Further Perspectives on "A Christian Affirmation"
Permit me a few more perspectives on the "Affirmation"and then I will let it go unless asked to comment further.....
I may be politically naive -- and there may good reason to think that of me -- but I did not see affirming the statement as somehow a negative statement about the 2006 healing initiatives with the Christian Church/Churches of Christ. It is rather discouraging to me to hear it set in that framework or read in that way. I am a supporter of the initiatives, and have a long history of support. I offer the following list, not to display my ego, but to signal that I pursue such initiatives in both word and deed.
a. I have long participated in the Stone-Campbell session of the Evangelical Theological Society along with my Christian Church brothers, and this fall will present a paper on the theology of the Lord's Supper.
b. I have published with College Press (e.g., Yet Will I Trust Him), and have written the commentary on Chronicles in the College Press Commentary Series.
c. I have participated in unity meetings from the Restoration Forums to local gatherings of ministers across the country. Indeed, this summer I will speak at some unity fellowship gatherings in Hawaii (I know, its a tough gig, but for the sake of unity...).
d. I support STADIA's efforts to plant churches across the country, have participated in some of their seminars, and help recruit church planters for them.
e. I have spoken and will speak in 2006 at the North American Convention.
f. I am on the editorial board of the Stone-Campbell Journal.
I don't think to affirm some ancient practices as viable ways to the future is necessarily antagonistic to those efforts of healing. The context of the affirmation was "The Christian Chronicle" not the "Christian Standard", that is, directed at Churches of Christ, not Baptists, Christian Church, etc. I signed it as an affirmation of our historic practices without seeking to deny or discourage more basic fellowship among Christians.
A cappella music, of course, is the weakest part of the document, and it should not (and cannot) stand on the same explicit theological grounds that baptism and the Lord's Supper do. I wish the document were more explicit about that, but again the context of the document is historic practices among Churches of Christ. And as our historic practices go, a cappella is one of them. I think most, if not all, the signers recognize this. Whether you agree with Jeff Peterson's theological/biblical rationale or not for a cappella music, you cannot miss that he does not put that rationale on the same level as other theological concerns. I wish, however, that had been clear in the Affirmation itself.
I am appreciative of Leroy Garrett's critique of the Affirmation. I am appreciative of his years of ministry and service to Churches of Christ for the cause of unity. But I think he misreads the Affirmation as drawing lines of fellowship rather than an affirmation of historic practices that are part of the dialogue toward the visible unity that is already spiritually present in and through Christ. It think he is also a bit too charitable with Campbell, for example. Campbell himself had as a standard of visible fellowship within the body of Christ, that is, his call for faith in one fact, baptism as one act, and the communal fellowship of the church on one day--"one fact, one act, one day". But I agree with Leroy that the confession of the one story of God in Christ and submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ is the core affirmation of the Christian faith. I don't read the Affirmation as a substitute for that. See also Jeff Peterson's response to Garrett's critique.
I will close with this. I affirm the practices of which the Affirmation speaks. I affirm them as means of grace for the people of God. They are practices which form us spiritually as a community. But I do not affirm them in ways that would hinder discussion or dialogue with people who also seek Jesus through the story we have been given.
Thanks for reading. Shalom,