It's Decided

Well, it is decided. After over a month of deliberate, open dialog, the Columbus Church of Christ will sign the unity proposal. While I am sad and disappointed in that decision, the process that lead to it tempers my emotions quite a lot.

We began with a discussion at our leaders meeting back on April 2nd. Nearly all of the family group leaders and others present had read the proposal and we simply went around the room expressing our thoughts. I was surprised that most people at that meeting had some level of reservation or concern with it. The reasons for concern and the level of it varied, but based on what I heard at that first meeting, it seemed that there was not a majority of support for the agreement.

Next, we asked the membership to read it and we had a discussion at our house church midweeks on the 12th. Then, the leaders came back together on the 23rd for a little more discussion and a 'vote'. It was not a simple yes or no vote, but what's called a Likert Scale question. The question was:

Are you in favor of signing the Unity Proposal?
+2 -Strongly in favor
+1 - In favor
0 - neither in favor or not in favor
-1 - Not in favor
-2 - Strongly not in favor
The idea was to capture the strength of opinion as well as the simple yes or no. This process was then repeated at our congregational midweek on the 26th.

The results were that more people wanted to sign than did not. For the leadership group, close to 2/3 were in favor, about 1/4 not and the rest neutral. Those not in favor had a stronger feeling than those in favor, but the result was an average of about +.54.

For the congregation (without leadership), about half were in favor, slightly under a third neutral and the rest not in favor. Again, those not in favor tended to feel slightly more strongly about it, with a resulting average of +.41. The goal of polling the congregation was note to have a democratic vote on what to do, but to get the pulse of the church, to give everyone a chance to be heard (2 chances, actually) and to make sure that the leadership's consensus & decision was not out of line from the church as a whole.

Combined then it was a little more than half for, a little more than a fourth neutral and the rest against. The overall average was +.45.

And so we sign, I think the email went out today. Am I disappointed? Yes and no. Yes, because I had hoped for more, I had wished that we could somehow rise above this. It seems that we aren't there yet and that makes me sad. Perhaps I should instead be sad that we as people continue to fail to rise above these sort of things.

But I am not sad about how we went about this. Everyone who wanted to be heard was heard. We stopped the process when just one of us needed to pause to collect his emotions (You'll never guess who. More on that later). We did not find agreement, but we reached a consensus. I know ther are ways that we could have perhaps done better, but not much.

As our minister has said this is not the end of our striving for unity. It wasn't really the beginning either, just a step on the road. It was potentially a perilous one, and even if I don't like the result, I think we handled it well.


The Unity proposal isn't something we've talked about at our COC. Unity can be a good thing, if it can be.

Praying for your leaders.

Milly - The Unity Proposal was directed primarily at the ICOC churches (you might say exclusively, athough if a 'mainline' COC was interested I don't think they'd be turned away).

If you're interested, you can find more info on the UP here at Disciples Today. Additionally, you can read my (many) thoughts on it by scrolling down my 'God and Church category archive. My first post on it was March 11th.

It just occured to me, (maybe it did before and I forgot!), that perhaps Jesus spoke in parables to see if people really wanted to listen. You know those who have ears, let them hear. So often people talk but don't listen even when they look like their listening their thinking about what they want to say next. Anyway, I wonder too if Jesus did it partly to protect his heart. Just like you feel loved when your listened too in the same way you feel hurt when your not. So when he spoke in parables part of him could think maybe they just don't get it it's not that they don't want to hear. But in reality, if they did want to hear they'd try to figure it out.

It sounds like your congregation is signing with caution. Hopefully, By continuing to proceed with caution, you can avoid any pitfalls along the way.

I really don't think this unity proposal will remain relevant for long. I actually hope that is the case. I think relationships, scripture, and the Holy Spirit will be the primary uniting factors. The unity proposal cannot and should not override those factors. And I think those factors can take us to places that this unity proposal has not contemplated.

I think that may be a fair way of characterizing it, but I don't know. In the end, the work we were already engaged in, as you said, will be far more important and meaningful in building unity.

I saw your similar comments on it's relevance at Pinakidion's site. If it somewhat quickly becomes irrelevant, then my question is the same as his, will it be publicly abandoned? Will the proposal group come out and say "It's done." and will it's goals be declared to have been met?

The two main goals were to solidify missions support and to strengthen relationships between churches. With only between 1/4 & 1/3 of all of our churches signing*, it seems that it would be hard to say it was successful on either account. I doubt that will stop folks from saying something like "We don't need this any more, it fulfilled it's purpose." Part of our historical culture is the profound ability to look squarely at failure and declare it a success.

*At this writing, according to Pinakidion's scoreboard it's 144 of a total of 411. DT is reporting 137 signatures and ICOCinfo reports total churches at 543. That's 1/3 according to Pinakidion and 1/4 according to DT/ICOCinfo.

I wrote something on my site about the numbers, but in short it goes like this:

I count the China Missions Council as 18, DToday counts them as 1.

If you total the number of churches from Kelcy's list, you get 543. The spreadsheet includes churches that no longer exist or are not separate churches (like Rapid City, SD - they are really a part of Denver). The list also includes churches that do not exist like Morganton, WV. Taking that into account, you get 515 churches.

If you add in Kip's churches not included on Kelcy's list (Corvallis, Chicago, Toronto, Phoenix, etc.) the list expands to 522.

I am still correcting the number of churches as Kelcy's list of churches does not include a couple of churches in India that are currently listed on India's website. The final number should be about 520.

Therefore, I estimate 1/3 at this point, though no churches from Central or South America or Canada have signed. Only Moscow has signed from Eurasia.

"I doubt that will stop folks from saying something like "We don't need this any more, it fulfilled it's purpose."

I am one of those who has said that. And I stand by it with all of my heart.

Let me qualify that by saying that I do not believe that the goals specified by the authors of the UP were the same goals that God had in mind. God wants unity among His beloved children. And now we are talking again about unifying the church world-wide. This was simply not happening before; at least not by very many people.

I have expressed my indifference about the signing on of the UP in the past. But I can see the good it has brought about. I don't think we ever need an official "Mission Accomplished" sign hung over it. Let it just fade away into the dusk. I just think we ought to be thanking God we are working our way back to a godly unity.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. [4] There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called-- [5] one Lord, one faith, one baptism; [6] one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephes. 4:3-6)

Hey Jeff,

Exactly what did the UP do? What is the good that came about because of this? I ask in all sincerity.

Good Question, Pinakidion.

I am not sure about where you all are from, but where I am from the discussion of re-unifying the world-wide fellowship was not discussed. There was already a unity between our congregation in NH and some of the European ones. But that was because of some local ties. Beyond that, there was no discussion...where I am from.

The UP, in my eyes, began a process...a discussion...among the world-wide fellowship. I say thank God for using the UP to begin the process of unifying us, and vomit on the evil one for using it to divide.

Because of the UP someone like me is discussing unity. Because of the UP congregations are hooking up again.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not a proponent of the UP. If you read my former posts you will find this to be true. And I believe with all of my heart that these discussions would have happened anyway. But if the UP helped speed the process, then I am ok with it.

Now, I have a question for you:

How exactly is Pinakidion pronounced?

Most folks call me Pink because it is monosyllablic and much easier to say.

According the crosswalk, it is pronounced:


You could also just call me 'wax tablet'.

I can see the point that some have started talking about worldwide unity as a result of the UP.

I am not convinced that churches are hooking up because of the UP. I saw churches all over the United States hook up very quickly after the World Sectors evaporated. Speed the process? Maybe. Hard for me to believe that this could *not* be the cause to cease fellowship between churches, yet *be* the cause for two churches that were otherwise separate to fellowship with each other.

Hey Doug,

Our congregation hasn't signed and I'm not aware of anyone here who is advocating that we should. But at least one of the UP committee members has been talking pretty persistently and insistently to our evangelist trying to convince him that we should. The level of effort to change our minds is rather surprising to me.


Hey Alan,

Not surprising to me at all. The UP only has relevance if all or most churches sign it. It makes the next ILC much easier.

What do they think of Toronto and Vancouver?

Jeff - I don't doubt that some are talking about relationships with others where perhaps they weren't before. That's a good thing. However, like 'wax tablet' (heh) said, it's just as likely that some are or will refuse fellowship because of this.

The bigger issue is claiming victory when there is none. Let me illustrate.

Say you plan a special date with your wife, dinner and a play. You buy the tickets for the show and make reservations. The sitter's lined up and you are ready. You've done a lot of planning ahead and your wife is very encouraged in anticipation. On the night it is to happen, you drop off the little ones and head out. At the restaurant, you leave her in the car and go inside. You bring back some mint toothpicks and a carryout menu, and then leave for the theater. There, once gain, she stays in the car while you go inside, bring back a program for the show. Then you return home.

Was it the date a success? Sure, you picked up some nifty tasting toothpicks and some information, but in no way could you argue it was a successful date, and your wife would be quite hurt if you did.

It's a little too soon to tell as I know that there will be some more signers, but it's looking like the same could be said about the UP. Sure, folks are talking where they weren't, but the goal was not just talk. The goal was to set up a structure for our brotherhood, to establish relationships and missions support. If all that happens is more talk, calling it a success is quite disingenuous, if not insulting, much as it would be to tell your wife it was a good evening out.

Alan / Pinikidion - I would also say that the UP committe members have an emotional investment in this as well. I know that I feel that I've invested a lot in where our church is headed. In some ways, that we signed the UP was an emotional blow for me as a result, as I felt a little like it was a step backwards. I bet the commitee members might be feeling some hurt that it's not better recieved, so there's a push for more signatures. A successful UP validates them and their work, and that's a completly understandable emotional reaction. I think it would be a little dishonest to claim otherwise.

It must be pretty hard on the UP guys.

No Florida.
No San Francisco.
No Canada.
No Germany.
No Central America.
No South America.
No Boston.
No Atlanta.
No New Mexico :)

In addition, Baltimore, a Kip supporter *did* sign.

As Alan said, the ILC will be VERY interesting.

I guess you guys are one of the 42 to sign on now. It's not up yet, but I'm interested to see who signed.

Yep, there we are. Jeff's church too. And the Great White North is now represented. Interestingly, I know of one church not listed there that has anounced to it's members last week that they were signing. Not sure why they aren't on there yet. I wasn't sure why we didn't pop up during the previous update either.

I wonder how long they'll keep trickling in and when will they say "I guess that's about it then." It seemed to me that about as many as were going to had signed, but then again we took our time getting around to it as well.

Great analogy, Doug. Rest assured I would never treat my wife like that. She would at least get a doggie-bag or something. ;-)

Anyway, regarding the "mission accomplished" sign: I never stated that the purpose of the UP was to fulfill the goals written in it. I believe I have always stated that I believe God had other designs on why it was begin the discussions. And that is happening. We are talking about unity. You are right. Some churches will not sign on. But that by no means means we are disunified.

The fact that NH signed on means next to nothing to me. I has no bearing on my life and does not effect me regarding how I treat people in or outside the church. Don't get me wrong. I love the NH church. In my opinion, it is the place to be! But just because the leadership signed onto the UP doesn't mean that I did or that I did not. It just means that the leadership did. And that's fine with me.

You say that "Jeff's church" signed on. I don't know why that bothered me. But it did. Probably because "my" church is the same as your church is the same as Wax Tablet's church is the same as the churches in Africa, Asia, Europe...etc. I don't have a church. I belong to Christ and am in the Body of believers worldwide. And no matter who signs on and who doesn't changes nothing about who is in that Body.

I am indifferent to the UP. But I can see God using it to pull of a Romans 8:28.

A kind thoughtful reader pointed out to me that perhaps my last comment might be misconstrued. I am not saying that the committee member has bad intent in trying to persuade us to sign. I'm sure in his mind he is making every effort for unity as we all should do. I just feel that it is counterproductive to try to get someone to sign a unity agreement against their better judgment. Our view is based on our personal consciences as well as on what we believe to be best for our congregation. The committee has communicated that they will respect such a decision, and I think they ultimately will do so. Perhaps they are just for the moment finding that hard to do since they have so much invested in this effort, as others have pointed out.

Alan - Thanks for the clarification. I don't doubt anyone's motives in this, although it would be easy to. I agree with your take on it. Before there's a decision, by all means, state your case and try to persuade. After the decision is made, I can see one last try if you feel strongly, but after that respect their decision.

Jeff - Let me challenge your thinking a bit here. If your church has signed, I think you have signed. The church is 'one body', and I think this is something that you go forward with or not together. This is not an agreement fro individuals, it's for churches. I think, in the spirit of unity, as the church goes the individual goes. As much as I may not like it, I consider that I have signed the proposal myself. We decided this as a whole, the only way the whole stays whole is for the individual members to be committed to the decision. Commitment does not mean agreement. Commitment is both more valuable and easier to achieve.

Also, you said "I never stated that the purpose of the UP was to fulfill the goals written in it." Frankly, that's a perspective I don't understand. I mean, that you see other purposes in the UP is fine to a point, but it is not your role to define it's goals. That's for the authors to do. Ultimately it's success or failure will be determined by comparing its effect to the authors' stated goals.

You might find that a toothbrush is great at cleaning tile grout, but if it fails at cleaning teeth - the purpose stated by it's 'author' - it's a failure.

BTW - Words on a 'page' can come accross in ways unintended. Please take no offense in my challenges, it's jsut two brothers sharing their views and challenging each other's thinking. I'm glad you are here participating in these discussions, even if it seems at times that we are on different sides of the issue.

Actually, I learn and grow more from dissagreement than agreement.

"but it is not your role to define it's goals"

True enough.
But I am not willing to accept that the only purpose for the UP was that which the authors penned into it.
I am just willing to leave a door open for other some other reasons God may have caused or allowed the UP to be.

"I think, in the spirit of unity, as the church goes the individual goes. As much as I may not like it, I consider that I have signed the proposal myself."

You do raise a good point about the individual/church signings.
I have taken a very strong stance of indifference about the UP (if that can possibly happen!).
I'm not sure yet...but I may have wrestling of my own to do.

"Actually, I learn and grow more from dissagreement than agreement."
As do I my do I.

Do you see that little misplaced sentence which ended my last comment?

Well throw this statement right above it and it will make much more sence:
Actually, I learn and grow more from dissagreement than agreement.

I fixed it. You had a typo in your [i] tag.

Jeff - I don't think that word means what you think it means. :) (Had to make the obligatory Princess Bride reference.)

Doug - The sentiment expressed about being tied to the decision of the church is one that I share, as you well know. The thing that is different is that I am not ostracized because I do not agree. Then again, I am not a member anymore, either. In the end, though, it hasn't changed what I do within the church or for the church. All it has really done has calmed my conscience.

I was really hoping someone would pick that up. ;-)

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    It's Decided
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  • I fixed it. You had a typo in your [i] tag....

  • Do you see that little misplaced sentence which ended my last comment? Well throw this statement right above it and it will make much more sence: Actually, I learn and grow more from dissagreement than agreement. ...

    Jeff Morris
    It's Decided