Indianapolis – In the recent meeting of the Stone-Campbell Dialogue on April 26, 2004, representatives of the Churches of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ proposed a “Great Communion Celebration” in 2009 to serve as a focus and framework for its work in the coming years. This event would mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address, and would recall the 100th anniversary of the great communion service that brought together 50,000 persons in Forbes Field, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team in 1909. It is hoped that thousands of Christians from across the three streams of the movement would gather in 2009 to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in local communities all across North America as a recognition of our unity in Christ.
In preparation for the 2009 event, the Dialogue team will provide study materials for use in congregational settings. A study guide is being prepared to look at the themes of the Lord’s Supper and baptism, the history of the Stone-Campbell Movement, and the authority of Scripture.
The topic of the April 26 meeting was to look at understandings in each of the three fellowships on the theme of “models of unity in today’s world.” Papers were presented by Doug Foster [Churches of Christ],John Mills [Christian Churches/Churches of Christ], and Robert Welsh [Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)].
In discussion of these papers, there was basic agreement that, as a starting point in seeking Christian unity, our churches would affirm that we should not require more unity (or uniformity) on issues among or between us than we require in relation to our own unity as separate traditions. In seeking unity, the three churches would also affirm the principle of “unity-in-diversity, cooperation without compromise.” The Dialogue participants also affirmed that for each of three churches, the fundamental mark of our unity is discovered in “table fellowship.”
In summarizing the call for a Great Communion Celebration in 2009, Newell Williams, president, Brite Divinity School, TCU, in Ft. Worth, Texas, stated, “This proposal sets forth an exciting framework for our Dialogue over the next five years – building upon a growing reconciliation within the Stone-Campbell Movement – as a witness to the Movement’s founding vocation of Christian unity.”
A special event took place in Indianapolis on Sunday evening, April 25, at East 91st Street Christian Church involving members of local congregations from the three streams in a “Celebration of our Heritage”. Presentations were made by Newell Williams (Disciples), Doug Foster (Churches of Christ), and Paul Blowers (Christian Churches/Churches of Christ) about the meaning and impact of the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbyterian that launched the Stone-Campbell Movement in 1804 in Cane Ridge, Kentucky. Attendance at this program was 285 persons coming from each of the three churches in approximately equal numbers.
The next session of the Stone-Campbell Dialogue is set for June 5-7, 2005 and the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The focus of the meeting will be to explore the nature and function of Scripture in each of our traditions.
Members of the Dialogue team include:
For Christian Churches/Churches of Christ: Paul Blowers, Susan Higgins, John Mills, James North, Robert Rea, Randy Snyder, Henry Webb
For the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ): Timothy James, William McDonald, Peter Morgan, Arnold Nelson, Sharon Watkins, Robert Welsh, Newell Williams
For Churches of Christ: Douglas Foster, Carol Gafford, Gary Holloway, Gary Pearson, Charme Robarts, Jerry Taylor