And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Those words from John 1:14 are the focus of the Restoration Unity Forum, a 12-discussion series at Bible Lectureship attempting to foster unity between members of Churches of Christ and those of Christian Churches – two distinct groups of people who once worshipped together but whose eventual split was officially recognized 100 years ago.
Coming together to recognize our differences but ultimate unity through Christ is an important step for Churches of Christ and Christian Churches.
This forum is especially beneficial for students and younger Lectureship attendees who are unaware of the past of the Churches of Christ and their connection with Christian Churches and have been raised on stereotypes that are unfair to both parties.
Differences between the two groups generally stem from different underlying attitudes of how scripture functions and therefore how churches function, said Dr. Douglas Foster, associate professor of church history.
The first Restoration Unity Forum in 1984 was the beginning of annual meetings from members of both churches, but for many years, much of the conversations were debates over issues that didn’t lead to any constructive conclusions.
These discussions should not be platforms for members of each church to take sides and claim their viewpoints as the only solution to scriptural interpretation. Neither side will change their opinions, which have been formed for more than 100 years, by one simple forum.
Rather, the goal of these forums should be for members of both groups to realize their similarities and, as Dr. Royce Money said, realize that “you can be different from one another and still be one in Christ.”
Considering both groups developed out of a Christian unity movement, the Stone-Campbell Movement, desiring a church structure like the example presented in the New Testament, it is only right that the two groups attempt to overcome the disunity of the past 100 years.
Students should take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about the history of the Churches of Christ and Christian Churches and understand the importance of these unity forums.
For any group to move forward, it must first look back and understand its history, including its mistakes and achievements. Neither group should feel spiritually superior to the other or fear a doctrinal conspiracy that these forums will lead to the groups conceding their respective beliefs.
In a day where violent protests occur in European and Middle Eastern city streets because of different religious beliefs, coming together as followers of Christ seeking peace and unity has never been more necessary.
We should be able to sit next to our Christian Church brothers and sisters at the forum and even on a pew on Sunday, not because we specifically agree on every minute doctrinal issue, but because we follow the same God and his son.
Eventually, the steps for unity we take now can lead to further steps of Church of Christ members reaching out to our fellow Baptist, Methodist, Lutherans and Presbyterian followers of Christ, to name a few, living out the words of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:13:
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”