One of the Churches of Christ’s historical distinctives has been an aversion to Creeds. Of course, having ‘no creed but Christ, no book but the Bible’ might itself be considered a creed. Nevertheless, the attractiveness of an overarching structure that respects differences between congregations was historically clear about holding orthodox belief. This allowed a minimalist Churches of Christ movement to embrace diversity easily. In practice today, though, what started as a movement, being preferred as a network, becomes registered as a denomination with all that this entails.
Modern compliance demands mean that practical support, policy writing, grant provision, marriage celebrancy, insurance provision, employment requirements, property trusteeship, and leadership development, become some of the many requirements not originally envisaged as ‘church business’ by those who signed up to preach!
Is it in more than this, though, that we can flourish as a movement that moves together? What unites us is thankfully greater than what divides. We see the centrality of Christ and the Scriptures affirming the Atonement, the work of the Spirit, believer’s baptism, and much more. We leave room for different biblical emphases or theological perspectives on topics such as the Millennium, or Calvinism. However, whilst we celebrate diversity in the local outworking of our mission, that mission is itself a collective one. It centres on winning people to faith in Jesus Christ by proclaiming the Gospel’s transforming power.
Some years ago, the movement also affirmed nationally the common beliefs and practices that have been shared across our churches historically. Even more helpful and straightforward, today, might be the simple statement in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. I passed on to you what I received, of which this was most important: that Christ died for our sins, as the Scriptures say; that he was buried and was raised to life on the third day as the Scriptures say; and that he was seen by Peter and then by the twelve apostles. Our ability to confidently present the heart of the Gospel with passion and conviction needs us first and foremost to uphold the necessity of Christ’s death and resurrection, both as Saviour and as Lord, along with the implications for everyday life.