Mike Cope's blog

Monday, June 28, 2004

Two hundred years ago today (June 28, 1804), Barton W. Stone and five others signed a document called "The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery." In 1801 several of these men had preached in a popular revival at Cane Ridge in Kentucky. They reacted against rigid Calvinism, calling on people to make decisions. As a result, some were faced with disciplinary actions by their churches. So in 1803 they formed a coalition of similarly-minded churches and called it the Springfield Presbytery. But one year later, they dissolved the coalition. They realized that it was divisive. Included in the "Last Will and Testament" were these words: We will, that this body die, be dissolved, and sink into union with the body of Christ at large; for there is but one body, and one Spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling. Not bad words to revisit 200 years later. I'm a member of the Highland Church which is part of a group (denomination) known as Churches of Christ. But much more important than that is that we are part of the larger body of Christ--made up of followers of Jesus of many nations and many denominations.


  • A friend pointed out recently something many c of C'ers have forgotten: this began as a unity movement. Stark contrast to modern reality, sometimes.

    I honestly do love a lot of things about this group, but it strikes me as ironic that a "restoration movement" has lost sight of its history.

    By Blogger Q, at 6/28/2004 06:40:00 AM  

  • I believe some of us have become anti-historical in our outlook. One of the reasons the book, The Crux of the Matter, was met with such hostility in some circles is because of its review of our history and the way the authors showed how our history has shaped us. We want to talk about the Church of Christ as if there is no history and certainly no historical influence that can help to explain some things today.

    I live in an area where the churches are more concerned about making sure everything and everyone is
    "sound" more than anything else. Elders and others in positions of influence are afraid of the heretic hunters and the church police and react every time one of them lifts a finger our way. It is very discouraging which is why I travel on weekends quite a bit.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/28/2004 06:50:00 AM  

  • This may stray off topic a bit, but I have been surprised to discover that many ministers I speak to in the Churches of Christ would no longer define themselves as strict restorationists. At one point to we dissolve because we discover that we've become a new thing?

    By the way, I'm not saying that their not being strict restorationists is a bad thing (I myself, as a minister in the c o C, would not call myself one). These are men I've heard say things like "I'm just trying to follow Christ's teachings, not restore the exact practices of any specific church". As someone who would echo this I would ask the following questions: Does our movement simply morph or does it die? If it changes significantly, should it be clear about these changes? Does our autonomy keep this from becoming a problem? At what point does a church change significantly enough that it stops being a part of the Church of Christ denomination? Is it better for the larger denomination for individual churches to drop the name, or do we push the movement to change by making changes but remaining Church of Christ?

    By Blogger chrismith, at 6/28/2004 07:33:00 AM  

  • My question is are we really autonomous? And is "restoration" even possible, let alone desirable.

    I dunno. We're a mission church just like everybody else; Jesus didn't show up in 21st century Anytown, USA. We've already adapted, updated and instituted things we can't find in the Bible. Sometimes I'm afraid there's a growing practice of tetrapyloctomy.

    By Blogger Q, at 6/28/2004 07:50:00 AM  

  • Almost ten years ago I was a minster of a Church of Christ that was going through an identity crisis. I would often make statements about unity from Stone, Alexander Campbell, and others. One of the elders along with a couple in the church wanted to meet with me concerning some of my remarks. The most fascinating comment I received concerned where "I was taking the church." They were afraid that I was "leading" the church in a non-denominational direction. "We like being members of the Church of Christ," they said. I am sure it was partially due to my lack of skills (and other issues) in presenting the message, however, I also realized that the times had changed. The message of unity and that Jesus should be "the focus of our faith" was now the message of the Community churches in our area.

    By Blogger David Michael, at 6/28/2004 07:53:00 AM  

  • I'm calling my shot.

    This blog will garner more comments than any to date.

    Leave it to Cope to speak the truth! Thanks Mike!

    Next thing you'll say is that Jesus actually prayed that we'd all be one as He and the Father are one.


    By Blogger Joel Quile, at 6/28/2004 08:11:00 AM  

  • Pot-stirrer? I thought he was a poo-lighter.

    You've got to be more consistent, Joel. I think you're epithetical hermeneutic is suspect.

    By Blogger Q, at 6/28/2004 08:28:00 AM  

  • My dad once said, "Serena, Alexander Campbell did not die for you."

    Let's assume for a moment that all Christian denominations were to sign such a pack, and just to make it interesting, let's say that the government took over all our building and we were not permitted to assemble in our sanctuaries. If we were all committed to unity in Christ what would this new church look like?

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 6/28/2004 08:51:00 AM  

  • And one more thing: What would be your first order of business toward that goal?

    By Blogger Serena Voss, at 6/28/2004 08:54:00 AM  

  • Serena - interesting question. I'd probably look to the Church in China. We'd do well to follow their pattern, imho. No name on a building bcause there are NO church buildings, only homes and these have to be fairly fluid, moving from home to home, much as the first century believers did.
    The Church in tribulation always seems to flourish, grow in numbers, but more importantly, grow in dedication to Jesus. Not a bad idea to begin with these days.
    btw-anyone that thinks we are not in jeopardy of having your questioned premise happening in the good old USofA might want to take a closer look at the water heating up on the frog in this nation, imho. (Sorry, didn't mean to turn this into a possible political post, but there it is. LOL)

    By Blogger Kathy, at 6/28/2004 09:10:00 AM  

  • What does imho mean?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/28/2004 09:35:00 AM  

  • It's net-speak for "in my humble opinion." Best word of the day goes to Q for tetrapyloctomy -- "splitting hairs four ways" -- which could be listed in the mission statement of too many churches.

    By Blogger Mike, at 6/28/2004 09:40:00 AM  

  • I have been told by many that this is not what we need to talking about...that we should center on Jesus. Of course, I am not saying that we shouldn't center on Jesus....we just can't continue to function as a church without addressing our past, present and future. We are stumbling right now because we are not sure who we are. We are pushing thinking people out and the people who are staying are those who are happy with the status quo. How can that be different? How can we be open to both ends and still reach people with the message of freedom and salvation? Is it possible?

    By Blogger julie, at 6/28/2004 10:46:00 AM  

  • As a long time member of the Church of Christ, with the desire to better understand it's history, this seems like the perfect site for imformation.

    When was the name Church of Christ adopted? In the Springfield document I find only church of Christ used as a part of the Body of Christ at large. And is there additional documentation to denote that this particular Restoration Movement has been completed?

    The history I have read (limited at best) seems to get very fuzzy in the early 1900's.

    As a fairly new member of Highland I take exception to Mike's 'pot stirer' title. If it is true then he needs a bigger pot.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/28/2004 12:29:00 PM  

  • When was "Church of Christ" first used? Leroy Garrett comments:


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/28/2004 02:06:00 PM  

  • Amen, Mike! Amen, Joel! Amen, Barton! These are exciting times. Yes, sticks and stones may be thrown, but I have a sense that none of it can overcome the wonder that we will see in these coming days. Glory to God!

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 6/28/2004 05:48:00 PM  

  • Mike,

    I love restoration history. Our early brethern would definitely not be welcomed in our churches today due to thier varying theologies. I have always thought it interesting that what started out as a restoration movement has become a conservation movement.

    I am excited at the opportunites that are in our future, and maybe one day before the Lord returns we will figure out that there is room for more than one opinion on an issue/issues?

    By Blogger Jason Retherford, at 6/28/2004 06:55:00 PM  

  • OK, I admit defeat. I thought for sure that this blog entry had the potential to blow up. I was wrong. It didn't even garner as much attention as Mike's fatigue due to the Allstars entry. Maybe if he had said that Barton W. Stone liked gaucamole or Alexander Campbell had a foot fetish then this blog would have been one for the ages. Oh well.

    By Blogger Joel Quile, at 7/01/2004 09:03:00 AM  

  • What is meant by 'rigid' Calvinism? I thought Stone wanted to be less confessional because it meant more evangelism?

    By Blogger wes, at 7/02/2004 09:10:00 AM  

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