Last Weekend

I had a great time in D.C.  I kidded the folks at National City Christian Church why they get to call their denomination “Churches of Christ” and “Disciples of Christ.”  I mean, those seem like rather generic names that all of us who follow Jesus should be able to use.

With some pathos in their voices, several of the clergy members there told me that their denomination was never meant to be a denomination.  It was part of the Restorationist movement to bring all Christians back together, to overthrow denominations.  But, in 1968, they gave in and became a denomination.  One guy even told me, “1968.  Just as the rest of our culture was de-institutionalizing, we institutionalized.”

Others were a bit more edgy, telling me, in effect, that denominationalism is inevitable, and Emergentism is just around the corner.  But what’s interesting, I think is that their move toward ecumenism was part-and-parcel with the lowest-common-denominator ecumenism of the 20th century.  Instead of encouraging distinctiveness, they wanted everyone to lay aside their differences and come together.  The emergent tack is just the opposite, embracing differance as the very element that makes us human.

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  • Tony,

    I’m glad you got to hang with some of my fellow Disciples. If you study our history you’ll discover that we were born on the frontier at a time when people were questioning old world identities and seeking to find a common voice. Remember that on the frontier there would often be only one church in a community — would it be sectarian or not. This movement grew by eschewing overt sectarianism. They chose to be non-creedal because creeds were seen as humanly designed filters that got in the way of reading the NT as it really was.

    Over time, we became a denomination, something that was recognized in 1968 — but we were already one long before. By being non-creedal we also gave people room to read, interpret, and live the biblical message — so it actually allows great freedom and diversity.

    To say that this tradition buys into lowest common denominator Christianity is to really misread who we are. But the fact that unity stands at the heart of who we are might lead to that conclusion. By the way, we are one of the few Protestant churches that practice weekly communion — so that kind of makes us different as well.

  • matthewwilcoxen

    “Differance.” Nice, Tony. We’ll all be Derridian, Deconstructionist Christians.

  • “Emergentism is just around the corner”.

    What I seem to appreciate about the Emergent church is that it seems to me to be more of what i would call a “virus”.

    don’t get all worked up! i mean this in a good way. What i like about it is the way it works its way through the host (different denominations) as opposed to starting something new. it survives by being in community with the local church.
    Not seperate from it.

    I am sure there are those who would love to attend 1st Emergent Church of wherever, but the beauty is in the diversity. The Mennonite church has found a frsh breath of life through the Emergent church. I am sure others have as well. So, I don’t expect to see an Emergent denomination anytime soon, but crazier things have happened.

  • Tony Arens

    “The emergent tack is just the opposite, embracing differance as the very element that makes us human.”

    I hope this means that emergent will embrace those who disagee – after being excluded from many emergent conversations, I’m left wondering… and wandering.