I didn't forget about my final installment about the NACC, I was just waiting to see how it all played out. See, while I thoroughly enjoyed the week, something didn't sit well with me. Instead of keeping it to myself, I felt obligated to send an email to some people "in charge" of this and future conventions.
Before the Friday night session, embattled Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher was invited to read Scripture. Fletcher is not affiliated with any branch of the Restoration Movement but was, at one time, a Baptist minister. He was introduced by the lovable Wayne Smith, formerly of Southland Christian Church in Lexington; from the stage Wayne basically endorsed his reelection campaign.
I should note that earlier in the week, the deputy mayor of Louisville read Scripture, but he is a member of a local non-instrumental Church of Christ, the very churches we were talking about unity with. I saw the two incidents as different. I could explain that better.
But I think my email best describes my feelings:
The NACC is one of my favorite events. I have had the privilege of attending 16 North Americans in my life, some while a child, others as a student, and now as a minister. I value greatly our movement and long to see the continued spread of Restoration principles throughout churches worldwide.
While I enjoyed much about the past week in Louisville, from the great preaching to the incredible reaction to the call for unity, there was something that bothered me. I was hesitant to voice my opinion considering there's no shortage of criticism of the NACC; I'm leery of being branded as a negative soul, so I considered not even sending this. Yet I feel compelled to say this as someone from the next generation who is striving for unity in his own context. So as an advocate of the convention, and as a friend, I pray that you take my words as nothing more than constructive criticism.
I found the decision to allow Governor Ernie Fletcher to read Scripture before the Wednesday night sermon disturbing. My opinion of this incident has nothing to do with the Governor's current political situation but is focused on the message that his appearance sent.
On Thursday, the Louisville Courier Journal ran an article entitled "Christian Convention Welcomes Fletcher." It was the only story the paper ran about the convention during our time there. For an average reader unfamiliar with our convention or fellowship, the message of unity was overshadowed by the celebrity appearance of a politician. While we understand this wasn't an endorsement in any way, it could easily be misconstrued as such by an unknowledgable public; most church conventions that invite a politician to speak usually wish to identify themselves with that person's political values. Of course, this isn't the kind of message the NACC wants to portray (I assume), but that's what it appears to be.
Also, I understand that Wayne Smith's comments are not necessarily those of the NACC, but they can be easily misinterpreted as such. In our world of highly-charged political discussions, the ramifications of this appearance should have been thought out in advance by the stewards of the convention. Was Fletcher's appearance necessary to make the convention better? No. Are we seeking validation to make our message viable? I hope not. So I find myself struggling to find the positives here.
My church is located in urban Cincinnati. The majority of my community is socially liberal and votes Democrat. These are people our Restoration Movement churches have struggled to reach with the gospel. We're doing our best to teach them about the love of Jesus. If they heard about this Fletcher appearance at the NACC and then discovered our church's affiliation with the convention, it could provide an unnecessary stumbling block in their path and hurt their chances of responding to our message. You might think this a stretch, but it's true.
In two years, when the NACC returns to Cincinnati, I plan on encouraging my congregation to attend and will use it as an opportunity to explain where our church/theology came from. I'm proud of the NACC, our heritage, and our plea. I would be saddened if a dispensable political appearance drowned out our preaching.
I sincerely appreciate all you do to make this convention a success. And I believe your intentions were noble and not malicious. But if allowing local elected officials to take the NACC stage to speak is an accepted precedent, it should definitely be reconsidered. May God bless you as you continue to serve in His Kingdom.
Blessings, Steve Carr
Half the people that I contacted responded to the email, all agreeing with my concerns and promising to see that this kind of thing doesn't happen again. I should add that I was corrected by one of the respondents: the Louisville Courier Journal did print another article [released after I had left town] concerning the unity efforts of the convention.