Progressive Churches of Christ: Resolving the Tension, Part 3.2

progressive4. The worse thing you can do is to refuse to talk about the issues. The second worse thing you can do is bring up the issues from the pulpit.

Talk about this stuff in the classrooms. When the preacher launches into a sermon series on these topics, no one has the chance to respond. No one can ask questions. No one can offer what they consider counter-arguments. There is no dialogue — and these topics require fleshing out face to face in dialogue — slowly and carefully.

5. People fill gaps in their knowledge with their fears. Always. Continue reading

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Progressive Churches of Christ: Resolving the Tension, Part 3.1

progressiveThe sad truth is that Churches of Christ have certain inherent disadvantages when it comes to evangelism in today’s world.

First, we’ve been trained to “convert” the lost from among our denominational neighbors. When we realize that many of our neighbors are actually as saved as we are, we have to throw our old notes and tracts away.

Second, in many parts of the country, the Church of Christ denomination has a dreadful reputation as considering everyone else damned and being generally cantankerous and judgmental. Therefore, the name of the congregation makes evangelism more difficult.

Third, we live in an age in which music is a vital part of culture, and our music is out of step with the culture. In fact, we get upset when anyone attempts to bring in current musical styles. I’m sorry: the “lack of authority” argument does not fly and leaves potential converts questioning our rationality. Continue reading

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Progressive Churches of Christ: Resolving the Tension, Part 2

progressiveWe come now to a challenging turn in the road. Imagine a Church of Christ that is well on the road away from sectarianism (the idea that everyone else is damned) and toward a healthy understanding of the Spirit and grace, but which insists on retaining its Church of Christ identity by being exclusively a cappella, keeping the denominational name, having no praise team, limiting the role of women, and engaging in fellowship only with other Churches of Christ.

There is a sense in which this congregation is doing extremely positive things for which it can be justly proud. It’s teaching a healthier gospel, a healthier doctrine of the Spirit, and doing many good works in the community. And it’s growing — but almost entirely by being a better Church of Christ and so attracting many Church of Christ transfers.

I’m not at all happy to say this, but my view is that the growth will end once this church has finished pulling dissatisfied members from the orbits of surrounding Churches of Christ. Someone will notice that baptisms are almost entirely the children of existing members. And the leadership will realize that to be evangelistically effective in today’s culture, the church cannot be a better but nonetheless sectarian Church of Christ. Continue reading

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Progressive Churches of Christ: The Unresolved Tension, Part 1

progressiveReader 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

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The Progressive Churches of Christ: Keith Huey’s Diagnosis, Part 2


Huey writes,

In the past few years, the Churches of Christ have been blessed with some serious reflections regarding the future. In Things Unseen, Allen is primarily concerned about our modernist addictions, and, as we have seen, he wonders especially about our view of the Spirit. Other authors, however, have emphasized different issues: for instance, in The Crux of the Matter, Jeff Childers, Doug Foster, and Jack Reese are hoping that we can rise above our traditional isolationism. In Reclaiming a Heritage, Richard Hughes challenges us to develop a countercultural witness, and to reverse our progress toward the orbit of American Evangelicalism. Continue reading

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The Progressive Churches of Christ: Keith Huey’s Diagnosis, Part 1

progressiveIn 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

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The Progressive Churches of Christ: Where to Go from Here?

progressiveSo 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?

church_of_Christ_state (1)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

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Miles Davis: “Time After Time”

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On the Name of the Church

churchofchristI 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.

Thank you.

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

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miggs: “Heart of the Unknown”

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