church doing something similar, for the reasons that have been well stated above. IMO it just comes across as defining a faction, whether intentional or not.

  5. Alan S. says:

    Alan,

    There are already several ultra-conservative, ultra-traditional lists on the Internet. They are fairly short lists.

    It would be better had the acknowledged "official" list of Churches of Christ had not crossed their Rubicon and deleted Churches of Christs from their lists that freely associate with the Churches of Christ, but that did not fit their predetermined interpretations of what a Church of Christ must look like. To use the traditionalist argument, the official publishers have started down a slippery slope, and who knows who they will exclude next.

    Blessings,
    Alan S.
    Sugar Land, TX

  6. Cary says:

    Really not much different than gathering an exclusive list of conservative churches of "sound doctrine." And I would say that letting go of the instrumental issue does not necessarily make a church progressive in nature. Labeling churches is fraught with problems and leads to accepting or dismissing communities based on things other than their own merit.

  7. Tammy says:

    We are leaving our home church now and it would be very helpful to have this list of more progressive CofC's to consider. We have 3 young children and don't want to take the month or months that it would potentially take to determine the church's position on these issues. Pulling them in and out of different congregations is a tough thing to do and to explain.

    But just because it would be helpful – does not mean it is wise to create such a list.

    Please pray for my family as we grieve (leaving our church home of 12 years) – this is so hard. And I ask for your prayers as we seek to find a new church home.

  8. Weldon says:

    My humble opinion tends to fall in with the previous comments: while well intentioned, a list could easily be panned as being a new denominational association. If one of our aims as progressives is to promote broader unity/fellowship with the body of Christ at large, we need not give people the opportunity see us as divisive.

    Of course, none of this is to discourage word-of-mouth suggestions. I think it’s good to point relocating families (particularly those with children, as these harrowing statistics would demand) in the direction of churches that do not retain the vestiges of legalism. Nonetheless, I simply cannot help but feel that the risks of a comprehensive list out weighs the benefits, particularly when word of mouth and church visiting* are likely to yield decent results.

    *Here I use the word “visiting” in lieu of the less desirable term: “shopping.”

  9. preacherman says:

    I attend a "progressive" congregation. I like the term "spirit-filled". It isn't limited to traditions and is spirit filled in every aspect. Love, caring, fellowship, worship, responses and growth. It is a dynamic congregation that is growing leaps and bounds in number, conversions, relationships, and is the healthiest congregation that I have been apart of so far in life. I think to make a list of progressive churches just adds to division. Church A may be more progressive than Church B; giving ammo for conservative congregations to attack and label. Sad. Sad. Sad.
    I pray that every church will set aside the labels and just remember and understand that every church is independant for a reason. I pray that in the future of the Church of Christ that "LOVE" will be the doctrine and dogma that we will focus on instead of labels, and division.

  10. Bad idea. Not just "bad" in the sense of "unwise," but "bad" in the sense of "wicked." In addition to the reasons given above that such a directory or list would be factious and judgmental, members within any given church so listed might express shock and anger to learn of it. Churches which had previously existed in peace and unity could be thrown into uproar over the choices of those who listed. Bad idea.

  11. Weldon says:

    Kieth said: Churches which had previously existed in peace and unity could be thrown into uproar over the choices of those who listed.

    I think that is an excellent point. Suppose a grace-oriented church is attempting to reach out to some of the more conservative congregations in its area. If it suddenly were to appear on a list alongside some of the churches that are controversial to our conservative brothers (e.g. Richland Hills, Quail Springs, etc.) years of work could be undone overnight. If conversations exist – and I’m sure they do – this could bring them summarily to an end.

  12. mark says:

    I think a list should be made. The confusion of what the church of Christ is now has permeated the country and many parts of the world. Our children are leaving in droves because they cannot conceive of a church that once was a unity movement divided by an absurd amount of issues. Progressives have an edge in reinventing this unity movement by diminishing many of these issues. Too I strongly believe that many mainline churches of Christ are tired of the fence straddling appeasing ancient dogmas and shaming manipulations. Groups like (Christianity now then ) and the (spiritual sword) have staked there claims and repeated them over and over again. It is time to move on and stand out.

  13. Brian says:

    for Tammy,
    God bless you during a difficult time, but as some of the commenters have noted,
    even if you had a list, a church on that list might fit someone's description as "progressive" but might not be friendly, healthy, etc.

    I bet you will be better in the long run visiting churches, and instead of wasting time, meet with preachers and elders and ask them what they believe and why.

    some recommendations from others might be a good start, but you will have to do the "legwork"

  14. mark says:

    "In addition to the reasons given above that such a directory or list would be factious and judgmental, members within any given church so listed might express shock and anger to learn of it." Keith Brenton

    Expressing facts and known theology of a given church is not judgmental. Apostle Paul did it. Condemning people to hell or comparison to belittle is judgment. I think there is a lot of former ICOC people who are glad their church made it to a list so they could escape some of the past abuse. And I know personally a few who escaped ultra conservative churches who are thankful they discovered the truth. Shock is not always a bad thing….

  15. Cary says:

    Mark, you are advocating doing something that is exactly the same as what ultra-conservatives do and what most "progressives" have tried to escape. This is no different than compiling a list of churches that are "sound" because they do not support Herald of Truth. It's one (or few) issue separatism that is simply not healthy or wise.

    Progressives, please beware of unintentionally becoming a new form of exclusivists.

  16. Matthew says:

    I would not be a big fan of this list. It does seem to label and separate churches. Once on the list, how would this affect the congregation. The last thing we need is for another list in the church.

  17. Larry Short says:

    I read occassionaly current church of Christ directories. So much of the information is inaccurate. Usually the names listed are wrong (elders, ministers), size of congregation, worship times, etc. No chance that your list a year from now would be useful, since doctrine issues change at least as often as people.
    May I suggest a list of all churches of Christ with websites. Let the congregation say what they are, when they meet, where they are, etc. You could index by location, using a nearest to zip finder. Anyone visiting or moving to an area could check out the close websites. You could call it the non-judgemental churches of Christ list!

  18. mark says:

    "Mark, you are advocating doing something that is exactly the same." Cary

    I hear what saying but believe the motives behind the listing are very different. Listing churches is a Biblical thing. Revelations is a good example. However some conservatives division is about ones allegiance to certain dogmas. Paul in Corinthians took that idea and shot it down with “is Christ divided.” The progressive message of being more ecumenical is not harmed by a list.

  19. Royce Ogle says:

    Do Baptists have a list? Methodists? Assembly of God?

    Why a list, or book? I just don't get it. Or is it that we fear if we are traveling and visit the wrong church of Christ we might loose our soul?

    Most towns of any size have Yellow Pages and then there is a search engine, http://www.goOgle.com. And the hits even have maps.

  20. Brian says:

    had a visitor recently state that they check our "links page"
    I confess that I do that as well to try and get a handle of the type of congregation, rightly or wrongly.

    websites can point you in a direction

  21. Cary says:

    "I hear what saying but believe the motives behind the listing are very different."

    Everybody believes their motives are right.

  22. As I grew up, my childhood minister David H. Bobo would often quote, "He drew a circle that left me out: heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But Love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle that took him in."

    To draw up such a list would just show that we have lost our wits.

    And our love.

  23. bdc says:

    Keith has it right.

    Let's leave the list compilation to Jesus.

  24. John Grant says:

    Maybe we could come up with a flag that has different symbols on it that we all agree mean some form of worship or belief for a particular symbol. Each church could fly that flag and everyone driving by or looking at their ad in paper, yellow pages, etc. would see what they belief is necessary to salvation and what is not on their flag is going to hell. Whether it be more or less.

  25. TomT says:

    Ok, what is your definition of progressive?

    Kitchen/fellowship hall on grounds?
    Bible class?
    Overhead projector?
    Small Groups?
    Praise Teams?
    Clapping encouraged during worship?
    Deaconesses?
    Instrumental music?

    This is all getting a bit ridiculous. Most congregations have web sites. Check it out to see how they feel about some of these things. Try calling the phone numbers listed (many times, elders' / ministers' phone numbers and/or emails are listed) and ask somebody with the congregation in question how they feel about these issues that you are all so concerned about.

  26. TomT says:

    Oh yeah, I forgot the Saturday night service option.

  27. Chris says:

    Just a test comment!

  28. Ken Scarborough says:

    I just feel we should all be ashamed that there should be any type of “divisions” within the Lord’s Church….progressive or conservative. Seems that our core message to the world is that WE are the one TRUE Church of the New Testament with our origin being on the day of Pentecost. We proclaim loudly that we denounce denominationalism…yet
    we ourselves HAVE DIVISIONS. So what does that say to the world? Seems to me we are being somewhat hypocritical. I converted from Catholicism to The Lord’s Church more than 25 years ago. If I was simply “forced” to put a label on our congregation…it would doubtless be CONSERVATIVE. It still however makes me ASHAMED there should be ANY divisions among us. Seems that WE have the same troubles suffered by the Church of Corinth. It is shameful.

  29. Wendy says:

    Ken, the very fact of calling the Church of Christ the Lord’s Church (as if the other’s are not of the Lord) is sectarian and cultish.

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