If you never heard of it, this is where it’s found these days:
(Its original domain name was evidently allowed to expire.)
A Christian Affirmation is coming up on its fifth anniversary. It was originally published as a paid advertisement in the May, 2005 Christian Chronicle, which thereafter instituted a policy to review the content of advertising before accepting it … even full-page advertising.
It was seen by many as an attempt to draw a line in the sand, a line of fellowship among Churches of Christ, by those who saw the introduction of worship services featuring instrumentally-accompanied vocal music in worship in some sister congregations as a threat to the distinctiveness of Churches of Christ, a product of the Restoration Movement.
Soon after its publication in this journal, the Affirmation was also posted at an appropriately-named Web site. There, it was possible to send in comments and, eventually, to add one’s name to the list of signatures on the document. This feature was abused in a very un-Christian way by immature detractors – and since identities of signers could not be easily verified, the feature was removed – but the dialogue had begun.
One thing nearly everyone could agree upon: the issue of a cappella-only / instrumentally-accompanied music in worship had been promoted by the Affirmation to the same level of importance as immersive baptism and the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week.
Discussion continued in church bulletins and blogs and discussion boards on the ‘net. The discussion was often heated; sometimes cordial, sometimes acidic; but in the end, its effect was like that visited upon the hapless Ralph Mellish in the Monty Python sketch: suddenly, nothing happened.
Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
I’m sure it depends on whom you ask. The body of Christ was not further subdivided and vivisected as a result, and I see that as a good thing. People talked about what really was essential in the life and worship of believers, and I see that as a good thing.
However, no councils were proposed to prayerfully discuss the matter and ask for the direction of the Holy Spirit together. No lectureships nor publications volunteered to air scholarly or even self-published works representing all points of view. No consensus was reached. No unity was restored.
In short, suddenly nothing happened.
And I see that as a bad thing.
The unresolved issue of a cappella-only / instrumentally-accompanied worship remains – not the unspoken elephant – but the great, gaping seismic fault line between two camps of God’s people under the banner of the same tribe and the aegis of congregational autonomy and the comfort of pretending that everything has gone back to the way it was and should be.
And – just as is happening in politics, social association, and virtually every other aspect of life in the American nation – the chasm keeps growing wider as it becomes more and more effortless to associate only with those who share one’s fondest preferences.
We have become segregated – not so much racially as philosophically – in spite of the fact that we proudly proclaim that we wear the designer label “Christian” (without the “Dior”), referring to a Christ who associated with the meek, poor and lowly as well as the wealthy, privileged and powerful.
It is almost beyond question that Jesus worshiped with the likely-a cappella cantor’s songs of the small synagogues in Nazareth and Capernaum … as well as with the instrumentally-embellished psalms of temple worship in Jerusalem.
He is a both/and Savior.
We are an either/or church.
There is nothing about that worth affirming.