Author explores past experiences with Boston movement
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Tom Olbricht | for the Christian Chronicle
Thomas Cook. In Search of a City: An Autobiographical Perspective on a Remarkable but Controversial Movement. Spring Hill, Tenn.: Discipleship Publications Internationa, 2007. ISBN: 978-1-57782-221-9;240 pages; $19.
The movement, now designated the International Church of Christ, is approaching 40 years.
It began at the Crossroads Church of Christ in Gainesville, Fla., under the leadership of Chuck Lucas and was called the Crossroads movement. In the early 1980s, th leadership shifted to Boston with Kip mcKean at the helm, where it became identified as the Boston movement.
In 1993, the Boston church group separated from Churches of Christ and tok up the self-designation the International Church of Christ. In 2003, changes and re-evaluations took place after the removal of McKean from his leadership role.
Thomas A. Jones, the author of this book, tells the story of his own journey and experience within this 40-year history. Jones and somewhat later his wife, Sheila, ad ties with the movement form its inception.
In 1987, the Joneses moved to Boston and soon were involved in pivotal roles with the Boston Church of Christ, working with its publishing house, DPI, and as a regional elder.
The book is Jones’ recounting of his experiences and struggles as a leader in Churches of Christ, the Boston church and the International Church of Christ. The primary merit of the book is that, in a genuine sense, it is a personal history.
Second, it is a commendation of the movement’s focus upon evangelism in the United States and throughout the world.
Third, it is a setting forth and extolling of the demand for a repentant heart.
Fourth, it details the efforts of the International Church of Christ to address poverty and disease in the world and of those who are handicapped. Jones himself has grappled with multiple sclerosis for two decades.
Fifth, it is an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the International Church of Christ, focusing on leadership and exclusivism.
One of Jones’ hopes is that this book will open the doors for a better appreciation of the movement and will pave the way for further contacts and cooperation with Churches of Christ and instrumental Christian Churches/Churches of Christ.
The book proceeds historically. There are chapters on Jones’ Alabama roots, efforts at campus ministries in Churches of Christ, first contacts with Lucas and Crossroads, ministries at Springfield and Kirkwood, Mo.; in Alabama; and finally Boston.
Jones points out that in the Crossroads period, several leading preachers in Churches of Christ made presentations at annual evangelistic seminars, including Reuel Lemmons, E.W. McMillan, K.C. Moser, Richard Rogers, J. D. Bales, Stephen Eckstein, Parker Henderson, Alonzo Welch, Bill Smith, Pat Hile and Milton Jones.
The book ends with a lengthy chapter on the International Church during the recent crisis of leadership and reevaluation.
The main text of the book is 159 pages. The remaining 81 pages consist of 17 appendices constituting some of the most important historical documents, Jones’ analyses of the movement and several editorials by Lemmons.
In a sense Jones is correct; the book is one person’s account of the history of the movement that resulted in the International Church of Christ.
But his experiences and activities are so intertwined with the movement that it is an important insight into that larger history.
My reservation in regarding the book as an inclusive account is that Jones is reluctant to pinpoint the reasons for some of the major developments.
He does not really tell us why the center of the movement transferred from Gainesville to Boston. That story deserves to be told.
Once the movement was centered in Boston, there was a demand that all those with the Boston Church be rebaptized. Much pressure was brought to bear, even though rebaptism wasn’t ultimately required. Jones tells the story of his own rebaptism, but he does not disclose this context.
Significant changes in leadership of the movement also took place. Jones does not tell us why.
As a result of the shift to Boston, criticism arose from many quarters in Churches of Christ, both warranted and unwarranted.
Jones also does not comment on McKean’s recent effort to counter the International Church of Christ with a new entity called the International Christian Church with a Web page listing 11 congregations in the United States and 11 in other countries.
In April, McKean returned to Los Angeles to found the City of Angeles International Christian Church.
I highly recommend this book to those interested in why what started out as the Crossroads movement took the directions it did.
I fully agree with Jones that several of the reasons are found in the teachings of Jesus and the biblical writers.
The International Church of Christ, as Jones declares, is a movement responding to the word.
This book is required reading for all who come into contact with leaders or members of the International Church.
The understanding that Jones sets forth will perhaps pave the way for believers in the larger restoration movement to work together for the cause of Christ.
TOM OLBRICHT is a distinguished professor emeritus of religion with Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. of Religion, Pepperdine University. Olbricht lives in South Berwick, Maine. He can be reached at tom-olbricht@comcast.net.
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