Reader tb submitted this excellent, thoughtful comment:
Thank you for your thought-provoking comments. Being somewhere between comfortable to political range myself, I might suggest some revision of your categories.
There is a larger group of churches than you perhaps realize that is not still hanging onto the traditional banners, who are reevaluating steps of salvation within the light of grace/faith, and who don’t see GA or FHU as the bulwark of the brotherhood. The Holy Spirit is an active part of our congregational preaching/ teaching and slowly becoming a part of inner-member dialogue. We do not use instruments, have group-led worship, or women in formal leadership roles — although many women have taken on informal roles in some areas. Continue reading
In a 2006 Leaven journal article, Keith Huey, then chairman of the Department of Religion and Bible at Rochester College, reflects on the future of the progressive Churches of Christ. Leaven is a publication of Pepperdine University.
He diagnoses several problematic areas:
The Holy Spirit
First, the lack of teaching and experience of the Spirit. (The article was evidently converted from hard copy to .pdf via OCR, and I’ve tried to correct the obvious transcriptional errors.)
[Leonard Allen] also alludes to the larger, more intractable problem when he pleads for trinitarian doctrine: since the earliest days of our Movement, the Churches of Christ have been reluctant to participate in theological discourse. Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone, for instance, were willing to discuss the Father, Son and Spirit,” but they were hesitant to engage the kinds of questions that bedeviled Nicea. Trinitarian vocabulary, they explained, could not be found in scripture, and the issue had been “a subject of endless controversy among theologists.” The Churches of Christ have inherited this perspective, and now, divorced from the biblical and traditional resources of theological deliberation, we are unprepared to name the God whom we serve. Continue reading
So let’s talk a little bit about the progressive wing of the Churches of Christ. We are in a tough place historically, and it’s time to stop looking in the rearview mirror and start looking more toward the future.
But where to start? Let’s start by looking at how the Churches of Christ presently break down. What sub-denominations are there within the larger Church of Christ denomination?
1. In an important article, Joe Beam breaks the Churches of Christ down this way.
The link is to a 2012 blog post, but the article was first written long ago, at Wineskins 2, 12 (May/June 1996):23-26. That’s nearly 20 years ago, and things have changed.
In particular, those in the middle — the Opens, the Cautious, and the Searching — have moved to the right or the left, so that there are fewer in-between congregations and more that are either exasperated or satisfied. I believe the Zealots are also in decline. Continue reading
I get emails —
I’m a born and bred Church of Christ girl. The church you describe from your childhood is my story. I enjoy all your writings.
I have a question . I can see how people can translate some things in a different way but the name of the church seems pretty straight forward to me. Any suggestions. Romans 16:16
I’m planning to address the future of the Churches of Christ, and the name of the church is pretty important topic in terms of strategic planning. So let’s talk about the name. Continue reading
The Christian Chronicle has run a story featuring the news of the declining membership in the Churches of Christ. You should definitely visit their site and read the story.
The story provides some additional data:
Add in unbaptized children and spouses of members, and the numbers are even more stark: The “adherents” figure stood at 1,684,872 in 1990. That number has dropped to 1,519,695, a decline of 165,177 souls — or 9.8 percent — the 2015 directory reveals.
We naturally think of the size of a church in terms of what statisticians call “adherents” — baptized members and unbaptized spouses and children who attend. And the fact that the rate of decline in adherents is faster than the rate of decline for baptized members means that we’re losing families with children significantly faster than families without children. That bodes very, very poorly for the future. Continue reading