Tis the season for church conventions, and I’m attending one of ‘em. Having just returned from the opening session of the North American Christian Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, I sit in the Galt House Hotel pondering what I’ve just witnessed. Historic is not nearly a descriptive enough term.
Tonight David Faust, the President of this year’s convention, detailed a tragedy that took place in 1906. 100 years ago, beneath the seemingly calm surface of San Francisco, a sudden shift took place in the earth’s tectonic plates. The resulting earthquake measured 8.3 on the Richter scale and tore the city apart. Far more destructive than the quake, however, were the fires that raged through the city in its aftermath.
1906 saw another tragedy: the division of the Christian Church. Fault lines had been forming for decades, but it wasn’t until that fateful year that the split was formalized. In the 100 years since, there have been other schisms, other conflicts. Generations have come and gone, many without even realizing they have Christian siblings they’ve never met. Like the Hatfields and the McCoys, the original combatants have all died, and their great-great grandchildren don’t have an inkling as to what the original fight was even about.
Tonight was the beginning of what will, hopefully, be the end of that division. Thousands of believers from the churches of Christ and the Christian Churches met together for an amazing worship service. It was a wonderful beginning to what promises to be an inspired week.
As I mentioned, this isn’t the only church convention taking place. Last week the Episcopal Church in the United States met. On the agenda: the controversy surrounding the decision to ordain practicing homosexuals and lesbians as Bishops within that fellowship. The week before, the Presbyterian Church (USA) met. They voted to receive a policy paper on inclusive language in worship. If the paper becomes policy, Presbyterians might alternately begin referring to the Trinity as “Mother, Child and Womb.”
The convention I attended tonight had none of that. I am so pleased that our church doesn’t vote on doctrine, but rather expounds it. I am so glad that, when I attend the NACC, we’re not haggling over changes to a Book of Discipline, but rather preaching and teaching from the Books of the Bible.
Oh, we’re far from perfect as a church. Tonight’s message on unity drove that home. We don’t even have unity in our little town of Butler. We’ve got two Christian Churches with 100 feet of one another, and they’ve yet to hold a worship service together. We sing the same songs, share the same heritage, and serve the same Savior, but for some reason we’ve yet to share a loaf of bread and a cup of juice. We send our kids to the same church camp, support the same missionaries, and evangelize the same lost people. We reach across oceans to share the gospel with a pagan, but we won’t reach across Main Street to share communion with a brother.
It is time for that to change.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the split in the Christian Church / churches of Christ. It has taken 100 years for us to come back together. Next year marks the 10th anniversary of the split between Butler Church of Christ and Christ’s Church at Butler. Will it take ninety more before our great-great grandchildren do what we have not yet summoned the courage to do?
I hope not.