Welcome to "A Christian Affirmation"
Christian Affirmation 2005: Background and Foreground"
The statement affirms the convictions
of the signers regarding beliefs and practices that have served to
Christian identity of Churches of Christ but now suffer challenge or
neglect; it does not attempt to articulate the Christian faith in its
fullness. We recognize that others think differently about some of
the matters treated. We do not speak as their judges, but as fellow
servants of Christ who seek only to be fruitful in his service. We
seek through discussion with our brothers and sisters a deeper understanding
of God’s saving truth.
A CHRISTIAN AFFIRMATION
It is our intention to clarify our Christian identity in a time of increasing uncertainties. Churches of Christ are part of the American Restoration Movement, which sought to overcome the divisions of Christendom by returning to the faith and practice of the earliest Christians. While we believe that disunity and division among Christians are not according to God’s will, we also believe that unity cannot be grounded in minimal agreements among Christian traditions. The path to substantive Christian unity is found in returning to the clear teachings of Scripture and practices of the early church, commonly acknowledged and respected by all Christian traditions. In this light, beliefs and practices characteristic of Churches of Christ are neither novel nor idiosyncratic, nor should they be easily abandoned.
The Original Design
The compelling rationale for this common-sense approach to ecumenical reformation is well stated by Roman Catholic scholar Hans Küng. Recognizing “errors and false developments” in the church’s history, Küng states,
It is the early church that, in Küng’s words, provides “the essential norm” by which the church in every age and culture measures its message, beliefs, and practices. It is to this “original design” (Küng) that we turn both for substantive guidance and for the common faith to be shared by and to unite all Christians.
According to the New Testament message, the Church of Jesus Christ exists to bear witness to the central truth that the Creator of all things “so loved the world that he gave his only Son” for us and our salvation (Jn. 3:16). This salvation embraces the whole of creation in its scope; God’s saving will is “to reconcile all things to himself” through Christ’s incarnate life, death, and resurrection (Col. 1:20). God’s saving purpose shapes the whole of the church’s life.
Baptism: the New Birth
Foundational to our response to the saving work of Christ is our faithful submission to his lordship in baptism. In baptism we enter the new creation inaugurated by Christ’s death and resurrection, which create a new humanity (2 Cor. 5:14, 15). As we once shared the destiny of Adam, God now grants us a share in the life and destiny of Christ, the new Adam, incorporating us into his body in baptism (Rom. 6:3-6; 1 Cor. 15:45; Gal. 3:26-28; Col. 3:10, 11). In the ancient church there were no unbaptized Christians. The New Testament assumes that every Christian is baptized and has become a member of the body of Christ through the one baptism of water and of the spirit (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 4:5; Jn. 3:5). God does not save individuals apart from the body of Christ; he saves us by making us members of Christ’s body through baptism and transforming us into his likeness (Rom. 8:29, 30).
The early church practiced baptism as the immersion of believers in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Those baptized received as benefits of Christ’s death the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Baptism is the Christian’s new birth into the people of God. Washed clean of sins and sealed by the Spirit of God, believers begin their transformation into the image of Christ (1 Cor. 6:11) and to “walk in newness of life,” “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:4, 11).
The Lord’s Supper and the New Fellowship
Baptized believers gather each week around the table of the Lord. There, united as one body in Christ, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26) as the “expiation for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2). As Israel remembered God’s deliverance in the Passover, Christians meet on the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day (the day of Christ’s resurrection) to remember and celebrate the salvation brought by Christ.
At the Lord’s table we are drawn together through Christ’s death and resurrection as members of his body. “Because there is one loaf, we who are many are one body” (1 Cor. 10:17). Moved by the memory that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper “on the night when he was betrayed” (1 Cor. 11:23), members of the body of Christ are stirred to examine ourselves and recommit to serving Christ, one another, and the world (1 Cor. 11:28, 29).
We also remember that the risen Lord was “made known” to his disciples on the first day of the week “in the breaking of the bread” (Lk. 24:35) and graciously invited his disciples to “come and eat” (Jn. 21:12). Thus we not only remember Jesus’ death, but also celebrate his presence at table with his people today; and until he comes, we joyfully anticipate being together with him.
The Lord instituted this observance, and he sets the conditions for participation at his table (Rev. 3:20). All who acknowledge Christ’s lordship and demonstrate this faith in their character and conduct are welcome at the Lord’s table.
Worship and the New Life
For centuries Christians have recognized that as we worship, so we believe, and so we live. Worship stands at the center of the church’s existence and the formation of Christian identity. In worship, the people of God remember and rehearse God’s great acts of disclosure and deliverance in our history. We praise and adore God for the gifts of creation and redemption in Christ.
The center of Christian worship is the Lord’s supper, which unites us in remembering the sacrificial death of Jesus and encourages us to offer ourselves to the Lord as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1, 2). Christian proclamation, prayer, and singing in the New Testament and early church were characteristically Christ-centered. In content, Christian song is an instrument of teaching enabling the word of Christ to dwell richly in God’s people as we teach and admonish one another in wisdom with thankfulness (Col. 3:16).
In manner, Christian singing from the very first and for nearly a thousand years was “a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Heb. 13:15) without accompanying instruments. Singing a cappella (“in the manner of the chapel”) was encouraged by reformers such as John Calvin and the Puritans in England and America and remains the practice of some 300,000,000 members of Eastern Orthodox churches. The practice of a cappella singing recovers both the “original design” of the early church and the common practice of the whole church for centuries.
Christian worship delivers us from the illusions, distortions, and distractions of the world. Worship releases us from preoccupation with our limited thoughts, abilities, and feelings. Our worship reminds us, as Paul says, that our ultimate hope and confidence reside not in ourselves—not in our possessions, our feelings, our intellect, or anything we can measure and manage—but in “God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9).
A Word of Concern
While the work of restoration is difficult and has often been done poorly, neither the difficulty of the task nor our failures justify abandoning the attempt to recover biblical faith and practice. Many in Churches of Christ today are rightly concerned to overcome a legacy of legalism, sectarianism, and divisiveness. It is easy to suppose that opposition to these scandalous realities means that we must relax our commitment to practices that have been characteristic of our churches.
We commend an alternative vision. The restoration vision is to unite with the earliest Christians, to take as the indispensable guide to life in Christ their common faith and practice, which Christians in every age respect and honor. In the twentieth century, early Christian practice was rediscovered as a norm and a basis for seeking unity by leaders, both Protestant and Roman Catholic. It would be a sad irony if, now that others in the religious world are recognizing the value of a return to Christian beginnings, our own churches were to abandon the quest.
The undersigned prayerfully commend these considerations, this 18th day of April in the year of our Lord 2005.
Hugh Gainey, Elder
John Mark Hicks
Carl R. Holladay
Evertt W. Huffard
Allan J. McNicol
Gregory E. Sterling
James W. Thompson
Michael R. Weed
John F. Wilson
Additional Signers of A Christian Affirmation 2005
Mark Adams, Minister
Ryan R. Berges, Member
W. Harold Bigham, Elder
Caleb A. Borchers, Member
Tony Boswell, Member
Larry Boyer, Minister
Bob Burgess, Member
Randy Carroll, Minister
Michael S. Cole, Elder
Andrew Collins, Member
Terry Collins, Preacher
King Davis, Member
Bill Denton, Preaching Minister
Fred Dominquez, Minister
Michael Druilhet, Member
Sally Enders, Member
Dwain Evans, Teacher
Ian A. Fair, Elder
Ken Ford, Deacon
Jeff Foster, Preaching Minister
Gary Frazier, Preaching Minister
Paul Goddard, Elder
Dennis Grisham, Member
Janice Grisham, Member
Denvard Heasley, Member
Daniel M. Keeran, Minister
Bob Kendrick, Elder
John H. Land, Shepherd
Gary Lanier, Member
Robert W. Lawrence, Preacher
Ron Longwell, Minister
Lynn E. Mitchell, Jr., Preacher
Norman Morrow, Preacher
Brett R. Nelson, Teacher
Lin Penland, Minister
Robert E. Scott, Teacher
Richard Shields, Preacher
Glover Shipp, Elder and Teacher
C. Philip Slate, Missions Coordinator
Patricia A. Slate, Teacher
Clyde Slimp, Preaching Minister
Shay Smith, Youth Minister
James T. South, Minister
Carl Stilwell, Member
Lyla Stilwell, Member
Martha Stilwell, Member
Arland Storm, Elder
John Telgren, Preaching Minister
Victor Vadney, Deacon
Chris Vidacovich, Minister
Calvin Warpula, Pulpit Minister
Jan Whiteley, Member
Dan Williams, Preaching Minister