Wednesday, November 17, 2004

A Scandalous Confession

A have a confession to make. I'll admit up front that it's shocking and will bewilder many people who know me. I'll even admit that sometimes it's a little embarrassing. Here it is: I love the Churches of Christ.
I love my religious heritage. I really, honestly do. I guess if I didn't, I wouldn't care so much about it. I wouldn't push so hard for it to be what it should be. I'd just leave. For me though, that's not an option. I love the Churches of Christ.
When I lived in Georgia, I got interested in Restoration Movement History, and so for about two years I read everything I could get my hands on regarding the subject. I was struck by how "right on" most aspect of its "founding" were and by how much of what I saw as a product of that heritage didn't match up. Some of them even seemed to blatently deny that history claiming (ridiculously) that they were the actual church started at Pentacost and that "everyone else" had simply chosen apostacy and split off from them, the true church. When I looked around I saw a movement that was the poster child for sectarianism and fit the dictionary definition of a denomination better than any of the other "denominations" that it so constantly derided. Even so, I had fallen in love with the Dream of the American Restoration movement, which seemed to be quite in line with the Dream of God (though not exclusively). As I thought about God and how He as been willing to work with and through me in spite of my weaknesses and misunderstandings and as I thought about how He is constantly redeeming me and reforming me into what He dreams for me to be, it became clear that I should try to reflect those thing in my life and ministry. Recently this thought has come back to me as I have been studying through the Old Testament with a group of teenagers. We have been struck by the fact that in some parts of the story there are not really any "good guys" (with the exception of God, though He's hard to understand). Even so, God continues to work in and through His people pushing for them to be who He called them to be. This is illustrated beautifully by the living analogy He made with Hosea.
So, wherever I go and whatever I do, I will be embracing my heritage: valuing its treasures and honest about it's failings and weaknesses...pushing for it to be worthy of it's calling.


Jovan said...

Do you think it is a scandalous thing in your circle of influence to admit a love for the Restoration Plea and it's heritage? :)

Brandon Scott Thomas said...

Adam--well said. I think you are one of the bright stars of hope in our movement. I enourage you to keep saying these things no matter who gripes about it. Rabidly seek after the heart of the movement and in doing so, you'll inspire and encourage guys like me.

Steve F. said...

I appreciate what you've written more than you know, Adam.

I don't know that much of the Restoration Movement - so I'm stumbling-in-the-dark a bit, there. But your feelings about the Church of Christ ties up so much with my love for much of the Lutheran Church: I love the understandings of grace by faith, even as I wonder how Luther's understandings and beliefs ever devolved into what now is understood as "Lutheran." And the tragedy is that so many people identify "being Lutheran" with things that have nothing to do with faith (foods, organ music, being Norweigan), and never seeing the passion, the questing and questioning, the fierce rejection of "the same old same old."

It makes me crazy.

And I have been so sickened by the claims of apostacy within my own tradition - where one bunch of Lutherans won't even celebrate the Eucharist together, because if I don't believe *just* what they believe about what happens to the bread and wine at Communion, I'm not welcome at the table! Every Christmas Eve, I commit my one yearly act of theological violence by taking communion with my sister's family at Christmas. (Which is why my sister's in-laws have nicknamed me "Lutheran Jihad"...)

I celebrate your affirmation of your faith tradition, Adam - and with you, I look forward to the day when we, with our communities of faith, both can fully live out what our traditions call us to believe and become!

Sid said...

Why would you love that which you see as being so incorrect?

Jason Retherford said...


There is some good stuff here. Over the last two years, I too, have read some of the early writings that came out the restoration movement, and I was enthralled by what I read. I see today where we've taken a wrong turn down a path that has caused us to have such unrest, and disdain for "others." A movement started to unite others, now disdains others. Souns like we've got a lot of work to do brother.

Keep the thoughts coming.

Jason Retherford said...

By the way,

It's this same sort of thinking, and pondering that lead to some out there in blog land to label me a false teacher. I got included in the same sense with my guys who I respect, like Mike Cope, Rubel Shelly, Max Lucado, Zoe music. My name was included in that same sentence! I told my wife about it, and she and I laughed. I am just trying to follow Jesus the best I can, and I was honored to be included in such a sentence.

Travis said...

Have you read Richard Hughes' Reviving the Ancient Faith. We're reading it for my Restoration History class. It's the best book on the subject I've read.

I too love our history, though there are big parts I do not agree with. I am not really a big fan of the whole idea of Restoration, but to students of our past that is but a piece of our origins. Restoration for Alexander Campbell, as well as, to some extent, Baron W. Stone, was simply a means to the end of Christian Union. Unity was the desire of the movement. Though there is much in our movement that I am not proud of, there is so much I am proud of. Like any family, we have our dirty secrets and shameful moments, but there are some tremendous lights of grace within us as well. Thanks for your post. It expressed some of the same thoughts I've been having.

Greg said...

Adam, Thanks for this post. You have put into eloquent words something I have been feeling as well for a long time. Please, keep sharing.

Steve said...


I am a part of a group that doesn't have CofC on our sign but when approached by another group about merging, it was our CofC heratige issues that kept us a seperate group. I get frustrated with my CofC heritage in the same way that my dad embarrasses me sometimes. Yet, I am very much like my father and much of my identity is wrapped up in my church heritage (for better or worse). However, my goal is to have my identy rooted in being a child of God. I have a ways to go.