Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 1, 1966
NUMBER 30, PAGE 1-2a

Is There A Church Of Christ Denomination?

Sewell Hall

In a former article we considered some of the fallacies in the reasoning of the seventeen writers who contributed essays to the book, Voices of Concern, edited by Robert Meyers. Subtitled "Critical Studies in Church of Christ-ism," it is assumed throughout that there is a Church of Christ denomination and most of the writers claim to have left it.

The Charges

"The Church of Christ preaches undenominational Christianity, but in reality is the most denominational of all denominations. It is neither Protestant nor Catholic, but a group of small, warring sects which are little denominations within a denomination." So writes one of the contributors. In support of this much evidence is offered by various others.

The Church of Christ is said to be a historical movement, one branch of the reformation associated with the names of Thomas and Alexander Campbell. However, it is not the rightful heir of the Campbell's but rather "the children of David Lipscomb, H. Leo Boles, and other post-Civil War leaders of the church in the South." It is said to have a hierarchy of college presidents, teachers, and editors who can brand a disciple unorthodox and proscribe any congregation which would extend him fellowship. This hierarchy has its link with the local churches through the preachers who attend the annual council (lectureship) at the nearest Church college for the purpose of firming up the party line and making contacts for future engagements, "In the typical church he is at the center of the decision-making process. Excommunication bills are prepared by him. Supervisory functions fall to him. The church bulletin is his voice. He speaks ex cathedra for the church." The very existence of the openly designated "Church related colleges" with their seminary departments is urged as further proof of its denominational status.

It is further charged that this church, while claiming to be the undenominational church of Christ, composed of all the saved, at the same time boldly pinpoints the number of its membership at slightly in excess of two million. While maintaining possession of "no creed but Christ," it insists that "'the faith' is a finished system completely known to the authorities, beyond re-examination, and capable of being authoritatively defined and enforced." The church, it is said, maintains that "We are right. Therefore, Christian unity can be achieved if the others will join themselves to us." Climaxing it all, the church is said to prove itself a denomination in the primary sense of the word by denominationalizing the name Church of Christ, all the while admitting that there are other churches of Christ with which they will have no fellowship.

Our Reaction

Our reaction to these charges may well indicate whether we are indeed members of such a denomination. Much of what is said can scarcely be denied as a picture of many churches known as churches of Christ. Once these conditions are conceded, there is little ground on which to deny existence of a denomination. And if we bristle up to go on the defensive and insist that we are not like that, we are identifying ourselves with it. Just who are those "we" who are not like that? One of the surest indications of partyism is a sense of obligation to defend the party - to prove that "we" are right. It is in this sense that "loyalty to the church" becomes partyism.

Better simply to concede that there is a hierarchy controlling many of the churches. There are those preachers who politic and preach what is expedient rather than what they know to be true. And there are those who cannot be convinced that anything Churches of Christ have done through the years is wrong - who are more concerned with traditional Church of Christ doctrine than with Bible teaching. These are sectarian and are properly designated a denomination.

Several of the essayists give clear indication that they were once members of such a denomination. One of them reveals that in his early preaching days he had never open-mindedly questioned his position in the church in the light of the scriptures. Another states that he was shocked and deeply troubled upon reading an article, to find that "our leading brother had failed to come to grips with the Scriptures. I kept asking myself, 'Do our brethren not know all the truth?'" Several seem obsessed with loyalty or opposition to "The Restoration." Still others indicate that in their former days they thought the "dark ages" unimportant because there was no Church of Christ during those days. Such statements, as well as many others, clearly indicate denominational attitudes.

The Solution

But is every congregation known as a church of Christ and every person who is a member necessarily a part of a denomination? NO! NO! It is this that the authors must recognize.

One does not have to join the Christian Church or the Unitarians to prove that he is no longer in the Church of Christ denomination. To leave one sect, one does not have to join another.

What each needs to do is to refuse to bow to the hierarchy, forget the party line, and preach the gospel of Christ as found in the scriptures. According to the testimony of the writers, the hierarchy will see that such an individual is expelled from the party. But true disciples, when they hear the voice of the Lord through His servant, will follow and those who follow will be followers of the one shepherd and sheep of the one fold, the Lord's undenominational church. This simple procedure, while alienating him from all sectarians will unite him in the Lord with every other unsectarian disciple in all the world. This is a fellowship as broad as the fellowship of the Lord, and who wants one any broader? This is the unity for which Jesus prayed.

And think of the trouble one saves in not having to get his denomination lined up in the Ecumenical Movement.

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