Future

This is part five of the Five Forces of the Restoration Movement series. I suggest first watching the video below and then reading the accompanying article. In this video, I connect my house to the Restoration Movement.

“Follow Jesus for the future.”
The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery, June 1804

As the world approached New Year’s Day 2000, anxiety levels were off the charts; the state of our technology had people on edge. The Y2K coding bug left many afraid for their future. Concerned that computers could shut off once the new year arrived, some speculated their bank transactions could be compromised or that planes might even fall from the skies.

But we shouldn’t have been surprised about the fear concerning our failing computers. The technological angst was likely connected to general apprehension about the turning century. Throughout history, people have been psychologically impacted by what is known as fin de siècle (the end of a century). As one scholar noted:

“There is no reason why the turning of a century should carry any particular historical significance. The idea that history falls neatly into hundred-year blocks and can be assessed in these units is obviously ludicrous. Yet in the supposedly Christian parts of the world where the larger sweep of time is measured in such terms, the passing of a century tends to give rise to wistful reflection on the past as well as intense speculation about the future. The arrival of ‘landmark’ dates engenders a heightened sense of temporality, of time passing. Changes which are actually taking place at these junctures tend to acquire extra (sometimes mystical) layers of meaning."

This is why the Y2K incident is helpful in framing what happened at the very beginning of the Restoration Movement. The Second Great Awakening (which started at the end of the 18th century) was at least partially influenced by the changing calendar. There were some who believed that the new century would bring about the end of the world and, as a result, the work of the kingdom took center stage.

Thus, the FUTURE—a concept drenched in both fear and hope—was a force in our Movement.

THE FUTURE IS NOW
In my final installment of this series I don’t intend to mine through our past to examine this force. Throughout our history, the goal of our Movement has been the restoration of the church to effectively impact the world with the gospel of Christ. Proving that the future is part of our DNA doesn’t require extensive prooftexting: simply look at the title of Alexander Campbell’s most influential publication. The Millennial Harbinger was meant to allude to the forerunner of something to come (a harbinger), and to introduce people to the possibilities of what could be.

The problem with future is how it can negatively impact the present. And this has become a serious issue in our Movement. Our obsession over what’s still to come tends to keep us from acknowledging how far we’ve come. So today, I want to declare victory:

The ideals of our Movement have triumphed.

Over recent decades, as churches have adapted to a growth paradigm (at least partial credit for this should be given to Movement thinkers like Donald McGavran and Joe Ellis), all kinds of churches have adopted restorationist practices: the Bible is preferred to creeds, adult immersion by baptism is more popular than ever, congregational autonomy is the norm, and denominational ties are evaporating. I frequently read through the statements of faith of many non-Movement churches and they could very easily be confused with those of our own. Even Charismatic/Pentecostal churches are recrafting aspects of their theology to become more efficient evangelists.

That’s why I say that the future is now: the issue isn’t that our Movement is dying; it’s that we finally won, and we don’t know what to do now.

That’s why I set out to write this series. While I love our Movement’s history, it has the tendency to paralyze us. We look at these forces that are so prevalent and feel as if it’s our duty to live up to them—or at least to sing their praises. It’s this compulsion that I sought to dispel.

Our Movement’s future demands that we overcome the historical forces of freedom, finance, fracture, and fortification. We must embrace our past, repent of some sins, and move toward what’s next.

REVISTING FREEDOM
While our Movement was powered by biblical liberty, the freedom of religion provided by the United States Constitution was nearly as influential. American experimentation and entrepreneurialism influenced our founders to become “Christians only.” But in the decades since, freedom in Christ has proved more compelling than Christ’s prayer for unity in John 17; we place a higher value on independence. Thus, we need to reestablish our connectivity with each other to ensure that our ideals do not pass away.

We must seek out accountability.
Years ago I was close to a Movement minister who had a moral failure. Surprisingly, he was immediately hired by another Christian Church to lead their congregation. I felt obligated to reach out to the church to inform them of this discretion of which I was sure they were unaware. They tersely responded that it was none of my business whom they decided to hire. I was shocked that one of our churches wouldn’t care about this kind of news. I was even further shocked when I learned later that two other ministers submitted the exact same concern to the church and were also ignored. Apparently this congregation felt that their freedom to hire whomever they wanted outweighed the concerns of three ministry leaders.

For years our Movement maintained some levels accountability through our Bible colleges and our magazines. But as the influence of these institutions wane, we’re forced to reconsider how we practice mutual submission. We need to be open to people’s concerns, especially since the Holy Spirit works through the counsel of others. Are we permitting room for the Spirit’s to be heard?

REVISTING FINANCE
The early days of the Movement were highly influenced by wealth. The affluent were often able to determine whose voices were heard and what issues took precedence. As Christian Churches today are much larger than congregations in previous generations, the financial strength our Movement is now shifting inward.

We must commit to support Movement causes.
In recent years, I’ve learned of churches in our Movement that have reclassified their “missions” giving as “outreach.” In these instances, church funds have been diverted from supporting missionaries on foreign fields to more localized efforts designed to reach out to its own community. While it’s admirable that congregations are more willing to meet needs in their own backyard, does it need to come at the expense at the work of the gospel overseas?

I beat this drum constantly, but I continue to do so because it’s critically important: we must continue to support the missionaries and institutions of our Movement. This is not a call to exclusionism but a reminder that supporting those institutions that serve our Movement is a way of preserving our past. If we continue down a path of self-reliance, there may be no one there when we need it most.

REVISTING FRACTURE
Throughout our Movement’s history, issues of non-essential theology created rifts that destroyed fellowship. When people in our Movement disagree, we tend to fight feverishly and then fracture into smaller, like-minded groups. We essentially  create tribes within tribes to avoid uncomfortable confrontation.

We must seek unity (especially when it’s challenging).
I remember in the late 1980s, there was a mild controversy in our Movement over the legitimacy of Saturday evening worship services. These services were intended to reach those who could not attend worship on Sundays and were quite influential in attracting lapsed Catholics who were used to Saturday evening mass. But since there was no Saturday worship described in the New Testament, it became a source of contention. I remember reading magazine articles and hearing sermons on the subject. While the topic today isn’t as contentious, it was previously used as shibboleth to create distance between believers. In order to continue to growth as a Movement, we have to learn to argue in a healthy way.

Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not suggesting that we loosen our theology. But I am suggesting that we stop vilifying those with whom we disagree on non-essential issues. And if our “essentials” list won’t fit on a notecard, maybe we should reevaluate our definition of the word. Isolation from fellowship can prove costly, so we need to stick together.

REVISTING FORTIFICATION
When theological differences were too massive, Movement leaders prepared for war and hunkered down for battle. Fortification was a tactic used against a formidable enemy. But we maintained this fighting posture long after the war was over. This created a negative vibe around the our churches: while we never claimed to be the only Christians, we often acted like we were. We became the most exclusionary unity movement in the world.

We must tear down walls.
Those of us in the Movement who are 50 years old or younger have lived under the umbrella of fortification our entire lives. Even though the fight over theological liberalism was virtually over before many of us were born, we’ve been warned for decades that we must continue to fortify; we just assumed that there would be another fight over liberalism, so we kept our walls up. We followed in the ways of the Pharisees and built hedges around the Law. We became suspicious of our sister and brothers in Christ just because they might one day influence us to go astray.

Our Movement still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from the fight against theological liberalism, but that fight is over. The liberals have given up believing altogether, so now it’s in our best interest to find commonality with those who embrace our ideals—less fortification, more fellowship.

FOLLOW JESUS FOR THE FUTURE
In offering this critique of the forces behind our Movement, I’m not trying to land cheap shots. Even as I call out the failures of our past, I’m forced to admit my complicity:

· I neglected opportunities for accountability.
· I haven’t always financially supported our Movement’s institutions.
· I basked in my own theological brilliance on non-essential issues.
· I highlighted the poor theology of my denominational kin instead of reaching out to them.
· I spoke where the Scriptures didn’t speak in order to win arguments.

I’m sure all of us have failed at times to live up to the ideals of our Movement. My hope, however, is that admitting our shortcomings will create the space for us to do better in the future.

While I can’t be certain what lies ahead for the Restoration Movement, I’m still convinced that our work is incomplete. In recent months, I’ve talked with quite a few denominational churches that are choosing to pursue the path of autonomy. Even though they’re excited at the prospects of congregational independence as found in the New Testament, they still are seeking out like-minded churches with whom to walk.

So if we’re needed by others, then we definitely need each other. My prayer is that we can continue to become the Movement that God has called us to be.

We must continue to follow Jesus for the future.

____________________________________________

GEEK NOTES
The quote about the end of the century is from Geopolitical Traditions: Critical Histories of a Century of Geopolitical Thought David Atkinson and Klaus Dodds (pg31).

For those unfamiliar, Joe Ellis was a professor at Cincinnati Bible Seminary and wrote the book that was a basis for Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Church. Donald McGavran was one of our Movement’s missiologists and is considered to be the father of the church growth movement.

Photo by Daniel Chen on Unsplash

Fortification

This is part four of the Five Forces of the Restoration Movement series. I suggest first watching the video below and then reading the accompanying article. In this video, I reveal the lesson that woodpeckers can teach us about our Movement.

“What religion are you?”
“Christian.”
“Well I get that, but what kind of Christian?”
“Um, just Christian.”


Growing up on Cincinnati’s west side, where Roman Catholicism reigned supreme, I constantly had this exchange with kids at school. Growing up in a Restoration Movement congregation, I was taught from my youth that our church was simply Christian—nothing more, nothing less. It wasn’t until years later when I was in seminary that I learned there was another biblical name that could describe my tribe.

Disciples was the moniker that Alexander Campbell preferred; he was repulsed that some referred to his group as “Campbellites,” so he sought a more fitting description. One of the early ideals of our Movement was to call biblical things by biblical names. Terms like Presbyterian or Episcopalian described a system of church governance, and no one in the New Testament claimed those titles. Additionally Lutherans and even Campbellites emphasized an individual more than Christ. Seeing that Disciple was frequently used to describe believers in the New Testament, it was a term he used and one that stuck.

But by the time of my youth, the late 1970s and early 1980s, this term was anathema by Bible-believing Christians. It was avoided by many because they felt that some had abused it.

Friends, FORTIFICATION is a force of the Restoration Movement. The more popular term today would be gatekeeping—the idea that certain people get to define who is in or out. 

Fortification was well established in the Movement in which I was reared: we were Christians only, but we were extremely selective about whom we partnered with or read or listened to. Before I became familiar with our Movement’s history, I thought fortification was always part of our identity. But it wasn’t. It was a reaction in a time when there was much at stake, and it’s something we today would do well to ponder.

THE ORIGINS OF THEOLOGICAL LIBERALISM
It’s always challenging to describe our split with the Disciples of Christ. It’s a conflict that spans nearly a century, and most of the events that led to the split were anticlimactic—the result of smaller tremors that occurred years prior. Additionally, the key issues behind the rift are theological in nature and tend to be deeper than the average person cares to explore. But since my goal throughout this series has been to simplify the complex, I’ll see if I can offer a streamlined explanation of events. 

More than anything, this means we must familiarize ourselves with theological liberalism.

First, let’s define what we mean when we say “liberal” in this context. In America today, the term liberalism bears political baggage, and it can prohibit our understanding of the conflict. In its simplest form, liberal is a comparative term—a position established from the median—the opposite of conservatism. Generally, conservatism is associated with tradition and liberalism with freedom

When thinking about the streams of our Movement, the median is regularly ascribed to my tribe, the Independent Christian Churches. The more conservative position is held by the Churches of Christ (non-instrumental) and the liberal position belongs to the Disciples of Christ. Theological liberalism among our Movement is considered the counter-orthodox perspective. It turns its back one thousands of years of biblical interpretation and considers the Bible as more human and less divine.

The roots of theological liberalism stem from Europe and developed years before our Movement even existed. Entire encyclopedias have been written on this topic, so forgive me for highlighting only three of the influences of this perspective.

1. Historical Criticism
Higher criticism of the Bible started to emerge in Europe in the late 1700s. German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) was a rather influential thinker in this approach to biblical interpretation (also called a hermeneutic). Historical Criticism viewed the Bible as a purely human invention, denying any divine inspiration of the text. This meant that the existence of biblical miracles could not be accepted, and the historical accuracy of events found in the Scriptures could not be relied upon. In this view, the Scriptures were no more profound than any other piece of ancient literature. All humans could do with the Bible was to attempt to discover what the original authors were trying to accomplish.

2. The Social Gospel
Birthed by German theologian Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889), the focus of the Social Gospel was bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth. While this is definitely an aspect of the gospel, this view overemphasized the need for the church to make the world a better place while underemphasizing (and oftentimes eliminating altogether) the eternal/salvific power of the gospel. Ritschl argued that the church’s first and greatest calling was to address the ills of society. In this paradigm, the Bible was no longer an authority but was to be viewed under the authority of moral responsibility. God’s wrath and judgment became repulsive concepts because it conflicted with the idea of God’s love.

3. Darwinism
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) published a book unveiling his theory of evolution in 1859. In subsequent decades, his observations on biological development were freely applied to social, political, and religious fields. Much has been written about Darwin’s struggle with faith, and his views of creation reflect his inner turmoil. But the emergence of a godless evolution, combined with the theological movements described above, served to marginalize the Scriptures.

In the years to come, biblical and theological scholars would be influenced by these views and inspired to create new ways to view the Bible. The authority of the Bible was weakened and work of the church was reimagined to accommodate this perspective. For our Movement, which spent its formative years calling for a return to New Testament Christianity, the stakes could not be higher. Eventually these views made their way across the Atlantic Ocean and, after the Civil War, began to change the way our churches would preach and teach the Bible.

THE INFILTRATION OF THEOLOGICAL LIBERALISM
The influence of theological liberalism slowly started appear in the Movement through various issues, but the most simple way to frame this conflict is to explore how it impacted pastoral training.

For any religious movement to be successful, it’s critical that their leaders be able to articulate and teach the essential ideals and practices. Producing an educated clergy generally requires institutions to train them. Throughout our Movement’s history, however, higher education for ministers has always been a source of contention. As mentioned in the previous installment, southern churches tended to be more primitive and anti-intellectual in nature, so there was skepticism toward academic institutions. And with what began to emerge in the early 1900s, their suspicions seemed justified. The roots of the fracture is best understood by looking at what occurred at two institutions:

1. The University of Chicago
While there were plenty of seminaries throughout America at the turn of the 20th century, there were very few that taught our Movement ideals. In the late 1800s some of our Movement’s ministry students started to enroll at the University of Chicago; this was a peculiar choice as it was a Baptist school. A robust gift from John D. Rockefeller helped establish Chicago’s divinity school as one of the Midwest’s most respected seminaries. And it was a hotbed for theological liberalism.

To provide a cultural lab for Movement students, a Disciples Divinity House was founded at the University of Chicago in 1894. The thinking behind the Divinity House was that ministry students from the Movement would then have a stable base from which to navigate their theological training while gaining exposure to Restoration ideals. Herbert Willett founded the Divinity House. While Willett was educated at Campbell’s Bethany College, he did advanced work at Yale Divinity School, where he became a proponent of theological liberalism. Even though the Divinity House taught the tradition of the Movement, students were encouraged to integrate a theologically liberal view of the Scriptures into their thinking. In this setting the high view of the Bible, which was historically inseparable from the Movement, was now taught as an archaic inconvenience.

After a few years, when the ministry students began serving in churches, this theological liberalism made its way to our pews. It did not go unnoticed, and, in the early 1900’s, Movement publications were full of arguments about clergy trained in Chicago. 

But this conflict was just getting started. 

2. The College of the Bible
The beginnings of the College of the Bible in Lexington were intertwined with that of the University of Kentucky. Founded at the conclusion of the Civil War, it rivaled Bethany College as one of the most respected ministry training centers in our Movement. Right about the time that Willett started the Divinity House, JW McGarvey was named president at the College of the Bible. McGarvey was an unquestioned conservative and made sure professors (almost all of whom were educated at the College of the Bible or Bethany) used the Bible as their primary textbook. For decades to follow, it was the disciples of McGarvey who were the champions of biblical orthodoxy in our Movement. He served as president until his death in 1911. Within just a few years after McGarvey’s death, the entire faculty at the College of the Bible turned over and was restaffed with professors influenced by the theological liberalism of the University of Chicago.

The shift at the school was relatively under the radar of the Movement churches until a student there mailed a letter to all the college trustees and supporting churches to reveal the truth. Immediately, Movement publications began to argue about the teaching at the College of the Bible; the controversy played out in the pages of Christian Standard, the most influential publication of our churches. Eventually, the trustees were influenced to conduct an investigation of the faculty, but the proceedings were a farce. The trustees were firmly behind the faculty and ultimately determined that they were without fault.

This was a pivotal moment within our Movement. To offset the theological liberalism taught at Lexington, ministry schools were started in Cincinnati, Louisville, and Grayson, Kentucky. Within a four-decade period, approximately two dozen Bible colleges and seminaries were founded. Just as it happened with the Churches of Christ, there was now an “us” and a “them.” The battle lines had been drawn, and it was time to fortify for the fight.

THE FIGHT AGAINST THEOLOGICAL LIBERALISM
Other church networks found themselves in similar fights with theological liberalism; in the following decades, many of the mainline denominations would succumb to the ideology. But in the early decades of the 20th century, while churches were combating theological changes, there were cultural changes taking place with America. The combined impact of these shifts alarmed many Christians. The key incident here took place in 1925, when a high school teacher in Tennessee was put on trial for teaching Darwinism to his students. The Supreme Court eventually reversed the guilty verdict of John Scopes, leaving many conservatives believing the very essence of American faith was in danger of being eliminated.

To defend these ideals against the erosion of both cultural and theological liberalism, fundamentalism emerged. Fundamentalism was the elevation of certain fundamentals of faith that needed to be endorsed for one to be considered orthodox; this included affirming the inspiration of Scripture, the virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, and the belief in biblical miracles. Many in our Movement, motivated by fortifying against the Disciples, stood under the banner of fundamentalism. My alma mater, Cincinnati Bible Seminary, became the Movement’s flagship institution for fundamentalist values.

As in any conflict, there will always be collateral damage, but the fight with the Disciples was far more traumatic than the split with the Churches of Christ. The fracture with the Churches of Christ was more of a drifting—a realignment. The break with the Disciples, however, escalated to personal attacks and even the filing of lawsuits; part of the fight included theologians retaining the right to legal counsel in case they were sued for libel. Eventually, there was a call by independent Christian Church leaders to pick a side: are you with us or with the Disciples? This view to declare a position was on full display: in the late 1940s, Christian Standard began to publish a list of faithful leaders, churches, and organizations. And when this became too complicated, the McLean family in Springfield, Illinois began publishing The Directory of the Ministry as a more complete listing of the Bible-believing institutions in our Movement.

Each move resulted in a counter move. In 1948, a Disciples commission was created to explore a potential restructuring of the fellowship. Twenty years later, at the International Convention of Christian Churches, the Disciples of Christ voted to become a full-fledged denomination. Even though there were still skirmishes after 1968, the fracture was complete; there were now three distinct tribes within the Restoration Movement: the Churches of Christ, the Independents, and the Disciples.

BREAKING DOWN THE WALLS
So what can we take from this fight? I’ll have some more detailed thoughts about this in the final installment of the series. Until then, I can think of no better way to view this conflict than to highlight the ministry of James DeForest Murch (1892-1973).

I’ll admit straightaway: Murch is my Movement hero. Even though he passed away before I was born, I feel a kinship toward him. He wasn’t perfect, to be sure, but he was thoughtful . . . and a little arrogant. A few years ago, I was talking with an older Movement leader who had spent time with Murch. I had to ask him if my idolization was misplaced. “Was he a good man?” And much to my relief, I learned that he was.

Murch’s professional life was lived in the midst of the fight with the Disciples. While he was passionate for biblical fidelity, he couldn’t bring himself to vilify the Disciples’ opposition. Yes, he preached and taught and argued for orthodox positions. And Murch would also refute Disciples’ positions from the pulpit or in publications.

But Murch always led with love.

As the Disciples of Christ became more liberal, Murch continued to fellowship with them; it wasn’t that he agreed with their view of Scripture, but that he was convinced that the Disciples would never return to the true faith if they were shunned. He refused to blacklist people and, ultimately, this proved harmful to his reputation. He was routinely criticized for his lack of visible fortification.

Even beyond the conflict with the Disciples, Murch championed our plea of unity. While many in our Movement built fortifications, he saw the unity plea as an opportunity to encapsulate the growing evangelical movement. In 1950, Murch convinced a young revivalist named Billy Graham to come to Cincinnati for a crusade. Even though the event was a huge success, nearly all the Movement churches in the city refused to participate in such a denominational event.

Until his dying day, Murch viewed himself as part of the Movement. In his autobiography he wrote,

“I love the Brotherhood  . . . Throughout the years I have maintained fellowship with a great company of brethren across extra-congregational lines—a fellowship which has not in the least caused me to compromise my convictions grounded in the Word of God. I shall continue to do this because I think Christ would have me do it and regardless of whether others like it or not.”

Not only am I a disciple of Jesus, I think I’m a disciple of Murch as well.

_________________________________________________________________________

GEEK NOTES
My college professor and noted Movement historian Dr. James North does an admirable job of summarizing the issues of theological liberalism in chapter ten of Union in Truth.

It’s a little difficult to obtain, but Murch’s biography Adventures in Christ reveals the way he dealt with the Disciples split.

In 1915, Edwin Hayden wrote a counterargument to the Disciples’ version of events called “50 Years of Digression and Disturbance.”

Victor Knowles delivered a lecture at Pepperdine University in 2007 that simplistically charts the split with the Disciples.


Photo by Namroud Gorguis on Unsplash

Fracture

This is part three of the Five Forces of the Restoration Movement series.  I suggest first watching the video below and then reading the accompanying article. In this video, I suggest that the Restoration Movement helped Roman Catholicism grow in the United States.

“We never can divide . . . we never will.”
Moses Lard, 1866


The purpose of this series is to expose the often-overlooked themes of the Restoration Movement. Yet thus far when I’ve used the term “Movement,” I was actually referring to just one part of it—the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. But this represents only one third of the Movement, without acknowledging the Christian Church (Disciples) and the Church of Christ (Acapella) tribes. While we often state that our Movement consists of “three streams,” this peaceful imagery doesn’t reflect two traumatic rifts that define our existence and, hence, why I believe FRACTURE is a force of the Restoration Movement.

By now you’ve noticed that I’m working the “F” alliteration for this Five Forces series. While fracture fits nicely within this format, the word itself is off-putting as it implies brutality. Most commonly, fracture refers to the cracking of bone—an unnatural, painful split. Fracture requires an extended healing process and, if not treated properly at the outset, may never fully mend. Acknowledging all this, I still feel it’s an accurate trait. Instead of referencing streams, we should admit that our past features splits created by trauma.

FRACTURE OF DEBATE
Once again we begin by focusing on Alexander Campbell. Admittedly, I’ve talked a lot about Campbell in this series, but it isn’t merely because of fandom; so much of who we are today stems from his theology and ideology. He was the Movement’s mastermind, and in his quest for restoration, he discovered the perfect platform from which to spread its ideals: debate.

We today don’t have a full context by which to understand the debates of the early 1800s. Cities would practically shut down so people could attend them. The most popular example was the Lincoln-Douglas dialogue in 1858. Perhaps you were unaware that this famous debate was actually a series of seven debates in seven different locations. Thousands turned out to watch them, with attendance ranging from 1,000 to over 20,000 people. They were crowd-captivating events.

While Campbell wasn’t the only Movement figure to engage in debate, he undoubtedly set the bar. When dialoguing with religious leaders on their turf (many debates took place in the churches of those with whom he disagreed), Campbell could emphasize his strengths as a gifted orator and thinker. Even though his father, Thomas, was disinterested in debates, he came around when he saw how good Alexander was. Go back and read the accounts of Campbell’s debates and you’ll observe the brilliance behind his well-crafted arguments. Debate spurred the early growth of our Movement; after each debate, the concept of restoration spread and was further normalized.

In essence, our Movement was fueled by argumentation.

Yes, early leaders promoted unity, but in order to achieve it, they had to attack existing institutions—this was restoration, not reform. In some ways this was shortsighted. Debate appeals to our sense of urgency—to quickly win the argument. But it creates divisions that are difficult to mend. I’m not suggesting that this approach was either theologically or tactically wrong, but I do believe it set a precedent for how to achieve unity. 

FRACTURE OF CULTURE
“Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.”
Thomas Campbell, 1809

Since I plan on detailing the rift with the Disciples of Christ in the next edition, I want to spend the rest of this installment examining the split with the Churches of Christ. This fracture is generally attributed to theological differences, but the true explanation is more complex.

In the middle of the 19th century, our country was truly divided. Obviously the north/south separation was due to the issue of slavery, but there were other differences as well. The economy of the southern United States was farming based, while the northern states relied on finance and manufacturing. Additionally, there were more established cities in the north, while the south was generally more rural. Citizens in the north tended to be more educated and affluent than their southern counterparts. 

This divide was just as evident in our Movement. By the middle of the century, membership was approximately 200,000 believers, with the majority of them living in border states. Churches in the south thought like Barton Stone—holding to a more primitive expression of the faith. Northern churches were more in line with Alexander Campbell—embracing an intellectual practice of Christianity. Around this time, churches in the north adopted practices that had never before been debated in the Movement.

For example: Should churches employ a professional minister? Or can churches collaborate to create missionary societies? And, most notably, could instruments be used in worship? Generally churches in the south were against all these ideas. Northern churches weren’t phased by their objections, especially since they felt the southern churches weren’t taking a strong enough position against slavery.

Movement churches, whether north or south, developed theological positions around their cultural preferences. Yet even though these issues were contentious, they could have potentially been resolved peacefully. But the storm on the horizon would make unification virtually impossible.

FRACTURE OF WAR
One cannot understate the impact the Civil War had on the Restoration Movement. There was already tension within our brotherhood, but the advent of conflict made it explode.

In October 1861, just six months after the Confederate Army’s attack on Fort Sumter in Charleston, a national convention convened in Cincinnati. While leaders from northern and border states were in attendance (among them, Alexander Campbell and future President James Garfield), there was no representation from the southern churches. Not only did some northerners attend the convention while wearing their Union Army uniforms, they attempted to pass a resolution demanding loyalty to the United States government. Even though it failed in 1861, northerners took the opportunity the following year to submit an identical resolution (finally passing in 1863). While this move might seem innocent today, it alienated southern members of the Movement; they believed their northern counterparts transformed a political conflict into a referendum on their salvation. The impact of this incident lingered long after the war concluded.

This spiritual conflict was exacerbated by the literal horrors of war. I mentioned David Lipscomb in a previous post; he was a key Movement leader who lived in the south. During the war his wife gave birth to their child. The Lipscombs were unable to attain proper medical attention for the baby because of the nearby Union blockade. Sadly, their son died and the Lipscombs had to cross the Union lines to bury the baby in a family cemetery. Historians suggest that David placed some of the blame for his son’s death on the north and that this tragedy at least partially influenced doctrinal arguments with northern believers.

After the war the South spent decades recovering from the conflict that took place in their backyard. While southern believers couldn’t raise the funds to rebuild their buildings, northern churches seemingly flaunted their wealth by building new facilities. The argument over instruments in worship emerged once again when Central Christian Church in Cincinnati constructed an opulent sanctuary, featuring a stained glass window believed to be the largest in the country as well as an expensive pipe organ. When criticizing this excess, southern Christians doubled down on their theological rightness—since the Bible was silent on instruments in worship, they mustn’t be used. Both sides maintained their positions while the debates became more personal.

FRACTURE FINALIZED
“We are the only religious community in the civilized world whose principles . . . can preserve us from [division].”
Alexander Campbell, 1845

It all reached a head in 1889, when a group of churches in Illinois passed the Sand Creek Declaration. Not only did they create a document condemning many northern innovations like missionary societies, full-time ministers, and musical instruments, they went as far as urging Christians to disfellowship with any believer who supported them. Seventeen years later, when officials from the U.S. Census Bureau noted the stark division within the Movement, they wrote Lipscomb to ask his opinion on the matter. He suggested that the two sides were so far apart that it warranted a separate listing in the census for these non-instrumental churches.

Historians are still divided on the impact the Civil War had on the fracture within the Movement. There are some who contend that the split was mainly the result of theological differences (but most who take this position belong to the Church of Christ tribe). It’s my belief that the war created enough animosity between the sides that the differences in theology/methodology were a convenient excuse for the rift.

Our Movement wasn’t the only American religious group that divided because of the Civil War—the Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians all experienced splits because of the conflict. But the fact that our unity movement could not emerge from the war intact is one of the darkest moments in our Movement’s history. I always found it interesting that Campbell died just one year after the end of the Civil War. It’s as if he knew that there would be no way to unify the Movement after this devastating conflict. Campbell’s dream of a unified church in a great nation would not become a reality.

MENDING THE BREAK
The stories I’ve offered here aren’t new; they’ve been recorded in countless histories of our Movement. I believe, however, that there is an interconnection of these events that isn’t often acknowledged. Our history of debate and conflict  still influences our churches today. Our resting posture is adversarial. We want unity, but want it on our terms. I’ll discuss this further in the next installment of the series, but our desire to protect has overwhelmed our need to collaborate.

An event that took place recently in one of our churches illustrates this point. An elder board determined that their lead ministers were steering the congregation in a direction with which they disagreed. They had no issue with the ministers’ theology, only their methodology. After a short discussion over these issues, the elders’ decided to simply terminate the staffers because of their differing opinions. From coast to coast, leaders of our Movement have expressed shock and outrage, but we really shouldn’t be surprised. In our Movement, fracture is in our DNA. It’s a force that I wish would diminish among our brotherhood, but I’m not sure it’s going anywhere. We’re always fighting.

Elders versus ministers, instruments versus voices, collaboration versus isolation.

We fight. We fracture. We want unity. We don’t want to submit.

It makes Jesus’ prayer in the garden all the more obvious.

Instead of offering my solutions, I’ll lean in on the wisdom of one of our Movement’s scholars. In a recent Christian Standard article about debate, Jon Weatherly encourages us to get introspective. Urging us to examine our motives,
he writes:

“I need to be humble and self-aware. I need to develop real love for those with whom I disagree, assuming the best about them and listening sincerely to them, as I want them to do for me. I should treat my adversaries respectfully, as individuals. I should save apocalyptic language for the actual apocalypse, and judgment for the true Judge.”

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GEEK NOTES:
The story from the video is content from a Master’s thesis I completed at Xavier University. Since some of you might be searching for the cure to insomnia, I’m linking it here.

The most popular Movement book about Campbell’s debates is JJ Haley’s Debates That Made History.

There are quite a few books that go deeper into the Civil War issue in the Movement. Among them are David Edwin Harrell’s The Social Sources of Division in the Disciples of Christ, 1865-1900; Bill Humble’s The Influence of the Civil War; and Ben Brewster’s Torn Asunder: The Civil War and the 1906 Division of the Disciples. These served as the primary sources for my work here.

Photo by Sergey Kuznetsov on Unsplash

Finance

This is part two of the Five Forces of the Restoration Movement series. I suggest first watching the video below and then reading the accompanying article. In this video, I show how postage helped make the Restoration Movement what it is today.

Unfunded movements tend to die.

This statement generates an emotional reaction. I personally don’t like it; it isn’t romantic to think that good ideas are still beholden to the affluent and powerful. Unfortunately, the fact that we dislike it doesn’t make it any less true. While we might counter this with a list of grassroots movements that have succeeded, they almost always relied upon robust funding—whether media outlets projected their cause to a broader audience or benefactors supported key leaders.

We’re no different. One of the reasons that the Restoration Movement exists today is because there were individuals and groups who invested in it during those earliest years. This is why finance is a force behind our Movement.

THE FINANCES OF STONE & CAMPBELL
We see this force on full display in the lives of Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone, the namesakes of our movement. When it comes to financial freedom, they were ships in the night. Campbell started from the bottom and ended up wealthy, while Stone was born into affluence but passed away in poverty.

Stone came from a family that was part of the Southern aristocracy; one of his ancestors was a governor of Maryland. His father died when he was young, which forced his mother to make some challenging financial decisions. One such move was to spend a portion of the family inheritance on Barton’s education so he could pursue a career in law. Unfortunately for the family’s fortunes (but fortunately for us), Stone chose the path of ministry. Obedience to this calling did not make Stone rich.

Campbell was the son of an immigrant preacher, so he already knew what it was like to scrape by. Even though he too pursued a ministry calling, he married the daughter of a wealthy farmer and benefited mightily from that relationship. Access to resources through his in-laws permitted Campbell the freedom to fully devote himself to the work of restoration. 

While Campbell was comfortable, Stone felt financial stress throughout his career. One of the detriments of an autonomous church structure is insufficient clergy support. Stone was bivocational and would work at his Kentucky farm late into the evening to provide for his family. He preached for decades, all while toiling in hard labor, a regimen that contributed to his poor health.

I find this notable because our Movement’s historians consistently mention that Stone wasn’t as intellectual as Campbell. While this seems true, their financial picture forces us to ask:

  • Would the ideals of the Movement have spread if Campbell had to operate bivocationally?
  • And could Stone have been just as prolific if he had the opportunity to fully devote himself to the work of restoration like Campbell?

OUR THEOLOGY OF FINANCE
While analyzing Stone and Campbell’s bank statements, we should also examine their theological views of wealth and poverty, as those perspectives influenced our Movement’s formative years.

Later in his ministry, Barton Stone articulated a more primitive approach to financial issues. His frontier attitude impacted his perspective, and he preached a path to biblical obedience that emphasized modest living. In The Christian Messenger, Stone wrote that “the eternal happiness or misery of the human family . . . brought Jesus from heaven to earth, brought him to poverty; this led him to the cross; to the grave.” Stone endorsed a more humble view of stewardship as it matched his lifestyle.

Campbell, however, was seemingly influenced by his access to wealth. He did not think that Christ’s path of poverty was an attribute to be emulated. For example, in an issue of the Millennial Harbinger, Campbell attacked the monastic habits of Catholic priests, specifically that they forsake “all the business and enjoyment of society.”

The myriad of theological issues from our Movement’s early years kept finance from becoming a central issue. Years later, however, as the rift between the non-instrumental Churches of Christ widened, finance was an understated cause. I’ll dive deeper into the 1906 split in an upcoming installment, but I want to highlight the position of David Lipscomb, a key leader in the southern churches during and after the Civil War. He was influenced by Stone’s perspective on stewardship and, when articulating why the southern churches were more biblical, he insisted that they were following the financially humble way of Christ. Of course, southern churches were still reeling in the aftermath of the war and had little choice but to live in poverty, yet it was still an argument Lipscomb presented.

Interestingly enough, Lipscomb was reared in affluence—much like Stone and Campbell, his theological perspective seems to be heavily influenced by his experiences.

Since the conclusion of World War II, there has been little conversation in our Movement about biblical views of wealth and poverty. Churches in all streams of the Movement began to seek congregational growth opportunities in affluent communities. In line with the rest of American evangelicalism, our churches abandoned impoverished American cities and expanded toward the suburbs.

MONEY MOVES THE MOVEMENT
So examine the key moments of our Movement and you’ll see that many of them are somehow connected to cash flow. One such issue is how to keep parachurch ministries in line with the Scriptures.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, many of the Movement’s parachurch organizations grew significantly. Benefitting from the financial support of faithful believers, these missionary societies and ministry schools were able to build robust reserves and large endowments. At the same time, liberal theology began to gradually infiltrate some of these institutions. Many churches and ministers criticized these organizations for their eroding biblical beliefs and demanded they change course. Yet the parachurch organizations had money in the bank and, without financial consequence, continued operations unabated. This led to a wave of new colleges and ministries started to counter these theologically liberal ministries.

Not only did this usher in an era of fundamentalism in our Movement, it altered the way we financed parachurch organizations. No longer were individuals and churches willing to invest in their long-term viability. A wealthy college or missions organization was not susceptible to financial leverage. So to maintain accountability, churches and donors invested intermittently in parachurch work; yes, they would continue to give, but would ration out donations monthly or annually. In this way, institutions would be unable to build large endowments and savings. Then, if an institution became liberal, donors could quickly shut off support and force change.

This actually explains one of the reasons we believe our Movement is in decline. While many of our colleges and missions organizations are struggling financially, we believe the blame is solely on poor money management. While I’ll admit this is true in some instances, the organizations also struggle because they operate in a historical system of funding that keeps them constantly beholden to the generosity of donors and churches. Parachurch leaders are forced to structure budgets without the margin of savings and thus have become overtly reliant on charitable gifts.

In recent decades, as Movement donors and churches have developed new ministry priorities, they have reduced support of our parachurch ministries, who in turn are scrambling for survival; the margins just aren’t there. It’s incredibly challenging for them to continue to provide the previous level of services and ministry without the support they expected.

And all this can be traced back to our Movement using finances as a theological safeguard. I’m not judging if it’s right or wrong, but it’s reality.

FINANCING OUR FUTURE TODAY
Thus, as it has in our past, financing issues will continue to impact our Movement in the coming years. We’ll likely witness a wave of contraction of our parachurch organizations, but at the same time we’ll see new organizations started outside of 20th century funding models. How this will impact institutional theologically has yet to be determined.

At the very least, we should consider all of this when thinking about the viability of our Movement. Stewardship is a spiritual discipline, so we shouldn’t feel obligated to continue to support a ministry merely because of our historical roots. Yet we ought to at least grapple with the decision. We must not forget that our thriving churches and institutions today have benefitted from those who came before us. Ultimately, it’s a symbiotic relationship, so we need to give back.

Permit me just one short speech from the soapbox. As someone who has spent his entire professional career in the Movement, I’m contacted weekly by missionaries trying to raise support. I feel like we have more workers than ever eager to enter the field, but with churches reducing (and even eliminating) missions support, it’s difficult to make the finances work. As much as the Lord has blessed our Movement to be leaders in non-denominational Christianity in the United States, we must not forsake our call to support the work of restoration around the globe. Jesus taught that “where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also.”

As we get introspective about our Movement, we need to recognize that we, like Campbell, are living in plenty. This demands that we continually reexamine our stewardship.

Where is our heart?

Geek Notes
1. The recollection of Alexander Campbell the postmaster can be found, among other places, in Benjamin Smith’s biography on the man (p161-162). An admission: I struggled to pronounce "franking privilege" in the video.
“In 1828 [Campbell] was able to secure the establishment of a post office at this home, and was himself appointed postmaster. This was of great assistance to him, for the remuneration for a fourth class postmaster in those days was the franking privilege; and as both his publications and his private correspondence were exceedingly heavy, he profited largely by exercise of his stamp. Small wonder that he kept the office of postmaster for more than twenty years, through all the changing administrations at Washington.”

2. The information on the familial affluence David Lipscomb can be found on page 131 of Reviving the Ancient Faith by Richard Hughes: “Yet Lipscomb was not a poor man, having inherited substantial means from a moderately wealthy father.”

3. Some valuable insight on this topic can be gleaned from James Cook’s dissertation entitled, “The Myth of the Stone-Campbell Movement.” Although I disagree with some of his broader assertions, he rightly addresses the friction between the Campbell and Stone positions, especially as it pertains to issues of finance. 

4. In the 20th century, the ideology of the Movement was able to expand due to the investment of people with significant financial means. There are some fascinating stories out there, but of note:

a. D.S. Burnett, the first located minister in our churches, used his family’s wealth to fund the writing of Benjamin Franklin (not that one). 

b. The descendants of Isaac Errett parlayed the success of Standard Publishing into a familial fortune, with its curriculum and magazines functioning as the voice of the Movement.

c. Also, the descendants of T.W. Phillips used their oil earnings to fund numerous ministries and quite a few of our academic institutions. Interestingly, some of these funds were stewarded by institutions to become endowments. To my knowledge, there has been little concern that these endowed institutions will adopt liberal theology.

Money Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Freedom

This is part one of the Five Forces of the Restoration Movement series. I suggest first watching the video below and then reading the accompanying article. In this video, I connect the origins of Mormonism with the Restoration Movement.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Declaration of Independence, 1776

"Driven from every other corner of the earth, freedom of thought and the right of private judgment in matters of conscience direct their course to this happy country as their last asylum." 
Samuel Adams, 1776

“Raise a glass to freedom, something they can never take away.”
Hamilton: An American Musical, 2015

If you study the history of the Restoration Movement, you’ll notice a locational bias. It’s inescapable that all the major figures and events of the Movement are rooted in the United States. Even though quite a few of the early Movement fathers were immigrants, they did not make significant contributions until they were actually on American soil. There’s a good reason behind this:

Without the United States, the Restoration Movement wouldn’t exist.

This statement isn’t meant to detract from the Spirit’s role in the establishment of the Christian Church. But if we’re really to understand the DNA of our tribe, we need to acknowledge freedom as a significant force in the Movement. When the United States achieved independence from British colonial rule, it ushered in an unprecedented era of religious freedom. In this new country, long-held religious constructs were no longer sacred, opening the door for Christian experimentalism.
 

THE PURSUIT OF BIBLICAL FREEDOM
“Resume that precious, that dear bought liberty, wherewith Christ has made his people free; a liberty from subjection to any authority but his own, in matters of religion.”
Thomas Campbell, Declaration and Address

While the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States provided religious freedom, the ideologies behind the liberty were just as influential. The European Enlightenment of the early 18th century led to the American Enlightenment of the late 18th century. This emphasis on natural law, economic liberalism, and religious tolerance was catalytic to the American Revolution. Similarly, the Second Great Awakening, the broader revival from which the Restoration Movement was birthed, was deeply influenced by these philosophies as well. Yes, our early Movement fathers were dedicated to the restoration of biblical Christianity, but they were influenced by Enlightenment thinking—from Scottish Common Sense Philosophy, to Francis Bacon’s new method, to Lockean Empiricism.

Restoration Movement fathers viewed the Scriptures through these philosophical lenses while under the umbrella of American freedom. As the United States triumphed over its European captors, the Restoration Movement would be a spiritual revolution—a fight for liberation from denominational hierarchy and human creeds.

The parallel between American freedom and the biblical freedom of the Restoration Movement is exemplified by the incident surrounding the Springfield Presbytery in central Kentucky. Following the Cane Ridge Revival the state synod censured some of the ministers involved. In response, the churches (employing American freedom) started an independent presbytery. Less than a year later, as those same ministers worked out the implications of their new theological thoughts, they declared independence from their independent presbytery and wrote its last will and testament—a constitution if you will, in order that “the oppressed may go free, and taste the sweets of Gospel liberty.”


THE HIGH PRICE OF LIBERTY
"In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty; in all things love."

This slogan of the Restoration Movement—adopted in the latter part of the 19th century but widely embraced during the 20th century—elevates the spiritual value of freedom. It suggests that, while there will be areas of disagreement among those in our Movement, we should permit a latitude of expression, provided that they are not essential doctrines.

Throughout our history, however, the Restoration Movement has wrestled with how to distinguish our faith absolutes and freedom (I’d suggest that far too often we struggle with love, but that's a different story). While we value freedom, we’ve also become skeptical of it. The Movement features over two centuries of history filled with moments when it has turned out poorly. As a result, we’re skeptical of those who ring the bell of liberty.

The story from the video (of Sidney Rigdon and the creation of Mormonism) is just one example of freedom corrupted. Investigate the split with the non-instrumental faction of the Movement and the fight over theological liberalism (two topics I’ll examine in future posts) and you'll see that they are centered on arguments of freedom. And if you go outside our Movement, you’ll see that biblical freedom has often been cited to justify a myriad of unbiblical acts. 

This examination of our past reveals the importance of grappling with the Christian liberty we so deeply embrace. While it created the Movement, it could lead to its undoing.

In our earliest days, liberty meant freedom from denominational involvement. Today, the liberty exercised by those in our tribe is freedom from involvement in the Movement itself.

We’ve been so conditioned toward independence that we no longer realize how much we actually need each other.
 

WIELDING OUR FREEDOM
"We have neglected to keep ourselves in the love of God, and in the humility and gentleness of Christ."
Barton W. Stone

So how ought we approach freedom today? Our Movement has benefited far too much from freedom to abandon the ideal altogether. Instead, we must view liberty with a mature spirit.

I’m reminded of the words of Paul from 1 Corinthians 8, when he demanded that "the exercise of our freedom should not become a stumbling block to the weak." This theology of the “weaker brother” is often employed to keep people from employing certain freedoms with which we disagree. But we must acknowledge that this command is intended to protect those who are weak-minded theologically. That rarely applies to ministers and theologians disputing methodology. So how should we proceed?

The solution is simple: we need humility.

Much like American history, our Movement tends to recall fondly those who are bold and boisterous. But the exercise of our freedom insists that we “consider others better than ourselves.” Our Movement should first emulate the Jesus who sits with children before the Jesus clearing out the moneychangers from the temple. Remember that submission and surrender are Christ-like traits.

A historical example: when it comes to the exercise of our freedom, we in the Movement ought to be less like Alexander Campbell and more like Barton Stone.

This isn’t to say that Campbell isn’t to be admired, but he was far more lion than lamb. Stone, however, lived a much more humble life of servanthood. It’s likely why he is more anonymous than Campbell outside our Movement. In his biography on Stone, John Rogers noted that he
“was deeply imbued with that humility that disposes us to esteem others better than ourselves.”

Freedom exercised with humility safeguards us from co-opting the Word of God for our personal benefit. Yes, quite often the greatest display of our freedom is to choose not to exercise it. 

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Geek Notes:
Campbell critiqued Rigdon in a Millennial Harbinger article entitled Delusions. You can read a scanned version of the document here.

A simple illustration of the importance of freedom to our Movement is title of Eva Jean Wrather's biography on Alexander Campbell: "Adventurer in Freedom."

The above quote from Stone is found in Barton Stone: A Spiritual Biography by D. Newell Williams (p228).

My Seminary professor Dr Jack Cottrell (who's known me since I was a small child) has some thoughts on the motto concerning unity, liberty and love. Dr Cottrell cites the research of Dr Hans Rollman on the adoption of the motto.

Introduction

This is an introduction to the Five Forces of the Restoration Movement series. I suggest first watching the video below and then reading the accompanying article. In this video, I reveal the intersection of the Restoration Movement, baseball, and the KKK. 

A few weeks ago, the church denomination of which I'm member met for our annual convention. 

Except I don't really belong to a denomination. 
And technically, there's no membership.  
And it's actually more of a conference than a convention. 

If you're part of the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, or the Stone-Campbell Movement, or the Restoration Movement, you're likely perpetually confused. We can barely agree on a name for our group of churches, let alone explain who we are. Our Movement, which emerged from America's Second Great Awakening, has often been overlooked in the history of American Christianity; yet it's nearly impossible to deny its influence. In an era of denominational decay, our little fellowship is overachieving. 

  • Our fellowship boasts some of the largest churches in the United States.
  • Our churches have developed ministry models that are globally adopted. 
  • Our ideals—once shunned by outsiders—are now embraced by mainstream evangelicalism.

Yet in the midst of these successes, our tribe is still confused. We are uncertain where this Movement is . . . moving to.

The announcement of the Spire Conference, a revived iteration of the North American Christian Convention, did not create this uneasiness. It's merely the latest evidence of an uncertain future. It isn't entirely clear how we arrived here. Some will suggest that it's because we abandoned biblical fidelity; others might cite an evangelical movement that finally adopted our ideals; still others might blame the influence of the technological innovation of the past decades. 

But I believe there's even something deeper here—a foundational issue that has yet to be discussed.

We don't really know who we are.

The decay of our Movement's institutions has created an identity crisis. We used to define ourselves by our colleges, magazines, and localized gatherings. As those institutions are struggling to survive, we are beginning to recognize that we yielded our existence to these tribes within the tribe. We let our networks define who we were, and now that they're in decline, we're uncertain about what lies ahead.

When our institutions no longer exist, what's left?

This is the topic I've wanted to address for some time but am only now finally taking a stab at it. With this post, I'm embarking on a series entitled The Five Forces of the Restoration Movement. Generally, when we reflect on this Movement's history and identity, we view it linearly. While there's obviously great value in adhering to a timeline, it can occasionally prevent us from fully acknowledging how events intertwine. The Five Forces are themes from across our Movement's history and, in my opinion, define who we really are as a(n) (un)denomination. 

For each force, I'll create an intro video and a more in-depth article. While they're designed to go hand-in-hand, know that only a few people will have the desire to chew on an entire article. Hopefully the video will introduce the concept well enough to tempt people to read.  

So before I begin, three key considerations:

1. This isn't the final word.
While I'm fairly well-read, I'm opening myself up here because this examination spans academic disciplines. I've been blessed to study under and alongside some of our Movement's greatest historians and theologians so I'm offering a view from their shadows. This is not intended to be a comprehensive view of the Movement, and I'm sure that, despite my best efforts, people will find something to disagree with. And I'm very fine with that.

Disagreeing with each other is something that we Restoration Movement folk do best. I hope that staking out some positions at least generates some useful conversation. 

2. We should own our baggage.
One of the reasons I felt motivated to create this series is that we need to cease viewing our Movement with rose-colored glasses. Historians refer to this as hagiography: we create a revisionist's history of events—idolizing the way things used to be (even though it's really the way we imagined things used to be). It would do us well to admit that our forefathers were incredibly flawed. We have the ability to both acknowledge their shortcomings while appreciating their contributions. 

If we can't let our forefathers be flawed, how will we come to address our own need for repentance? Jesus said, "there is only One who is good," so there's no reason not to be honest about our past.

3. I still believe.
In an age of cynicism (and convenient digital platforms), critique is commonplace. But I do not offer these observations to tear down the Movement—rather to highlight the foundation upon which we should build anew. In short, this is a labor of love. I, like some of you, fear that our fellowship may some day cease to be a Movement. So while we've had an enjoyable past, I must hope that our future will be even greater.  

I'm creating this content in my free time, so my goal is to post every 1-2 weeks and wrap it up by the end of August. And I'll leave the comments open as long as possible (unless it becomes unruly) to encourage conversation about these topics. 

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VIDEO NOTES:
The story from the video (of Orval Baylor, the KKK, and the Richmond Street Christian Church) has been featured in sources both inside and outside of Restoration Movement history. James DeForrest Murch, a 20th century leader in our movement, discusses the incident at length in his biography. A web search of KKK and Reds day would provide ample coverage of this unfortunately part of our Movement's history.