Alan on Our Shared History

Alan, on his blog Christian Unity, has just wrapped up an excellent series on the beginning of the division that now, unfortunately, characterizes the restoration movement. It was an education in where we come from that I am grateful for. From his last post:

Thomas Campbell would not recognize this movement as it exists today, if it can still be called a movement. Will Jesus recognize it when he returns? May God have mercy on us all.

What caused the great departure of the Restoration Movement from the original intent to unify believers? In a nutshell, it was the policy of purifying the doctrine of the church through division. That was the policy implemented by the Address and Declaration. And it was the policy that has driven every division in the churches of Christ since 1889.

The series was inspired by his post on Sola Scriptura that pointed out both how the Restoration Movement was founded on the principle of the Bible being enough and how many in modern day Restoration Movement churches don't seem to think that the Bible is enough anymore. They add in unwritten creeds and tests of fellowship based on particular pet doctrines, beliefs and practices.

What started as a movement for unity is now one of the most fractured. What started the division? The desire to maintain what some saw as a purity of Christian doctrine, to speak out against supposed heresies. It began a little over one hundred years ago in Sand Creek IL. There, in 1889, a message was delivered that declared some as in and some as out. A few years later, the Illinois Supreme Court settled matters between the two, now separate, churches:

On February 21, 1906, the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois handed down a decision in the case titled "The Christian Church of Sand Creek, Shelby County, Illinois, versus The Church of Christ at Sand Creek." That case decided the ownership of church property subsequent to a very public and ugly church split. What a tragedy that Christians went to court against other Christians, appealing all the way to the state Supreme Court, over some dirt, boards, and nails. One side got what they wanted--ownership of a little land and a small building. Meanwhile the Bride of Christ was humiliated as the world looked on. And a noble movement for unity was brought to a standstill.
From Alan's opening post, Poison in Our Roots
One of the things that strikes me here is how we in the ICOC fell into the same trap that RM folk have fallen into for decades. We pulled ourselves out from the rest of the COC and called others away, for the so called purity of God's church. 'Sold out disciples' and 'fully committed disciples' were the only ones welcome. How ironic that in our zeal to fix what we thought was ailing the COC, we did exactly what they had done for years. Not surprising, then, that we failed too.

Go read Alan's series, it's enlightening. Here are the links:

2 Comments

My family has been part of this good and bad. My great grandfather was a one-cupper who would never have questioned the discipleship of multi-cup folks, but couldn't participate in communion that way (and, yes, I see a major inconsistency there). Right here in Albuquerque, my great uncle was part of a group who left the Montgomery Blvd CoC several years ago to form the Northeast CoC basically over worship styles. And here I am, part of a congregation with a few members who don't recognize either of those as True Disciples. We do have a Bible Talk with active members from Montgomery Blvd in it.

In my mind, it just always seems to come down to an "I'm right and couldn't possibly be wrong about this" arrogance.

satan just finds one thing that is more dear to us than Christ and he uses that to divide. From Christ and from each other. Often times it is our pride but it can be other things too. satan doesn't have to be smart he does the same thing over and over again. Hence, history repeats itself.



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  • satan just finds one thing that is more dear to us than Christ and he uses that to divide. From Christ and from each other. Often times it is our pride but it can be other things too. satan doesn't have to be smart he...

  • My family has been part of this good and bad. My great grandfather was a one-cupper who would never have questioned the discipleship of multi-cup folks, but couldn't participate in communion that way (and, yes, I see a m...

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