Stone-Campbell Dialogue Continues Progress Toward Unity

The Stone-Campbell Dialogue met Nov. 7, 8 in Johnson City, TN, to continue discussions about unity among three “streams” of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement. Twenty-three church leaders participated in the discussions. The group was composed of ministers and other leaders from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian churches and churches of Christ, and the a cappella churches of Christ.

The group began its time together with a worship service Sunday evening in the chapel of Emmanuel School of Religion, the host site for the whole meeting. Discussions Monday centered on issues that have divided these three groups in past decades and recent progress toward recognizing unity with each other. For example, the Stone-Campbell Dialogue initiated the idea for the 2009 Great Communion project that led to community celebrations in honor of the 200th anniversary of Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address.

Group members expressed great hope for progress toward experiencing unity. One attendee said, “Our differences are real, and they are important, but they do not determine whether we are family.”

Another added, “This is inspiring. I am deeply touched, and I am reminded that there is so much work to do. Dialogue needs to continue.”

Another said he had reflected again and again on the words of Christ recorded in John 17 as he has participated in the dialogue. “Apparently Christ thought the unity of his followers was the single most important evidence that he truly came from the Father, that he was divine. And this makes unity compelling—an absolutely compelling thing—not a backburner issue. Unity is at the heart of what the whole gospel is about.”

Future plans include sponsoring information/dialogue sessions at conventions attended by members from each of the groups, and efforts to create affinity groups of workers from each of the three groups involved in similar ministries (i.e., women in ministry, missions, church planters, etc.).

The dialogue’s next discussion will center on the topic, “The Role of the Holy Spirit in Producing Christian Unity,” at a meeting tentatively scheduled Nov. 4-8, 2011, in Albuquerque, NM.

Robert Rea, Lincoln, IL, is coordinator for attendees from the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. Members of that group attending the dialogue this year included Paul Blowers, Johnson City, TN; Jerry Headen, missionary to Thailand; Heather Holland of Johnson City; Pat Magness, Elizabethton, TN; Mark Taylor, Cincinnati, OH; and Guthrie Veech, Florissant, MO.

Robert Welsh of Indianapolis, IN, is coordinator for attendees from the Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ). Attendees from that group this year included Ron Degges of Indianapolis; Vincent Dial, Jonesborough, TN; Jim Hamlet of Indianapolis; Amy Lignitz-Harken, Kansas City, MO; Bill McDonald, Lexington, KY; John M. Richardson, Wilson, NC; Ryan Starr, Milligan College, TN; and Sharon Watkins of Indianapolis.

Douglas Foster of Abilene, TX, coordinates the a cappella church of Christ group. Attendees from those churches this year included Albert Acosta of Abilene; Claire Davidson Frederick, Mount Juliet, TN; Gary Holloway, Nashville, TN; D’Esta Love, Malibu, CA; Jerry A. Taylor of Abilene; and Eric Wilson, Columbia, MO.

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  1. Al Edmonds
    December 6, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    The only unity is based upon authority of the Scriptures. If one cannot be agreed on ESSENTIALS, then unity is a facade, and an insult to Christ. Remember you cannot be unequally yoked. “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” [2 Corinthians 6:14]. The principal applies: If a group does not accept the authority of the Bible as written, as normative in matters of faith and daily life, then you cannot fellowship or be in union with that group.

  2. Bill Parker
    December 9, 2010 at 3:21 am

    I have been a preacher in the Christian Church and Churches of Christ since 1966. Therefore in my experiences I have been accosted by both the Disciples of Christ and the legalists of the instrumental Church of Christ. I have had confrontations with the non’s and have concluded that none of us know what it means to have unity in Jesus Christ. Over the years, I can understand more and more about the Restoration Movement and its work towards unity. I believe that we have gone in the wrong direction. By this, I mean that we have sought unity through agreement in doctrines. We need to seek unity in Jesus only. The Restoration Movement is not perfect. No one will be perfect, except in Jesus Christ. Doctrines do not matter – how we worship does not matter, it only matters what we think of Jesus and how we listen to Him and follow Him. Why can’t we let go of our pride and just follow Jesus to have unity.

  3. October 18, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    I do appreciate the initiative for UNITY among those groups from the Restoration Movement in the United States. I wish I could do to attend one, soon. I have been a Preacher with the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ since early 80’s and I had experienced many confrontations with the non-instrumental group in my country (Philippines) that ended in hot arguments. Well, in my opinion, real unity could only be achieved by our individual submission to the authority of Christ. It is of no good to issue condemnation to anybody within the fellowship, that as if we have the authority to exclude one from being saved. Anyway, to the organizers to these dialogues for UNITY of those with historical heritage of the Restoration Movement, I salute them. It is my prayers that these dialogues do ended in success.

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