Professor of Biblical Studies
Oklahoma Christian University
Wilshire Church of Christ
I have been asked to comment on why I signed the Christian Affirmation
2005. Frankly, it is worded precisely enough that I rather hate to add
Nevertheless, I signed for a couple of reasons. First, the Churches
Christ really are suffering an identity crisis. As our movement becomes
more diverse socially, educationally and economically, polarization
dramatically increased within it. It is easy to blame personalities
these developments, but it seems to me that our high profile leaders
the extreme right and left are more or less reacting to the demands of
members rather than leading in the true sense of the word.
Unfortunately, the dynamics of polarization favor simplifying matters:"
Us vs. Them;" "Liberal vs. Conservative;" "Good vs.
Evil." Some of the
initial reactions to the Affirmation have been of this type, of course.
But my hopes have been confirmed that others have seen it as a call to
recognize once again that serious ongoing restoration offers more than
just those two alternatives.
Second, I signed because real congregations have to make real choices.
actually have to decide what we will teach and practice about
baptism, the Lord's Supper, and worship. Historically, and not just for
our fellowship, these issues have proved particularly difficult, because
they involve the public life of the congregation. But difficult or not,
these choices have to be made.
Some feel that any reflection on these issues is divisive. But the
absence of reflection will not mean no choices will be made, but simply
that thoughtless choices will be made. Blind tradition or overriding
cultural pressures are more than able to push unreflective congregations
one way or another. I like the Affirmation because it points to a way
congregations to make reasoned choices based on deliberate study of
original Christianity in the highest tradition of our fellowship.
When a congregation seriously reflects on the earliest records of
Christianity, and makes decisions based on those reflections, it will
drinking from the fountain out of which has flowed every major reform
restoration of Christianity for the last 2,000 years. Christians in all
places and times and traditions have looked, are looking and will look
back to those same sources with a sense of longing and loyalty. Because
of this, and unlike choices driven by tradition or cultural pressure,
decisions truly based on the New Testament Church are
universal in their appeal.
John Mark Hicks
Professor of Theology, Lipscomb University
Adjunct Professor of Christian Doctrine, Harding University
Graduate School of Religion
The "Christian Affirmation" is
an occasional rather than comprehensive
statement that affirms some traditional distinctives of Churches of
Christ. I wish it contained more - and even more basic - affirmations
(theology, Christology, pneumatology, discipleship, eschatology), but its
limited scope (at least as I read it) is to affirm some traditional
ecclesiological distinctives within the historic tradition of Churches
While I do not understand all the possible contexts for the occasion
this document, the occasion I perceived was the potential loss of some
theological meaning attached the historic practices of baptism, Lord's
Supper and a cappella music among Churches of Christ and the
spiritual anxiety this creates among some believers within Churches of
If the document is read as giving equal weight to baptism, Lord's Supper
and a cappella music in terms of fellowship or soteriology,
I think this would be a misreading of at least my intent. It is an understandable
reading given that the document does not articulate any such distinctions.
But I read the "Affirmation" in terms of our historic tradition rather
than a flattening of theological values to the same level. The three are
part of our history, but they do not have the same significance or
It concerns me greatly if the document is read as a litmus test for
fellowship or if it is read as the "essence" of Christianity.
neither in my estimation. Rather, it expresses conviction about three
ecclesiological practices in terms of their importance to Churches of
Christ and their rootage in early Christianity. Immersion for the
remission of sins, weekly communion in the Lord's Supper and a cappella music are historic practices not only of Churches of Christ, but of the
ancient church as well.
I signed it because of what it affirms. I did not sign it as a document
that sets the parameters of Christian fellowship or to hinder some of
healing initiatives with the Christian Church/Churches of Christ. Nor
I sign it as a document that affirms what is most important within the
Christian faith or equalizes what is affirmed. I am supportive of the "Affirmation" only
to the degree that it encourages our historic practices
of immersion as a means of grace, the centrality of weekly table, and
theological meaningfulness of a cappella music.
Lynn A. McMillon
Dean, College of Biblical Studies
Oklahoma Christian University
The apostle Peter taught that we should always be prepared
to give an answer to everyone who asks concerning the reasons for the
hope that we have in Jesus our Lord. For that reason I chose to add my
name to the recent affirmation of faith in the May issue of The Christian
Chronicle, page 15. As a church historian I have always had a reluctance
to sign anything that even seemed like a creedal statement, but for me
this was a simple statement of what I believe on those particular points.
The statement is a purely human statement and not intended to draw lines,
determine membership or any of the usual purposes of a creed. In fact
I sometimes look for fresh ways to articulate my lifelong faith in Jesus
and his word and this was one of those times. I am both humbled and honored
to state publicly my faith in Jesus Christ, his inspired word and his
teachings. Though the space available did not permit a statement on everything
that I believe, it did cover a number of important beliefs. I was also
happy to affirm my belief in the importance of restoring the faith and
practice of the New Testament because I have been concerned that the
concept of restoration in recent years has been reduced simply to the
Stone-Campbell movement. Restoration is far more than just an historical
movement; it is an approach that drives me back to scripture as the eternal
word of God that teaches
how to live and serve God.
Allan J. McNicol
Professor of New Testament
Austin Graduate School of Theology
Some time ago, after an academic meeting, I was standing around
in a hallway with some of the participants. The subject of religious affiliation
came up. A fellow-professor stated, “I am a Methodist -- after
all, you have to be somewhere.” The tone of the statement was interesting.
It presumes that there are many important things to do in life, but holding
on firmly to our religious confessions and affiliations is not one of
them. I sense this attitude is spreading through the Churches of Christ.
Many are saying, “Our church exists to bear witness to Jesus. Everything
else is secondary! We have better things to do than worry about the ‘house-rules’ of
Churches of Christ.”
I view our statement as being a good reminder. The gift of Churches of
Christ to the universal ecumenical community comes in the area of the
doctrine of the church. Yes, Jesus is central, but the salvation he brings
becomes operative in baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Our emphasis
on the importance of believer’s baptism for the forgiveness of
sins, the centrality of the Lord’s Supper for our spiritual development,
and an insistence on simple, unadorned prayer and singing (a cappella)
is a contribution that even many outside our fellowship admire. These
were practices widely sanctioned in the ancient church. They have nourished
generations of faithful believers, both ancient and modern. As the affirmation
implies, it would be a tragedy to trash our witness as legalism and walk
away just when others are recognizing its great worth.
Professor Emeritus of Religion
I decided to support
this statement because I have sympathy with everything expressed in
exists among our church members regarding these matters and a clear
statement is important.
I was reluctant to support it at first
because in the past I have declined to support or sometimes fill out
separate believers from "heretics".
The Campbells, both father and son, questioned the value of creedal
statements if they are used to distinguish believers so as to disfellowship
They, however, did not oppose such documents as expressions of what
is believed, for example, the Brush Run Church had a written covenant.
It is my hope that this document will never become a statement that
people are forced to support for fear of losing their status, whatever
Professor of Old Testament
Austin Graduate School of Theology
I would like to explain why I have signed
is important to pass on faithful and wise practices to the coming generations.
It is my prayer that these observations will shed some light on why passing
on the practices mentioned in it are important and also why I have signed
First, it is important to "put your
what you believe. It is often the case that newspaper editors do not accept
or articles. Should we expect less of our preachers and teachers? To
sign your name to a document does not imply that all other opinions or
perspectives are not worthy of consideration; it is to say that one is
willing to own the opinions expressed.
The affirmation is significant because
of what it highlights. It is not intended as a summary of all the important
does affirm some of our historical distinctives related to atonement,
baptism and the Lord's Supper, and Christian worship. Churches of Christ
have long maintained that these practices are "catholic," that
is they have been widely practiced and commended from the earliest years
of the Church. Commending biblical and time-honored practices is not
sectarian; it is wise. Our "distinctives" are gifts and hopefully
corrections to the greater Christian world. It would be a shame if, when
the Christian world is seeking doctrinal and worship renewal, we should
retreat from them.
Another important reason for signing the
affirmation is the preservation of our identity for the next generation.
as the "now" generation: we do not want to have to wait or
plan or provide for the future. The affirmation suggests that we learn
more from the wise practices and tempered doctrines of the past than
we do from the changing winds of culture. The Church is always one generation
from losing its identity. The Christian Affirmation commends practices
which have sustained us as a people for 200 years to the coming generation.
The strength of a tradition can be measured not only by how well it sustains
authentic Christian practice and theology, but also by how well its traditions
and practices are passed to the next generation. It is my prayer that
you will be part of a church which faithfully passes on the Christian
James W. Thompson
Professor of New Testament and Associate Dean
Graduate School of Theology
Abilene Christian University
After some deliberation, I chose to place my name in support of the
affirmation because I agree that a heritage that emphasizes the items
discussed in the affirmation has an important place in the Christian
tradition and is worthy of sustaining. That is, I have no quarrel with
distinguishing marks of this tradition that are listed in the
affirmation. The document neither anathematizes those who disagree nor
draws lines of fellowship, but articulates a position that can be the
basis for reflection and discussion. As the Churches of Christ are
searching for an identity, I believe that we can honor a tradition and
its values without some of the arrogance and sectarianism that has too
often accompanied it. Just as I respect those who disagree, I hope that
those who read the affirmation will respond with the same respect for a
viewpoint other than their own.
Michael R. Weed
Professor of Theology and Ethics
Austin Graduate School of Theology
Amnesia is a terrible thing for an individual––or
for a church. Churches who forget or abandon their past are without
the inherited wisdom which has guided the church through difficult times.
In every age the church exists in the tension created by its new
message breaking into the cultures of an old world alienated
from its Creator. The history of the church could be written in terms
of the struggle between
Christ and culture.
From the imperial church under Constantine, countless nationalist and
churches, to Robert Schuller’s “gospel of self-esteem,” church
history vividly records the story of Christians succumbing to the pressures and
allurements of the surrounding culture. A major task of the church in every age
is the protection of itself – its message and its members – against
the corrosive forces of the passing world.
No less dangerous than past cultures with which the church has struggled is our
modern consumer/entertainment culture. Its influence on churches is clearly visible
in the widespread belief that modern marketing strategies, promotional techniques,
and advertising methods must be employed for successful evangelism. It should
not escape our notice that this is not being done without serious distortion
and trivialization of the Christian faith.
Today many congregations are making hurried concessions to an increasingly shallow,
course, and vulgar culture, concessions which
have far-reaching consequences–many unforeseen, some irreversible–for
the broader church. My understanding is that the Christian Affirmation
2005 is clearly a “period piece,” addressing some of the issues presently
facing Churches of Christ. In addressing these, the statement would alert us
to past benchmarks and, in so doing, encourage us to make informed, deliberate,
and wise decisions. In this manner, it seeks to provide a legacy which may enable
coming generations to do the same.
Associate Professor of Bible
Abilene Christian University
My decision to be a co-signer on the "Affirmation" was
motivated by concerns I have had for several years. For over 20 years I
in local ministry and I have written and taught about worship for over
30 years, and have been increasingly aware of changes in both practices
and understandings in churches of Christ, some of which I find troubling.
The most changes have had to do with the music in worship, and the lessening
of commitment to a cappella music is only the most obvious of
observation is that when instrumental music comes into worship, both
the participation of the membership in singing and the teaching value
of hymns (their only function explicitly mentioned in the New Testament,
Col. 3:16) declines. This is not to regard a cappella music as
on a par of significance with baptism and the Lord's Supper, but to recognize
it as the most discussed and controversial worship topic today.
The Lord's Supper also has seen changes (in my limited experience of
knowledge) in that it is used (and I assume regarded) as an activity
appropriate for including in other times and places than the Sunday gathering
for worship (weddings, funerals, private devotionals).
My hope is that by the publication of the affirmation in the widely circulated
Christian Chronicle there will be a more open discussion and
rigorous study of these topics among Christians. This discussion
needs to be based more upon biblical and theological study, and not only
concerns about what may be common in certain forms of Christianity, or
sociological study about what is regarded as attractive to the nonbelievers
in our society.