It’s the one thing that churches of the Restoration Movement can claim to have in common. We were all separatists, whether Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Christian Churches or whatever.
We came from Baptist, Lutheran and Methodist roots, whether we own up to it or not.
As a movement, it almost certainly pre-dates Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone. And those guys had some peculiar beliefs.
We started in a lot of different places, geographically and philosophically. We sort-of started as an emergent movement, with some similar tenets and some that did not and could not be reconciled. Becoming a divergent movement was almost inevitable.
Almost. Because division, sectarianism, name-calling was what the restorationists railed against.
Not to mention the Founder.
We split, and we split and we split again and again and ….
“Emerging” and “emergent” are probably good words for the subtle and often cyber conversation that has begun. There are still too many old wounds that go too deep to begin calling it a “convergent” effort. But it has already begun to draw together people who have been able to see past differences in creeds and practices and what great-grandpa stood for.
(My great-great-grandpa, incidentally, was one of the Reformation preachers: Alfred Ellmore. He put the extra “L” in the name. My only other brush with history is attending church as a child at the same congregation in Indianapolis as a relative – probably a grandson – of Daniel Sommer, who in 1932 wrote a Rough Draft of a proposal to re-unite churches divided over his preaching in 1889. It has the distinction of being, perhaps, the most likely Church of Christ doctrine document that later generations would describe as a “creed.” The younger Sommer, Paul, though greatly older than me, was always glad to pull me aside in the 1970s and describe his voluminous latest writings on a very social justice-oriented incarnation of the church.)
But is the “emergent” conversation focusing too much on the problem of how to “do church,” too?
Doesn’t it make sense to go back beyond the 1970s, the 1890s, the 1790s, the 1500s and, yes, even past the late first century to find a model for fellowship?
Shouldn’t we rather be examining in detail the Kingdom of God described by His Son to his closest followers?
To the Kingdom that is “within” and/or “among you” (Luke 17:20-21)?