Monday, December 04, 2006

Church Roots

Leroy Garrett writes about changes within his denomination, the Churches of Christ, a group with which I once identified exclusively. I say exclusively because it is not that I do not identify with those churches today, it is just that I also find my identity with many others as well. I am not finding my home with fewer churches, but with more.

However, due to the demands of exclusiveness that are intrinsic to much denominational thinking, and very true of Churches of Christ, having a Christ-identity which embraces many denominations is sufficient to have one excluded from many groups.

In discussing what is happening among some Churches of Christ, Leroy praises one congregation in Fort Worth for not leaving that particular heritage "and becoming rootless." He talks about other congregations taking generic names and leaving the restoration.

However, I would suggest that there are not only these two options: 1) persisting in a restoration tradition, and 2) going generic and becoming rootless. In other words, is every congregation which doesn't keep a particular name and identify with a certain line of teaching and thinking necessarily rootless?

I am not accusing Leroy of believing in only two options. I don't know what he would say, but I am merely reflecting on my impression of his thoughts. I agree that many seeker-sensitive, mega-church wannabes do opt for a very generic and lowest common denominator type of ecclesiology, if not theology. Many do try to cater to people's consumeristic desires and apparently become rootless, even if unintentionally.

But let me say that I do think that there is another option - becoming rooted in historical, creedal, orthodox Christianity in a way that is not exclusive. Rather than becoming a rootless community, perhaps some congregations might leave the more distinguishing externals of Churches of Christ (or other denominations), not in becoming what some have called a-historical, but to move more thoroughly within historical Christianity.

If there is at least this third option, it is the one I aspire to follow. I certainly do not want to say that to preserve my "roots" I have to adhere to certain particulars of denominations in which I may have grown. I also do not want to simply reject those roots and be the church of now.

What if sometimes staying rooted means losing some exclusive aspects of an identity that comes with that particular heritage? Certainly seeking renewal within a denominational identity is admirable. One may also seek renewal within Christianity as a whole, and embrace the largest history of all believers.


priest said...


I wanted to post similar sentiments on Cope's blog, but knew it would get lost in the mix.

so i'll jump on the non-institutional post-restorationist emerging blog.

I find it funny what Leroy thinks is more distinctive--one's name--rather than one's worship distinctives.

Btw, I thought the jury was still out on what practices/doctrines make a Church of Christ exclusively a Church of Christ. Am I missing a creed here? A doctrinal statement? Or a publication by a bishopric editor?

Greg Newton said...

Yes - the name and stated intent to remain within the movement seem to be the key factors.

The oral and face-value creedal positions are mentally and genetically passed on from generation to generation so as to maintain the non-creedal creed.

A said...

Amen. I think you are on the right track with the third option. Keep it up, bro.

Steve Puckett said...

Good thoughts, Greg. Glad I stumbled across your blog today.

I think because I have had such an affinity with those of other tribes and tongues, I see myself and want to see my church family in much more of a historical setting within Christian History.

I want my church family and others to come to a clearer vision of thinking outside of space and time, the way I envision God viewing things. This viewpoint I think opens your heart heavenward and clears your mind to see what is really central to faith in Jesus.


Ken Haynes said...


I really resonate with the option of Historic Christianity being a way out of the ahistorical/non-denominational vortex. I remember reading Hughes/Allen back in Auburn and the challenge to those in the Restoration Movement being so a-historical with everything. I ended up finding that most North American Christianity is pretty ahistorical and thus loses out on some of the richness that the stream of historic Faith has passed on to us through the Centruries.

Guess the road to the future really does run through the past

priest said...

Ken, just building on what you're saying. Earlier in my church history class we were discussing, in light of church history, the pitfalls of both "traditionalists" and "progressives," where traditionalists assume that history is not at all at odds with their doctrine/worship/praxis, whereas the progressives assume that history is boring and monochromatic and that to be progressive is to do something never attempted before.

However, as the Emerging Church is written off as "progressives" by many evangelicals, esp. those of the Reformed stripe, I find it humorous that EC has more freedom to explore the fullness of our rich Xian history because it goes further back than 500 years, viz. the Reformation.

So when EC is written off as being merely a nouveau fad, we haul off and start keeping the Office of the Hours and then ask, "Who's nouveau now?"

But I didn't say any of that in Church History.

Allen Coker said...

I, like you, desire the third option and find that when I seek historical orthodox Christian faith it is like wading out into an ocean. It is excitement mingled with fear and respect. There have been times when I have been angry at the church in which I was raised because it told me nothing of this deep Christian history that I am a part of.

I always like to ask the question, "Where did the church go between the first century and the coming of the Campbell's in the 1800's?" Nobody seems to have a sufficient answer for that.

Thanks for your insight.