Although I am no longer a member of Churches of Christ, I have a deep love for my childhood church. The reason I left is that I could not agree with the Church of Christ’s central tenant of Restoration–the idea that they had “restored” the first century church. I did the honest thing and left–first, for the Disciple of Christ, which were theologically too liberal, and for the last seventeen years I have been a member of the Anglican Catholic Church.
The Churches of Christ separated from the Christian Churches beginning in the late nineteenth century over the issues of mechanical instruments of music in worship and the missionary society. The Christian Church accepted both; the Churches of Christ opposed them. Churches of Christ and the Christian Churches were recognized as separate churches in the 1906 U. S. religious census. Even after that date, there was quite a bit of fluidity, even over names–there are Disciples churches and Christian Churches that still have congregations called “Churches of Christ” today. As late as the 1920s, there was sporadic cooperation between the two churches. There was a third split, between the Disciples and the group later known as Christian Churches and Churches of Christ–de facto this occurred with the 1927 meeting of the North American Christian Convention in Memphis, and de jure after the 1968 centralized reorganization of the Disciples. The chief source of that dispute was the theological liberalism of the Disciples. The Disciples long ago renounced Restorationism. Both the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ and the noninstrumental Churches of Christ accept Restorationism, but differ on its application.
Here’s the problem I have: in a number of Churches of Christ, ministers and some elders openly oppose Restorationism. In Churches of Christ institutions, this is even more common. Now personally I agree with them, but what is bothersome is their attempt to “reform” Churches of Christ in a way that destroys their identity while remaining members of the Church. If these leaders had integrity, they would leave Churches of Christ for some other church. I am Anglican Catholic; if I ever disagreed with one of that church’s fundamental teachings (such as the Real Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper), I would leave the ACC. That is the honest thing to do. I remember Tom Holland at David Lipscomb University saying that it is hypocritical for a teacher there to oppose what the founders of the university wished the identity of the school to be–and I agree. I know many well=meaning revisionists in the Churches of Christ would disagree. However, I find it hypocritical to remain in a church and try to subvert its principle doctrines. Better to guide individual members who agree to a different church body or leave oneself.
The same problem exists in Catholicism–Roman Catholics who deny the essential theological and moral teachings of the church should leave instead of trying to subvert it from within. Thus Roman Catholic politicians openly support abortion and homosexuality, and Roman Catholic scholars deny the bodily resurrection of Christ. This, too, is hypocritical. If you don’t agree, leave. Otherwise, shut up and stop sneaking around to destroy an institution’s identity.