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On October the 4th the Churches of Christ in South Australia gathered to celebrate a Great Communion and 200 years since Thomas Campbell’s declaration and address. There were many gathering points, particularly in the regional areas where clusters of churches gathered together. But the main event organized from the state office was held at Mile End Church of Christ.

Some traveled for hours to be present at this once in a life time gathering. We estimate around 300 people gathered in the Mile End building representing a great number of our churches in South Australia. We tried a few new initiatives to celebrate 21st century style. Here’s how it panned out.

I chaired the committee that pulled this event together but ideas came from all over the place as to how we could celebrate and particularly how we could connect with those who were some distance from us. The other challenge presented before us was the Mile End is currently our oldest existing building at over 100 years old so has limitations when it comes to technology.

Mark Butler our State Minister is currently serving as a RAAF chaplain in the Middle East so we wanted to be able to include him. Also since we are the Churches of Christ conference of churches in South Australia and Northern Territory we wanted to include our one and only NT church. Jim Larkam, minister at the Darwin Church of Christ NT suggested we skype during the service so we could have audio and video link up via the internet. That presented a huge challenge for us since there was no internet connection at the church. Craig Brown and I came up with another idea while we were in Zimbabwe earlier this year. We decided to interview BJ Mpofu, President of our World Convention with a Great Communion address we could play on DVD. Once we converted this recording to DVD Craig worked out how to upload it to YouTube so people all over the world could have access to it.

So we decided to rise to the challenge. We imported our own sound equipment for the band and audio link up (thanks Etype for the loan of the sound desk, speakers, folds, and leads. Thanks Blackwood COC for the mics, leads and mic stands). We brought our own mobile internet modem to plug into a laptop (thanks to my brother Adam for the loan). We brought our own laptops and data projector (thanks to my mate Marcus for the laptop and being our IT consultant and to Blackwood COC for the projector). And we were set to go!

We pulled it off without a glitch! Geoff Payne, acting State Minister, welcomed us all as he read the introduction to the declaration and address. We sang a hymn played on the great pipe organ at Mile End, then tried something we never tried before…we skyped Mark Butler. It was perfect, he could see all of us as we panned the internet cam around and we could see him projected up onto the big projector screen we found out the back of the church. Mark was able to address us all the way from the base in the Middle East. When we had finished with Mark we sang a chorus led by my wife Verity Skye and a band she had put together. Tthey sounded brilliant but even more so was the powerful singing of the congregation.  Then we skyped with Darwin Church of Christ. We could see about 20 of them gathered around the computer in their church building. It was so amazing to connect with our church at the top end and we felt a real sense of togetherness. I know this meant a great deal to the Darwin church who often feel isolated so far away. Darwin COC remained connected to us for the rest of the service, they sang songs with us, listened to me address the congregation and joined us as we had communion together. We even played the DVD recorded address from BJ (recorded by me at BJ’s house on my mum’s handycam) so we were not only able to connect with our church in the Middle East and Darwin but we connected with the Zimbabwean churches as well.

I was the speaker, reflecting on what or who shaped our identity as a movement. I reflected on where we have come from, the voices that have contributed to our movement taking shape in Australia, such as A.R. Main, E.L. Williams, G.R. Stirling and Greg Elsdon. Then I cast our attention to what shapes us for the future. While the average age in attendance was probably well over 65 it was important for all of us to believe and imagine that we have a future. Simon Clemow, minister at the Goolwa Church of Christ led us in a thanksgiving prayer towards the end of the service. I suppose Simon and I, two young leaders in our early thirties, represented part of the future hope of our movement. We were almost the youngest ones there by about 20 years.

We also had some amazing archives available span a representation of four centuries. Starting with Dr George Campbells’ translation of the four Gospels owned by Barton Stone with his hand writing in it, printed in 1799. We had that on display along with many 19th century publications from Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone and Walter Scott, through to the 20th and 21st century Australian authors and leaders of our movement, with the last of those being written and printed by Graham Carslake in 2009.

On the table above the books we had on display a 100 year old photo of the 100 year celebration held in Pittsburgh USA in 1909. It’s a delicate old panoramic view of the oval where the stands are packed with people from all over the world. It is owned by an older member of my church whose grandfather was in attendance at that gathering. Of course alongside that we had a limited edition reprint of Thomas Campbell’s declaration and address printed by the Disciples of Christ in 1908.

October the 4th was an amazing event for us in Adelaide with a rich mixture of history and new technology that brought us together across space and time, we were connected with our past and connected with each other in, even though in various locations. More importantly we remain connected with Christ our guide and hope for a promising future.

Unfortunately due to the many technological challenges we faced we were unable to record the service. Also because there was so much going on we forgot to take a photo.

Youth Vision celebrate the Great Communion

Every April and October Youth Vision SA hold a state wide teens camp attended by up to 100 of our teens from a number of churches. This October everyone on Teens Camp paused on Sunday the 4th to participate in the Great Communion. They even played the greeting from BJ downloaded from YouTube (we had uploaded it for use on October 4th). So our teens even though were not present at Mile End were still able to participate with us while on camp and share in the same connection we had with Zimbabwe.

Mark Riessen

Minister, Blackwood Church of Christ, South Australia

Great Communion

I strongly encourage you to read the latest article by Greg Elsdon reflecting on communion as we lead into the great Communion celebration on October 4th. His article can be found in the previous post.

We are now 2 days away from coming together around a common table here in South Australia. Some are travelling long distances to be at Mile End Church of christ at 3pm where our Adelaide celebration is happening. As part of our service we are skype linking with Mark Butler, State Minister for Churches of Christ SA/NT and with the Darwin Church of Christ. While I was in Zimbabwe a few months ago I stayed with BJ Mpofu, President of World Convention. I managed to film a Great Communion message  from him which we have translated into DVD format and will be playing this message as part of our service as our link with the Zimbabwean churches. Craig Brown, National co-ordinator for Churches of Christ Australia managed to upload this to Youtube so now all of you from around the world can connect with this greeting from BJ. Here it is:

While some are travelling to be with us at Mile End which is our oldest existing church in South Australia others in regional areas are gathering at other locations. To my knowledge there is a gathering on the penninsula at Kadinia and another in the South East at Mundulla where Gordon Moyes is the guest speaker.

We are priveleged to have certian archives on display at Mile End. Publications from 1799 – 1908 are provided by the Churches of Christ archives and publications from 1920 – 2009 care of my own book shelf. A member of my church (Blackwood Church of Christ) formerly a member at Mile End provided an origional panoramic photo of the centennial gathering at Pittsburgh. Here’s the explaination:

Centennial Convention, Pittsburgh October 17th 1909

On Sunday October 17th 1909 a Communion service was held at Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, USA. This was the culmination of a Convention held to celebrate 100 years since the ‘Declaration and Address’ by Thomas Campbell in September 1809.

This 100 year old photo was taken at that the Communion service to celebrate 100 years. Delegates and members of Churches of Christ from all over the world were present. The assembly was served by 500 deacons, 100 elders and 50 large tables. The offering that day was collected to the total of US$2,600 (a lot of money in those days)

This photo belongs to Laurel Moore, former member of Mile End Church of Christ, currently a member at the Blackwood Church of Christ. We thank Laurel sincerely for loaning this precious archive for display and for providing the notes on the photo.

Laurel’s grandfather D.A. Ewers, who was a preacher at the Mile End Church of Christ and Secretary of Federal Conference of Australian Churches of Christ, was one of two delegates at the Pittsburgh Convention in 1909. If you ask Laurel she will proudly point him out in this photo.

Here are the rest of the publications I have prepared for display on October 4th at Mile End Church of Christ, for your interest:

Campbell’s Four Gospels
Printed 1799 (original copy)
This is a translation from the Greek of the four Gospels by Dr George Campbell who lived in Aberdeen Scotland in the late 1700’s and was printed in Philadelphia in 1799.
It was owned by one Barton Warren Stone (1772-1844) who along with Thomas Campbell, his son Alexander Campbell and Walter Scott are looked on as the founders of the Disciples of Christ in America. The disciples are the American counterpart of Churches of Christ in Australia.
Inside the cover of this book is Barton stones own handwriting dated the year of his death. He lived in Lexington, Kentucky and when he died this ‘bible’ was given to the doctor who attended him at the time, Dr David T Morton.
In the 1860’s when Churches of Christ were starting to grow in South Australia, the people appealed to the churches in England and later America to send out evangelists. One who answered the call and had great influence on the churches in South Australia from 1867 to 1915 was Thomas Jeffison Gore who came from Lexington, Kentucky where he had studied under people who knew Stone and Campbell well and had been given this bible.
T J Gore’s daughters were well known to a number of people at Blackwood Church of Christ who had association with the church at Unley.
After T.J’s death this bible was placed in the Preacher’s Library at the Conference Centre and in 1969 was transferred to the Churches of Christ archives.

The Millennial Harbinger
Edtied by Alexander Campbell 1831
The Harbinger is a collection of messengers or periodicals originally circulated for debate in newsletter form. This publication was bound together as a collection of the newsletters from 1831 outlining passionate theological debates in the early years of our movement

Autobiography of Barton Stone
Written by Barton Stone with additions and reflections by Elder John Rogers 1847

Christian Baptism
By Alexander Campbell 1852

Life of Thomas Campbell
By Alexander Campbell (publishing date unknown but possibly late 1850’s)

Life of Elder Walter Scott
By William Baxter 1874

Declaration and Address
By Thomas Campbell (reprint 1908)
This is a copy of the original printed in 1908. Here is what is written on the inside cover
‘At the Centennial Convention of Disciples of Christ the chief exhibit will be the only original copy of the Declaration and Address. It belongs to Mrs. Decima Campbell Barclay, the only surviving daughter of Alexander Campbell, and is kept in the vaults of the Mercantile Trust Company.
It shows a few corrections made with quill pen by its author and many more revision marks at the hand of his illustrious son, when he gave it to the printers to republish in his Life of Thomas Campbell. Each composition of that work was immortalized by having his name written in pencil on the margin opposite the beginning of his ‘take’.
This zinc etching reprint is one of the limited edition issued for the Centennial.’
Centennial Committee
Pittsburgh
1908

First Principles – studies in bible truths
By A.R. Main (publishing date unknown but possibly early 1920’s)
This original publication once belonged to Alexander Russell Main (1876-1945) containing hand written notes in the margins. A.R. main was principal of the College of the Bible now known as the Churches of Christ Theological College (CCTC) from 1910-1938.

The History of Churches of Christ in South Australia 1846-1959
By H.R. Taylor 1960

One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism – history of Churches of Christ in Australia
By Graeme Chapman 1979

Churches of Christ – an interpretation
By E.L. Williams 1980
This original copy belonged to Edwin Lyall Williams (1906-1994). E.L. was a passionate advocate for the plea for Christian unity. This copy has his signature scribbled across the front cover and some notes and corrections to his own publication throughout the pages in his handwriting. E.L. was principal of the College of the Bible now known as the Churches of Christ Theological College (CCTC) from 1945-1973

Churches of Christ – interpreting ourselves for the new century
By Gordon Stirling 1999

One Church – A bicentennial celebration of Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address
Edited by Glenn Thomas Carson, Douglas A. Foster and Clinton J. Holloway 2008

DNA of churches of Christ – the largest indigenous Christian church born in the USA
By Graham Carslake 2009

It’s exciting to have a mix of rich history with the advances of technology linking us from across the world via satellite during the service. If you’re in Adelaide this weekend we hope you can make it. The service will be led by myself, Geoff Payne (acting State Minister), Simon Clemow and Verity Riessen.

Shalom
Mark

by Dr Greg Elsdon

October 2009

Celebrating the Lord’s Supper as remembrance and commitment

The regular celebration of the Lord’s Supper has been central to the Church’s practice and self-understanding from the very beginning. Every time we gather around the table of the risen Lord that we are confronted once again with the love of God and the responsibility we have as Jesus’ followers to give ourselves in service to the world God loves so deeply. Jesus’ words, “do this in remembrance of me” identify the Lord’s Supper as the place where we recommit ourselves, time and again, to the risen Christ, to each other, and to the mission of God in the world.

It would not be altogether misleading to suggest that Churches of Christ came into being as a movement in order to proclaim an open Lord’s Table around which all could be united in worship and celebration. The founding fathers and mothers of our movement had become impatient with the formal religion of their day. They experienced it as oppressive and lifeless. One expression of this was the highly discriminatory and legalistic regulation of who was permitted to attend the Lord’s Table – and who was not! All too often the male clerical class had used the Lord’s Supper as a very efficient, but abusive form of discipline, social control and manipulation. Early pioneers such as Thomas and Alexander Campbell and Barton Warren Stone had a vision for a Church free from such life-sapping practices. And this vision, not for a new Church, but for the restoration of the original, expressed itself powerfully in the reformation of the understanding and practice of the Lord’s Supper – free from the autocratic control of the increasingly secularized clergy.

When, as Jesus’ followers, we gather around his table, at his invitation, we are called to remember him. It is around this sacred table that we discover who we are and experience the nourishment we need for the many tasks and challenges of life. It is here that we experience as nowhere else the deep, and ancient, and life-transforming hospitality of Yahweh and his messiah, Jesus.
Remembering, or re-activating the memory of Jesus is foundational to how we understand ourselves and how we are live our life in the world. This is not a call to reconstruct the past as it was, but a call to build the present and shape the future guided and directed by our remembrance of the one in whose life, death and resurrection we catch a glimpse of the Kingdom of God – the Reign of God yet to come – but already with us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
God’s ancient people Israel were often challenged by their prophets and their wise ones to remember where they had come from, to re-count their stories of deliverance and salvation, to re-member … and in doing so, be nurtured once again by their recollection of God’s faithfulness and unswerving commitment to his people. Remembrance is no less important for the church.
In these dawning years of the 3rd millennium all Christian traditions, denominations and movements are being forced to rethink their identity and mission. What does it mean for us to be Christian? What does it mean for us to be Churches of Christ? I believe that if we are to have any future worth hoping for we must move into that future inspired, guided, empowered, and nurtured by our courageous re-activation of the memory of the Jesus. And surely it is as we gather around the Lord’s Table that this ‘re-membering’ begins.
Re-membering is not just about recollection – it’s about re-connecting, it’s about being re-membered; re-connecting with the people, events, ideas and values which have made us who we are as a people. ‘Re-membering’ is about overcoming the fragmentation and alienation which so often characterizes our life together because we have forgotten who we are and why we are – and most importantly, we have forgotten to whom we belong.
What happens when we remember Jesus? Anything at all? Just vague thoughts or fuzzy feelings? Or does our re-membering of Jesus stir within us thoughts and feelings and hopes that inspire and call us to give our lives in service to the world?
The remembrance of Jesus experienced around the Lord’s Table is often a very selective remembrance. Re-activation of the memory of Jesus will call us to review the way we think, the way we live our lives together, and the way we share this planet with the many others who view life so differently to us.
“Jesus’ invitation to remember him with bread and wine was no sentimental request for personal reasons. His request for remembrance was that his followers should always keep in mind all that he stood for, all that he was, all that he taught, not for his sake but for theirs.” (Gordon Stirling)
Do our practice and experience of the Lord’s Supper foster the remembrance of Jesus in a way that actually gives shape and texture to our life together. Or have we, for whatever reason, contented ourselves with cheaper, safer ‘memories’ which leave us unchallenged, unchanged and distinctly dis-connected from the vital, living memory of Jesus.
There is a trend in some Churches of Christ to omit the Lord’s Supper from church services because it is not ‘seeker sensitive’. Now please don’t misunderstand me, I’m all for ‘seeker sensitive services’ – it’s just that I can’t think of anything more sensitive to the needs of people searching for something more in life than to invite to share freely in this celebration of God’s inclusive, life transforming hospitality. Sensitivity to the needs of ‘seekers’ does not require the abandonment of the Lord’s Supper – but I suspect it will require a reformation in the way we understand, practice and experience it.
The Lord’s Table is also a place of corporate commitment. As we eat the bread we declare that together we are recipients of God’s grace and together we will share it with others. As we drink the wine we declare that together we will allow the memory of Jesus – the way he lived, the values he embodied, the grace he demonstrated – the memory of Jesus – to shape our life together in the world.
And so in a very real sense the Lord’s Supper is a missional meal – a table set for those who understand that they are called to share freely with others what they experience in the presence of the risen Christ. Surely it’s unacceptable for us to celebrate the Lord’s Supper as God’s provision for our most fundamental needs, without at the same time being moved by those whose lives at so profoundly needy?
“How can I be comfortable participating in a sacrament that so powerfully symbolizes the fair, even and inclusive distribution of resources, material or otherwise, when I participate in a social structure that is increasingly failing in the same area? How can I be comfortable proclaiming, through my participation in the Lord’s Supper, a belief in the Gospel principle of justice whilst at the same time staying silent as the gap between the haves and the have-nots grows ever wider around me? How can I be comfortable acting out a drama that remembers the justice-making ministry of Jesus to all people, when my own actions exclude justice from those I fear or those whose ideology and beliefs differ too radically from mine?” (Mark Butler)
It seems to me that our celebration of the Lord’s Supper is profoundly inadequate and dis-empowering if it does not include regularly an opportunity for people to declare their commitment to work together as a congregation in the service of the world.
Few people would deny that the church is need of reformation – re-formation. May I suggest that the reformation the church is desperately in need of will not be sparked merely by energetic attempts to be ‘contemporary’, or slick programs promoting the church as ‘relevant’ — but by faithful and thankful celebration of God’s gracious hospitality experienced around the Lord’s Table.
And there is no reason whatsoever why this rediscovery of a lost treasure should not be characterized by energy, imagination and creativity. I’m certainly not advocating a regurgitation of outmoded, time-trapped, irrelevant forms of worship that will never connect meaningfully with the experience of contemporary Australians. On the contrary, as Gordon Stirling reminds us, “If we have used our God-given imagination to create dynamic, contemporary services, surely we can use that same imagination to ensure that the Lord’s Supper is still given the same significant place in the life of the church that it has held now for twenty centuries.”

Scripture

by Graeme Rogerson

September 2009

(This reflection was done shortly after Magarey 2009 and refers to comments some made there by Jim Reiher, Tim Costello and Ash Barker.)

In the early to mid 90’s I completed an MCD Graduate Diploma of Ministry. One highlight of my study was attending the Catholic Theological College and studying the Gospel of Luke and the Letters of Paul under the teaching of Father Mark Coleridge. A moment that remains with me from these two courses came when, amid a context of the church at large debating the struggle of whether the Scriptures were God breathed or simply the wisdom of men, Mark Coleridge used one word to describe them. The word he used was “transcendent”. The Bible, he said, was transcendent … God breathed or God inspired.

At its commencement Churches of Christ gave similar authority to the Bible.

• “From the beginning Churches of Christ have emphasised the authority of the Scriptures, especially the New Testament.” (E Lyall Williams)

As John Wesley described himself as “homo unius libri (a man of one book)” … a reader of many, but giving supreme authority to one … so we could describe ourselves as “a people of one book”.

Under the heading of “Core Values” the current Victorian/Tasmanian Conference of Churches of Christ web-site seems to endorse this emphasis. It comments, “We value and affirm the centrality of the Scriptures as our authority for Christian belief, identity and practice.”
With regard to this statement I wish to make two comments.
(i) Firstly I wish to underline the word practice. Jim Reiher’s recent Bible Study of 1 Kings 3 reminded us that wisdom is given to us essentially for the purpose of living and practice. (See also 2 Timothy 3:16,17)
(ii) Secondly I want to question its accuracy from the point of view of the general lip-service we pay to submitting our lives to Scripture. A recent e-mail from Cheryl Catford, the new National Director of the Evangelical Alliance, lamented that “Biblical illiteracy among the general population has reached alarming levels and evangelicals are not far behind. (The latest National Church Survey would endorse a similar statement being made of SA Church of Christ members.) Perhaps, as Ash Barker reminded us, this calls for us to reinvigorate our movement by returning to, and refocusing on, our founding core values … including the value of the authority of Scripture.

One of the most enriching experiences of my life came via a set of Lenten Studies I led in the early 90’s. As well as Church of Christ members being present, the gathering also included members of the Uniting, Anglican and Catholic churches. Into the pot we threw such “controversial” topics as baptism, ministry and the Lord’s Supper. Listening respectfully to one another’s comments added insights and understanding.

Alexander Campbell once wrote, “Everyone who opens the Book of God, with one aim, with one ardent desire – intent only to know the will of God – to such a person the knowledge of God is easy; for the Bible is framed to illuminate such, and only such, with the salutary knowledge of things celestial and divine.”

While Alexander Campbell requested a “humility of mind” in pursuing God’s will, Tim Costello spoke of a challenge in his life when he was told that a group of Bible-believing, prayerful and church attending South African Christians supported Apartheid, while another, similar one opposed it. This in turn challenged me and brought to mind the above set of Lenten Studies. Perhaps a way of overcoming a distortion in interpreting God’s will from Scripture can be gained by studying Scriptures within community … particularly within a community consisting of people from diverse cultures and backgrounds.

I also want to focus on another purpose of Scripture other than the ones mentioned above.

In the book “One Church” (a celebration of Thomas Campbell’s Declaration & Address edited by Glenn Thomas Carson, Douglas A Foster & Clinton J Holloway) a section is devoted to a contemporary restating of the 13 propositions contained in the Address section of Thomas Campbell’s “Declaration and Address”. Proposition 4 states that primarily “It (the Bible) is … the sword of the Spirit; it is a place where we encounter God’s Spirit and are transformed increasingly into the likeness of Christ.”

Recent reading and study (“No Perfect People Allowed” with John Burke, an ACOM subject “Leading Healing Communities” with Allan Meyer, sharing in a sensitive healing/counselling course and experience with George and Dorothy Mathieson, …) has laid strong emphasis on the presence of Christ … both within and without of God’s people.

“Only one thing is necessary” Jesus tells Martha in Luke 10:38-42. What is that one thing? Jesus tells us that Mary was doing it. She was listening/relating to him … staying connected to Jesus … or in the terminology of John 15, abiding/remaining in Jesus and as John 15:5 indicates, when we do this fruit will happen (eg healing, growing in Christ’s image, being directed into areas of ministry, …)

Let me illustrate this from my own life. The conclusion to my recent Long Service Leave left me with a deep sense of Jesus’ presence within, which bore the fruit of helping me overcome a persistent sin that I had been battling for some time.

A key to experiencing Jesus’ presence, suggests Luke 24:13-35, is worship … worship that includes two items, firstly the Lord’s Supper (vs 28-31a) and secondly (and particularly) the reading and preaching of Scripture (vs25-27). “Wasn’t it like a fire burning within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us.” (v32) (See also Acts 20:7-12)

The novelist and essayist Ernest Raymond described the most impressive sermon he ever heard. “In itself,” he relates, “the sermon was ordinary enough: intellectually negligible, aesthetically ragged. Its construction was faulty, its delivery abominable. Yet its effect was overwhelming … “I think he spoke for an hour, and not a man of us moved, and most of us were quiet all that night …”
I do not counsel the giving of sermons that are poor in delivery and construction and content, but I have experienced some that have drawn “back the veil and made the barriers fall that hide the face of God” … and so been blessed to minister to others in the strength and power of Another.

May we all be blessed by, and give, sermons of similar quality.

by Steve Blackett

July 2009

Back in 1996 I received a scholarship to join a “Leadership 2000” tour to Southern California. It was the first time I had been outside of Australia and so of course my attention was drawn to the obvious differences between our two countries – things like the amount of take-away food, the lack of footpaths, and the number of drivers holding guns.

What struck me about the various churches we visited was that all of them – with the exception of the Disciples of Christ / Christian Churches – had their creed displayed so prominently that it would be very difficult for any visitor not to notice. In some cases it was on the front of the newsletter which was handed out on arrival and in other churches it was written on a wall near the entrance. I remember one church which had their creed scrolled over the entrance to “the sanctuary” so that everyone who walked in virtually entered through the church’s statement of beliefs.

And these weren’t the classic statements of faith such as the Apostles Creed or the Creed from the Council of Nicaea. In fact they read more like positional statements than an affirmation of faith. They defined the church’s stance on everything from the Trinity to the Second Coming.

Their purpose was unmistakable. Every person who walked through the doors of the church knew the fundamental beliefs of that particular congregation and could then easily decide whether or not they belonged. The implicit message was “If you believe the same as we do, we’re going to get on just fine together.”

But why didn’t the churches associated with our movement have creeds? In the early days of my involvement with Churches of Christ I heard the slogan “No creed but Christ” and so I knew we were against the use of creeds – but I can now admit I never knew why. When I studied our history I discovered it wasn’t that our forebears thought there was anything wrong with creeds per se, but that they were opposed to the use of dogma to determine who would be included and excluded in the faith community. Faith in Christ was the only criterion to define the church. And it wasn’t until my visit to Los Angeles and San Diego that I understood the relevance of the slogan I had heard so frequently.

Clearly our movement’s position regarding the use of creeds reflects the ecclesiology expressed by Thomas Campbell “that the Church of Christ upon Earth is essentially, intentionally and constitutionally one”[1]. Equally it reflects the polemic against division. That is, “No creed but Christ” simultaneously professes Christian unity and laments Christian division. It makes a statement that there is essentially one church consisting of all who have faith in Christ, and at the same time recognises (and protests) the obvious reality that the Church is divided into countless factions based on doctrinal differences.

Can this dilemma ever be resolved? If we are considering organisational or doctrinal unity, the answer is obviously not. In that regard the “Polar Star” of Christian Unity remains an unattainable point in the distance that we may strive for, but never reach. Never-the-less, it is clear that was precisely the unity our founders sought. The courageous decision of the Springfield Presbytery to “die, be dissolved and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large”[2] may not have been a widely adopted precedent, but it certainly demonstrated that “visible unity” was thought to involve the total abolition of sectarian boundaries.

Perhaps the more important question for us is whether our use of the slogan “No Creed but Christ” serves the purpose it was intended for. I smile to myself when I hear people recite the words in a manner sounding very much like a creed. And while pride in our heritage is to be encouraged, the moment we become parochial, the distinctives of our movement become the device by which we contrast ourselves to other Christian Denominations. Which is remarkably similar to the way creeds were used in the American churches I visited!

Ironic, don’t you think?


[1] Thomas Campbell, Declaration and Address, 1809

[2] BW Stone, Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery, 1804

Hi everyone,

I apologize for the lack of information posted on this blog the past 3 months of so. It became a very busy winter and I neglected to update the articles to the website as they came through. Hard copies were posted out to churches each month but I’ve lagged behind in posting the blog copy. Please enjoy the back log of articles as we are now only days away from the great Communion celebration. thankyou for your patience and i hope you continue to participate in the dialouge

Blog author, Mark Riessen

Minister Blackwood Church of Christ, South Australia

I just received an email from WA letting me know they had also created a blog in the same spirit as this one. This spirit is to promote the celebration of the Great Communion on October 4th and hopefully to create conversation around our bi-centenial year since the declaration and address and the effect it might have on us today.

The website can be found at www.greatcommunionwa.wordpress.com This will be the website you will be drected to if you are looking for information on events in WA related to the Great Communion.

If any of the eastern states would like to follow suit with WA and SA/NT please let us know so we can link together in the spirit of national unity in our bi-centenary year.

Shalom
Mark