Be Careful What You Wish For

A woman I know likes to characterize us this way: “We play well with others.” Like me, a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), she emphasizes the denomination’s ethos of ecumenism. Disciples have been at the forefront of the movement for church wholeness throughout its history.

This, despite two Restoration movement splits, which resulted in three streams of the Stone-Campbell movement. Initially growing as one at its inception on the American frontier, a primary difference between Disciples and the other two streams is our work with other church bodies (e.g.; Methodists, Catholics, etc.) wherever possible. Disciples tend to interpret the Restoration principle that “We are Christians only but not the only Christians” as a mandate for ecumenism.

Juxtapose this with the Disciples’ traditional laments that,

  1. We have an identity problem.
  2. Disciples who move from one community to another often change denomination becoming Baptists, Presbyterians, or UCCers.

While I recognize that some of these laments are shared by other Christian denominations, as a multigenerational Disciple, I wonder. Why should we be surprised – or disturbed – that folks who relocate do not necessarily end up in another Disciple church? Do we or do we not believe that “We are Christians only but not the only Christians”? Perhaps, our ecumenism and work for wholeness of the church has been at least partially successful. Maybe the Holy Spirit moves in the world, nudging you, encouraging me, and whispering in someone else’s ear that denominations need to fall?

Careful what you wish for, you might find it coming to pass.

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About Tim Graves

Tim strives to share God’s extravagant love for all–no matter what & without strings. Seeking to follow the lure of the Spirit, Tim writes about what it means to be a follower of Jesus in an era where Christianity has come to be associated with hatred and political wedge issues. “Heinous things have been said & done (& still are) in the name of the One who breathed in the Divine,” notes Tim, “but Jesus shows us that God loves extravagantly.” Following the teachings and life of Jesus is about inclusion not exclusion. It is about compassion, grace, and admitting no one has all the answers. It is about responding lovingly to the best of our human ability. It is about people not institutions. It is about social justice. It is about caring for creation. It is about being who we were each created to be. Tim is a former early childhood educator, a runner, a hiker, a devoted husband, father of two adult children and their spouses, and a grandfather of two perfect babies. The former pastor of the Condon United Church of Christ, Tim recently began serving the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Albany, Oregon. He writes from home, from the coffee shop, and wherever the trail leads him.

One thought on “Be Careful What You Wish For

  1. Great post. Thanks, Tim.

    My first impression response is to suggest that the Church does not belong to us (or our silly denominations) but rather to God. Truly, the Church is invisible and universal, irrespective of any boundary lines that we draw around it, so perhaps the denominational crumbling and church-hopping that we see is a part of the broader sweep of God’s intent to burn away all those things about “church” that are not truly make us Church.

    I have the full faith and confidence that church buildings will eventually come down because of the pressure from the inside pushing out, unable to be contained any longer by doctrinal or petty denominational restraints, or from the hollowness on the inside as people continue to find our church buildings (and the whitewashed message preached inside) to be irrelevant and/or impotent to meet the cries of God’s suffering people. The Church, however, will never go away. It may change from cloud, to rain, to stream, to tea, but it will never go away. And that brings me tremendous hope.

    I think that the DoC is one of the gospel-bearers in this regard, with its commitment to ecumenism and social justice (in places), even if that inevitably serves as a catalyst that causes denominations including the DoC to shift into a new form.

    God Bless and Happy Easter!


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