The 200th anniversary of “The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery” was widely celebrated as a major landmark in the development of restoration theology. The document blended humor and sarcasm in statements intended to renounce a church hierarchy, “divisions of the Body of Christ’, creeds and confessions.
This historic anniversary was marked at Cane Ridge, Ky., by a gathering of scholars who continue to explore the events and thinking connected to the Stone-Campbell restoration movement.
The anniversary was important enough to prompt an Associated Press story about the document and the subsequent events in a religious movement that sought to restore the church to the purity and simplicity of first-century Christianity with the Bible as its only guide. The movement produced churches of Christ and other groups that divided during the late 19th and early 20th century.
In Iowa, Illinois, Ohio and Kentucky churches of Christ marked the anniversary. In some places churches of Christ and Christian churches/churches of Christ (instrumental) shared in events to commemorate a document which made an important statement about the mistake of creating a church hierarchy over several congregations. Stories on those activities are reported on pages 1 and 8. The front-page story makes clear the differing views of the event and the cooperation of churches of Christ and Christian churches.
The possibility of not reporting the events marking this anniversary was tempting. Yet the Chronicle has the mission and obligation to report news related to churches of Christ. The credibility of the Chronicle would have suffered if an event so widely publicized were passed over.
The decision to report this story in detail was not easy. All the staff is uncomfortable with the prospects of reporting what is viewed by many as divisive. The events and the coverage have been discussed frequently by the editorial council of the Chronicle. The council arrived at a consensus that the story had newsworthiness and was an important aspect of our history and our heritage.
From the earliest discussions to the last reading of the stories, the editorial council has had no agenda in covering the story and has worked hard to make sure that no hint of an agenda was implied in the story. Furthermore, the council has pressed for balance and objectivity in dealing with cooperative efforts by some congregations of the church of Christ and churches of Christ (instrumental). Erik Tryggestad has been the principal researcher and reporter, but the editorial council has worked closely with him in assessing information and sources. Tryggestad has talked with a spectrum of opinion leaders within churches of Christ to report their views and opinions.
The job of The Christian Chronicle is to report news involving churches of Christ around the world. It is the journal of record for the events and trends within churches. Our continuing coverage of facts and newsworthy events may spark a deeper debate and raise theological issues of great magnitude, which must be examined by believers in many forums. The Chronicle’s mission and space do not permit us to be the primary forum for these lengthy and time-intensive discussions. However, we believe such discussions are essential.
The oneness of Christ’s Kingdom is foundational in all Scripture. Divisions and conflicts are the shame of Christianity. In a world of massive social shifts, threatening change, and religious fragmentation, the church has a duty. That duty is to call Christians to recognize the impact of these powerful forces and to distinguish among superficial changes, human traditions and the changeless truths of God.