A group of 23 leaders from the Church of Christ denomination have made a Christian affirmation. Although they do not consider themselves a denomination, they act like one in making a statement of this kind. They say that they do not speak for the denomination, but in making a statement of this kind, they express their creed and terms under which someone is or is not in the church - in the denomination.
I know a few of these 23 signers and have heard of several more. Of those that I know, I have a resepct for them that is real and true. So, please understand the tone of this response to be one of respect.
In sum, their non-negotiables are as follows:
2. The Lord's Supper
3. Acappella Worship
First of all, I guess you could do worse than this list. Lots and lots of the obligations have been peeled away from the list of the past, so I do commend these people for their slimming down of the list. So, there's your kudos.
Second, there is a fundamental flaw in their position. It still smacks of pursuing being right as the highest Christian ethic. It's not that I want to be wrong or that anyone should aspire to being wrong, but being right is not the pinnacle of the Christian faith. Goodness trumps rightness everytime. Read about good and right here. The Pharisees tried to be right while Jesus was good. "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."
Third, although I highly value baptism and the Lord's Supper as among the most important Christian exercises, rich in meaning, tradition, and function, the way they are approached in this Christian affirmation is in ways overstated. "In the ancient church there were no unbaptized Christians," is one statement that stands out to me. No room is left for God's grace to cover anyone not baptized through ignorance, having been taught falsely, never having heard, or anything. Nope, no baptism; no salvation. I just can't get there from here. And as for the Lord's Supper, it's awesome and importnat, but using "necessary" as a place setting for the supper is inappropriate.
I think that people in the Church of Christ have to make something essential in order to shout loud enough for people to hear them.
Fourth, the acappella music thing is the place wher I make a dramatic departure from these signers. Yes, people need to worship from their hearts. Yes, people need to particpate in expressing their appreciation, their laments and so forth to God, but to make mandatory a specific kind of worship is blatant and obvious denomination protecting. Nothing makes the Church of Christ distinct from most of the Christian religion than their practice of acappella music. So, protecting that tradition is one of the most important things for these guys. Although they have no legitimate theological argument for mandating this practice, they include among the top three articles of the Christian faith. There may be some room for a conversation on this topic, but as a sub-sub-sub topic in worship discussions as it relates the corporate body. They elevate a very minor conversation topic to a way to divide people. For a people so bent upon unity, they have chosen a terrible thing by which to measure it. If there were ever an example of shallow ecclesiology, it is this topic.
This Christian affirmation has many blindspots, inconsistencies, and problems. It is a throwback to the old school Church of Christ, but with a sweeter flavor to it. However, I am not tricked. The deep ecclesiology it hopes to pursue is foiled badly by its own construction. Its goal (unity of all Christians) and approach (modernistic throwback collection of rules) are oil and water.
Finally, I do hope that the conversation following the issuance of this Christian Affirmation will be honest, open, and healthy. This is my first post in response to it. I may make other later.